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Between the practicality of the Galaxy S23+ and the majesty of the Galaxy S23 Ultra, it’s hard for the Samsung Galaxy S23 to escape their shadows. But the Galaxy S23 fills a couple of important niches in the smartphone market.

Small flagships have become something of an oxymoron in the smartphone industry since the days of the original Moto X and the Nexus 5. Either you throttle back the performance, or you have atrocious battery life due to lack of space. You also don't have the capacity for every single hardware feature, which leads to smaller flagship Android phones feeling incomplete next to their brethren. And a smaller screen means less room for your apps or whatever else you're doing on your phone, so most consumers aren't wild about the concept, either.

This size issue has plagued Samsung for years, and it's not alone in this struggle. The Google Pixel 7 and 6 miss out on the telephoto prowess of the 6/7 Pro, and the iPhone 14 has an older processor than the 14 Pro and Pro Max. OnePlus stopped doing a "regular" model for its flagship OnePlus 11 after lackluster sales for the OnePlus 9 and 10 compared to the Pro.

But there are still those of us who like small phones and don't want to pony up $1,200 for a behemoth like the Galaxy S23 Ultra. The Galaxy S23 tries to thread the needles between a reasonable size, an affordable price, and a respectable experience. The Galaxy S22 and S21 failed in this regard due to battery woes, but efficiency and increased capacity let the Galaxy S23 finally nail it.

Samsung Galaxy S23 in Lavender
Source: Samsung
Samsung Galaxy S23

Improved battery life helps the Samsung Galaxy S23 stand head and shoulders above its last three generations. This year we get an excellently bright screen, plenty of power from the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy, and the consistent, full-featured stability of One UI 5.1. These features add up with the S23's compact size for one of the best small Android phones we've seen since the Galaxy S10e.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform for Galaxy
6.1" FHD+ AMOLED, 48~120Hz refresh, 240Hz touch sampling
128GB or 256GB
Operating System
One UI 5.1 w/ Android 13
Front camera
12MP f/2.2
Rear cameras
50MP f/1.8 OIS main, 12MP f/2.2 wide (120°), 10MP f/2.4 OIS telephoto (3x)
4G, 5G, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, NFC
146.3 × 70.9 × 7.6mm
Phantom Black, Cream, Green, Lavender + exclusive Lime, Graphite
25W wired (Quick Charge 2, Samsung AFC), 15W wireless (Samsung Fast Wireless Charging 2.0/WPC), Wireless PowerShare
IP Rating
From $800
Micro SD card support
Fingerprint (Ultrasonic, under-display), Facial
  • The battery lasts all day on regular use
  • Its small screen is finally as bright as its siblings
  • One UI 5.1 brings new features and a drop-dead simple setup tool
  • The flat-edged design is easy to grip
  • Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 brings efficient power but can still go hard when you need it
  • The "floating camera design" is a dust magnet
  • Gamers will still run the battery down semi-quickly
  • The camera struggles a bit with night shots and movement
  • 25W charging is a pain, but 45W wouldn't be any better
  • I wish the buttons weren't so close to the cameras

Availability & network

Samsung Galaxy S23 mmWave window panel

This panel on the side of the S23 is the mmWave antenna, not a defect or a hidden microSD compartment.

The Samsung Galaxy S23 was announced on February 1, 2023, and went on sale on February 17 worldwide. Starting at $800, the Galaxy S23 is the same price as its predecessor, and the base model comes with 128GB of UFS 3.1 storage, with a 256GB model with UFS 4.0 storage costing $860. We've already seen some Galaxy S23 deals bring it down to $700 — and a Best Buy "Activate Now" deal has brought it down to $600 — but trade-in deals for the baby S23 have been pretty lackluster outside of carriers. If you have an eligible unlimited plan and a relatively new phone, AT&T and Verizon will trade it to get you the S23 for free.

The Galaxy S23 is being sold by the three main U.S. carriers — AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon— as well as some MVNOs, though it’s been slower to arrive at ones not directly affiliated with a carrier. While the S23+ and S23 Ultra both have UWB support, the Galaxy S23 sticks to sub6 and mmWave. This review was conducted with an AT&T 256GB Lavender variant of the Galaxy S23 that I purchased myself. (Well, I traded in a Galaxy S20 for it, but you get the idea.)

