You may think that file The best phone Public launch occurs in September when Apple announces its latest release iPhone 15. In fact, February’s flagship phone event happens when Samsung sets the hurdle that every new smartphone will need to jump over or undo. After we see a file Galaxy S23 Ultra In Samsung Unpacked (assuming we do), the only question left is how Apple, Google, and others will try to beat it.
This will be especially difficult this year. We get a pretty good idea of what parts the new smartphone will make up long before it’s even released. Since most manufacturers buy from the same parts makers, it’s hard for a phone maker to differentiate itself. Launching the phone at the start of the new year’s launch cycle is particularly bold.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 platform is even better
Take the mobile platform. Last year, Samsung launched the Galaxy S22 Ultra with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset. It was the best platform you can buy outside of the iPhone, but it wasn’t a Samsung exclusive. By the time Samsung announced its Galaxy Z Fold 4 in August, it was already time to upgrade to the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1.
Even worse, last year’s Galaxy S22 didn’t launch with the latest Qualcomm chips in every region. Some regions got Samsung’s Exynos platform inside, and testing showed that Qualcomm’s was the better phone.
This year, Samsung didn’t take any chances. Not only does every region get the all-new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 mobile platform, Samsung offers a chip that’s better than those used by competitors, making it the most powerful phone you can buy. Rumors have it that Qualcomm will overclock the Snapdragon in Samsung phones to give the devices a speed advantage over the rest of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 phones.
Of course, we’ll definitely see faster chipsets from Qualcomm before the end of the year. Samsung won’t hold the performance crown all year, but it’s possible it could defend the title until reinforcements arrive in August in the form of a possible Galaxy Z Fold 5.
The main card is the new MediaTek Dimensity 9200 mobile platform that could feature in competitors such as the Oppo Find N2. MediaTek has manufactured high-quality chips for mid-range devices, as well as some flagship phones sold outside of the US market. Targeting Qualcomm’s latest high-end Snapdragon chipset, MediaTek talks about graphics performance as if we’re back in the good old days of the gaming console wars. We expect fierce competition.
200MP Samsung camera sensor
If you’ve been following the Samsung Galaxy S23 rumors so far, you know that the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 platform isn’t even the most exciting spec upgrade. Qualcomm has hinted for months that it will be the exclusive partner for the Galaxy S23. It’s a 200MP Samsung camera sensor, a huge leap in resolution, that got us really excited.
Qualcomm says the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 image signal processor can handle 200MP images, but that doesn’t mean that manufacturers will hit that extreme level of sensor data. Samsung is rumored to include a Samsung Semiconductor ISOCELL HP2 sensor that will knock out competitors in terms of low-light imaging, as well as sheer accuracy.
There’s a lot more to smartphone photography than the number of pixels. A higher resolution doesn’t help if the pixels are too small to gather enough light to take great photos. Phones also need fast lenses and software to put them together. Our experience with Samsung’s best phones has us excited about the images the Galaxy S23 Ultra will produce with its new shooter.
Apple and Google will have a hard time keeping up if the new camera delivers on the excitement it has created. Both competitors could theoretically buy the new camera module, too. Samsung Semiconductor’s camera sensors are separated by a legal firewall from the Mobile Experience group that makes phones for just that reason.
Samsung sells the sensors to other phone makers, including Motorola on the Motorola Edge 30 Ultra. Samsung phones use camera sensors from Sony and other camera companies.
Not on the next Apple iPhone or Google Pixel
We don’t expect Apple or Google to upgrade to 200MP, at least not with the upcoming Apple iPhone 15 Pro (or possible iPhone 15 Ultra) or the Google Pixel 8 Pro (or potential Pixel Ultra). It just doesn’t match the date or style of the camera.
Apple only recently updated its iPhone from a 12MP sensor to a larger 48MP sensor, but that’s still nowhere near the 108MP on the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra that tops our list of best camera phones. Of course, the actual sensor size is very similar between these two, and the two companies reduce the image size by default to a more reasonable size.
We don’t expect Apple to drastically upgrade the pixel count on the iPhone for a few generations. Apple likes to hit the fix and then hone its imaging skill for a while, getting the most out of familiar technology.
On the other hand, Google uses AI optimizations to improve the photos. The Pixel 7 Pro uses accurate sensors and lenses, but nothing special. Instead, the Google Tensor G2 chipset has unique image manipulation and editing features that you can only find on the Google Pixel 7 family phone. These make a real difference, but they can only build on existing image quality.
It will be difficult for Google to improve its optical image quality to match the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra than Samsung will have to come up with some new AI and software tricks to give us Google-like results. Thanks to a great new sensor and competent lenses, Samsung won’t need to blur images or dramatically improve zoom. The camera will do the work.
The Satellite Emergency SOS would up the ante
Finally, we hear that Samsung will partner with Iridium Communications for a satellite messaging service similar to the satellite emergency SOS service that Apple included in the iPhone 14 family. Satellite capabilities will be a running theme in mobile devices this year.
We expect many competitors to support satellite emergency messaging, so this will be a big deal by the time the next iPhone launches. If a phone maker doesn’t check that box, does it really care about its customers who climb the K2 on a regular basis?
Competitors can win with battery and power
There are some missing avenues that we wish Samsung would clear the way this year, but there will be room for competitors to win as competitors have done before. Samsung’s batteries aren’t big enough, and Samsung phones don’t charge as fast as OnePlus’ best phones. We’d like to see Apple and Google up their game in these areas as well.
Samsung has been rumored to be improving the fingerprint sensor on its phones, but it appears they are sticking with the old range. The latest Qualcomm 3D Sonic Max sensor can handle multiple fingers at once, and we expect it to appear on competing phones. Security will be a big issue this year, so this could be a significant upgrade.
Samsung is not going to get better where we really need it
We don’t have hopes for improvements to Samsung’s OneUI this year either, and the gap between Samsung’s software design and Google Pixel’s version of Android is more noticeable than ever. Samsung needs to update, or competitors that come close to Google’s sleek, mature, unobtrusive interface will find happy buyers.
It’s going to be a tough year financially for most of us, and we haven’t seen rumors that Samsung will react to the global cost of living crisis. We hear that the latest phones from Samsung and Apple will cost more, not less. This would be a mistake, as well as an opportunity for competition.
We know where Samsung intends to lead the pack this year. With class-leading processors and camera sensors that competitors may not be able to match, we can see just how high Samsung has gone this year. Hopefully, as competitors try to jump ahead, we see phones that find room to step back as well and give us the battery and security improvements Samsung lacks.
Before the 2023 releases from Samsung, Google, and Apple arrive, take a look at the best smartphones they’ve introduced this year.
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