Much before Samsung’s latest Galaxy S24 flagships, a series of events were already in motion towards the pursuit of artificial intelligence (AI) smartphones. It really isn’t as simple as preloading the ChatGPT app. Well, that could be a way. But phone makers know the need for a compelling proposition for consumers, if they’re expected to spend a premium for exclusivity, that may well be momentary. In the past few hours, Samsung and Google have made announcements (no surprise, they’re collaborating too) that will go some way in shaping the path of AI phones, in its truest sense. At speed.
Galaxy AI, a eureka moment? Perhaps. AI adoption will take its own time, depending on individual user preferences and how they use their smartphone. In the immediacy and the long-term, Samsung’s confirmation that the Galaxy S24 phones will get 7-years of security updates and 7 generations of Android OS updates. If Google continues the current trajectory of one major Android iteration every year, that’ll mean a Galaxy S24 phone will be able to support new Android versions through till the year 2031. No other phone maker offers a runway as long as this, with software support. That will now change.
“Galaxy AI is built on our innovation heritage and deep understanding of how people use their phones. We’re excited to see how our users around the world empower their everyday lives with Galaxy AI to open up new possibilities,” says TM Roh, President and Head of Mobile eXperience (MX) Business at Samsung Electronics.
After months of talking about an “AI for all” vision that did extensively envelop the ecosystem devices, Samsung’s biggest step forward comes with its latest Galaxy S24 line-up of flagship Android phones. Specifically called Galaxy AI that is meant for applications that keep a smartphone at its epicentre, some solutions have been developed in-house while industry partners have helped curate some of the others.
A word about the hardware first. Much like in previous years, there will be three phones this time around too. With significant spec upgrades across the board, Galaxy S24 is priced at $799 onwards (around ₹66,400). The middle tier is the Galaxy S24+, or Galaxy S24 Plus, has price tags starting $999 while the flagship among these flagships, Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra now with a titanium build, is slightly dearer, now $1299 onwards.
Samsung is yet to confirm the India pricing, or variant specifics, for the Galaxy S24 series.
The processing power for the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra comes from the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 mobile platform, which much like last year, has received specific performance and efficiency optimisations, for Samsung phones. It is expected that the Galaxy S24+ and Galaxy S24 phones sold in India, will be powered by Samsung’s Exynos 2400 chip.
Samsung has confirmed a feature they’d first teased late last year, which is AI Live Translate Call. A phone call in 13 languages, including English, Spanish and Taiwanese, will be translated, on device. Translation capabilities are also in use within the new Interpreter app, for translating person-to-person conversations, verbally and in-text. In the Samsung Keyboard as well, translations will be available for text messages sent and received in any of the supported languages.
Samsung’s demo suggests Android Messages app will support this feature, though it is expected more messaging apps will be able to draw on this Samsung Keyboard app functionality. Speaking of which, the AI compose feature can create contextual replies for chats, in different tones as you’d select at a time. The tone option will be available in the Notes app too.
It remains to be seen if any of the new AI functionality that the Samsung Galaxy S24 phones usher into existence, will be made available to any of the older Galaxy flagship phones, including 2023’s Galaxy S23 series. All Samsung said was, some previous generation devices including phones and tablets, will get the Galaxy AI functionality in H1 2024.
In a bid to give users the choice with data privacy, Samsung confirms there will be an explicit option that can be toggled on to allow for only on-device processing of all AI tasks. Once that is enabled, no data will be sent to the cloud for processing.
A concern with generated AI images is an inability to detect a generated one from a real photo, as well as the owner. Samsung will embed any image that uses generative AI in the Gallery app, with metadata detailing the specifics and ownership of a generated image.
Google’s foundation, for Samsung flagships
Google is introducing a new way to search on phones. Called Circle to Search, the idea to let a user select anything on the phone’s screen at the time (it can be a photo, a piece of text, for example) with any gesture that often comes naturally as we interact with apps on a phone – scribble, circle, highlight or tapping to select. Contextual questions can follow, if you are searching for more information for what you’ve selected on the screen.
“Our phones are a window to the world’s information — whether it’s to explore a passion, solve a problem, buy the perfect gift, learn a new skill or simply find a reason to smile. And when you’re truly immersed in a moment of discovery or exploration, it can feel disruptive to stop what you’re doing and switch to another app to learn more. That’s why we’re introducing Circle to Search, a new way to search anything on your Android phone without switching apps,” says Cathy Edwards, Vice President for Google Search.
It’ll roll out as an update for the Google Search app for a handful of Android phones at this time in late January. Those are, for now, the Google’s Pixel 8 Pro, Pixel 8 and Samsung’s troika of Galaxy S24 phones.
That isn’t all. Google’s collaboration with Samsung goes much deeper. What’s driving most of this AI functionality are two variations of the tech giant’s latest Gemini AI models, that are being made available on the Galaxy S24 phones. A factor in this is the reality that Samsung ships by far the most Android phones globally – AI might have just played its part in bringing two competitors to the same table.
The Gemini Pro model will be built into the Samsung’s Notes, Voice Recorder and Keyboard apps. One example of this is – with Imagen 2, Google’s advanced text-to-image diffusion technology, users will get access to more photo editing capabilities using Generative Edit, within the Gallery app.
The Gemini Mini model will underlie the Google Messages app on Samsung’s new phones, for the on-device processing of Magic Compose suggestions. There will also be Photomoji, to create a new emoji from a user’s photos using generative AI. There are expected improvements in the experience of using Android Auto in compatible cars. The way this will work is, Android Auto will automatically summarize long texts or group chats while the phone user is driving. It will also suggest relevant replies and actions, without having to touch the phone.
“With our latest advances in AI, we have the opportunity to enhance what billions of people already love about Android — whether it’s accessing information quickly, connecting with people that you care about, capturing the perfect image or expressing your personal style,” says Hiroshi Lockheimer, Senior Vice President for Platforms & Ecosystems, at Google.
In December, Google had rolled out the Gemini Mini model underlier exclusively (at the time) for its Pixel 8 Pro phone running the new Tensor G3 chip, enabling on-device generative AI functionality including summarising audio files in the Recorder app, smart replies in Gboard and a gamut of camera functions such as removing smudges from document scans and one-tap photo unblurring.
That was the harbinger of a slow burn, that’s now expectedly accelerating. AI phones are well and truly here. And there’s more to come.