5G testing was conducted in sub6 areas, as Orlando's AT&T mmWave coverage is quite limited, and tested on the vast Wi-Fi 6 mesh network at Walt Disney World's theme parks during both light and heavy crowd days. The S23 handles changing nodes in a larger mesh network pretty seamlessly, and 5G speeds were fine, but the S23 can cling to a weak or spotty Wi-Fi signal a hair long before kicking back to mobile data.


Lavender Samsung Galaxy S23

You could be forgiven for thinking the Galaxy S23 is a clone of the Galaxy S22 with a less cute camera design — hang on, I'll yell about that in a minute. Outside the banishment of that single, metallic camera module, the only noticeable exterior difference is that the edges of the phone are a bit sharper. While the frame on the Galaxy S22 was mostly flat, you still had a bit more curvature to the edges, and to the edges of the glass back.

This year things are straightened up a bit more, leading to an even more minimal look to this phone that somehow both exudes luxury and no-nonsense practicality. We still get a slim curvature for a more comfortable grip, and the reflections and light play off the ultra-shiny finish Samsung gave the Armor Aluminum frame. It's easy to hold the S23 for hours, even one-handed. However, I wish that Samsung had eschewed the shiny chrome look here for a more textured finish that offers more grip and doesn't show every blip of built-up oil.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Buttons

The buttons are equally shiny, and while most will like the height of the power keys, with the volume keys essentially sitting catty-corner to the camera lenses, it's much harder to use volume keys for camera shutters without a fingertip sneaking into the shot.

Adding even more to that minimalism is the new floating camera design, although it ends up backfiring in a few minor ways. First and foremost, the lack of a camera module can make it harder to know where your fingers are in relation to the lenses until it's too late. My hands aren't the steadiest in the world. I often hold my phone with both hands when taking portrait photos, and my fingers find their way into the lens much too often, especially the lower 3x zoom lens. Thankfully, most cases offer a lip around the camera to help prevent this.

Secondly, because each camera sticks out on its own, they each become places for dust and lint to accumulate over time, just as it was last year on the Galaxy S22 Ultra. This gap between cameras also tends to make most cases look somewhat shoddy unless they are precision fit to each of the three cameras, but that's less of a Samsung issue and more of a case-maker issue.

Samsung Galaxy S23

Here's another very petty argument, but one I'll raise because if you're going to spend $800 on this phone, it should look damn good: the Galaxy S23's color options are an embarrassment. Sure, the Lavender and Cream can look okay in certain lighting, but you'll note that at many times in this review, it strays closer to pink than I'd like. And the Green is too close to that Olive abomination from the Galaxy Buds 2 and Galaxy S21 FE, and Phantom Black gets boring after two generations. The exclusive colors are even worse, as we only get a Lime that can most charitably be described as phlegm yellow-green and a not-quite-gunmetal gray Graphite.

Oh, well. That's what pretty and practical Galaxy S23 cases are for, anyway.


A person holding a Samsung Galaxy S23 in front of foliage.

This flat screen on the Galaxy S23 is 6.1 inches as a full rectangle, but once you round off the corners, it becomes 5.9 inches. These curved corners don't really take away any usable space, but they do make the top corners of the screen easier to reach when using the phone one-handed.

The true highlights of this 2340 x 1080-pixel panel are the brightness and its refresh rate. While the Galaxy S23 Ultra's and S23+'s screens are virtually unchanged from last year, the Galaxy S23 was updated from 120Hz to a variable 40-120Hz framerate. Last year's 1000 nits brightness — up to 1500 nits in max auto-brightness — likewise has been updated to the same 1200 nits and max 1750 nits as the S23+ and Ultra.

You probably won't be able to notice the refresh rate — honestly, I still have difficulty telling the difference between 90Hz and 120Hz on sight alone — but that extra brightness will come in handy when you're using the phone outdoors. This phone was still easy to read in full Florida sunshine, even while I still had dark mode turned on. Samsung's screens continue to be among the best in the industry; if you're going to spend hours a day on your phone, the S23's screen will not disappoint.

