Samsung Galaxy S23: Your complete buyer's guide

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra camera sensors
(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

The Samsung Galaxy S23 series has arrived with much fanfare, bringing with it a unique new look, a significant processor upgrade, a battery boost, and other noticeable upgrades. Still, for Galaxy S22 owners, it's possible that not enough has changed to justify the upgrade.

Since the Galaxy Unpacked event, the Android Central team has spent most of its time testing the new phones, comparing the Galaxy S23 specs to previous Samsung phones and other models, and rounding up all of the best preorder deals available.

Below, we'll run through a complete Samsung Galaxy S23 buying guide to help you decide whether you want the pocket-sized S23, the balanced S23+, or fully tricked-out S23 Ultra.

Galaxy S23 vs. S23+ vs. S23 Ultra specifications

Choosing the Galaxy S23 over the S23+ or S23 Ultra can save you hundreds of dollars, especially if you don't have a recent phone with plenty of trade-in value. So it's important to see how the three phones compare and decide which features you can or can't live without. Below, we've broken down the main differences. 

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CategorySamsung Galaxy S23Samsung Galaxy S23+Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
DisplayFlat 6.1-inch AMOLED (1,750 nits)Flat 6.6-inch AMOLED (1,750 nits)Curved 6.8-inch AMOLED (1,750 nits)
ResolutionFHD+ (425ppi)FHD+ (393ppi)QHD+ (500ppi)
Refresh rate120Hz (48-120); 240Hz touch sampling120Hz (48-120); 240Hz touch sampling120Hz (1-120); 240Hz touch sampling
ProcessorSnapdragon 8 Gen 2Snapdragon 8 Gen 2Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
Storage128GB UFS 3.1 / 256GB UFS 4.0256GB / 512GB UFS 4.0256GB / 512GB / 1TB UFS 4.0
Camera 1 (Main)50MP F1.8 1.0μm FOV 85º50MP F1.8 1.0μm FOV 85º200MP F1.7 0.6μm FOV 85º
Camera 2 (Ultrawide)12MP F2.2 1.4μm FOV 120º12MP F2.2 1.4μm FOV 120º12MP F2.2 1.4μm FOV 120º
Camera 3 (Telephoto)10MP F2.4 1.0μm FOV 36º10MP F2.4 1.0μm FOV 36º10MP F2.4 1.12μm FOV 36º
Camera 4 (Telephoto)N/AN/A10MP F2.4 1.12μm FOV 11º
Selfie Camera12MP F2.2 1.12μm FOV 80º Dual Pixel AF12MP F2.2 1.12μm FOV 80º Dual Pixel AF12MP F2.2 1.12μm FOV 80º Dual Pixel AF
Charging25W (wired); 15W (wireless)45W; 15W (wireless)45W; 15W (wireless)
ProtectionIP68; Gorilla Glass Victus 2; Armor AluminumIP68; Gorilla Glass Victus 2; Armor AluminumIP68; Gorilla Glass Victus 2; Armor Aluminum
ConnectivitySub-6/ mmWave 5G; Wi-Fi 6E; Bluetooth 5.3Sub-6/ mmWave 5G; Wi-Fi 6E; Bluetooth 5.3; UWBSub-6/ mmWave 5G; Wi-Fi 6E; Bluetooth 5.3; UWB
Dimensions & weight2.79 x 5.76 x 0.3in, 5.93oz3.07 x 6.43 x 0.35in, 6.91oz3.07 x 6.43 x 0.35 in , 8.25oz
ColorsPhantom Black, Cream, Violet, GreenPhantom Black, Cream, Violet, GreenPhantom Black, Cream, Violet, Green

Generally speaking, all three of these phones will offer you the latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 hardware — since Samsung has abandoned Exynos chips with the S23 series — 120Hz AMOLED displays with up to 1,750 nits of brightness, IP68 water resistance, a wide range of 5G bands, identical ultrawide and selfie cameras, and other minor similarities.

The Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23+ are quite alike — the Plus model is mostly just an enlarged S23, for better or worse — so you'll need to upgrade to the Ultra to get some of the most significant upgrades like 12GB of RAM, a QHD display, 200MP camera, and second telephoto lens with 100X Space Zoom.

