The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is ready to take on the iPhone 16 Pro Max with a whopping 50-megapixel periscope camera and tons of AI

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra playing a game
(Image credit: Samsung)

2024 might only be less than three weeks old but we've already seen one company announce a whole new lineup of phones. Samsung, arguably Apple's biggest competitor, yesterday announced the new Galaxy S24 lineup. At the very top of that lineup is the Galaxy S24 Ultra, a huge angular slab of a phone that is sure to be popular among Android power users — especially those who want to take notes with a stylus and still mourn the loss of the Galaxy Note line of handsets.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra is here to take on the iPhone 15 Pro Max initially, but it's also a phone that will no doubt have its eyes firmly set on what Apple will do next. That'll of course be the iPhone 16 Pro Max. a handset that isn't set to be announced until September of this year. And while that's still a long way off, Samsung has set its stall out nice and early.

In some ways, the iPhone 16 Pro Max has already lost in terms of specifications, but in others, Samsung has potentially given us a glimpse of where Apple will go with its own flagship device. As always a focus on cameras is a given and the new Samsung device hasn't disappointed with a whopping new 50-megapixel telephoto lens that Apple is unlikely to match. But it's a focus on AI that the two companies are likely to share through 2024 and beyond.

Zoom zoom zoom

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra does of course have plenty going for it. The new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip is sure to make sure that Android apps run quickly and smoothly and the lineup is known for taking great photos, albeit rather colorful ones. But it's zoom that makes the Galaxy S24 Ultra most interesting, especially when compared to the model that came before it and of course, iPhones.

The headline feature is a new 50-megapixel periscope camera lens with a 5x optical zoom and a 10x zoom when using some magic. Digital zoom takes things to the 100x levels that we've become accustomed to from Samsung's high-end models.

That's of course considerably higher resolution than Apple's 12-megapixel 5x tetraprism lens used in the iPhone 15 Pro Max and expected to return in its 2024 replacement. The result should be sharper images, and that's something that is always welcome especially when using a zoom lens.

Apple seems relatively content to cede this ground to Samsung, which is a shame. We'd love to see Apple up its game here, but it doesn't seem likely to happen this year.

Rounding out Samsung's other camera specs we have a 200-megapixel main camera, a 10-megapixel telephoto lens, and a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera.

AI for days

With Apple rumored to be focusing on AI in 2024 Samsung beat it to the punch with a slew of new features for its entire Galaxy S24 lineup. Dubbed Galaxy AI, it'll do a few things including enabling Live Translate, a feature that handles real-time and two-way voice translation for phone calls. Interpreter can split the screen in two and translate for two people when speaking in person, too.

Another feature, Chat Assisst, helps people find the right tone when writing messages and emails. But the feature making all of the headlines is Circle to Search. It effectively lets users hold the Home button and then tap anything on-screen to find out more information about it. Pretty cool indeed.

Where Apple will go with its own AI push isn't clear, but we'd just take some improvements to Siri at this point. Translation is the obvious way for AI to be used, as is rewording chats to make them sound better in different circumstances. But we'd like Apple to do something new instead of just copying features that are already out there regardless.

The battle is on

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra surely is a beast of a phone. Its 6.8-inch display is big and flat, with a 120Hz refresh rate and S Pen support. It's going to look great and it's even borrowed an old iPhone 14 Pro feature, too.

In terms of pricing. the Galaxy S24 Ultra isn't cheap. It'll start at $1,299.99 for the 256GB model which is a lot, but it's also a lot of phone. Here's hoping that the price doesn't give Apple an excuse to go higher with the iPhone 16 Pro Max this September, too.

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Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

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