Software and performance

One UI Gallery on the Samsung Galaxy S23

The software this generation has changed even less than the hardware. The One UI 5.1 offers few upgrades over One UI 5.0 besides a streamlined setup experience and some refinements to the gallery and camera app. Though, truthfully, it's not like Samsung had much it needed to add. One UI is so feature-filled at this point that it almost feels bloated when you try to go digging for a setting or function that you don't already know the location of.

One UI still has its lovers and its haters, but you cannot deny its stability and its robust abilities. Switching between multiple, high-resource apps is seamless, and prolonged gaming sessions stay smooth — well, unless you have over a thousand 3D objects for it to render at once. Even after years of using Galaxy phones, you can still be surprised by small but ever-so-important features like temporary mute, or integration between sleep mode and your morning alarm. As someone who will mute a phone to record a podcast or sit through a meeting and then forget to turn it back on for hours — or even days — and then miss important calls and updates, temporary mute has been a complete godsend.

Samsung did away with Exynos for basically all Galaxy S23 models worldwide, opting for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform for Galaxy. A chipset can make or break your smartphone experience, as we saw last year with the battery and thermal issues surrounding the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. This year, Qualcomm came through, and both the performance and efficiency of the 8 Gen 2 make the Galaxy S23 not only a powerful phone but one that will last you much longer than last year. (Don't worry, we'll get to that battery life in a bit.)

Merge Dragons on the Samsung Galaxy S23

The Galaxy S23 can heat up during intense use, and I've also gotten it pretty warm with some 6-hour Webtoon binges, but it's not the hot potato the S22 or S21 were. For heavy-duty users and heavy-duty case users — which tend to hold onto heat longer — this is nothing short of a godsend after the throttling and overheating issues we've seen years past. Even after a half-hour of near-constant photos and videos in 80-degree temperatures, the Galaxy S23 didn't have to throttle back to let the phone cool off, something I distinctly remember from my Galaxy S21.

There is one little caveat: we used the 256GB Galaxy S23 in our review, which uses UFS 4.0 storage. The 128GB base model uses UFS 3.1 storage, which not only has slower read/write times but uses more energy than 4.0. I don't expect 128GB S23 users to see a massive dip in speed or performance compared to 256GB models Still, using slower, less efficient memory can contribute to battery drain — especially during storage-focused tasks like downloading movies for offline playback or playing games with ridiculously large files.

So if you can spare the $60, take the storage upgrade, especially since there is no microSD slot on the Galaxy S23 to expand things down the line.

Battery life

Google Wallet saved passes on the Samsung Galaxy S23

Now, for the moment we've all been waiting for. After two months of solid and quite heavy use of the Galaxy S23, battery here has been pretty awesome so long as I'm not driving around for hours with wireless Android Auto. I'm still routinely getting 7-8 hours of screen time on average on days when I actually leave the house and go do things. On days when I'm on home Wi-Fi and not constantly cranking up screen brightness to fight the Florida sunshine, I'll get 8-10 hours screen on time during my binges of webcomics, e-reading, or Reddit lurking.

While I'll be the first to admit that this isn't as battery intensive as gaming, with the screen-saving feature that'll almost turn off the screen after X minutes when your screen timeout is over five minutes, I still got hours more Merge Dragons game time on a single charge than I did on the Pixel 7 or Galaxy Z Flip 4. And processor intensive sessions with lots of multitasking almost never suck down battery with two obvious exceptions.

The only two days my battery ran down prematurely involved over three hours of wireless Android Auto use and extensive camera testing. While photo safaris will drain a small chunk of battery on basically any smartphone, the battery drain from the camera on the S23 is smaller than I've seen on previous Galaxies, especially when dealing with night photography rather than daytime. On most "normal" weekdays, I'd end with 30-40% battery, and thank goodness for that because recharging the Galaxy S23 is one of its few sore spots.

While overnight charging never encounters issues, on the rare days when I needed a top-off before running off to a concert at Epcot or fireworks at Magic Kingdom, I'll find myself tethered to a PPS charger for an hour or more. The Galaxy S23's max wired charging speed is 25W — and most of the time you'll only see 16-19W — and wireless charging can reach 15W, but only with certain chargers with Samsung's newest profile. (Most wireless chargers will charge the S23 around 10W, not 15W.)

