Samsung gets less credit for making compact phones popular before the mini iPhones. The Samsung Galaxy S10e showed the world that a powerful phone can be small and handy. Then came the Galaxy S21, which bolstered Samsung’s efforts towards making compact yet powerful phones. Since then, Samsung has launched compact phones in the flagship Galaxy S series every year. The Samsung Galaxy S23 continues with the trend this year. It is everything the last year’s Galaxy S22 was and a little extra. It is more like a victory lap. Also Read - Samsung may begin producing 3rd Gen 4nm chips soon
With an even more compact body, the Galaxy S23 is a top choice for customers who value compactness and convenience over some high-end features. With a 100X zoom camera, the Galaxy S23 Ultra may be the ultimate Android flagship, but it is also large – which may not suit everyone. I like compact phones that can offer me a good smartphone experience without being unwieldy. The Galaxy S23 is not a small phone by previous standards, but it stands out among the premium phones today. Also Read - Samsung Galaxy S23 series goes on sale in India: Check price, specs
Also Read - One UI 5.1 reaches more Samsung devices after Galaxy S23 series
Last year’s Galaxy S22 was already good unless you want the best of the best. With the goodness of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, the Galaxy S23 is easily one of the most powerful Android phones this year. It is slightly better in design, too. The Samsung Galaxy S23 is charming and compact, but it is not cheap at a starting price of Rs 74,999. It is more expensive than the predecessor Galaxy S22 and the Apple iPhone 14, which is currently available for less than Rs 72,000. Samsung’s top-of-the-line phones still have some chinks in the armour. The cameras sometimes produce highly saturated photos, and some people may not like Samsung’s OneUI 5.1 custom software.
If you can overlook these sore spots and are willing to spend Rs 75,000, the Samsung Galaxy S23 is one of the best premium phones that will grow on you over time.
Samsung Galaxy S23 design and display
The Galaxy S23 looks very similar to the Galaxy S22, and that is not a bad thing. By getting rid of the unnecessary ridge to accommodate rear cameras, Samsung has opted for a clean look. It is just three round islands stacked vertically on the top left. That’s it. The minimalistic appeal of the phone increases when you hold the phone. Its boxy frame has a good grip, thanks to rounded corners. Speaking of which, someone spotted that the rounded corners are not geometrically equidistant to the camera circles on the back. I don’t mind that mismatch though.
The compact size of the Galaxy S23 makes it feel more secure in my fingers every time I pick up the phone. It is also lightweight, so holding it for a long time is barely an inconvenience. The metal frames of the phone are not slippery, unlike the last year’s Galaxy S22. I must admit that I fell in love with the Galaxy S23 over my time reviewing it. Especially, the Lavender colour option that I have. I cannot think of any other way this phone would have looked more premium.
Compact phones ideally mean small displays. Technically, a display under 6 inches should count as small, but Galaxy S23’s display is slightly bigger at 6.1 inches. It is large enough to reach the status bar to pull down notifications and even though this LTPO Full-HD+ display shows HDR videos in good quality, it will not give you the best viewing experience because of the size. Mind you, Samsung phones do not support Dolby Vision in favour of the company’s own HDR10+ technology. I liked watching the latest season of Outer Banks in HDR quality on Netflix. With the phone’s stereo speakers – which are amply loud and clear – watching shows and movies is an enjoyable experience.
Compared to the last year’s Galaxy S22, not much has changed except for the brightness. The Galaxy S23 display can get very bright, so reading text and watching Instagram videos on a bright sunny day was not an issue. Facial scanning is a little spotty but the ultrasonic fingerprint sensor works fast. The adaptive refresh rate makes scrolling and animations smoother.
Samsung Galaxy S23 performance and battery
For the first time, a Galaxy S series phone only uses the latest Qualcomm chipset. There is no Exynos version. The Galaxy S23 uses the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor. Wait, it is called the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy. Samsung and Qualcomm partnered for exclusive Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipsets for the Galaxy S23 series. It is slightly more powerful than the vanilla version, but the difference could only be felt when playing high-end games. For everyday tasks, such as checking emails, clicking photos, scrolling through Instagram, and watching HDR movies on Netflix, the phone is fast enough. Multitasking on the Galaxy S23 is blazing fast, thanks to 8GB of RAM. There is also a 12GB RAM version, but either will be sufficient for demanding tasks.
The Galaxy S23 is as fast as the Galaxy S23 Ultra and – dare I say – slightly faster than the OnePlus 11 5G. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 leaves no room for complaints. It also runs cooler than the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, which received several complaints for making phones toasty after a short photography or gaming session. During the downloading and installation of the Genshin Impact, the Galaxy S23 got warm enough to be just felt. Playing the game for about 20 minutes also did not make the phone heat up. There were no lags or frame drops during my session on Genshin Impact. I also tried Pokemon Go, which uses the phone’s Augmented Reality engine but even that could not turn it toasty. Neither did it drain the phone’s battery extensively.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 packs a 3900mAh battery, which is slightly bigger than Galaxy S22’s battery. In terms of impact, there is a lot to be felt. I would normally use the phone throughout the day with normal to heavy apps and still have around 15-20 percent left. That is when the phone was connected to Jio’s 5G network. I am sure the phone would save more battery when latched onto a 4G network. With a screen-on time of about five hours, the Galaxy S23 is one of the long-lasting phones in its price segment. There is 25W wired charging, which is not as fast as 240W fast charging on Realme GT 3 but can fill 50 percent battery in about half an hour.