Across all three brands, however, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 will provide a significant boost over the 8 Gen 1 in the Galaxy S22 series, as that chip was prone to overheating. Based on our initial tests of the Galaxy S23 Ultra handling intense applications without any throttling or major temperature rise, we're fairly confident that the Galaxy S23 series will be the best option for gamers in 2023.

Samsung Galaxy S23: Release date, price, and deals

The Violet Samsung Galaxy S23, S23+, and S23 Ultra

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

At the Galaxy Unpacked February 2023 event, Samsung revealed that the Galaxy S23 phones would officially ship on February 17. While you'll undoubtedly continue to see trade-in and carrier deals after that date, we're going to focus on the Galaxy S23 preorder deals available now that may disappear after the 17th.

The Galaxy S23, S23+, and S23 Ultra cost $800/ £850, $1,000/ £1,050, and $1,200/ £1,250, respectively. In other words, the pricing hasn't changed compared to the Galaxy S22 series.

If you preorder your phone from Samsung with an eligible trade-in with a carrier, you can get up to $1,000 off — meaning you'll get the S23 or S23+ for "free" or the S23 Ultra for just $200. You'll also get a free storage upgrade to 256GB for the Galaxy S23 or 512GB for the Galaxy S23+ and Ultra. 

Samsung Galaxy S23/ S23+/ S23 Ultra: $799.99FREE with eligible trade-in

Samsung Galaxy S23/ S23+/ S23 Ultra: $799.99 FREE with eligible trade-in

T-Mobile and AT&T are offering up to $1,000 off with trade-in and activation through Samsung, while Verizon and unlocked purchases can get up to $800 off and $830 off with trade-in, respectively. Or, without a trade-in, you'll still get a free storage upgrade and $100-$150 of instant Samsung credit when you use this link.

Otherwise, you'll want to check out other retailers directly to see what kind of deals they offer. Best Buy, for instance, has similar trade-in deals while offering gift cards to their own storefront instead — which many people will prefer for the variety of items on sale. And this Verizon trade-in deal gives you more value for older phones, assuming you're willing to add a new line.

Samsung Galaxy S23 design

The Cream Samsung Galaxy S23 held in hand

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

If you want a total breakdown of how all three Galaxy S23 phones look and feel, check out our Galaxy S23 hands-on to get all the information you need. For this buyers guide, we'll focus on the main Galaxy S23 design info you'll need to decide if any of the phones are worth replacing your current phone for, and if so which design will speak most to you. 

First, if you look at the Galaxy S23 vs. S22, you'll notice that the phones themselves are nearly identical in weight and size, with the newer model aping the same angular design with fairly thick edges that are easy to grip. 

The only aesthetic difference, aside from the new S23 colors, is that the rear camera sensors now lack the metal housing of previous generations. This spartan look will have its share of fans and detractors, but the main thing to note is that these sensors will likely gather dust and grime unless you add an S23 case.

Generally speaking, the Galaxy S23 is fairly light for a 6.1-inch phone, easy to use one-handed, and adds a small-but-vital amount of battery capacity compared to the short-lived Galaxy S22. Plus, it adds new Gorilla Glass Victus 2 protection to the glass that makes it much more capable of surviving long falls onto concrete or asphalt.

The Violet Samsung Galaxy S23+ held in hand

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

If you compare the Galaxy S23+ vs. S22+, you'll notice most of the same differences. The newer model is slightly taller and thicker but weighs nearly the same, with the same angular, flat-edged design as the S23 but expanded by a half-inch. The display is mostly unchanged except for the Gorilla Glass Victus 2 protection and a modestly bigger battery. 

Although it'll be more difficult to hold one-handed than the base S23, the Galaxy S23+ is definitely more manageable than the Galaxy S23 Ultra. Still, its flat look at this size is going to be even more polarizing than the smaller S23. 

