Samsung Galaxy AI tested: revolution or fad?

Samsung Galaxy AI features
Image: supplied.

We know the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is an excellent phone, but how good are its AI features?

When Samsung announced its flagship Galaxy S24 range, the AI-based software additions claimed the spotlight. The phones enjoy various hardware improvements, but the company’s Galaxy AI technology has by far generated the most discussion.

As big tech companies chase the latest AI trends, Samsung’s approach has been to employ tools that have actual everyday use. From language translation to photo editing and streamlined search, there are a lot of clever ideas at play.

Good ideas are just one part of the equation, however. How do they actually work in practice? Some of the features are more immediately useful than others, while others offer more of a glimpse at the future.

Circle to search

First shown by Samsung in collaboration with Google, Circle to Search is undoubtedly the best of the new features. Instead of exiting an app and opening a browser to search for things online, you can quickly look up anything that’s on your phone’s screen.

Holding down the home button activates Circle to Search, allowing you to circle a subject to search for it on Google. In one example, circling a photo of a bunch of flowers in the office immediately identified they were artificial peonies. You can even refine searches further by typing additional details, so adding “blue” to the query found results for blue peonies.

It’s a great tool for searching objects you don’t know the name of, all without using a separate app. Travellers would get great use out of Circle to Search, too. Took a photo of a landmark or location you can’t remember the name of? Just circle it, and Google will have the answer in a flash.

Although Circle to Search isn’t exclusive to Samsung phones – Google’s Pixel 8 devices also received the feature via an update – it’s still a great addition that improves the way you interface with your phone.

Galaxy AI Translation

Another big Galaxy AI feature is language translation. Taking on a few different forms, the Galaxy S24 range can convert text and voice into different languages. Again, it’s a feature that aims to eliminate the need for third-party apps, handling requests natively.

Interpreter splits the screen in half, letting you rotate one section towards another person so you can translate in-person discussions in real-time. Meanwhile, Live Translate acts as a way of translating phone calls between speakers of different languages. Then there’s also Transcript Assist, which transcribes conversations into text, which you can then translate from one language to another.

These are all excellent ideas that have genuine utility in the real world. Whether you’re travelling or chatting with multilingual family members, it has the potential to break down communication barriers.

In practice, however, the accuracy is hit-and-miss. In our Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review, translations didn’t quite work as intended. Likewise, a transcription of a French conversation translated into English didn’t make much sense. It’s still early days, though, and will be a great tool once tweaked.

Photo gen AI

Samsung’s Galaxy AI toolset also adds various generative AI photo editing features, offering new ways of refining your snaps. Like the translation tools, there are some cool ideas, although the execution produces amusing results.

Like Circle to Search, you can draw around objects, except the goal here is to edit an image. Removing unwanted objects from a photo is a common request and one that Galaxy AI offers. However, instead of removing things altogether, it will replace them with something else entirely.

For example, I wanted to remove a pile of furniture seen in an image. After circling it, the generative editing processed in the cloud, and then replaced it with a completely different, more aesthetically pleasing, set of furniture. Although it technically did remove the pile in question, the result was a surprise.

It sums up the overall Galaxy AI experience: a lot of cool ideas but an uneven user experience. You can watch our full hands-on Galaxy AI experience on the GadgetGuy YouTube channel, with more features in action, like Chat Assist and Edit Suggest.

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