You might think that the best phone the launch of the year takes place in September when Apple announces its latest iPhone 15. In fact, the most important phone event occurs in February when Samsung establishes the hurdle that every new smartphone will have to step over or step down. Then we see the Galaxy S23 Ultra at Samsung Unpacked (assuming we do), the only question left is how Apple, Google and others will try to beat it.
It will be particularly difficult this year. We have a good idea of the parts that will make up a new smartphone long before its launch. Since most manufacturers buy from the same parts makers, it’s hard for a phone maker to stand out. Launching a phone at the start of a new year’s launch cycle is particularly bold.
A better Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 platform
Take the mobile platform. Last year, Samsung launched the Galaxy S22 Ultra with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset. It was the best platform you could buy outside of an iPhone, but it wasn’t exclusive to Samsung. When Samsung announced its Galaxy Z Fold 4 in August, it was already time to upgrade to Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1.
Worse still, last year’s Galaxy S22 didn’t launch with the latest Qualcomm chips in all regions. Some areas have a Samsung Exynos platform inside, and testing has shown the Qualcomm device to be the superior phone.
This year, Samsung is not taking any risks. Not only does each region get a whole new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 mobile platform inside, Samsung offers a better chip than competitors will use, perhaps making it the most powerful phone you can buy. Rumors suggest 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 will definitely see faster chipsets from Qualcomm before the end of the year. Samsung won’t hold the performance crown for the entire 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 wild card is the new MediaTek Dimensity 9200 mobile platform which could appear in competitors like the Oppo Find N2. MediaTek has made quality chips for mid-range devices, as well as some flagship phones sold outside of the US market. The latest high-end chipset takes aim at Qualcomm’s Snapdragon, and MediaTek talks about its graphics performance as if we’re back in the days of the game console wars. We’re expecting stiff competition.
That wild Samsung 200MP 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 this would be the exclusive partner of the Galaxy S23. It’s the Samsung 200MP photo sensora huge leap forward in resolution, which we were really excited about.
Qualcomm says the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 image signal processor can handle 200MP images, but that doesn’t mean manufacturers will hit that extreme level of sensor data. Samsung is rumored to include a Samsung Semiconductor ISOCELL HP2 sensor that will blow its competitors in terms of low-light photography, in addition to sheer resolution.
There’s a lot more to smartphone imaging than pixel count. High resolution doesn’t help if those pixels are too small to collect enough light to make great photos. Phones also need fast lenses and the software to put it all together. Our experience with the best samsung phones had us excited about the images the Galaxy S23 Ultra will produce with the new shooter.
Apple and Google will be hard pressed to keep up if the new camera delivers the excitement it created. Both competitors could theoretically also buy the new camera module. The Samsung Semiconductor camera sensors are separated by a legal firewall from the Mobile Experience group which makes phones for this reason.
Samsung sells sensors to other phone makers, including Motorola on the Motorola Edge 30 Ultra. Samsung phones use camera sensors from Sony and other camera manufacturers.
Not on the next Apple iPhone or Google Pixel
We don’t expect Apple or Google to jump to 200MP, at least not with the next one. Apple iPhone 15 Pro (or the possible iPhone 15 Ultra) or the Google Pixel 8 Pro (or the possible Pixel Ultra). It just doesn’t fit the story or the style of the camera.
Apple only recently updated its iPhone from a 12MP sensor to a larger 48MP sensor, but it still doesn’t come close to the 108MP on the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra which surpasses our best camera phone listing. Of course, the actual sensor size is very similar between these two companies, and both companies reduce the default images to a more reasonable size.
We don’t expect Apple to significantly improve the pixel count on the iPhone for a few generations. Apple likes to plateau in resolution and then hone its art of imaging for a while, getting the best results from familiar technology.
Google, on the other hand, uses AI enhancements to improve images. The Pixel 7 Pro uses fine sensors and lenses, but nothing superlative. Instead, the Google Tensor G2 chipset incorporates unique image processing and editing features that you can only find on a Google Pixel 7 Family call. These make a real difference, but they can only build on the existing image quality.
It will be harder for Google to improve its optical image quality to match the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra than for Samsung to come up with new AI and software tricks to give us Google-like results. With a fantastic new sensor and capable lenses, Samsung won’t need to blur photos or drastically improve zoom. The camera will do the job.
Satellite emergency SOS will up the ante
Finally, we learn that Samsung will be partnering with Iridium Communications for an ER-like satellite messaging service. Satellite SOS which Apple has included in the iPhone 14 family. Satellite capabilities will be a common theme in mobile devices this year.
We expect many competitors to support satellite emergency messaging, so it will be table stakes when the next iPhone launches. If a phone maker hasn’t checked this box, does it really care about its customers who regularly climb K2?
Competitors can win on battery and power
There are a few ways we want Samsung to set the stage for the year, but there will be room for competitors to win like competitors have done before. Samsung batteries aren’t big enough, and Samsung phones don’t charge as fast as the best OnePlus Phone(s. We’d like to see Apple and Google up their game in these areas as well.
Samsung is rumored to be improving the fingerprint sensor on its phones, but seems to be sticking with the older kit. The last Qualcomm 3D SonicMax The sensor can handle multiple fingers at once, and we expect it to show up on competing phones. Security will be a huge issue this year, so this could be a significant upgrade.
Samsung won’t improve where we really need it
We have no hope for improvements Samsung’s OneUI Neither will this year, and the gap between Samsung’s software design and the Google Pixel version of Android is more noticeable than ever. Samsung needs to modernize, otherwise competitors who come close to Google’s sleek, mature and understated interface will find happy buyers.
It’s going to be a tough year financially for most of us, and we haven’t seen any rumors of Samsung responding to the global cost of living crisis. We hear the new phones from Samsung and Apple will cost more, Not less. It would be a mistake, and also an opportunity for the competition.
We know where Samsung intends to lead the pack this year. With state-of-the-art processors and camera sensors that competitors may not be able to match, we can see just how high Samsung is setting the bar this year. We’re hoping that as competitors try to get ahead, we see phones that also find room to duck and give us the battery and security improvements that Samsung lacks.
Before the 2023 editions of Samsung, Google and Apple arrive, take a look at all the best smartphones they delivered this year.