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The Galaxy S24 Ultra features I love…and one I don’t

Opinion
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Last updated: June 12th, 2024 at 17:24 UTC+02:00

The Galaxy S24 Ultra has been on the market for a little more than four months. It has been my daily driver for around three months (the rest of the time I was testing some of the new mid-range phones Samsung launched after the S24 lineup).

Three months aren’t enough to tell you how a phone will fare over long-term use, but they’re enough for users to get a good idea of what features of the device they like the most.

For me, here are some of the Galaxy S24 Ultra features I love, and one that I don't.

What I love: 5x portraits made possible by the 5x periscope zoom lens

We have heard a lot of dissenting voices concerning Samsung’s decision to switch the 10x optical zoom lens of previous Galaxy S Ultra smartphones with a 5x one on the Galaxy S24 Ultra. Based on numbers alone, it sounds like a downgrade. But there has been ample demonstration that the story is a little different in practice.

For me, the best part about the new long-range zoom lens is the ability to take 5x portrait/bokeh pictures. 5x portraits just hit differently and often look like they’ve been taken with a professional camera.

They can also be captured from farther away, which is particularly helpful for my obsession with taking pictures of dogs, as I can get portraits without disturbing them or making them conscious.

I’ve also abused the 5x portrait option in the gym to capture self-portraits – the 5x zoom allows me to keep the focus on myself and keep other people out of the pictures.

What I love: Galaxy S24 Ultra battery life is phenomenal

The Galaxy S24 Ultra has phenomenal battery life. Every Galaxy S Ultra smartphone has featured a 5,000 mAh battery, but the battery life wasn't as good as one would expect from such a high-capacity battery until the Galaxy S23 Ultra.

The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip gets a lot of the credit, but Samsung also appeared to have taken some serious pains to optimize the software on last year's Ultra model.

The combination of an efficient chip and optimized software carried over to the Galaxy S24 Ultra (it also made its way to the base and Plus models, which weren't as optimized as the Ultra model in the S23 series). In fact, the Galaxy S24 Ultra lasts longer than the Galaxy S23 Ultra.

Never have I seen any flagship Galaxy phone give me 8+ hours of screen time with such consistency. Before the Galaxy S23 Ultra, I rarely, if ever, got even seven hours of screen on time. Even the Galaxy S23 Ultra didn’t get to eight hours of screen on time too often.

I just hope that major Android and One UI updates will not mess things up. The Galaxy S23 Ultra and other flagships, like the Galaxy Z Fold 5, are struggling after just one or two Android and One UI version updates, which is a little concerning.

What I love: Performance is amazing

It should come as no surprise that the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s performance is on my list of favorite features. The Galaxy S23 Ultra was the fastest and smoothest flagship phone from Samsung ever, and the Galaxy S24 Ultra has similarly fantastic performance.

Getting the S24 Ultra to stutter is a Herculian task. It's only in the camera app where I've noticed that some stutter has managed to creep in, with the phone skipping a beat after I tap the shutter button.

Heat management is stellar, too. All Galaxy S24 models have a considerably larger vapor cooling chamber compared to their predecessors, and the Ultra model has the biggest one of all. Even when it's sitting in my car dock on a sunny day and helping me navigate via Google Maps, the Galaxy S24 Ultra doesn't heat up nearly as much as any older Galaxy phone.

During gaming, the S24 Ultra does need to throttle the CPU and GPU to control the heat. But I don't really play any graphically-intensive games on my phone, so it's not something that bothers me. In my day-to-day use, this phone is the coolest—literally and figuratively—flagship Samsung phone I've used in years.

What I love: A guarantee of seven years of updates

Smartphone users have long complained about companies not supporting their devices with software updates as long as possible, even when a device is perfectly capable of running newer versions of the operating system.

For a decade after it started making Android phones, Samsung promised two major OS upgrades to almost every phone. In 2020, it decided to extend that promise to three major OS upgrades for select devices. Samsung didn't stop there. Today, many Galaxy devices from all price ranges are supported with four Android upgrades.

But with all the power that smartphones—flagships in particular—have these days, even four years of major OS upgrades feels less than ideal. It's also not as good as what Apple provides to iPhone customers: a minimum of five major iOS updates.

With the Galaxy S24 series, however, Samsung has addressed all that: the Galaxy S24, Galaxy S24+, and Galaxy S24 Ultra will get Android, One UI, and security updates for seven years.

Not everyone uses their phone that long. But just knowing that you will continue to get software support if you decide to keep your Galaxy S24, S24+, or S24 Ultra for more than four years is comforting. It may also help you get a better price when you decide to sell the phone, as some people would shell out more for a used device that isn't going to be outdated soon after they purchase it.

What I don't love: The flat screen

I've said this before, and I'll say it again: I'm not a fan of the flat display on the Galaxy S24 Ultra. It's great for S Pen users and drawing and writing at the edges, and the lack of any serious curves means the display may not crack as easily if the phone is dropped and hits the ground.

But the flat screen doesn't hide the side bezels as well as a curved screen. It also makes the phone less comfortable to use with one hand. These Ultra models are the widest phones Samsung makes, and those curves helped keep things a little ergonomic.

The curved displays also gave Samsung phones an identity of their own. However, every Chinese manufacturer making phones with curved displays the last half a decade or so, Samsung lost that identity a while back, so I guess the flat screen isn't a bad thing in that regard.

What I don't care about: Galaxy AI

This is a bonus point for anyone who's willing to listen to more of my opinion on the Galaxy S24 Ultra, though it applies to the other two models as well: I don't care about Galaxy AI.

There's a lot of useful functionality in Galaxy AI, but I don't use any of it. I might use the website summarization feature if it was available in Google Chrome, but you need Samsung Internet for it. Circle to Search can be handy sometimes, but that's a Google feature that isn't exclusive to Samsung devices, so I'm not sure it counts.

Galaxy AI will keep growing as Samsung launches new phones in the future, so I'm not saying that I will never care. I just don't care right now, or as far as the AI features available on the Galaxy S24 series out of the box are concerned.

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