The beginning of any new year is laden with hopes, dreams and ideas for the coming twelve months.
In tech, those ideas and visions of the future are showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) but very rarely seen as actual product that you or I can buy that same year, however, this year, things are a bit different.
As always, CES was awash with the world’s tech media and every big, and small, brand you can think of. There was no shortage of new automotive tech, new TVs and a whole bunch of weird and wild things that I could never have imagined. Having said that, there were three main themes that permeated the entire show: artificial intelligence (AI), new display technology and the evolution of ecosystems.
Now, less than a week later, we’re getting to see real world applications of these three major tech trends in the form of one series of devices, the Samsung Galaxy S24 series.
The company unveiled its all new trio of flagships at a packed arena in San Jose, California, the heart of Silicon Valley.
While initial leaks proved to be correct in that the overall hardware design of the new S-series is near identical to the previous generation, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The new devices are flatter, have titanium rails which make them lighter and are available in a new more serious shade of colours. The clear standout is the S24 Ultra which trades its slightly curved display for a flatter one which makes using the embedded S-Pen even easier than ever before. The overall boxier, refined design and titanium rails make it look like a luxury item and is a wonderful showcase of Samsung’s design prowess. When a device is that good, there’s really nothing you can, or need to do to improve it other than minor refinements.
While the same is largely true for the S24 and S24 Plus, I found myself longing for the slightly softer edges of the S23 and S23 Plus, as the two new handsets felt a bit sharp in the hand and reminded me of the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max when it should’ve felt more like the softer, more ergonomic titanium edges of the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. This isn’t to say that they’re bad devices, but you’re most likely going to want to put them in cases as soon as possible, versus the S24 Ultra which you’re going to want to enjoy caseless as much as possible.
The problem with these iterative hardware upgrades is that it will be perceived as a lack of innovation and will make it hard to convince some as to why they should upgrade.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a new issue in the industry with many people feeling that the smartphone industry is stagnant. While I certainly welcome more competition and am hoping either for a resurgence of Huawei or look for another brand in the Android sphere to become a true Samsung competitor on a global scale, the fact that smartphones - in their current form - have reached their zenith needs to be acknowledged. This isn’t the fault of Samsung or any other handset manufacturer, it’s something that just is.
The S24 series is the perfect embodiment of this. It packs incredible innovation under the hood. Innovation that over time could have real meaningful impact on the way you connect, communicate, create and work.
Not only is there a new live translation feature that lets you speak your in your native language (dependant on whether that language is supported) to someone who does not speak that language and you’ll be able to understand each other, there’s also a translation transcription feature and a circle to search feature. While the first two have obvious benefits, the circle to search feature might seem less useful but having tried out the feature, it’s quickly become a favourite that I wish was available on every single device on the planet. Not only can you search for items in an image, whether you took that image or not, you’re also able to get links to buy the item you’ve searched for, and you can find mapping information.
The impact of features and services like this, driven by AI, is not to be underestimated. As the AI capabilities grow, these features become more useful and more impactful. There are also impressive improvements on the display, with the S24 Ultra being even more visible in harsh sunlight than the S23 Ultra was, and, when you look at Samsung’s entire hardware ecosystem, spanning mobile as well as home electronics, you see the vision they have to unite everything and enhance it with AI to create a new type of ecosystem that truly adapts to you in ways never seen before. The issue with that is that it’s going to take some time for that vision to be fully realised and for now, all that people are seeing is a new trio of handsets that look nearly identical to its predecessor, that while impressive, don’t offer what is perceived as significant innovation and upgrades.