Galaxy S24 Ultra, 3 Months In: Here Are All the Hidden Gems Beyond AI

Commentary: I've been using Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra for three months and there are so many features and tools that truly surprised me -- none were AI.

Lexy Savvides Principal Video Producer
Lexy is an on-air presenter and award-winning producer who covers consumer tech, including the latest smartphones, wearables and emerging trends like assistive robotics. She's won two Gold Telly Awards for her video series Beta Test. Prior to her career at CNET, she was a magazine editor, radio announcer and DJ. Lexy is based in San Francisco.
Expertise Wearables | Smartwatches | Mobile phones | Photography | Health tech | Assistive robotics Credentials
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Lexy Savvides
5 min read
Cameras and lenses on the Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max and the Samsung S24 Ultra

The S24 Ultra cameras.

James Martin/CNET

Samsung launched the Galaxy S24 Ultra in January with AI as the focus, highlighting how it would make our lives easier with tools like language translation and Circle to Search. For the past three months I've lived with the Galaxy S24 Ultra as my main phone. I found out which features are helpful, like the antireflective display, and which were not, like Galaxy AI. During that time, I discovered there are hidden features and tools in this phone, beyond AI, that make it better than I anticipated. 

If you're looking for more about the phone, you can read my CNET colleague Lisa Eadicicco's full S24 Ultra review where she goes deep testing the performance benchmarks, battery life and all its AI tools.

Read more: Best Samsung Phone for 2024

My last Samsung Galaxy phone was the S22 Ultra, and it's held up well over the past two years. So when Samsung released the S24 Ultra with its suite of new AI tools and the promise of seven years of software updates, I hoped it would win me over in the same way the S22 Ultra did. 

The S24 Ultra's display is game-changing

You can give me AI features and a 200-megapixel camera, but the one feature I use without fail every day is the screen. I feel Samsung underplayed how big of a deal the antiglare display is on the S24 Ultra, especially because the company only released a video with more details on the Corning Gorilla Armor construction three months after launch. 

The display dramatically cuts down reflections and glare outdoors compared to other flagship phones. I compared it to the iPhone 15 Pro Max, Pixel 8 Pro and even last year's S23 Ultra on a bright San Francisco day and there was no contest -- the S24 Ultra easily beat them all. I can take photos and watch YouTube videos without needing to shade the screen. You can see how each screen performed in the video embedded on this page.

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs S23 Ultra screens

The difference is dramatic between the screens on the S24 Ultra (left) and S23 Ultra (right).

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

The Gorilla Armor coating is also more scratch-resistant than earlier Gorilla Glass displays, according to the company. Three months in and after a few other CNET editors borrowed this phone, it still looks good, with no scratches to report. Compare this to my S22 Ultra, which developed a deep scratch on the display just a few weeks into use.

Read more: Blizzard Bound: A Photojournalist Takes the Galaxy S24 Ultra to Tahoe

I find it puzzling that Samsung only revealed details on the screen's construction months later. Maybe that's due in part to the display issues that some people experienced a few weeks after launch. Samsung addressed those issues with a software update.

Upgrading to this display from the curved S22 Ultra also brought another unexpected perk: a flatter display. I find it's better for taking quick notes with the S Pen when the display is off because I can write up to the edges if I need.

S24 Ultra AI features aren't that special

No contest: For me the best AI feature on the S24 Ultra is Circle to Search. I use it all the time, whether that's searching for something on a webpage, or circling something from the camera app. The other AI features I'm using frequently from the Samsung tools include the shadow and reflection eraser, plus the rotating canvas option that fills in the edges of the image.

But all these AI features have come to the S23 Ultra and Z Fold 5 and Flip 5 with the One UI 6.1 update. Google Pixel phones also have Circle to Search. So they aren't a big enough selling point for the S24 Ultra anymore and, like my colleague Lisa Eadicicco said, it feels like a missed opportunity for Samsung.

Circle to Search on S24 Ultra

Circle to Search is my most-used feature, especially in the camera app.

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

I've also been using Gemini AI instead of Google Assistant, and it's been a good experience for the most part. I've been using it more than I anticipated. However it still has issues understanding my Australian accent at times when I use voice-to-text dictation so I mainly type requests to Gemini until that improves.

S24 Ultra cameras don't wow like earlier phones

This is probably the first time in a long time that the camera hasn't been a huge part of my Galaxy experience. This phone still has the great zoom capabilities and having that flexibility to move from ultrawide through 100x is fun, but I never use 100x zoom because it makes my photos look like watercolor paintings. I generally max out at 30x.

Read more: Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: Camera Comparison

But the camera doesn't feel as exciting as earlier Galaxy phones, or even other Android phones like the Xiaomi Ultra 14 that push the boundaries with a 1-inch type sensor size. That's in part because Samsung removed the 10x optical camera for a new 5x one, opting instead for pixel binning the 50-megapixel image to get to 10x hybrid zoom. Specifically for video at 10x, like filming at a concert, it removes flexibility and forces me to use 10x digital zoom more than I like. I'm always team optical over hybrid or digital zoom.

Quick Share is game changing for file sharing

Sharing files between devices is something I do every day, especially if I want to share a photo I took with friends or with my work computer. I've always wanted a universal AirDrop, but we're almost there with Android adopting Quick Share (it used to be called Nearby Share). But the S24 Ultra does one better, because when you go to share an image, you'll see the option to scan a QR code or copy a URL, so you can share full-resolution files with another device or with friends. I use this all the time to transfer between the S24 Ultra and iOS, or to my work computer, which is a Mac. 

To wrap up, the Galaxy S24 Ultra has won me over more than I thought it would. Features like Galaxy AI weren't as helpful as their hype but quality-of-life improvements like the antiglare display made an impact. I'll be interested in revisiting this phone in a few months, especially once we know more about other updates Android 15 might bring.

Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra Now Has a Titanium Design

See all photos

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