On the subject of wireless, I have been using a variety of Galaxy S23 MagSafe cases with the Galaxy S23 alongside a small smattering of MagSafe chargers and power banks, and I've been very pleasantly surprised. While it's not the fastest charging speeds, the convenience of being able to charge while I kept up my marathon of mindless reading was nice. And after leaving it on couch cushions like an idiot, it doubled as a hand warmer for my perpetually frigid fingers.

Battery life on the Samsung Galaxy S23

I understand that something needed to be held back to keep the S23's costs down, but Samsung cannot rest on 25W charging anymore. Here in North America, we may be used to slower charging speeds from Apple, Samsung, and even from OnePlus — who uses slower Warp Charging speeds here than the rest of the world — but abroad, you can recharge some Oppo and Xiaomi phones from 0-100% in well less than an hour. Between advancements in charging technologies and battery tech to help generate less heat during charging, Samsung should be pushing the envelope rather than hiding in the back of the pack and hoping no one brings up the Note 7.

Samsung's Super Fast Charge 2.0 for USB-C forces users to tolerate slower and slower charges. Even among the best Galaxy S23 chargers, 45W on the Galaxy S23 Ultra only shows up for 10-15 minutes under very particular conditions, and full 25W speeds aren’t consistent, either. Samsung needs to reformulate so that more cables and chargers will reach top speed, and so that we see better speeds and stepping up/down as a device heats up. This would allow for quicker top-offs so a phone that's at, say, 40-60% can top off as quickly as a near-dead phone recharges from 1% to 25%.

Safety is paramount, but you can do better than this, Samsung, and it's an utter shame that you've let your competitors so completely overshadow you.


The back of a pink Galaxy S23 with a thumb on the back

The cameras in the Galaxy S23 are basically unchanged from the Galaxy S22 — a 50MP wide-angle, a 12MP ultrawide, and a 10MP 3x zoom telephoto camera, alongside a 10MP selfie camera. I’m not the shutterbug my colleagues are, and for a more technical look into these sensors and their performance, I’m going to direct you to our Galaxy S23+ review and instead focus on these cameras from strictly a consumer’s perspective.

The main 50MP camera can produce some beautiful shots, especially in daylight, but Samsung’s processing still skews away from reality when it comes to color and brightness. This largely comes down to a matter of taste, but Samsung’s photos tend to oversaturate colors and over-brighten things, leading to photos that can look a bit flat and fake compared to more realistic images from the Google Pixel series — both the Pixel 7 and the much more affordable Pixel 6a.

Note how much brighter the Galaxy S23's photos are compared to the Pixel 7 — and how it can wash out pictures if it goes too far. Extra-vivid photos often look better for social media, and brighter shots can show your subjects better at night or in uneven lighting, so Samsung's not wrong for pursuing this style. I mean, just look at the trees and the skies on the S23, how the rainbow on the Peter Pan float just pops. It is, however, a style choice not all users might agree with, especially if you do a lot of night or low-light photos. And there’s an extra bit of annoyance the S23’s camera has to overcome: shutter lag.

The more significant shutter issues seem to take place on the S23 Ultra’s swanky new 200MP sensor. I was unpleasantly surprised by how often images taken at night just plain missed the shot because of movement, especially once zoom or the telephoto sensor got involved. I tend to take a lot of photos of small concerts at a medium distance, and heaven help me when a singer starts dancing. Samsung’s auto-brightness doesn’t help; it skews so bright that it makes performers onstage white blurs amidst a noisy background, as seen here.

It’s easy enough to tap your focus point, then drag your finger across the screen to pull down the brightness. Still, having to do it 100% of the time for Galaxy phones as opposed to 30% on Pixels just adds to the frustration, especially since you can’t drag the brightness down and have it stick between focus points the way Google does. While you can lock brightness, you have to do so alongside focus, which doesn’t help much when dealing with moving targets, multiple distances, or changing light levels — like fireworks.

The 3x telephoto lens also leaves a lot to be desired, especially as its photos were often less crisp than simply zooming in with the main sensor on my Pixel 7. I understand that some features have to be held back to justify the S23 Ultra’s extravagance — and keep the S23’s price down. Still, we need that 10x telephoto, or at least a 5x to really give us better distance detailing. The ultrawide’s 120-degree field of view is okay, and during the day it churns out some decent shots. But once the sun is halfway to the horizon, the ultrawide’s performance starts to dim, leading to noticeably different exposures and colors at night between the lenses, especially when dealing with stage or club lighting.

