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5 phones you should buy instead of the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

A person using the S Pen stylus with the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

It’s hard not to lust after the biggest and most powerful smartphone on the market, and at the moment, that’s the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra. Samsung’s new flagship is here, and it’s simply one of the best smartphones you can buy today. The Galaxy S24 Ultra isn’t just another smartphone; it’s extremely powerful and has some of the most advanced AI features we’ve ever seen on a phone, along with an excellent camera and battery life. Simply put, it’s great.

But you know what? You don’t have to buy it. As good as it is, the Galaxy S24 Ultra is only one of a number of smartphones you can buy, and many of them are as good as the S24 Ultra — and may even exceed it in a few key ways.

Not sure about dropping $1,300 on Samsung’s latest? Here are five smartphones you should buy instead of the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Plus

Someone holding the Samsung Galaxy S24 Plus with its screen turned on.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

What is the Samsung Galaxy S24 Plus? Simply put, it’s the phone that made us forget about the Galaxy S24 Ultra. After a great review, we were set to place the S24 Ultra at the top of the Samsung pile and call it good for another year. Then, the Galaxy S24 Plus dropped into our lives.

In short, it’s the S24 Ultra with all the “extras” carefully removed. Sure, you don’t get the Ultra’s S Pen or periscope zoom lens, but did you really need those? Because what you get for a full $300 less is the same high-speed Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor, the same 1440p AMOLED display with a 1-120Hz dynamic refresh rate, and 45W charging speeds. Yes, you’re taking a hit in the battery and screen size departments, but these decreases are absolutely tiny, as you’ll lose 0.1 of an inch from the screen’s diagonal measurement and 100mAh of a 5,000mAh battery. It’s so small a change as to be unnoticeable, and the same applies to the camera too. The S24 Plus doesn’t have the sky-high megapixel counts of its bigger sibling, but it doesn’t need them, as it delivers fantastic results each time.

You can get more from the S24 Ultra, that’s for sure — but are those extras really worth $300 to you? That’s a question only you can answer, of course. But as far as we’re concerned, the S24 Plus is phenomenal value for the money and simply the best Samsung Galaxy S this year.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Someone holding the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra and the Galaxy S23 Ultra.
The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra (left) and S23 Ultra Joe Maring / Digital Trends

It’s all too easy to forget about yesterday’s toys when that new model is sitting right there, but it’s worth remembering that “new” doesn’t always mean “better.”

OK, so it kind of does, and yes, the S24 Ultra is technically better, but the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is still an incredible phone. Compared with the newer model, the differences are barely noticeable and can only be pinpointed by diving into the spec sheets. The older model is a gram lighter, has a handful fewer pixels in the display, and has a slightly older processor. It’s still a beefy, premium-feeling brick, with a gorgeous display and a transcendent amount of processing grunt hidden beneath a gorgeous design.

The S24 Ultra has Galaxy AI as its new headline feature, but honestly, you can drop that without worrying too much about it. The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is still a heck of a lot of smartphone, and as a bonus, it actually has a little bit more than the newer model. Remember the S24 Ultra’s 5x periscope zoom lens? The S23 Ultra has a 10x zoom lens, which is hilariously so extra when you look back at it. Who needs that? No one, which is why Samsung dropped it. But that’s the whole reason why the Ultra line exists, and we should celebrate when it turns the dial to 11. Buy the Galaxy S23 Ultra instead, and grab a nice discount for almost the same phone.

OnePlus 12

OnePlus 12 Flowy Emerald leaning on a park bench.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

The OnePlus 12 isn’t a flagship killer (that’s the OnePlus 12R), but there’s a strong argument it’s a Galaxy S24 Ultra killer.

OnePlus made a name for itself by focusing on the raw specs and cutting out as many extraneous features as possible — and in that sense, it’s the ideological opposite of the S24 Ultra, as the specs, not the special features, are the reason to buy this phone. It’s powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, giving it the same big brain as the S24 Ultra, but then OnePlus threw in up to 512GB of storage and a truly ludicrous up to 16GB of RAM. Backing that up is a 1Hz to 120Hz refresh rate on a 1440p display that’s just as big as the S24 Ultra’s. This phone can easily trade punches with the brawny Ultra and stay standing round after round. It’s even a faster charger, thanks to the blindingly fast 80-watt charging speed.

The camera isn’t as good, but it’s still a solid shooter, and it’s easily balanced out by the vast gulf in price. The OnePlus 12 starts at $800, an incredible $500 difference in price. Granted, that’s for the base 256GB model with 12GB of RAM, but that’s equal to the specs offered by the basic S24 Ultra, so it evens out. If you want a big phone with big specs, then grab the OnePlus 12 and save a bucketful of cash.

Google Pixel 8 Pro

Someone holding the Google Pixel 8 Pro in front of a colorful mural.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Google’s Pixel line isn’t as common as Samsung’s Galaxy, but it’s made a strong reputation for itself, and for some very good reasons.

In previous years, we’d have immediately plugged the Google Pixel phone as the best camera phone, but this year, the Galaxy S24 Ultra has taken a shocking win in our S24 Ultra vs. Pixel 8 Pro camera comparison. But even with that in mind, there are still many great reasons to pick the Google Pixel 8 Pro over Samsung’s huge smartphone. The camera system is still incredible and takes shots with superior real-life colors, eschewing the vibrant saturation Samsung tends to opt for in its cameras. While the wide-angle and telephoto shots aren’t as strong as Samsung’s, it would be a mistake to think the Pixel 8 Pro doesn’t have an incredible camera system.

That’s not all Google’s biggest new phone has going for it. It’s a similar size to the S24 Ultra, so you’re not missing out in that department, and it has similar display specs, too, including the 120Hz dynamic refresh rate. The Google-made Tensor G3 processor is powerful and fast, and it even has similar AI features to the S24 Ultra — because Google did it first.

The battery life falters a little bit, offering only a single day per charge, but the Pixel’s version of Android makes up for that with a super-clean interface and useful features that don’t bulk up the phone. While we love One UI on the S24 Ultra, there’s no doubt that there’s a lot of extra stuff thrown in there, and purists will love what Google offers.

The final point is the price. The Pixel 8 Pro is a big phone with similar power, camera systems, and features to the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, but it does it at a much lower price. The Google Pixel 8 Pro starts from $999, a full $300 less than the S24 Ultra, and upgrading to 256GB of storage (putting it on par with the Ultra) will cost $1,059 — still well below what you’ll pay for Samsung’s latest.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 half folded on a showcase.
Prakhar Khanna / Digital Trends

A strong reason to buy the S24 Ultra is because it provides the cutting edge of smartphone tech with extremely powerful specs, a very impressive camera, and almost the most advanced display money can buy. Why almost? Because the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 exists, and if you’re already spending at least $1,300 on a smartphone, why not go all-in and buy the most cutting-edge device instead?

In terms of specs, it’s similar to the S24 Ultra, even if it’s not quite as powerful. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is a stellar chip with more power than you’re ever likely to need, and the camera is still excellent. But we all know what the real draw here is: the folding screen. The 7.6-inch inner display has the same refresh rate as the S24 Ultra while offering almost twice the width. When using such a large tablet-like screen isn’t feasible, there’s also a 6.2-inch display on the outside.

Unlike most of the options on this list, the Z Fold 5 is more expensive than the S24 Ultra, with prices starting at $1,799. But when you’re looking to pay an already large amount of money on the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra and clearly want to get a bit extra, why not go a little bit further and really shoot for the stars?

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Jansen
Mark Jansen is an avid follower of everything that beeps, bloops, or makes pretty lights. He has a degree in Ancient &…
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