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Samsung Releases New Feature Boost To Millions Of Galaxy Phones

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This story was updated on April 17th. Update below.

Last month, Samsung surprised Galaxy S23 owners by updating their phones with (then) exclusive Galaxy S24 AI features. Now, the company has confirmed that even more phones will be getting an AI update.

Samsung announced in a press release on Monday that select Galaxy AI-powered features will be coming to phones it released in 2022, including the Galaxy S22 series. The AI update will come via One UI 6.1 and will start rolling out in “early May.”

It looks like almost the entire suite of AI features will be rolling out to Samsung’s older phones, including the heavily advertised Live Translate, Circle to Search, Note Assist and generative image editing.

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Other AI-powered tools in One UI 6.1 will also make their way over, including Chat Assist, Interpreter and AI-generated wallpapers. The only feature that hasn’t been included is Instant Slow-Mo, which is likely because of its hardware demands.

The full list of eligible 2022 phones includes the Galaxy S22, S22 Plus, S22 Ultra, Galaxy Z Fold 4, Galaxy Z Flip 4 and all models in the Galaxy Tab S8 range. The last announcement brought these same features to most of Samsung’s 2023 smartphone lineup.

Samsung might not be finished with rolling out AI tools to older phones, either. A post by a Samsung employee on its community forums (spotted by Android Central) said that two AI features—Circle to Search and Chat Assist—will come to the Galaxy S21, Flip 3 and Fold 3. The post says that these are supposed to be rolled out in early May too, although no 2021 handsets are mentioned in Samsung’s press release.

Samsung has long said that it wants to bring its core AI features to as many of its Galaxy phones (that it still supports with software updates) as possible. TM Roh, Samsung’s head of mobile, said last month that the company is actively reviewing which older tablets and handsets can run its latest AI technology.

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The question then is what older phones will get the AI toolkit? The Galaxy S20 series, which was released in 2020, isn’t receiving Android updates anymore. However, the phone still gets quarterly security patches. Will Samsung’s four-year-old flagship phone also get some AI goodness?

What about its mid-range devices like the recently released A55 and A35? Neither is equipped with Galaxy AI, which might be because they don’t have the right specifications for it. But if three-year-old phones can support select AI skills, surely the latest handsets can too, despite their mid-range status?

Samsung may want to keep its AI technology limited to its upper-tier handsets because the very concept of AI sounds futuristic, which instantly rubs off onto the devices that are equipped with it. If Galaxy AI is available on the company’s cheapest devices, then that may cheapen the image of AI itself too. We will have to see how far the Korean company can spread these features, but it’s clear that the company wants as many people as possible to have their first mobile AI experience with Samsung.

April 17th update. For any Galaxy S23 users struggling with accidental activation of Circle to Search, which is a common criticism of the feature, Google is working on a solution. In its latest episode of the Made By Google podcast, which has delivered insights into the company’s future plans before, the development team behind the search feature admitted there’s more to do to refining work to be done.

“We spent a ton of time thinking about what is the fastest way to access [circle to search]. Because we knew that could make or break the product….we still have further to go and we’re working a lot to make sure that it’s triggered when you want, it’s not triggered when you don’t want.” Erin Lynch, a product manager at Google, explained.

The way to activate Circle to Search, by long pressing the gesture bar at the bottom of your phone’s display, is how Android users used to launch Assistant. Google clearly thinks the new search feature is a better of use of screen real estate and its preferred way for Android users to interact with the web. An example of that is a small titbit Alistair Pott, director of product management at Google, revealed on the podcast. He explained that the data shows people are using Circle to Search to highlight and search text, not just using it for images and often for translating text in foreign languages.

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