These days, smaller phones are uncommon, and the Galaxy S23 is one of them. Maybe a declining breed that’s about to go extinct? Or perhaps, despite what you might have read or heard on YouTube or the internet, there isn’t really that much of a need for them. But fear not—Samsung tends to provide a wide range of alternatives, so we don’t see it giving up on the “vanilla” S series smartphone too soon. Samsung Galaxy S23 long-term review.
By the way, this phone isn’t “vanilla” in the sense of “entry-level” or “boring.” It’s just as much a legitimate flagship device as any other, even without the “+” or “Ultra” suffix on its name that is, you don’t need the greatest camera hardware available. Other than that, it has all the features of a flagship device, so the term “vanilla” is misleading—we had to clarify this so there would be no misunderstandings.
From a purely financial perspective, the S23 represents the ‘entry-level’ of Samsung’s top line because it is also the least expensive of the S23s. That being said, if you don’t mind the size, it’s still a better offer and better value for the money than the S23+, for example. But, if you’re all about the size, this is one of the few phones that comes in a smaller package while still having powerful specifications, so that’s something.
The S23 piqued our interest enough for us to subject it to a lengthy review process. We have solely utilized this phone, as is customary for a long time to experience what it’s like to live without spec sheets and lab tests on a daily basis. Come learn with us about the S23 from our experience over the next few pages.
The S23’s size is what immediately draws attention to it among an ocean of larger phones that are available everywhere. We had several “oh, it’s smaller than mine” remarks from people who saw us carrying it, so you can imagine how understated its measurements are. People will notice. Remarkably, the majority of those individuals appeared to be positively pleased by the size.
Nevertheless, they opted not to purchase a smaller phone when they made their purchase. It’s an odd dynamic: most people appear to prefer the notion of smaller phones, but when the chips are down, when the real deal is needed, and it’s time to bite the bullet, they still purchase a mainstream-sized smartphone. Additionally, everything appears to descend to the viewing area.
Before the screen illuminated, the S23’s size was greatly appreciated. After this, the remarks along the lines of “oh, it’s smaller” started to seem disparaging. Granted, it wasn’t every individual, but it was the majority. Thus, it is evident that the majority prefers screen size to phone size overall and will continue to purchase “normal” phones. This suggests that, should they ever see the light of day, rollable display cellphones (whatever happened to those?) may be a huge hit.
Looking at it from the back, this is definitely a Samsung from around 2023. This year, the Korean business has integrated distinct camera circles or islands into every phone model, ranging from the most affordable to the most costly. That’s undoubtedly beneficial for brand recognition, but it might not be as beneficial for genuine model recognition.
Most people won’t know which Samsung you own, but they will all recognize it right away. It’s an intriguing tactic, but we’re not sure where it’s going; while the designs are attractive, none of the phones jump out really. Furthermore, there will definitely be a lot of fatigue with these styles in a year or two. We haven’t arrived yet, so Check to see whether there will be any redesigns.
It’s an interesting touch that the Korean business is quite confident in people’s ability to recognize it as a Samsung without the need for garish branding that the Samsung logo is very modest on our white review device, hardly visible from some angles.
An added plus is that the rear glass feels incredibly good and never displays any fingerprints. It’s quite slippery, as usual, for some physics (or chemistry? For an unrelated (we’re not experts) reason, you can’t have both a less slippery phone and no fingerprints on display.
Nevertheless, the S23’s shiny metal frame saves it from being too slick overall. Though this will show fingerprints from some angles, handling is actually extremely good because it’s much less slick than the back. Of course, the phone’s size helps with that. Compared to other mainstream-sized devices, this one is far simpler to hold, and pulling down the notification panel also needs far fewer finger gymnastics—or, if you have larger hands, none at all.
Speaking of hands, individuals with large and average hands will love using this, while those with little hands will see it as a welcome change from a larger model. The scale is the reason for all of that, and the reality does match the expectation.
However, if you’re used to today’s “normal” sized phones, the S23 will never feel little to you (pardon the accidental pun). Additionally, because it is smaller than your usual phone, the default font size is also smaller. As shown by all of our screenshots throughout this review, you can make it larger to make up for it, but that will result in less content fitting on the screen and an odd appearance.
