Samsung’s latest Ultra is incredible, but not vastly improved by AI


Machine-made memos

Some AI features of the phone are powered by text generation similar to ChatGPT or Google’s Bard, which is to say it’s quite capable of creating sentences that sound like they were written by a human, but it isn’t always great at consistency or accuracy.

The smaller S24 and S23 lack some of the Ultra’s powerful hardware, but pack the same AI features.

The keyboard has an advanced spelling and grammar checker built in, as well as something called “writing style”, which will rewrite your notes or messages in a different tone. Options are typically too binary for me (do you want to sound like a lawyer or a stoner?), but I can see the idea appealing to people who aren’t confident writers.

For example, I wrote a very blunt line to a rental manager (“the tap in the kitchen is leaking, you need to send a plumber”), and the phone generated an array of messages, of which two – “professional” and “polite” – were perfectly appropriate.

Some of the options got too creative (“the tap is leaking like crazy and there’s water everywhere”), underscoring the need to pay close attention when using the feature.

An additional text feature in the Notes app will generate a quick summary of any document, or format your notes automatically into headings and bullet points, but I found this feature a bit too unstable to rely on. The formatting frequently put half sentences into their own bullet point or made up weird titles, while the summaries did a good job with some documents but gave misleading information for others. Ditto for the summaries given by the Samsung Browser, which can crunch entire articles into a few dot points; it tended to miss important context and nuance.

Like many phones, the S24 can also transcribe spoken words, read text aloud and quickly translate between languages, and Samsung has synthesised these capabilities into further features that could be useful in some situations, even if they hardly earn the “AI” label. The phone can interpret for you across text messages, real-life conversations and even phone calls. In the latter case, the person you call is informed you’re using a translation service, and a few seconds after each person speaks, a translation is played to the other party. It’s worth noting that the translation quality here seems pretty much on par with Google, so it’s fine for booking a lunch table but probably won’t hold up to more in-depth conversations.

Fiddling with photos

The bulk of the rest of the AI features involve image generation. You can create consistently bizarre wallpapers from simple prompts using a feature identical to the one found on Google’s latest Pixel phones, or you can pull any video out of your library and convert it to slow motion (with the AI inventing additional frames between the ones your camera took), which is nice and smooth at a glance but tends towards the uncanny.

When it comes to image editing, Samsung’s suite more or less matches the Pixel, and results are similarly mixed. You can reframe or crop, tilt the whole image, or select certain elements to move, delete or resize, and then the phone will process the image to fill in the blank spaces with what it thinks should be there. Sometimes this is seamless, especially if the blank space needs filling with grass, sand or sky. It can also go fantastically wrong, removing limbs or merging subject with background in unexpected ways.

Most of the time, though, it creates a photographically realistic-looking image that’s subtly wrong if you look at the detail. This is especially true if you reframe or tilt the image and have the AI fill in the gaps at the edges. It’s very good at creating elements that look the part at a glance – a rack of plants with a top shelf covered in spider-webs, a door at the end of a brick wall, an old chair in a corner – but if you really look you’ll find floating elements, smeared texture and impossible geometry. And, of course, it was never really there, so it will look wrong to anyone who actually knows the location. For everyone else, Samsung puts a visible logo in the corner indicating the photo is edited.


It’s worth noting that while the text generation and translations are done on the device (once you’ve downloaded the appropriate language packs), images have to be sent to Samsung servers so more powerful computers can process them. That means you can only do AI edits when you’re connected to the internet, and the privacy conscious may prefer to turn the features off in the settings.

One image-related feature that feels truly useful is Circle to Search, which is also coming to Google phones in the near future. Using your finger or the stylus, you can circle any content that appears on your screen and get Google Search results for it. It’s like a much easier to use Google Lens, meaning it’s great to find information on things even if you don’t know what they’re called.

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