The Galaxy S24 series has most upgrades you’d expect to see in a new phone, including a faster processor, a sharper zoom camera on the Ultra model and larger batteries in the regular and Plus versions.
But arguably the most exciting change compared to last year’s phones is Galaxy AI, an umbrella term that refers to a collection of new features powered by generative AI, or AI that can create content or responses when prompted based on training data.
The biggest areas where you’ll see Galaxy AI at work on the Galaxy S24 are in its photo-editing features, language translation capabilities and a new feature called Circle to Search, which lets you launch a Google search just by circling an object on screen.
After using the Galaxy S24 Ultra for about a week, I’ve come to realize that not every Galaxy AI feature feels immediately useful. But Circle to Search and other tools, such as Samsung’s instant language translation in text messages, show that there’s promise behind the hype surrounding AI.
Galaxy AI will be available on all three of Samsung’s new Galaxy S24 phones when they launch on Jan. 31 and is also coming to the Galaxy S23 series at a later date.
Circle to Search
Circle to Search, as the name implies, lets you launch a Google search for just about anything on your phone’s screen just by drawing a circle around it. See a delicious-looking brunch dish in your Instagram feed? Just circle it, and Google will pull up recipes and nearby restaurants with similar dishes. It’s a little bit like Google Lens, except you can search for almost anything on your phone’s screen rather than having to snap a picture first.
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In my time with the Galaxy S24 Ultra, Circle to Search seems most useful for shopping, looking up recipes or discovering nearby restaurants or points of interest. But I think there’s further potential for a feature like this. For example, you can add additional text queries to go along with whatever you’ve circled, which can help narrow down results. Combining text and image inputs the right way could end up making it much easier to get the search results you want right away rather than having to scroll through multiple options.
But it’s worth noting that Circle to Search isn’t exclusive to the Galaxy S24; it’s on the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro, too.
Chat Assist is a blanket term for three new features in the Messages app: Chat translation (translates text messages into different languages), Writing style (rewrites texts in different tones before you send them, like Google’s Magic Compose) and Spelling and grammar (checks messages for errors). But the one that impressed me the most is chat translation.
With just a couple of taps, I converted an entire chat thread into another language without having to copy and paste text or switch between apps. When I received an incoming message written in Korean from one of my coworkers, the Messages app automatically asked if I wanted to translate it into English.
This could be helpful for frequent travelers and those who regularly communicate with family members or colleagues who speak a different native language. And even though I’m not using it on an everyday basis, seeing text messages automatically translate in real time as I scrolled through my messaging history was impressive.
Language translation was clearly a big area of focus for Samsung when developing Galaxy AI. The company added translation capabilities to the native phone app as well with a new feature called Live Translate. When making a phone call, just tap the Live Translate button, and Samsung will translate the call on both ends in real time. An automated voice informs the person on the other end that the call is being translated. Once you’re finished speaking, Samsung will repeat your speech in the desired language so that the person on the other side can understand it, and vice versa.
As someone who has done a lot of international traveling in the past year, I could see how this could have been useful for tasks like making restaurant reservations and buying event tickets abroad. But it can also feel a bit awkward to use since it can be hard to tell when it’s your turn to speak.
On the Galaxy S24 series, you can see how any video clip in the Gallery app will look in slow motion just by pressing and holding the screen. It’s not a must-have feature, but it’s a lot of fun to play around with. However, I wish it were just as easy to save clips in slow motion after previewing them. You have to tap on the pencil icon below the video clip to do so.
Generative Edit lets you move, resize and erase objects in photos, much like Google’s Magic Edit tool for the Pixel 8 series. There’s a reason the two features are similar; Samsung is using Google’s underlying technology to power the feature.
Still, that doesn’t mean Generative Edit and Magic Edit are exactly the same. Samsung watermarks images that were edited with Generative Edit, unlike Google, while Google’s Magic Edit offers multiple results to choose from compared to Samsung’s sole result.
Features like Generative Edit and Magic Edit raise questions about authenticity in smartphone photos at a time when misinformation on the internet is already a concern. But when used responsibly, Generative Edit can make it possible for anyone to apply photo edits on the fly without any knowledge of Photoshop or other extra software.
These are just a handful of the new Galaxy AI features Samsung launched on the Galaxy S24 series. But they’re the best at demonstrating how AI can bring functionality that feels genuinely new and practical to smartphones. Some of Samsung’s other Galaxy AI additions didn’t leave as strong of an impression on me, either because I didn’t find them useful or they were too limited. Take the writing style option in Chat Assist, for example: Most of Samsung’s suggestions sounded too unlike me to feel helpful. The professional option sounded like an email, while the social-themed option just peppered my words with hashtags.
It’s also unclear whether Galaxy AI will remain free for Samsung users, since the fine print on the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s product page hints that the company could charge for such features after 2025.
Regardless, the current iteration of Galaxy AI feels like a strong start and makes me curious about where Samsung will take it in the future — especially as it develops new features for other devices like foldables and tablets.
Editors’ note: CNET is using an AI engine to help create some stories. For more, see this post.