Because the letters are all smaller and closer together, the size also marginally impairs typing accuracy. Of course, it’s not as horrible as on the outside screen of a Samsung Fold, but it’s also more difficult than on a device of a more mainstream size, so we thought it was worth mentioning.
As one might anticipate from a flagship, the front is nearly entirely screen. The bottom bezel feels slightly thicker, but not enough to be bothersome. The top and side bezels appear to be the same (though they probably aren’t). In other words, the change is only noticeable if you seek for it.
The word “safe” sums up the S23’s general design the best. It won’t impress people, but it’s not offensive (unless you truly detest bright metal frames), kind of modest, sturdy, and functional. As this appears to be a deliberate move on Samsung’s part, we presume that the company has statistics to support the idea that this approach would be more successful for it than making a bold design choice. These would be far more hit or miss; they might work for a small percentage of people but definitely not for others, and Samsung is obviously not ready to take that chance.
Although it’s a purposeful choice, we’re not saying that’s a terrible thing. If you want more flamboyant designs these days, you’ll probably need to turn to ‘gaming phones’ or a few Chinese rivals of Samsung.
In case you were wondering, Samsung continues to differentiate itself from its Chinese rivals by not including a charger or a case in the box. Some of them even include a basic case, which you might or might not use, but we think it’s a nice extra to have when you’re spending this much money.
Of course, the dual speakers on the S23 are excellent. They are likewise of excellent quality, though we never had the need to turn up the volume—as always, “for a phone.” It’s important to remember how small they are at all times. But once more, they are the greatest phone speakers we’ve ever heard on a product we’ve evaluated extensively.
Regarding volume, keep in mind that we rarely use our phones’ speakers while in crowded or noisy environments; instead, you may need to hold the phone up to your ear to hear everything. However, that won’t be required if noise levels are moderate to low. They are the greatest, end of story. There is nothing else to say.
While the S23’s vibration motor is excellent, we still long for Samsung’s previous generation of motors, which were louder than the current models. You may not like things, as we know there are some people who detested them greatly. With “3D”-like vibrations that you can actually feel in your palm or pocket, this late model is excellent. within a purse? Not so much, which is why the motors that “could have been heard more” would have been so helpful.
Recognizing this, Samsung has enabled you to add a “vibration sound” to incoming calls. This sounds via the speakers and isn’t as impressive as those earlier models, but it’s still better than nothing. vibrating motors in the style were. But since they are now extinct, maybe it’s time to move on? In terms of quality, this is at the absolute top for 2023 and comparable to the finest offerings from Samsung’s Android rivals.
You may change the vibration level independently for calls, messages, media, and system features such as the Samsung keyboard, touch interactions, dialing keypad, charging, navigation gestures, and camera feedback. It is also possible to disable the vibrations for each of them separately.
Brightness, colors, quality
The S23’s display is, by far, the greatest we’ve ever seen on a phone that we’ve studied in-depth. It’s not near. If you think it sounds impressive in paper, trust us—it’s even more stunning in person. It has considered the pinnacle of phone displays for years because there is never any amount of ambient light that can make it less than flawlessly readable. Well, it’s now accomplished.
On the other hand, when the brightness slider is at its lowest position, the screen does get quite dark, and you If that’s not dark enough for you, you can also use the Extra dim feature (which has a slider of its own) to make it even dimmer. Although we sincerely appreciate that, the auto brightness algorithm never—and we mean never—actually drops all the way down, just like with all the Samsungs we’ve used this year.
A completely dark setting is always around but never actually there. For some reason, unlike all the other manual adjustments you make, this option isn’t remembered for that degree of ambient light, thus you have to manually move that slider to the very least every time. It’s a perplexing thing, this, and since we’ve observed it on a number of Samsung phones running both the One UI 5.x and the new One UI 6, we have to presume that the firm made this deliberate choice, though we’re not sure why.
