Forget the Pixel Fold and iPhone 14 Pro, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is the phone I can't quit using

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra on top of iPhone 14 Pro and Google Pixel Fold
(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

As a phone reviewer, I have all of the best phones, and as long as I’m not in the middle of a review (when I use nothing but the review phone), I get my choice of which phone to use. It’s not hard. When I have my choice of everything, I still use my Galaxy S23 Ultra. There’s no other phone that comes close to doing everything I can do with my S23 Ultra, and on a recent trip I was proven more right than ever. 

When I say I have all of the best phones, I really mean it. My friends and family aren’t impressed by my collection of review samples, but when I want to show off, I grab my Motorola Razr Plus. It’s the coolest phone I’ve got, and the most compact, so it fits certain situations perfectly. Sometimes I need a phone for every situation, not just flashy parties where I wear pants with tight pockets.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Google Pixel Fold showing differences between apps on each phone including Twitter and Chrome browser

A Galaxy Z Fold 4 over a Pixel Fold (Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

When I need my phone to be my primary entertainment, I’ll grab my Google Pixel Fold. I like the Samsung foldable software better on the Galaxy Z Fold 4, but for everyday use, the Pixel Fold is much easier to use whether closed or open. Plus, the cameras are pretty good, but not great.

Sometimes I need great cameras, and even though the Galaxy S23 Ultra can’t match the big 7.6-inch display inside the Pixel Fold and Galaxy Z Fold 4, its huge, fast screen is bright, sharp, and bigger than almost anything else that doesn’t fold in half. I don’t miss the extra screen real estate.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra on top of iPhone 14 Pro and Google Pixel Fold

Galaxy S23 Ultra on iPhone 14 Pro on Pixel Fold (Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Of course, I also have an iPhone 14 Pro, because I need to stay on top of both iOS and Android. The next iOS 17 is looking very exciting, and I’m already using the Public Beta. Even with all of the new improvements, I don't miss anything about the iPhone when I got back to using my Galaxy full time. I mostly like the iPhone because it lets me connect best with other iPhone users. 

I left everything at home except my Galaxy S23 Ultra

Clearly, I have too much technology, and I tend to get loaded down. I bring too much with me: a work laptop, a phone (or two), a tablet or my best Kindle, plus chargers for everything. I bring my big Anker 733 battery pack, one of my smartwatches, USB-C hubs, and dongles. I don’t have fear of missing out (FOMO), I have fear of missing iPhone (FOMi). 

What if I could just bring one device instead? 

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra on top of iPhone 14 Pro and Google Pixel Fold

My Galaxy S23 Ultra and iPhone 14 Pro (Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

I tried this recently on a trip to visit family and friends in my hometown. I was taking Monday off, so I thought I’d leave behind, well, everything! No laptop. No tablet. Nothing besides my Galaxy S23 Ultra and a small Anker charging plug. I was going as minimalist as possible, and it was the least technology I’ve carried since 1991.

Everything was going great until Saturday morning when I was invited to a virtual meeting on Monday morning that required a signature on an NDA. Frankly, I couldn’t have designed a better test case for the Galaxy S23 Ultra, and I wasn’t worried in the slightest about what I’d left behind. I was kind of excited.

I opened the NDA, signed it, and sent it back ASAP. My signature looked like I’d used a real pen, not my finger. Then I had a fun weekend. I realized at bedtime on Saturday that I forgot to charge my phone. My phone had been unplugged since I pulled into the garage on Friday night. I still had more than 40% power.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra on top of iPhone 14 Pro and Google Pixel Fold

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

On Monday morning, I plugged my phone into an external monitor using the USB-C port. I connected a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard. Samsung’s DeX appeared. It's a laptop-like environment that makes it easier to open multiple windows on a larger monitor.

I could have used my girlfriend’s laptop, but the phone already has my accounts preloaded. I don’t need to worry about two-factor authentication to log into my email, my calendar, and my important meeting. I have all of my apps, including Slack and Airtable, ready to go, no need to download or sign in to anything new.

