Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus review: smart choices

With its newest devices, Samsung cleverly mixes original AI features with some familiar concepts.

The Galaxy S24 Plus and S24 borrow some of the best ideas from Apple and Google, taking a running jump with them into the AI era.

The flat-edge design is undeniably iPhone, and the AI tech is largely Google. The software, for better and worse, is all Samsung. But I wouldn’t call either phone the best of all worlds. And although it’s tempting to call them better Google phones than the Pixel, I don’t think that’s all the way true.

The standard Galaxy S24 still starts at $799 and the Galaxy S24 Plus starts at $999 — it’s only the Ultra that went up in price this year, to $1,299. Aside from screen size, the non-Ultra models share most of the same features, so I’ll refer to them interchangeably throughout this review unless otherwise specified.

The gap between the regular models and the Ultra is wider than before, but the benefits of stepping up to the Ultra don’t feel more compelling. Sure, you get a bigger, better screen, more zoom, and an S Pen, like you always do. But a lot of what makes the Ultra good are features it shares with the cheaper models.

That includes all of the highly touted Galaxy AI features, like generative photo editing, live language translation on phone calls, and automatic recording summaries. Like most things AI right now, they’re occasionally great and sometimes weird. But on the whole, they do more good than harm, and it’s kind of cool knowing my phone can translate a call with someone speaking Spanish if I need it to. For all the quirks in Samsung’s software, that’s something that the Pixel 8 Pro — or any other phone, for that matter — can’t do right now.

Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus side by side showing screen size difference.
Big screen or slightly less big screen?

Displays and design

Samsung managed to cram some extra screen into the Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus without making the phones meaningfully bigger — the S24 Plus went from a 6.6-inch to 6.7-inch panel, and the S24 has a 6.2-inch versus a 6.1-inch screen. How did Samsung manage this? Both phones are slightly taller now, and the bezels are just a hair slimmer on the new models.

They also get just a little brighter in direct sunlight, up to 2600 nits. It’s not a massive difference and you don’t get the excellent glare-reduction on the S24 Ultra’s panel, which really does make a difference, but it’s something. Oh, and the S24 Plus’ panel is now 1440p, and it’s about time Samsung upgraded it from 1080p.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Plus standing on edge showing flat sides.
Photo by Allison Johnson / The Verge
That’s a damned iPhone if I ever saw one.

There’s one year-over-year design difference that I’m particularly thankful for: the slight curve on the edges is gone in place of gloriously flat sides. It’s very much giving iPhone vibes, and I think that’s just fine. I find a flat-edge phone much easier to pick up without it flying out of my fingers, and I don’t find it any less comfortable to hold in one hand.

That design language isn’t the only cue Samsung’s taking from Apple — One UI 6.1 adds wallpaper dimming for the always-on display, in the manner of recent Pro iPhones, though only for the S24 phones. Better yet, there are widgets! You can arrange a handful of them in a bar below the clock to show you your phone’s battery life or your next calendar event at a glance, hands-free. We’re in an era of phones doing more for you when you’re not actively using them, and I am here for it.

Samsung Galaxy S24 in purple on a light pink background.
The Galaxy S24 is about as small as Android flagships get.

Performance, battery, and software

If you buy the Galaxy S24 or S24 Plus in the US, it’ll come with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset, just like the Ultra. But unlike the Ultra, models sold outside the US will keep with one of Samsung’s own Exynos chips. I tested the Snapdragon versions of the S24 and S24 Plus and really can’t find a fault with them, performance-wise. The S24 Plus comes with 12GB of RAM, while the base model S24 (including my review unit) comes with 8GB of RAM. I didn’t notice any significant differences between the two in day-to-day performance.

Now that I’ve used all three S24 series phones, battery performance seems roughly the same on all of them — the bigger the phone is, the more power-hungry it is, but the difference is offset by a bigger battery. On previous generations, the smaller phone was noticeably worse, but I think that problem has been mostly solved at this point with more power-efficient chipsets and slightly bigger batteries. One thing I do wish Samsung had incorporated? Qi2. There’s no support for the MagSafe-esque standard, and that’s a shame.

In this, the year 2024, Samsung still ships its high-end phones with three-button navigation as the default. I usually plan to spend a little extra time untangling some of Samsung’s weirder default settings whenever I use a new Galaxy phone, and the S24 devices have been no exception. No, I don’t want to talk to Bixby when I long-press the power button. No, I don’t want my app drawer arranged in a nonsensical order where I can never find anything. As usual, putting in a little work upfront to de-Samsung your phone is a basic requirement.

That’s where I have a hard time calling the S24 an outright winner over the Pixel. Once you have everything where you want it, the S24 is a triumph. But Samsung really makes you work for it, and Pixel phones just run better software right out of the box. Case in point: the Pixel 8 Pro doesn’t support widgets on the always-on display like the S24 does, but At a Glance will surface useful information there without you lifting a finger. It all just feels a little more turnkey.

