Samsung Electronics Co. is turning to artificial intelligence features to revamp its flagship Galaxy smartphones, betting that the technology can give it an advantage over Apple Inc.'s iPhone.
At its Unpacked conference Wednesday in San Jose, California, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S24, S24+ and S24 Ultra phones, which all add AI tools based on the Gemini technology from Alphabet Inc.'s Google. The devices can live-translate phone calls, transcribe voice recordings, summarize web articles, fix handwriting and use generative AI to fill in parts of photos.
The launch is one of the most ambitious attempts to weave AI into a smartphone's interface and features. The new devices also provide Google with a chance to put its most advanced software in the hands of more users, a potential edge in its fight for AI dominance with Microsoft Corp. and startup OpenAI.
The AI features are the highlight of the new phones, but the devices are also getting slimmer bezels and brighter displays. Samsung is paying special attention to its top-end model, the S24 Ultra. That product, which starts at $1,299, will have a new titanium frame, matching the iPhone 15 Pro models released in September.
The borders around the displays are 42% thinner, and the screen is 40% brighter than the phone's predecessor. It also sports flatter edges and a front-facing camera cutout that's 11% smaller.
The $799 S24 and $999 S24+ come in aluminum and get slightly larger screens than their predecessors, moving from 6.1-inch and 6.6-inch panels to 6.2-inch and 6.7-inch displays, respectively. The S24 Ultra, like the S23 Ultra, has a 6.8-inch screen.
Qualcomm Inc. is providing the main chip of the new Samsung phones in at least some regions. The S24 lineup will be based on its Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 applications processor, the company said in a separate statement. That component offers the latest Wi-Fi capabilities and will handle AI-assisted features such as live translation and transcription, Qualcomm said.
The new models come at a crucial time for Samsung, which is contending with market share losses and a broader smartphone slump. Last year, it lost its crown as the No. 1 smartphone supplier to Apple, marking the first time Samsung hasn't led the market since 2010.
Samsung's phone shipments declined nearly 14% to 226.6 million units in 2023, according to research firm IDC. Apple, on the other hand, saw unit shipments increase 3.7% to 234.6 million.
Samsung looks to reverse its fortunes by getting a several-month head start on AI. Apple isn't expected to showcase its latest plans for artificial intelligence until June, ahead of new iPhones arriving around September. The new Galaxy phones come out on Jan. 31, with preorders starting Wednesday.
Samsung decided to adopt the Gemini AI technology after surveying offerings from competitors, according to Thomas Kurian, head of Google's cloud computing unit. As part of a multiyear agreement, Google will be the sole provider of generative AI for Samsung's phones and applications, including features for taking notes and recording audio, according to Kurian.
"This is a validation of the quality of our models," Kurian said. "They were free to choose whoever they wanted."
Users will be able to switch between two options: one called Gemini Nano that runs on the phone itself and a higher-powered Pro version that uses cloud computing. That flexibility helped Google's offerings stand out from the competition, Kurian said.
In conjunction with Samsung's announcements, Google also introduced a feature called "Circle to Search," which lets people search anything on their phone screens without switching apps. Users of Google's Android operating system can scribble or circle on top of images, text or video in the app they're on "" say, YouTube Shorts or TikTok "" to find out more information about the item. The feature is launching globally on the new Galaxy S24, as well as on Google's own Pixel 8 smartphones on Jan. 31.
AI features on the Samsung devices will also let users change the language of a message depending on the context, such as whether it's a work memo or social media post. And new capabilities for Android Auto "- Google's in-car interface "- will summarize incoming text messages and other alerts.
The companies are also applying AI to the phones' camera systems, which are getting upgraded with new sensors, with tools to make photos sharper. The S24 Ultra replaces one of its 10-megapixel telephoto cameras with a 50-megapixel version. The S24 and S24+, meanwhile, include the same camera specifications as their predecessors.
The S24 Ultra comes with as much as 1 terabyte of storage, while the S24+ tops out at 512 gigabytes. The S24 has as much as 256GB of space. The S24+ and S24 Ultra include 12GB of memory, which is used for shorter-term storage of data, while the regular S24 has 8GB.