As tech journalists, the expectation is that we must be comfortable switching between the iOS and Android universes. However, the truth is something else. I’m very comfortable with my iPhone, and typically don’t switch my primary device when I’m reviewing a new phone. There are plenty of reasons for this. Who will transfer all of the data? What about those 4GB worth of WhatsApp chats? Setting up Google Pay and Banking apps again? It all sounds too much. But with the Samsung Galaxy S23, I decided to ditch my old iPhone 12 Pro Max and went all in on Android. And here’s my review of the S23 Ultra.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: What are the specifications?
The Galaxy S23 Ultra sports a large 6.8-inch QHD+ Edge display with a 120Hz dynamic refresh rate and 240Hz Touch Sampling Rate in Game Mode. It is a hefty phone weighing 234 grams. The rear camera consists of the 200MP main camera sensor, coupled with a 12MP Ultra-Wide Camera, and two 10MP Telephoto Camera (3x and 10x Zoom). The front camera is 12MP. It runs the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 custom chipset with 12GB RAM and up to 1TB storage.
The battery size is 5,000mAh with 45W fast charging support. The charger is not included in the box. The phone comes with a dedicated slot for the S Pen. It runs Android 13 with Samsung’s OneUI 5.1 on top. It comes with 5G, LTE connectivity, Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth v 5.3 support. The phone has an IP68 for dust and water resistance. It is water resistant in up to 1.5 meters of fresh water for up to 30 minutes and protected from dust, dirt, and sand. Samsung also warns that this water and dust resistance is not permanent and may diminish over time.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: What about the price, and any bank offers?
The Galaxy S23 Ultra with 12 GB RAM+1TB storage costs Rs 1,54,999. The 12GB+ RAM with 512 GB version costs Rs 1,34,999. The base variant Galaxy S23 Ultra with 12GB RAM+ 256 GB storage costs Rs 1,24,999. Samsung is also offering exchange and bank discount offers to make this more attractive to consumers. Customers who pre-book the Galaxy S23 Ultra can get Galaxy Watch4 LTE Classic and Galaxy Buds2 at a special price of Rs 4999.
Those with HDFC and ICICI Bank credit/debit cards get an instant Rs 8000 instant discount on EMI and a full swipe on Samsung’s website. There’s also an additional Rs 8000 bonus on exchanging your old phone. For example, I’m getting Rs 51420 off for my old iPhone 12 Pro Max on the Samsung website, which brings the price of the Ultra to under Rs 75,000.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review: So how was the switch? Did I manage to get all the data?
First, if you are planning to transfer data from an iPhone to the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, make sure both phones are charged to the full—at least 80 per cent is what Samsung recommends before it will begin the process. Also, make sure you are in a place where there is WiFi. The first time I tried to do the transfer I was without WiFi and with dodgy mobile connectivity.
Eventually, I was able to transfer data successfully at home. I relied on Samsung’s Smart Switch feature to do this. I was impressed that Samsung exported some of the apps in exact folders, similar to how I had arranged these on my iPhone. Photos and videos took two tries for some reason. I relied on connecting the phones via a cable to do this transfer, though you have an option of getting all the data from iCloud as well. Depending on the data you have, keep in mind that it will take some time—more than an hour easily.
But the biggest question most people will have is whether I got all my WhatsApp data and the answer is no. I tried it twice. I had prepared WhatsApp chats for transfer to Android, and the screen indicated that when I would log in, all my chats would get transferred. I didn’t even disconnect the data cable. Transferring WhatsApp chats requires some luck and skills that I don’t possess. Still, I have most chats on my iCloud, so it is not the end of the world.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review: Let’s talk about the camera
With the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, it is all about the camera, as the company has given this a 200 MP one at the back. Samsung is promising drastic improvements to Portraits, low-light selfies and photos taken at night. And yes, I would have to agree with all three claims by the company. Of course, regular photos on the S23 Ultra are sharp and crisp with some of the most vibrant colours you will see on a phone. It can handle tricky lighting conditions very well, as you see in the first photo I’ve shared below.
And yes, that Samsung display makes those photos look even more beautiful. The skies are a distinct blue, the reds sharp but not overkill. The selfies I took late in the evening were also excellent and the skintone was accurate as well.
You have the option of shooting at 50MP and 200MP, though by default the camera shoots at 12MP. The zoom remains excellent on the S23 Ultra and even at 3X and 10X, the photo quality had minimal noise with details largely intact.
I also used the phone to take several photos of an event I attended at night. And the photos were top-notch. I didn’t even turn on the Night mode for most of those. But what impressed me was the low-light selfies that I took in my bathroom. I had no lights turned on, the only source of light was a candle, which is not much. But clearly, there is some AI sorcery going on here.
The S23 Ultra was able to illuminate my face and capture it clearly with barely any noise. I’m not sure about the skin tone in that photo, but the details are impressive. So yes, if you are clubbing, and plan to take a selfie with the S23 Ultra, this phone will deliver.
The night portrait mode is another feature that stood out in my usage. I took some portraits of my husband out at night using just harsh street lights and the results are impressive. It reminded me of how the Google Pixel series does portraits. The ‘Zoom Portrait’ is relying on 3X zoom to create this portrait effect and I quite liked the results. The subject is in focus, the background is sufficiently differentiated. With Night photos too, I got excellent results in testing so far. And the video quality at night is excellent as well. There’s no doubt that this is one of the best cameras one can get on a flagship phone right now.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review: What about performance, battery etc?
The S23 Ultra comes with a custom Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor and the variant I have comes with 12 GB RAM and 256 GB storage. The S Pen is part of the device as was the case with the S22 Ultra. The device is a snappy performer and I expected nothing else. There’s been no lag at all. I’ve had a chance to use this device mostly for daily work-related tasks such as multi-tasking on WhatsApp, editing some Google docs on the phone, and taking quick notes, and I found it a breeze to use this.
I’ve not faced any noticeable heating as such for now. The Galaxy S23 Ultra comes with an excellent display as well. I’ve been watching some movies on this on Disney+Hotstar and this delivers excellent audio and visual qualities that you expect on a premium phone.
My only serious challenge has been figuring out OneUI, which seems like a big change compared to iOS. For instance, I’ve had trouble finding some apps and had to fight some muscle memory as well. But for those who are Android users, this won’t be such a problem.
The battery life on the S23 Ultra has also been satisfying. It has lasted me a day easily, even with constant activity. There’s no charger in the box, and I’ve relied on my MacBook Air charger for this one. I’ve been able to get it to 100 per cent from around 30 per cent in close to two hours, but then I don’t have the 45W fast charger.
The other major issue I had while using this: No cover. I wish Samsung had given me one. You never feel quite secure because you are worried the device will fall and that will be the end of things.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review: Should you consider it?
There’s no doubt that the Galaxy S23 Ultra is an excellent flagship phone. It ticks all the boxes and the camera is excellent. But it comes at a hefty price of Rs 1,24,999. Sure, if you are exchanging an old flagship you will get a good discount, but still, prepare to pay a high price for this.
There’s also the fact that this is an iterative upgrade. The design and the overall look also reinforce the belief that this is not a ‘drastic’ jump. Plus Samsung has foldable phones in the second half of the year, which might appear more appealing to folks, especially those who are ready to shell out a premium price for their next phone. I would say get the S23 Ultra if you can afford it and want to try out the camera. It doesn’t disappoint.