I do not talk much on the phone, but whatever little time I spent on calls was good. Calls never dropped and the earpiece is pretty loud. Sometimes I had to lower the call volume to avoid people nearby from overhearing. Antennas on the Galaxy S23 make network reception better than older phones. For instance, my four-year-old iPhone XR was struggling to get a signal two levels below the ground floor, while Galaxy S23 showed my full coverage.
Samsung has launched OneUI 5.1 custom software with the Galaxy S23 series. This is a slightly better version of OneUI 5.0, based on Android 13. Samsung’s custom software is already pretty polished and nifty, so I never faced a problem accessing what I wanted – and fast. For instance, the Edge panels are a great way to quickly jump to apps that you use the most. You can even save your favourite split-view combinations of apps. I was not able to use Samsung DeX, but it should work when you have a television and want to do office work quickly.
Samsung Galaxy S23 cameras
The Galaxy S23 is not exactly the phone to look for the best cameras, especially when compared with the Galaxy S23 Ultra, Google Pixel 7 Pro, and OnePlus 11. But it should be good enough for some users. The Galaxy S23 has a 50-megapixel F1.8 main camera with optical image stabilisation (OIS), a 10-megapixel telephoto camera with 3X optical zoom and OIS, and a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera with a 120-degree field of view.
The main camera clicks some amazing daylight shots. Photos have depth in them and the colours are near-accurate. Samsung has improved its sensors to subside warm tones that emerge post-processing and that shows. Scenes with trees and leaves come out nicely and without oversaturation – until the camera forces the processing of photos. Call it weird antics, but the main camera sometimes processes images a little too much, leaving the photo unusable. The regular photos clicked using the 50-megapixel sensor are 12 megapixels in resolution. But you have the option of using the 50MP mode to click photos in that resolution.
A quick navigation to the Expert RAW mode reveals the option to click photos in 50MP resolution. You can customise the settings before clicking the photo, which is a good thing if you want to experiment with how your photo would turn out. As long as the lighting conditions are good, the 50MP photos capture an insane amount of details, but that is it. Unless you are a professional photographer – in which case you would rather go for a better camera phone, the 50MP mode is a thing to play with once or twice.
The camera app has several modes that you can try out. I did try them out and that is it. I hardly looked at them again. But the most commonly used tools are going to be the Portrait effect and Night mode. The Portrait mode is a little too harsh in imposing the blurred effect. Photos clicked with the Portrait Mode do not look natural. You can dial it down a notch, but the effect is more or less the same. It is not the best but it is there if you want. The Night mode is also good enough to put focus on objects clicked in the dark, but I noticed a loss of details in many photos. Especially trees, when clicked using the night mode, appear like a green blob sometimes. Low-light photos without the Night Mode are good, the colours take a hit sometimes. For instance, a light pastel-coloured notebook cover appeared off-white in the photo.
(Click an image to enlarge it)
You do not get the fancy 100X zoom on the Galaxy S23, but 30X digital zoom is not bad. Since there is OIS, photos are mostly stable and retain as many details as the lighting conditions allow. Samsung’s camera algorithm tries to clean images as much as possible to make different elements visible. And the colours are also mostly accurate. I did notice artefacts in some photos, but that is just me nitpicking.
The closest competitor price-wise should be the Google Pixel 7 Pro, but it is not in the same camera prowess league. Although the difference in price, sort of, justifies the differences in camera performances of both the Galaxy S23 and the Pixel 7 Pro. Samsung’s positive trait here is the variety of modes available, some of which are not there on Pixel phones. If you are not a stickler for photography, the Galaxy S23 is a good choice.
Samsung Galaxy S23 verdict
While Samsung reserved the best of the best features for the Galaxy S23 Ultra, it did not mistreat the vanilla Galaxy S23. The fast performance of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, the vivid OLED display that has little to complain about, decent cameras, Samsung’s custom software to make navigation easier, and, most importantly, the compact size makes the Galaxy S23 an appealing phone. It has some pitfalls when compared with other phones, but if you wanted them, you would not be looking at the Galaxy S23.
If you think you are drawn to the Galaxy S23, it is because of how charmingly compact this phone is. The ease of using a smartphone – the way it should be – is what the Galaxy S23 materialises without effort. The price of Rs 74,999 could push some customers away to look for options like the OnePlus 11 5G, which has a bigger display for much less price. But, as I said, if you are looking at OnePlus, you were never drawn to the Galaxy S23.