It’s crazy to think that 2023 will be wrapping up in just a few weeks from now, and a new year will be upon us faster than we think. One of the first major flagship phones that came out in 2023 was the Samsung Galaxy S23, which launched in February alongside its Galaxy S23 Plus and Galaxy S23 Ultra siblings.
I gave the Samsung Galaxy S23 a positive review when it first came out, but there have been a lot of new flagship phones from competitors since then. Samsung is also expected to reveal its successor, the Galaxy S24 lineup, early in 2024.
So, does the Samsung Galaxy S23 still hold up in late 2023?
These days, it seems that every major smartphone you see or hear about is a gigantic slab. It’s hard to find a brand that makes reasonably sized compact phones anymore. If you value small phones that you can use easily with one hand, the Samsung Galaxy S23 remains one of the best around.
Since Samsung uses aluminum and glass for the S23, it’s pretty lightweight, clocking in at under 6 ounces. The display is also only 6.1 inches, which is about as small as it gets nowadays. That means it’s fairly manageable to use with one hand, though buttons in the upper corners are still a bit of a reach if you have small hands like me. But again, it’s more doable than on, say, the massive 6.8-inch screen of the S23 Ultra.
However, though I appreciate the matte glass on the back of the S23, it’s still a bit too slippery for my liking. I think Apple did the matte glass better with the iPhone 15’s “color-infused” glass, which is also matte, but isn’t as hard to hold without a case.
But overall, holding and using the S23 has been comfortable compared to a lot of other phones I’ve tried this year. The small and compact size is definitely welcome among a sea of giant glass slabs, and honestly, I wish there were more phones this size (and weight).
I had used the Galaxy S23 for several months early on this year, but once more phones came out, the S23 kind of fell by the wayside for me. The last time I used the S23 was around May, so picking it back up for this end-of-year revisit is the first time I’ve used it in months.
And you know what? I’m a bit surprised at how fast and snappy the S23 still feels all these months later. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is already a very capable chip for flagship phones, but with this optimized version specifically made for Samsung Galaxy devices, there’s no holding it back. At times, it even feels faster than my iPhone 15 Pro.
Just like when I first reviewed the phone, the Galaxy S23 doesn’t give me any lag or choppy frame rates. Apps open up instantly, switching between multiple apps is fast and seamless, and any rendering with photo edits happens in seconds.
For the average person who just wants a good Android phone, the S23 is exactly that — and more. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy still packs quite a punch, and it’s great to see how well it’s still holding up nearly a year later.
As I’ve been using the Galaxy S23 again, I also remembered how easy it is to change the whole aesthetic of the device with themes from the Galaxy Themes store. I’m the kind of person who likes to personalize my device, and though it’s possible on pretty much any Android device, I just like the simplicity of it with Samsung. I can do it right from the Settings, and once I apply a theme, I don’t really need to do much else with it.
This is the kind of feature that I wish Apple would add at some point. Since iOS 14 allowed users to use custom app icons through Shortcuts without jailbreaking, and home screen widgets let you get creative with your aesthetics, theming became has become more of a reality on iOS. But it’s still a tedious process and less than ideal. I wish Apple would take a lesson from Samsung and add app icons and themes in its own digital storefront; I’d spend a good chunk of money on it.
And despite the fact that there are similarities between Samsung and Apple when it comes to customizing the lock screen, Samsung still beats Apple. Why? Because you can change the lock screen shortcuts to something else besides the flashlight and camera if you want to. I’m shocked that Apple hasn’t given us that ability yet with the Action button on the iPhone 15 Pro.
Despite the Galaxy S23 being the entry-level model in the lineup, Samsung still gave it a triple-lens camera system with a telephoto sensor. Compared to competitors like Google and Apple, which only offer a dual-camera system on their base models, Samsung gives you a bit more bang for your buck.
One of the reasons why I usually buy the iPhone Pro models is because I want to have a telephoto camera with optical zoom capabilities. But the problem is that it’s more expensive to buy the Pro, and typically, Apple saves the interesting colors for the regular iPhone. It’s the same with Google and the Pixel lineup.
I appreciate the fact that Samsung at least includes a telephoto lens in the base model, so even those who go for the most affordable or smallest S23 can still have good optical zoom. Of course, the 200MP main camera and 10x optical zoom are reserved for the S23 Ultra, but it’s still nice to have a base model device with a triple-lens camera.
My problem with taking photos with the S23 lies with Samsung’s tendency to have oversaturated colors and brightness. Though it works for some situations, other times it just looks too artificial for my tastes. I’m hoping that Samsung tones down the saturation and vibrancy levels with the upcoming S24 next year.
Even though we’re expecting the S24 to drop in early 2024, the Galaxy S23 is still a great buy if you want a small, but powerful Android phone that will last you a few years. It’s especially good if you want something that gives you some good bang for your buck.
Though it launched with a price tag of $800, you can find it for less pretty easily these days. If you find it for less than the original retail price, then it’s a great value and one I’d still happily recommend today.
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