Samsung Galaxy S23 phone range launches in NZ February 17 starting at $1599

Samsung's latest smartphones have been unveiled at this year's Galaxy Unpacked event at which the company's best ever phone camera technology, battery life and performance were showcased.

Set for release in New Zealand on February 17, the Galaxy S23 Ultra will start at $2299, the Galaxy S23 Plus will start at $1949 and the standard Galaxy S23 will start at $1599.

Those launch prices are higher than last year's S22 Ultra, S22 Plus and S22 which started at $1999, $1599 and $1299, respectively.

The new improvements to the Galaxy range's camera systems have an emphasis on higher quality night photos, including impressive looking astrophotography capabilities.

The S23 Ultra model packs a whopping 200MP wide as part of its rear camera package - a bump up from the 108MP it's been for the past few years and a considerable difference to the maximum 48MP offered in the latest Pro model iPhones from Apple.

In terms of design, the S23 phones are the same size as last year's models but Samsung has done away with the larger curved edges, creating larger flat areas for display.

The S23 range comes in four colour options: green, cream, black and lavender.

All models will be powered by a customised Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip from Qualcomm which is said to give a considerable performance boost that should appeal especially to gamers.

Samsung's sustainability efforts have also been ramped up with the new range being partially produced with things like upcycled fishing nets pulled from the ocean as well as recycled plastic and glass.

Galaxy Unpacked took place at the Masonic Auditorium in San Francisco as a live event for the first time in three years after being relegated to livestreams during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Camera power

The S23 Ultra's 200MP wide camera is accompanied by a 12MP ultra-wide, a 10MP telephoto offering 3x optical zoom and a 10MP telephoto offering 10x optical zoom.

It will be able to record 8K video at 30fps.

The selfie camera on all three models is a single 12MP, while the rear camera setup on the standard S23 and the Plus models is a 50MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide and 10MP telephoto offering 3x optical zoom.

Samsung highlighted various other smart camera improvements including a new adaptive pixel system, an increase of up to four times wider dynamic range on 50MP photos and better detailing in backlit shots.

But the emphasis at the showcase event was very much on how well the S23 models take photos and videos in low light.

"Daytime photography has become very, very good, but we're all nocturnal animals as well. We're all out and about in the evening and that's where the next big battleground is," Garry McGregor, Vice President for Mobile at Samsung Australia, told Newshub.

"The S23 range has some fantastic camera lenses, but also fantastic artificial intelligence that adjusts based on your settings and your surroundings to optimise the picture. It's the inner workings where the magic really happens. With the Galaxy S23 Ultra in particular, the pictures truly are mind blowing."

A nighttime shot
Samsung now wants you to be able to capture the stars with their new phone. Photo credit: Samsung / YouTube


Dr Joshua Cho, EVP and Head of the Visual Solution team at Samsung, is passionate about the ability of the S23 phones to take stunning photos of the night sky.

He spearheaded the new range's astrophotography capabilities and hardly stopped smiling while discussing them at length in San Francisco.

"Last year we proudly announced you could take photos of the moon - now you can capture photos of the stars," said Dr Cho.

He explained that expert photographers usually use an expensive item called an equatorial mount to compensate for Earth's rotation while taking photos of the stars, which are taken over several minutes.

Instead of one of those, Samsung developed an algorithm to track the stars within it and stack several images taken over four to ten minutes for its astrophotography results.

Cho said you don't need a fancy tripod to carry out astrophotography with the phones - he told Newshub the one he used cost around $10, but lying a phone on the ground would also work just as well where possible.

The less light interference the better, so you'll get much clearer results in rural areas than you would in urban areas. But Samsung insisted it has taken all the difficulty out of taking stunning looking photos that capture the night sky.

"It's very easy, you just press the button and that's it," said Dr Cho.

Samsung S23 series introduces impressive astrophotography capabilities.
Photo credit: Newshub.

High performance

Samsung said the Gen 2 chip packs 34 percent better CPU performance and 41 percent better GPU performance over the Gen 1, which was already a big jump from older chips.

There's also a larger cooling system to stop the devices from getting so hot as they process highly demanding games for extended periods.

"If you can make a smartphone that works for gamers, it will work great for everyone else because gamers are the most intense and the hardest on their smartphone. So the power this one has with its new chip enables the graphics to be a lot smoother, less jittery," said McGregor.

An 'AI advanced power management' feature also helps extend battery life. If you were to play videos non-stop on these devices, Samsung said you will get up to 22 hours on a standard S23 model before running out of battery, 26 on an Ultra and 27 on a Plus.

McGregor said battery life that lasts beyond a full day for most users was long seen as nirvana for the smartphone industry but is now very achievable.

"The AI allows the phone to adapt to how you use it. We're all creatures of habit in one way or the other, so it knows when to power up or slow the device down based on your habits, it knows the applications you use regularly and the ones that you don't.

"Mobile phones have become so much smarter at tailoring themselves around you. That is one of the biggest differences between the new range of smartphones and our previous range."

In terms of memory and storage, the Ultra and Plus models have done away with 128GB options this year, only offering bigger ones. The available configurations are:

S23 Ultra

  • 8GB + 256GB
  • 12 GB + 512GB
  • 12GB + 1TB

S23 Plus

  • 8GB + 256GB
  • 8GB + 512GB


  • 8GB + 128GB
  • 8GB + 256GB
The Galaxy S23 Ultra, Plus and standard.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra, Plus and standard. Photo credit: SuppliedSamsung

'Eco conscious' materials

It's not just the packaging of the phones that has been made with recycled, recyclable material this year.

As examples of the 'eco conscious' production materials, Samsung said the S23 Ultra features:

  • A SIM tray and outer volume keys made with around 30 percent recycled aluminium
  • Front and back glass made with around 25 percent recycled glass
  • Back glass film made with around 80 percent recycled polyethylene terephthalate.
  • Even the official accessories involve more sustainable elements, such as cases made partially out of corn.

"As somebody who follows very closely what is happening in the sustainability aspect of consumer electronic devices, I admire what Samsung has been able to do in putting sustainability first," Carolina Milanesi, Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, told Newshub.

"[They're pushing] the idea that you can innovate from a technology perspective and still be conscious of the impact that you're having on the environment. I really admire what they're doing to try and use more and more recycled material within the phones."

The Galaxy S23 range has been revealed.
Photo credit: supplied/Samsung

Higher price

Although the standard Galaxy S23 is launching with the same starting price of Apple's iPhone 14 and Oppo's Find X5 ($1599), that makes it $300 more than what the standard S22 launched at.

As for the top of the range model, the $2299 starting price of the S23 Ultra is $100 more than that of the comparable iPhone 14 Pro Max and $300 more than that of both the Find X5 Pro and S22 Ultra.

Amid the cost of living crisis, those prices may sting - but they are likely indicative of higher prices across the market this year including in the upcoming iPhone 15 and Find X6 devices.

"Unfortunately, brands don't necessarily have a choice of whether or not they come to market with higher prices, because the cost of production is higher," said Milanesi.

"Also if you continue to push of the boundaries of technology, you are starting to use technologies that are more expensive."

Samsung is confident the prices are fair.

"The foreign exchange market hasn't necessarily been so friendly, but at the same time all of our costs have gone up as well," said McGregor.

"So the component costs, the logistics and delivery costs have all come in higher for Samsung, but we obviously do everything we can to keep the pricing as keen as possible. I stand by the fact that the pricing for the Galaxy S23 range remains very, very competitive when you look at it in a broader market context."

How well New Zealanders accept the higher priced new models will start to be understood in just over a fortnight when the Galaxy S23 is released in Aotearoa on February 17.