In September 2022, in my very first column for ThePrint, I had written that the iPhone 14 could reignite a Samsung-Apple battle in India. My argument was based on Samsung’s success with foldable screen devices and Apple’s conservative approach toward the iPhone 14. And that conservatism is showing in sales, which have hobbled not solely due to Apple’s iterative products but also because of a multitude of supply chain issues and a confused portfolio.
That theory will be proven with the upcoming launch of the Samsung Galaxy S23 series. At this year’s Samsung Galaxy Unpacked event, the South Korean chaebol revealed impressive updates to its flagship Galaxy S23 series which, for a decade, has been the de facto arch-rival of the iPhone.
The Galaxy S23 line builds on the excellent foundations of its predecessor and is supercharged with updates to the camera and computing capabilities. These updates are likely to surpass the iPhone for the first time since 2015 in terms of the above features. Of course, all of this is on paper, and while I did experience the new Galaxy S23 Ultra, Galaxy S23+, and Galaxy S23 for a good 25 minutes in a closed-door briefing, the true test will be the review when these gadgets come to me.
Nonetheless, Apple will need to flex its muscles with the iPhone 15. It can’t take it as easy as it did with the iPhone 14 series.
Also read: Apple checkmating regulators with wireless charging push. But it is exposing its technology
Promising best-in-class camera
In these columns, I have also written that the Galaxy S23 Ultra could kickstart the trend of 200-megapixel camera phones. That prediction has turned out to be true with Samsung unveiling its ISOCELL HP2 image sensor on the Galaxy S23 Ultra. The sensor promises exceptional portrait photography, excellent astrophotography, and best-in-class zoom.
The 200-megapixel sensor in the model endows the camera with the intelligence to know when it needs to pixel bin image resolution to, say, 50 megapixels or 12 megapixels or keep it at 200 megapixels and still give the best result. In a way, its primary camera is a three-in-one feature, aside from its telephoto lenses and ultra-wide sensors.
These cameras will attract professionals who like to shoot unprocessed raw image files as they can now work on a 50-megapixel resolution. It also brings these smart updates to the selfie camera, which is now highly improved according to Samsung, and its video features, though they can’t compete with the iPhone.
Also read: Gear up for 200-megapixel resolution smartphone cameras in 2023
The most powerful Android phone ever?
The camera system in the Galaxy S23 series is complemented with a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset. Qualcomm has made huge gains with its latest processor. It will not just power the Galaxy S23 series but OnePlus 11, iQOO 11 Pro, Vivo X90 Pro Plus, and Xiaomi 13 Pro. For the first time, this chipset, according to Qualcomm, has a graphics processing unit (GPU) that is more powerful than the iPhone. Qualcomm was also able to enable ‘ray tracing’. It is a technique by which game developers can create advanced graphics. In such graphics, light bounces off objects as it does in real life. The result is ultra-realism that mimics advanced Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) used in Hollywood movies.
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is the first mobile processor to have ray tracing, beating Apple to the punch. It was reported that Apple had been working on enabling ray tracing for the A16 bionic chip, but due to errors in development, the plans were dropped. Apple focused on a more iterative graphics boost for the chip that ended up in the iPhone 14 Pro models.
Samsung goes one step further by claiming that Qualcomm has provided it with a chip that is custom-designed for the Galaxy S23 line and more powerful than the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor that other manufacturers will use. The company says that the smartphones will also get a beefed-up vapour chamber, which promises to enhance the thermal efficiency of the device. This feature will allow the device to run at peak performance for longer when users play high-resolution games.
Samsung claims that the chip’s neural processing unit (NPU) was more than 40 per cent faster than the one on the Galaxy S22. The NPU enables all the computational trickery the S23 Ultra’s 200-megapixel camera can do. Apple and Google proved that smartphone cameras can bend physics using silicon — and Samsung is starting to adopt this approach more earnestly now.
Don’t miss the humbler models
While the flagship Galaxy S23 Ultra promises to be the benchmark among Android smartphones, it would be foolish to ignore the more affordable S23+ and S23 models. They promise the same computing prowess with humbler cameras but in a more compact and affordable package. These two phones, especially the standard S23, look excellent too. This line-up, more importantly, is more cohesive and easier to understand than the Apple iPhone 14 series — iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max. Most people can’t tell the difference between any two of these models.
While the Samsung Galaxy S23 series will be pricey (starting from Rs 74,999 and going up till Rs 154,999), it will be the top draw. Samsung has mastered its formula and left the ball in Apple’s court, besides grabbing the attention of every other Android manufacturer, including Google.
Sahil Mohan Gupta is a Delhi-based technology journalist. He tweets @DigitallyBones. Views are personal.
(Edited by Humra Laeeq)