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Samsung upgrades cameras and batteries on iPhone’s biggest rival

Feb. 1, 2023 Updated Wed., Feb. 1, 2023 at 5:45 p.m.

A multiexposure photo taken on a Galaxy S23 Ultra smartphone.  (SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg)
A multiexposure photo taken on a Galaxy S23 Ultra smartphone. (SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg)
By Mark Gurman Bloomberg

Samsung unveiled its latest iPhone-rivaling Android smartphones on Wednesday, improving the cameras, battery life and design with its new Galaxy S23 line.

At its first in-person media event since the start of the pandemic, South Korea’s biggest company introduced three new handsets in San Francisco, pricing them at the same levels as last year: $799, $999 and $1,199. The Galaxy S series remains Samsung’s most direct challenger to Apple in the U.S., even while the device maker works to turn foldable Galaxy devices into its flagship lineup.

The S23 Ultra, Samsung’s new top-tier model with a 6.8-inch screen, is built using more durable materials like upgraded Corning glass and features a 200-megapixel wide-angle camera, up from 108 megapixels. The camera also gets better video stabilization, and the phone’s design has new curves on the edges. Qualcomm Inc.’s latest Snapdragon Gen 2 processor powers the device, and Samsung promises better battery life with the help of dynamic display adjustments.

Samsung is looking to bounce back from a woeful year for smartphone makers, which culminated with the worst quarterly decline on record. In addition to competing with Apple, the world’s most prolific handset maker has to fight off a crowd of fast-improving rivals, including Alphabet’s Google and Xiaomi, as well as Oppo Mobile and its OnePlus brand. Still, Samsung’s new models mark only marginal improvements from last year.

The Galaxy S23 and S23+ share features with the S23 Ultra, though have smaller displays – 6.1 inches and 6.6 inches – and lesser camera technology. Still, in a nod to more professionally inclined photographers, Samsung’s phones now support RAW image files for greater editing control.

Samsung has simplified its storage tiers and colors for the new models. The S23 continues to come in 128-gigabyte and 256GB storage options, while the S23+ will eliminate the lower storage tier and only come in 256GB and 512GB configurations. The S23 Ultra continues to come in a 1-terabyte option.

The three models also now come in the same colors – black, cream, green and lavender – a shift from when different screen sizes and configurations were offered in different colors. The phones can be preordered starting Wednesday and begin arriving on Feb. 17, Samsung said.

Samsung’s classic smartphones have taken a back seat in recent years to increased interest in the company’s foldable phones. Its Z Fold and Z Flip devices have grown in popularity in recent quarters, marking a rare spot of growth for the smartphone industry, and serve as a differentiator from the competition. Chinese rivals have largely limited their foldable offerings to the domestic market. Samsung’s foldables are typically updated later in the year.

The Suwon-based technology giant also unveiled upgrades to its computer line and introduced its first Ultra-branded laptop. The high-end device will feature a 16-inch screen with OLED technology and 3K resolution. The company is also bringing improved Intel Corp. processors, more memory and improved batteries to its existing laptops.

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