Back in the day, yearly phone upgrades were pretty common. Nowadays, however, phones can be prohibitively expensive if you can’t find the right deal, and it’s just flat-out unreasonable to pay full price in most cases.
So, is the new $1,300 Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra a phone worth upgrading to? The answer entirely depends on what you’re upgrading from. Galaxy S23 Ultra users should stick with what they’ve got unless there’s a problem. All the new AI features of the Galaxy S24 Ultra are coming to the Galaxy S23 Ultra in the One UI 6.1 update, and it’s not likely the camera changes on the S24 Ultra will be worth your time.
But, if you’re coming from an older Samsung Galaxy phone, there are a ton of amazing Galaxy S24 deals and trade-in offers that will get you upgraded to the most premium phone Samsung makes. On top of that, Samsung’s new seven-year software update guarantee means the Galaxy S24 Ultra will look and feel new for a very long time, including new software features and other upgrades that happen along the way.
While I’m still testing the S24 Ultra in preparation for a full review, there are no doubt some of you who are already wondering if it’s worth upgrading to the device. Hopefully, this should help if you’re considering hitting that preorder button.
Why you should upgrade to the Galaxy S24 Ultra
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If you’ve never used one of Samsung’s Galaxy S Ultra phones, you’re in for a treat. Samsung combined its Galaxy S and Galaxy Note lines a few years back and now packs an S Pen into the body of the Galaxy S24 Ultra for easy note-taking abilities.
To make that even better, the display on the Galaxy S24 Ultra is flat for the first time since Samsung combined these phone lines. Previously, Samsung curved the glass on the left and right edges, which made the phone look fancy, but it made note-taking on the edges more difficult than it needed to be.
The curved glass also meant that finding a good screen protector was tough. My own Galaxy S23 Ultra got a broken screen because it fell and landed right on the edge between where the screen protector and case could keep the glass safe. That shouldn’t happen with the S24 Ultra, thank heaven.
All of Samsung’s new AI features are available on every Galaxy S24 model, but many of them, like Circle to Search, are best used on the S24 Ultra because of the S Pen. Using the S Pen is far more accurate than a finger, and it makes editing text substantially easier.
Aside from the S Pen, you’re going to love the new camera array on the back of the Galaxy S24 Ultra. Samsung changed things up this year and is including a new 50MP 5x zoom camera in place of the old 10MP 10x zoom camera. While this sounds like a downgrade at first, Samsung said most of its users never zoomed beyond 10x in the first place.
By making this change, Samsung has ensured “optical quality” from any photo taken between 1x and 10x zoom. We’ve still got to test this new camera for ourselves, but on paper, the change makes a lot of sense for any user who doesn’t care about zooming beyond 10x.
If your phone is more than two years old, it makes a lot of sense to trade it in for the Galaxy S24 Ultra and get a really solid upgrade. Companies like AT&T and Verizon will give you $1,000 off the S24 Ultra when you trade in any old Galaxy phone. The older, the better since most of these phones can’t be resold for anywhere near that kind of money.
Why you shouldn’t upgrade to the Galaxy S24 Ultra
As I said before, there’s virtually no reason a Galaxy S23 Ultra owner should bother spending the money to upgrade this year. There simply aren’t enough changes to warrant the extra money — especially since the Ultra technically has a $100 price increase this year, as the cheapest model now costs $1,300.
All Galaxy S23 owners will receive all the new Galaxy AI features in the S24 series with the One UI 6.1 update, so there’s no new software feature to actually upgrade for.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 for Galaxy processor inside the S24 series is great and offers a 25% performance increase over the processor in the Galaxy S23 series, but it’s not going to impress anyone coming from those phones.
Sure, games like War Thunder Mobile and Arena Breakout support fancy new ray-tracing features, but they’re not worth spending lots of money on. You’d be much better off spending the cash on a PS5 with ray-tracing capabilities, instead.
And while that processor is technically slightly more battery efficient — 5%, to be exact — Samsung didn’t increase the battery size or improve the charging speeds on this phone, so you won’t see a difference there. There’s also no Qi2 support on the Galaxy S24 Ultra, so wireless charging is also the same experience.
Samsung has improved the technical aspects of all the Galaxy S24 displays, but the company is still avoiding making any changes to its flicker frequency for PWM-sensitive individuals. Meanwhile, companies like OnePlus, Motorola, Honor, and others have been making huge strides in introducing new eye health features to keep users feeling good for the long haul.
In short, Galaxy S23 owners should hold on for at least another year before making the upgrade. Meanwhile, everyone else just needs to consider if the price makes sense, especially given the increase.
If you want to learn even more, check out my Samsung Galaxy S24 hands-on, and be on the lookout for my upcoming review.
The S Pen is mightier
The Galaxy S24 Ultra is Samsung’s latest premium flagship, offering a new 200MP camera system, a brighter display, faster chipset, and a host of new AI features. There’s plenty to like about the S24 Ultra, and it’s definitely one you should consider making your next phone.