Shopping for a compact flagship? Get the Samsung Galaxy S23

Right now, Cellucity is running a deal on the 512GB Samsung Galaxy S23. It’s a fantastic price on a great device and you should check it out if you’re in the market.

It goes like this: you get the device for R20,000 and throw in the 45W charger for another R900. All-in, that’s R1,000 off the initial RRP. A word of caution, though, Samsung has limited the vanilla S23 charging rate to 25W, so it is overkill.

And you can get it (the 45W charger) for like R720 on Takealot right now.

This is the problem with Samsung’s Galaxy smartphone sales strategy: the sticker price is always a suggestion and never a fact.

My video review laments how Samsung SA went on stage and spoke about how much of the sales volume for premium devices is driven by those predatory 36-month network operator contracts.

With the discounts coming within 30 days of the product reaching the early adopters, it makes even less sense to preorder on a ridiculously long contract that will see you pay even more for the phone.

But you cannot escape the marketing and the journalists (me included) punting the preorder deals like cash back for your trade, free Galaxy Buds and Samsung Store vouchers as good value.

It really isn’t. These smartphone companies are not your friend looking out for your economic best interests.

Your “old” S21 Ultra, Note 20 Ultra and S22 Ultra are still perfectly fine – if you don’t mind a little extra heat on video calls and average battery life. Your vanilla S20/S21/S22, however, are inferior to the Galaxy S23.

That average battery endurance that gets max 4.5 hours screen on time on the previous generation Ultra phones is the new normal for the baby Galaxy S. This generational leap comes courtesy of the performance and efficiency gains Qualcomm has made with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2.

Samsung leads the smartphone pack for photographic portraits

Samsung gets its own custom version of this year’s flagship system-on-a-chip (SoC) with the high-performance core clocked a little higher than what you will find on other Android flagships running the same hardware.

The Korean company used to pull the same trick with its Exynos SoCs when that was still a thing, and the battery life suffered for it along with what became consistently the worst performance throttling among flagship devices.

In my two testing S23 suffered from none of these legacy issues, except for one complete system reboot while editing the video review on Lumafusion – to be fair, I did try to import an 8K clip into the timeline.

If you asked me to draw up a list of features that the littlest S23 needed to be a great compact flagship, good battery life would be number one. Samsung achieved that.

Number two would be a significant improvement in camera quality. Galaxy S23 falls short here, delivering comparable shots to 2022’s models, especially on the ultrawide and telephoto which are literally the same tiny sensors.

The 50MP main shooter on the other hand is still using the tried and trusted homebaked ISOCELL GN2 sensor that is in service across the Android spectrum.

The pictures are predictably great in good lighting and the S23 delivers mixed results in more challenging settings. And the portrait mode is still best in class.

Brands like Xiaomi have managed to extract more pleasing results from this imaging veteran, but at least the S23 handily outshoots its predecessor (thanks to the new image signal processing on the SoC) and runs circles around the company’s Z Flip4.

And therein lies the conundrum for Samsung that I find so pleasing. After the recent discounts, the most compact Galaxy S23 comes in at R2,000 under the Z Flip4 while besting it on every specification. You also get a more durable design and screen (think beyond the first year of ownership – I have a friend who regrets being bullied into a Z Flip3)

That “S” moniker also means you get the flagship advantages that include HDMI out on the USB-C port – crucial if you want to run Samsung’s still excellent, but ageing desktop operating system DeX.

I LOVE Samsung DeX and would feel comfortable handing my 12-year-old a premium tier Samsung Tablet or Samsung smartphone that has the service to replace her Chromebook. But, alas, the pricing and long-term accessory and software support is a major obstacle.

For all the strides Samsung has made in its compact flagship this year, it still trails competing products for size and consistency. Granted, the only reasonable competitor is the two year old iPhone 13 Mini – which is also guilty of shifting the design to be inconsistent with its predecessor’s accessory cases – but that was one of four iPhone models released in 2021.

Size comparison vs iPhone 12 Mini

Samsung Galaxy S23 falls into the middle of an already crowded 2023 lineup that includes S23 Ultra, S23 Plus, A54 and A34. With more Galaxies on the horizon for the brand, and a striking resemblance to the A-series, this phone already feels dead on arrival.

But those looking for a compact Android flagship that will last at least three years before showing signs of real decline can be safe in the knowledge that while Galaxy S24 may switch up the design and update specs in February next year, the current Galaxy S23 ticked the correct improvement boxes to remain relevant for years to come.

Samsung has also improved its software game significantly and I’ll request another review sample to test out the new camera improvements in the latest update. Support for other novelty features like Dolby Atmos (the flavour of Spatial Audio compatible with Apple Music) and exclusive features when paired to other devices in the galaxy ecosystem – like head tracking 360 audio and 360 audio recording on Galaxy Buds2 Pro – add to the list of perks you get when picking up this device.

And at least you wouldn’t have been conned into buying a folding phone.

About That OG 476 Articles
Lindsey is on a mission to make the world a better place, one scorching take at a time.