While Samsung has continued to improve its Pro mode and RAW photography, that only helps if you have the time and the knowledge to use the settings properly. And that brightness slider I mentioned before goes along the same left-right axis as swapping photo modes in vertical orientation and the main camera to the selfie camera when in landscape mode. So about a fifth of the time, I either end up getting inadvertently switched to video mode or to the selfie cam when trying to get a good low-light picture.

Now that’s a lot of grousing, but I again need to stress that for normal daytime photography and non-entertainment-focused night photography, the Galaxy S23’s cameras are more than capable if you take your time with them. The ultrawide here is much better than the Pixel — not that that’s a high bar. Also, while it can oversaturate colors, it has a better time getting colors right than the Pixel 7 and 6a do; those cameras sometimes treat purple as blue or randomly introduce red to images that are more orange.



The biggest competition the Galaxy S23 has is, honestly, with itself. Samsung is keeping the Galaxy S22 around at $700, and the Galaxy S23+ is pretty close in price once carriers and trade-ins get involved. Even if the S22 were down to $600, you’d be better off grabbing the Samsung Galaxy S23 for the better battery life and screen.

When it comes to choosing between the Samsung Galaxy S23 and the Galaxy S23+, things get a little trickier. The S23+ has UWB support as well as even better battery life and a larger screen, not to mention it starts at 256GB instead of the S23’s 128GB. Really, it comes down to size preferences and the deals available at the time. AT&T is giving Unlimited users the S23+ for free with an eligible trade-in, the same “free with trade-in” as the base S23, but the other carriers aren't. And when the price is equal, it’s probably worth the bigger screen to most folks, unless you carry the small phone torch that I do.

A white phone with the Google logo in gray and a horizontal metal camera bar.

Moving to Google, the Pixel 7 is $200 cheaper, but lacks the dedicated telephoto camera and has a weaker screen. The Pixel’s software portfolio is also dwarfed by One UI, but features like Pixel’s automatic Call Screening are worth 20 of One UI’s “features.” The Pixel 7’s cameras handle night photography better, but Samsung’s got the better ultrawide and more dynamic colors for those just sharing to Insta and Tik Tok. You can’t go wrong with either one, and I can’t blame you if you go with the $600 Pixel 7 over the $800 S23.

The OnePlus 11 is $700, about the same price as the Galaxy S22 these days. Its screen and battery life are nothing to sneeze at, but it’s a much larger phone, and its cameras aren’t quite as good as Samsung's. Besides, One UI’s software is much better than Oxygen OS these days. (Oh, how the tables turn.)

Should you buy it?

Samsung Galaxy S23 with a castle in the background

We’ve passed the time when you would anxiously trade in and trade up every year for the latest Galaxy, especially when trade-in values outside the carriers are mediocre at best for the Galaxy S23. Instead, if you know your phone is dying — or you wish to end your dead battery, super laggy misery — the Galaxy S23 is quite the solid phone. And if you don’t have an unlimited plan and a carrier trade-in deal to take advantage of, it’s the Galaxy that’s easiest to buy and easiest to fit in your pocket.

Is it as fancy as the S23 Ultra? No, but it’s also not $1,200 or the size of a small tablet. This is the closest we’ve come to a proper compact flagship Android phone in years. The performance and battery improvements here are worthwhile, even if they’re not as sexy as an overhauled design or revolutionized software. If you’ve been holding onto your phone waiting for something that wouldn’t spill out of your pocket constantly or force you to carry it around all day like some cyborg attachment, this is the perfect phone for you.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my S23 and I have another date with 60 chapters of trashy romance manhwas while I wait for some darling Disney fireworks.

Samsung Galaxy S23 in Lavender
Source: Samsung
Samsung Galaxy S23
A small success

Improved battery life helps the Samsung Galaxy S23 stand head and shoulders above its last three generations. This year we get an excellently bright screen, plenty of power from the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy, and the consistent, full-featured stability of One UI 5.1. These features add up with the S23's compact size for one of the best small Android phones we've seen since the Galaxy S10e.