Not only did everything run without a hitch, my video chat might have looked even better with the Galaxy S23 Ultra, which has a much nicer selfie camera than my work laptop, a paltry Microsoft Surface Laptop Go that can’t keep up with my smartphone in most tasks.

It's not just one Galaxy S23 Ultra camera, it's all of them

Whether it’s a work situation, a travel plan, or just fun time, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is the phone I rely on more than any of the others. I talk up the S23 Ultra cameras all the time, but the joy of the Galaxy S23 Ultra is never worrying about it.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra is the ultimate phone for “Hey, look at that bird!!” or “Aww, his little tongue is sticking out” moments.

When I have time to plan my photos, I might prefer the OnePlus 11, which takes very cool and stylish shots. I love to experiment with unusual angles using foldable flip phones like the Motorola Razr Plus. My life has surprises, though, and I need to be ready. 

When I find out about the middle school band concert that my kid forgot to mention, I need to know my camera will be able to capture these fleeting moments of trombone playing and standing ovations.

Motorola Razr Plus 2023 / Motorola Razr 40 Ultra

You let me down, little Razr Plus cameras (Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

I was reviewing the Motorola Razr Plus when the kiddo ‘graduated’ from middle school. Yeah, I know, we didn’t have those when I was a kid, either, but now it’s totally a big thing. I regret my review policy of only using the review phone. The Razr Plus was not capable of great shots with even the slightest zoom from the back of the orchestra section. In the resulting photos, my kid is a blurry, blocky mess, and I won’t get a chance to capture that moment again.

I won’t make the same mistake when high school graduation comes around. If I don’t bring my big Nikon D750 camera, I’ll definitely bring a superzoom smartphone like whatever replaces the Galaxy S23 Ultra (the Galaxy S27 Ultra?).

Okay, that situation plays to the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s 10X optical zoom capabilities, but the camera is just more capable all around than any other single phone. When I bake up a batch of delicious scones, I know the S23 Ultra takes amazing food photos that look more like a dream, in the best way. When my puppy is snoozing adorably, I know my Galaxy S23 Ultra will handle the low-light shot quickly, before she strikes a new pose.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra always gets a good reception

One of the more esoteric reasons I stick with the Galaxy S23 Ultra over all of my other phones is simply reliability. Frankly, the equipment required to properly test network signal strength and call quality is beyond the budget of all but the most specialized tech publications. I can say from vast experience that when I personally need to rely on a phone for network strength, I use my Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. 

As a former summer camp counselor, I’ve spent time in the Pennsylvania mountains surrounded by friends clinging to the best iPhones. When they couldn’t catch a single bar of service, I had no trouble sending messages and browsing the web.

“What network are you on?” They’d ask. 

“Samsung,” I’d tell them. Because I was using the same US carrier they were, but with my Samsung phone I had no trouble finding a signal. If my Galaxy S23 Ultra can’t get service, no phone that I own will do better.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review apps

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

When PCMag.com needed to test the Best Mobile Networks in 2022 across the entire country, they turned to the Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus, and they always use one of the best Samsung phones for this perennial test. Samsung doesn’t pay for this privilege. PCMag uses Galaxy S phones because Samsung phones reliably get the best service.

There are lots of great phones to buy, and everyone has different priorities that are equally valid. I over-prioritize. Everything is too important. I need a phone that can do everything all the other smartphones can do, and then a lot more. The Galaxy S23 Ultra is the best phone you can buy, and it’s the phone I use above the rest.

Philip Berne
US Mobiles Editor

Phil Berne is a preeminent voice in consumer electronics reviews, having reviewed his first device (the Sony D-EJ01 Discman) more than 20 years ago for eTown.com. He has been writing about phones and mobile technology, since before the iPhone, for a variety of sites including PCMag, infoSync, PhoneScoop, and Slashgear. He holds an M.A. in Cultural Theory from Carnegie Mellon University. 


Phil was the internal reviewer for Samsung Mobile, writing opinions and review predictions about top secret new devices months before launch. He left in 2017. He worked at an Apple Store near Boston, MA, at the height of iPod popularity. He has been a High School English teacher at Title I schools, and is a certified Lifeguard. His passion is smartphones and wearables, and he is sure that the next big thing will be phones we wear on our faces.