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Samsung’s Galaxy S24 Ultra: The Mysterious Influence of Apple and the Resilience of the Galaxy Note Design

I’m not a big fan of Samsung’s decision to emulate Apple’s iPhone design strategy over the past few years.

While I appreciate some consistency when it comes to a lineup of phones, I think Apple went a tad too far with the current iPhone design, which looks more iterative than it needs to. Respectively, Samsung’s been doing more or less the same thing since the launch of the Galaxy S22 series…But at the same time, there’s something satisfying about seeing how a single design can mature over time. For example, despite looking largely identical to the iPhone 12 series, the iPhone 15 series feels quite different. And that’s thanks to subtle changes that most people might not even realize are there.

Samsung is pulling an Apple with the design of the new Galaxy S24 Ultra, and I don’t hate it

  • Judging by all leaks and rumors, the Galaxy S24 Ultra is expected to adopt a new brushed titanium frame, similar to that of the iPhone 15 Pro
  • As you can see in the leaked renders, Samsung is betting on “professional” looking colors, very reminiscent of the color palette of the iPhone 14 Pro series – the matte gray finish is suppose to be “gold” as per tipster Ice Universe
  • Another subtle but notable change in the design of the Galaxy S24 Ultra is that it is getting Samsung’s flattest premium flagship display in a very long time – you can see subtle curves on the edge of the glass but the actual display area of the S24 Ultra seems 100% flat now
  • Another subtle but long-awaited design change, which I like seeing is symmetrical bezels on Samsung’s premium flagship for the first time ever (the vanilla Galaxy S22 models received this upgrade a while back)

The adoption of Apple’s “design refinement” strategy taught Samsung (and its fans) how to be patient like iPhone users

While it’s difficult to get excited for the design of the Galaxy S24 Ultra, which looks largely identical to that of the Galaxy S23 Ultra, which looks practically the same as the S22 Ultra, I must say that the subtle changes Samsung is going for seem very intentional, and (as I said in the intro) this makes me view them as a process of maturity…It’s almost like Samsung has mastered Apple’s push-pull strategy of adding (obvious) upgrades one by one instead of going for a complete overhaul like the company used to do. So, it’s really no surprise that this creates a sense of satisfaction when you finally get JUST the design you’ve “always wanted” from day one.

Again, to draw a parallel to the iPhone, if you’ve ever held an iPhone 12 Pro, you’d know that holding the iPhone 15 Pro feels shockingly different (in a good way). Yet, that’s clearly a paradox, since the iPhone 15 Pro looks virtually the same as the iPhone 12 Pro. But that’s how Apple’s “refinement” strategy works.

All Apple-style excuses aside, Samsung isn’t trying hard enough with the design of the Galaxy S24 Ultra

So, yes, the adoption of Apple’s “design refinement” strategy did teach Samsung (and Samsung fans) how to be patient when it comes to upgrades. But some people just… aren’t patient (you can find most of them on tech Twitter).They want to see a new Galaxy/iPhone that makes them excited to buy and use it. You know – like the Galaxy S6 Edge and the iPhone X from a billion years ago. And if you want a personal example, like the Pixel 6 Pro – the last (non-foldable) phone I was truly excited to use.

So, what about this more “enthusiastic” group of smartphone users (which I belong to)? Well, looking at the Galaxy S24 Ultra from this lens, the perspective changes quite a bit, bringing up some questions like the ones below:

  • Why not spice things up a little by adding the same button/frame design that we saw in the leaked Galaxy A55 renders to the Galaxy S24, Samsung? Sure, it’s not a complete redesign but it could’ve made the flagship phones feel newer and a bit more… edgy
  • One particular thing about the design of the Galaxy S24 Ultra (if it turns out to be true) bugs me quite a bit and this is the fact that even though Samsung is switching to a titanium frame, the Galaxy S24 Ultra isn’t expected to get lighter; let’s hope this is wrong, because the 20g Apple shaved off the iPhone 15 Pro Max make it feel much more comfortable to hold than the Galaxy S23 Ultra
  • This is one I won’t get tired of repeating, and it’s the idea that the S-Pen slot and S Pen must go; I suppose smartphone styluses were intriguing some ten years ago, but it’s almost 2024 now, and I think Steve Jobs was right on this one – few will miss the S Pen, which takes up valuable space in the Galaxy S24 Ultra (also, potentially making the phone wider than it needs to be)
  • Is it time to try an under-display selfie camera, Samsung? I know this has to be a very carefully calculated decision, since giving up the standard selfie camera in favor of an UD solution would certainly result in a dip in quality but someone should eventually make the ultimate all-screen phone, no? It’s not going to be Apple – at least not anytime soon…

The Galaxy S24 Ultra continues to keep the dead “Note” design alive: Will Samsung ever give up the impractical rectangle in favor of something more ergonomic?

Let’s not forget that the Galaxy S24 Ultra is still very much the “Galaxy Note” flagship Samsung “discontinued” but really kept around in the form of the premium S series flagship.

And one thing has been and will be true about the Galaxy S22 Ultra, S23 Ultra, and the new S24 Ultra, and this is that the square Note design isn’t for me. Don’t get me wrong, there’s something appealing about an all-screen rectangle, and I often pick up the Galaxy S23 Ultra and just look at the screen because it’s so attractive… But from a practical standpoint, the square doesn’t simply go well with such a large phone.

But what do you think? Is Samsung doing enough to make the Galaxy S24 Ultra an attractive offer? Let’s not forget that the Galaxy S24 Ultra probably isn’t aimed at people who already have a recent flagship like the Galaxy S23 Ultra. But what about people rocking the Galaxy S22 Ultra, S21 Ultra, or something older? Are you tempted to upgrade?

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