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra green colorway

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

The Galaxy S23 Ultra certainly looks like a flagship phone, closely resembling the S22 Ultra that came before it. Although it also has a flattish back, the edges and display are curved, counterbalancing the larger size to make it a little easier to hold. In fact, we've found it's even better on that front than the S22 Ultra, which was slippery to grip because of its narrow edges. 

Still, it's a massive slab that many people will find too big to be comfortable. You'll mostly hold it in your off-hand and the S Pen in your dominant hand, something that "serious" Android users will appreciate for productivity. The S Pen slots directly into the phone itself, making it less likely that you'll lose it.

Whichever phone you choose, you'll have a ton of color options. All four Galaxy S23 phones come in Phantom Black, Cream, Violet, and Green with all retailers. If you buy direct from Samsung, the Galaxy S23 Ultra comes in Red, Sky Blue, Graphite, and Lime; as for the Galaxy S23 and S23+, you only have Graphite and Lime available as exclusives.

Samsung Galaxy S23 cameras

Showing 10X zoom on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

The Samsung Galaxy S23 and S23+ cameras remained mostly unchanged compared to the Galaxy S22 series. The selfie camera sees a slight boost from 10MP to 12MP, with dual pixel autofocus that makes it much easier to get your selfies quickly into focus. But all of the rear cameras remain the same strictly in terms of hardware. 

The difference-maker will stem from the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, which provides a significant boost to both CPU and NPU power. Samsung, Apple, Google, and other smartphone brands rely more and more on AI to augment the performance of their camera sensors, so an increase in performance will arguably provide better results to photo quality than a higher-resolution sensor.

In the case of the S23 series, they're the first Samsung phones to employ AI object recognition to better separate the subject and background in a photo and sharpen details based on whatever an object appears to be. Using the same real-time AI tech as your televisions for upscaling content to 4K, Samsung will even bring AI enhancements to your videos with "multi-frame processing."

Taking a photo on a Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra of a child jumping off a couch

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

However, if you do want the best Galaxy S23 camera experience, you'll have to go with the Ultra. The new 200MP sensor uses pixel binning (aka Super Quad Pixel) to create much better photos in low-light situations. It also has an augmented optical image stabilization tool (OIS) that prevents shaky videos.

Macro photography is greatly improved, too, though the S23 Ultra is still somewhat unreliable for capturing fast-moving objects. You can use the new Camera Assistant to shorten the capture time for photos, as well as make other adjustments. These features will eventually come to other Samsung phones with One UI 5.1, but the S23 series will take the best advantage of them. 

Which Samsung Galaxy S23 model should you buy?

The Green Samsung Galaxy S23, S23+, and S23 Ultra

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

Until we receive our review units for all three phones, it's difficult to give a comprehensive recommendation for which of these three is the best Android phone for you. So keeping that in mind, we think the 256GB Galaxy S23 is the phone most people will like.

The Galaxy S23 is comfortably compact and has all of the same perks as the S23+ except for slightly slower charging and a lack of Ultra-Wideband, only for $200 less. You can certainly pay extra for a larger display and more storage if that's important to you, but the fact that you'll get the same performance and refresh rate in a one-handed design is the key here. 

Just make sure to buy the 256GB or 512GB model, because the 128GB Galaxy S23 only has UFS 3.1 storage instead of UFS 4.0. That means your read/write speeds are significantly slower while also using up more battery life, making it less effective for gaming despite its cutting-edge processor.

Still, if you want the best experience, you have to go with the Galaxy S23 Ultra for all of the obvious reasons (camera quality, faster performance, a more pixel-dense display, the built-in S Pen, and so on).

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, VR/AR and fitness

Michael is Android Central's resident expert on fitness tech and wearables, with an enthusiast's love of VR tech on the side. After years freelancing for Techradar, Wareable, Windows Central, Digital Trends, and other sites on a variety of tech topics, AC has given him the chance to really dive into the topics he's passionate about. He's also a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves D&D, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings.

For wearables, Michael has tested dozens of smartwatches from Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Apple, COROS, Polar, Amazfit, and other brands, and will always focus on recommending the best product over the best brand. He's also completed marathons like NYC, SF, Marine Corps, Big Sur, and California International — though he's still trying to break that 4-hour barrier.

With contributions from