The’steps’ on the brightness slider are really minute and fine at the lowest settings, which brings us to another topic we find difficult to understand. It means that if you simply want the screen to be slightly brighter or dimmer than it is, adjusting can be difficult. You have to move your finger onto the slider by miniscule millimeters, which can be difficult, especially when you’re in a rush. We discovered that we had overadjusted on several occasions and had to reverse course. This reviewer believes that the first 25% of the slider (from the left) should not have such precise steps, which is undoubtedly a small nitpick.
The panel on the S23 has a refresh rate of 120 Hz, and like other Samsung devices, it has a menu with two settings: Adaptive and Standard. We chose the former since it will allow you to increase to 120 Hz more frequently.
Refresh rate is one variable that we believe you should always maximize since it has a disproportionately large impact on perceived smoothness. If, in contrast to us, you experience problems with the S23’s battery life and are okay with less smoothness, you might want to consider switching to Standard and see if it makes a difference. Nowadays, all price points save the lowest have 120 Hz as the standard, so while it’s certainly desirable to have this maximum refresh rate on the S23, which is also quite normal.
Display settings: Always On Display, Eye comfort shield
With regard to its Always On Display, One UI 6 is still the only one that allows you to choose between portrait and landscape orientations and has a toggle for Auto brightness. This is particularly helpful if, for example, you prefer to have your phone on your nightstand while you sleep. Of course, you may always show the AOD; you can even schedule it to appear only when fresh notifications arrive, or you can just tap the screen once to make it appear whenever you want.
Although we used to love always being on AODs, we now prefer the “Tap to show” option, so that’s what we choose to do. Regarding the customizations, There are plenty of settings available; perhaps not nearly as many as Xiaomi’s MIUI/HyperOS, but still probably sufficient for the majority of users.
We have never used an in-display fingerprint sensor that is better than the one on the Galaxy S23. It is the fastest by far and is an ultrasonic one. It feels slightly faster than the S22 generation’s, and in terms of speed, it surpasses all optical sensors that we have tested to date. The amount of time your finger must stay on the sensor in order for unlocking to occur is actually rather astonishing. You will be very irritated if, once you become used to it, you ever switch to a phone with an optical sensor.
Its initial accuracy is very good, comparable to the best optical in-display sensors available; yet, it does not outperform them in terms of speed. Just as as good as the best of them, which is still incredible – we were able to log in between 96-97% of the time on our first attempt, which is, in this reviewer’s opinion, the highest performance a fingerprint sensor can offer these days.
After years of complaints about its Exynos chipsets used in the S series, Samsung read the room in 2023 and released the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 to everyone worldwide, with no regional restrictions. The victory for those who oppose Exynos appears to be fleeting, though, as there are rumors that this year’s S24 launch will return things to as they were before 2023.
Therefore, you probably won’t be looking at the S24 when it arrives in a few weeks if you reside in one of the areas that used to receive the S series with an Exynos and you don’t want one of those. And that’s okay just great because the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 within We will state what we pretty much always say about 8-series Snapdragons, even though the S23 may have been surpassed by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3.
Battery life, charging
If you’ve ever looked at the specs of the S23, you may find it unexpected that we have had excellent battery life during our time with it. Indeed, the phone itself is small, even though the cell is relatively small for this day and age. When we combined our use case with a very efficient processor and (presumably) screen, we obtained results that we had not anticipated in the first place. This phone easily got us through each day without any problems, though we weren’t able to get more than two full days out of it except on the weekends when we didn’t use it as much as what’s listed below.
Thus, we believe that it offers excellent battery life overall. Taking into consideration that all of this originates from for a 3,900 mAh cell, that’s very amazing, in our opinion. We hope Samsung’s rivals are taking note of how One UI 6 presents screen on time statistics, as it’s the best method we’ve ever seen for doing so. The data are shown not only for the current day but also for a few days prior. We really appreciate that we can rapidly compare figures over a few days with just a few touches.
While we were using the Galaxy S23 for this evaluation, it was updated to One UI 6, which is based on Android 14. Once again, Samsung has been releasing this significant update to dozens of devices in a matter of weeks, and no other Android device manufacturer comes even close to matching Samsung’s performance in this area. Although Google only supports a small number of devices, its updates are released sooner. Even while this is not the first time we have seen such a rapid turnaround, Samsung’s rollouts are nevertheless impressive considering the scale at which it works.