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Fast Charge: Is the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra still king 6 months on?

OPINION: Samsung is set to launch its new foldable range on July 10 at an event in Paris, offering an alternative to the brand’s more traditional S24 series that arrived earlier in the year. I’ve spent the last six months with the S24 Ultra – but how well has it held up?

Samsung is often first to market with the big flagship phones of the new year – and the same happened earlier in 2024. Top of its pile this time was the Galaxy S24 Ultra, a device our reviewer labelled one of the best Android phones on the market.

Usually, when big phones from big brands add new features, they’re quickly copied by rivals but even six months after launching the S24 Ultra, there’s still nothing quite like the display on this phone.

I’ve tested all the best phones launched this year in the UK, and the Gorilla Glass Armour on the front of Samsung’s flagship phone continues to be the real deal for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, the anti-reflective quality remains genuinely impressive. Not only does it mean that bright direct lights on the screen aren’t as disruptive, it also means that the display doesn’t need to be all that bright to be visible, even when the ambient light levels around you increase.

When the display is off and in standby mode, there’s a noticeable difference in surface colour compared to any other phone I have reviewed. Where most will be reflecting light from any light sources and ceilings to make them appear a bit grey, the S24 Ultra is much darker, and bright light reflections don’t spread as far across the surface. It’s really impressive.

Add that to the fact that this is a pin-sharp Quad HD panel with great, vibrant colours, contrast and really high peak brightness, and it’s easily the best display on any smartphone to date.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The other advantage of the glass surface of the display is its durability. Now, I’ve been using this phone ‘naked’. No screen protector, no case, and I’ve dropped it once.

Looking at it, even closely inspecting the glass under light – there’s very little in the way of scratching or marking. That drop did leave me with the tiniest little scuff mark near the curve of the glass, but it’s almost impossible to see most of the time. I’ve been really impressed with how it has held up with everyday use, and that’s without me trying too hard to be protective or careful with it.

As great as some aspects are however, there are still elements that I don’t like.

Even though it looks fantastic, those angled, sharp corners are the worst. Add that to the fact that this is one of the widest phones available, and one of the heaviest. The grip fatigue can get real with that one-handed stretching and trying to balance a heavy device. It’s so unwieldy.

Of course, I could add a case to soften those edges but that would increase the size further, making it larger, wider and thicker – it just doesn’t need that.

Galaxy AI is not as useful as I’d hoped

If there’s one big buzzword in tech this year it’s AI, and you can thank Samsung for some of that. 

It baked a suite of intelligent features into its phone software and labelled it Galaxy AI. As useful as a lot of it could be, I mostly ignore it.

Writing, to me, is my own personal expression, it comes from me, and so to hand any of that process, whether it’s checking tone, summarising, condensing, or any of that stuff over to something else, just feels like cutting off part of my process that I actually get enjoyment from, and crucially stops it from being my words.

Samsung Galaxy S23 text summary AI
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The one major positive about Samsung’s software is that when security patches and updates roll out, Samsung is quick to deliver them to phones. With this phone, you’re going to keep getting those for 7-8 years down the road – if the phone is still alive and well at that point.

The cameras are still solid

Now, while Samsung cameras aren’t perfect, as a system – the makeup of lenses on the S24 Ultra does make it one of the best camera phones for most conditions. 

Aggressive HDR takes care of contrasting light conditions and evens out the highlights and shadows, while the colour saturation ensures images have a little ‘pop’. It has to be said, the colours are tamer than they have been in previous years.

Samsung does tend to over-egg them slightly though, especially in skies and greenery. Even overcast cloudy skies look blue, when they don’t in real life. At night, there is a green tint to everything that makes everything green look a little hyperreal.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra rear camera setup
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The important thing is that you can load up the camera, switch between focal lengths easily and know that when you push that shutter button to capture, the photos will be consistent across the array of sensors and lenses.

With that said, Samsung needs to tone down the processing of detail, especially once you get to the zoom camera. To make images seem sharp, the S24 Ultra seems to colour in details, adding contrast and losing some texture, to the point where lots of detail just doesn’t look natural at all, especially in objects like trees, branches and bushes.

Is it still the one to beat?

In the end, when I look at the entire experience of the Galaxy S24 Ultra, I’m still of the opinion that if you want the best balance of everything – from display to software support, build, durability, cameras and performance – this is the phone that does it all.

Sure, you might find a phone that does part of the camera experience better, or has cleaner software, or even better performance – but you won’t find one that does all of it quite as well.

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