Samsung is going toe to toe with Google’s new policy of supporting its flagship phones with seven years of software updates — OS upgrades and security updates included. That feels more important in the S24 and S24 Plus, which I suspect people are more likely to hold onto for longer than an Ultra owner who wants to chase the latest tech.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Plus on a purple background showing camera array.
The Samsung Galaxy S24 Plus is just packed with AI.

The S24 devices have the same AI features across the entire series, which is not the case on the Pixel 8 series — some features are reserved for the bigger, pricier Pixel 8 Pro, despite it using the very same processor as the Pixel 8. I covered many of the S24 AI features in depth in my Galaxy S24 Ultra review, so you can check that out for a detailed look at voice transcription and summaries, phone call translation, and some of the generative AI photo editing features.

The short version is that none of these features feel indispensable, but many of them are genuinely helpful even when they’re not perfect. Having a real-time translator on a call with someone who speaks another language is in no way worse than not having one. Generative AI photo edits are really uneven in quality, but there’s no harm done if you want to simply live your life without using them. Samsung might start charging for these features after 2025, so it’s wisely giving itself some runway to get AI off the ground. Right now, there’s nothing worth paying for.

One thing I will add now that I’ve been playing with AI on the S24 for a couple of weeks is that Samsung’s generative photo editor seems way more prone to adding weird shit into your photos than the Pixel. I tried erasing my husband’s arm out of the same image on both the Galaxy S24 and the Pixel 8 Pro. The Pixel did its best to just replicate the couch in the background where his arm was — the S24 instead replaced it with a new arm made out of pillows. Samsung! Why?

Photo of a child on a couch with blurred arm in the foreground.
Regular arm…
AI generated image where arm has been replaced with an arm-shaped object made of couch texture.
…Pillow Arm!

Camera and image quality

The editing software may be radically different, but the camera hardware on the S24 and S24 Plus hasn’t changed from the previous generation. You still get a 50-megapixel main camera, 12-megapixel ultrawide, and an actual 3x telephoto zoom no matter which of these two phone sizes you choose — and that’s darn nice of them.

There are a few processing updates under the hood, even in the absence of new hardware. Low-light images taken at 2x zoom now use a lossless crop from the middle of the sensor; on the S23 series, the camera reverted to digital zoom in dim light.

Samsung has also added foreground blur in portrait mode, which sounds like a small thing, but it makes a big difference in your photos looking less like cardboard cutouts. These little tweaks build on what was already a darn good camera system. Samsung’s color processing leans hard into vibrant reds and blues, per usual, which isn’t always my favorite. But when it’s good, it’s good.

Samsung is actually one step ahead of Google in adopting Ultra HDR, the new image format supported by Android 14. It’s the good HDR, not the bad stuff, and it allows your photos to pop in a way that’s not possible with the standard dynamic range images we’re used to seeing. Samsung not only supports Ultra HDR image capture, you can also edit your photos and share them to Instagram without losing the HDR information. The Pixel 8 series shoots Ultra HDR, but doesn’t yet support HDR editing in its own Photos app or sharing to social media.

Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus side by side on purple and pink background.
Name a more iconic duo.

Some of the best parts of the Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus aren’t entirely original to Samsung, and I think that’s fine. Adopting a well-liked, functional design and leaning on Google for AI is just smart — why reinvent the little black rectangle?

And unlike flat device edges, AI features have a lot to prove. The S24 is a lower-stakes way to get in on the AI future than the $1,300 Ultra, or some other more radical ideas floating around out there.

Most importantly, it’s just a good, reliable phone. The screens on both devices are excellent, and the smaller Galaxy S24 remains one of the best reasonably small phones you can buy right now. If you’re a small phone fan like me, then it’s the one to pick.

As far as big Android phones go, you really can’t do better than the Galaxy S24 Plus right now in terms of performance and value. Sure, you can go Ultra and get the absolute most phone, with a big, fantastic screen, better zoom, and a built-in S Pen. But I think the Ultra demographic is a little more self-selecting, and the S24 Plus strikes me as the ultimate crowd-pleaser for someone who just wants a great Android phone.

That said, there are some good reasons to consider the Pixel 8 Pro instead. Its 5x telephoto has just a bit more reach for those distant subjects compared to the S24’s 3x zoom, and Pixel software is less fussy than One UI. But the Pixel’s Tensor G3 processor can run a bit hotter than the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 if you push it, and Google stuck with the curved edge design, for now at least. Sometimes, the smartest move is to recognize a good idea and embrace it — even if someone else thought of it first.

Photography by Allison Johnson / The Verge