Samsung AI update changes everything

July 9, 2024
5 mins read
Start

Smartphone updates are totally unremarkable, right? Think again. Samsung’s One UI 6.1 is a game-changer, as PAT PILCHER discovered on holiday.

Having owned the Galaxy Z Fold 5 for a while, you can imagine my glee when the One UI 6.1 update arrived. It conferred my wee foldy phone with Galaxy AI superpowers. As exciting as Galaxy AI sounds, I had long grown tired of being bombarded with AI hype, so my inner cynic wondered just how much of Galaxy AI was marketing hoo-ha, and how much would be genuinely useful in the real world.

As luck would have it, I’d planned to take a brief break away from Wellington’s bleak, cold and wet winter misery by getting on a plane and heading to Brisbane. Aside from allowing my bones to defrost and getting a chance to relax, it was also the perfect opportunity for putting Galaxy AI through its paces. After 10 days of use, here’s what I found.

Circle to Search is THE single most handy feature of Galaxy AI. It lets you search for absolutely anything. All you need do is simply draw a circle around whatever it is you want to find out about on your phone’s screen. It’s a doddle to use and has quickly become my go-to Galaxy AI habit. Using it couldn’t be any easier. Simply long press the round navigation control, and then using your finger, draw a circle around whatever image you’ve captured with your camera or seen online. Using Circle to Search really came into its own when I wanted to know more about attractions to visit. Taking a photo of the attractions sign and using Circle to Search to find reviews was effortless (not to mention being miles quicker than farting about with the Google search box). BRILLIANT!

Interpreter is another gem. While there’s a lot of banter thrown about from both sides of the Tasman on the many quirks of Australian/New Zealand English, the reality is that Brisbane’s many excellent restaurants are staffed by a veritable rainbow of nationalities, all of which provided the perfect testing ground for the interpreter function, which can take voice or text in one language and in mere seconds, translate it back into English. Accessing the Interpreter is also dead easy. Simply swipe down from the top of the screen twice and swipe left. In noisy restaurants, it sometimes struggled with spoken input, but that was solved by holding the phone closer to my mouth when speaking, and if things were too loud, I typed. While all the wait staff I tried it with spoke perfectly good English, they were bemused and often intrigued seeing Interpreter in action. If you’re travelling, there’s going to be plenty of situations where Interpreter will come into its own given how intuitively it works.

Browsing Assist was a Galaxy AI feature I quickly came to appreciate and found myself using a lot. With it you can summarise or translate web pages. This saved me from a lot of wasted time spent farting about wading through restaurant reviews. In use, Browing Assist requires you to fire up the Samsung browser and then once you’ve got the website loaded, by tapping the Galaxy AI symbol where you’ll be prompted to either have the website summarised or translated. I found I could load up Trip Advisor, get it to display reviews for a specific venue and get the many long-winded and often contradictory reviews quickly summarised into a handful of readable bullet points. For quickly vetting restaurants when you’re in the middle of a busy street, it proved a surprisingly effective (and accurate) time saver.

One of the big reasons I’m such a fan of Samsung phone hardware in general is their excellent camera hardware. To this end, my Fold Z 5 packs a 50 MP, f/1.8, main shooter with dual pixel autofocus and a crazily good optical image stabilisation system. You also get a10 MP, f/2.4 telephoto camera complete with a 3x optical zoom, dual pixel autofocus and (again) excellent optical image stabilisation (which when zoomed right out or, shooting at night with long exposures, proved insanely handy). Then there’s the Ultra-wide snapper which has a 12 MP sensor, f/2.2, 123? field of view. Last (but not least) is the under-screen selfie shooter which has a 10 MP sensor, and f/2.2 lens. With these and a super intuitive camera app, it’s almost impossible to take a bad photo.

Here’s the thing though. While fancy pants cameras will take a good photo, it wasn’t until the advent of Galaxy AI, that removing objects from photos became a practical option. After shooting the photo, I fired up the gallery app, chose the photo I’d just taken, and hit the edit icon. I then hit the Galaxy AI button. By holding my finger on the offending object, I was able to intelligently select and erase it from the image. Galaxy AI intelligently generates the photo background to replace the hole in the photo it has left behind. It works like a charm 99.9% of the time. That said, there was one rare occasion when removing an object using Galaxy AI would see it replaced by another even odder object. I took a photo of a pint of excellent Imperial stout I was partaking at Felons (an amazing brewpub), and I thought I’d see what happened if I removed it using the AI tools. It was indeed removed, but was bizarrely replaced with a pill bottle. Odd, eh? That said, it worked perfectly every other time and I could also move selected objects about on the photo; shrinking, enlarging, and rotating them with Galaxy AI seamlessly placing them back in the photo. It’s a cool trick. The other really cool photography feature of Galaxy AI is the photography assistant, which helps you keep photos level and will even intuitively prompt you for perfect photo composition. Galaxy AI has the potential to help a lot of people (including yours truly) lift their photo-taking game when on holiday with minimal effort.

 

A feature I didn’t test (as there was no real need) is Call Assist/Live Translate. With it, you can hold phone conversations with people who speak different languages (even though Australian English might be in a category all of its own, it is still – only just – English). Call Assist/Live Translate gives you real-time voice translation in phone calls (and messages). It (in theory) allowed me to speak English, while the person I called could hear the conversation in their own language. It’s also easy to use. You simply pre-download language packs and fire up Call Assist when making a phone call. Call recipients can reply to me in their own language, and I’ll hear English translated in real-time. While I didn’t have a burning need to use it in Brisbane, it’s likely to prove insanely handy if you’re travelling somewhere where English isn’t widely spoken.

As a cynical journalist, I’m super wary of overhyped AI. One phone vendor (who will remain nameless, they know who they are) is already pushing a new smartphone as an AI device. In reality, all they’ve done is preinstalled AI functionality that I could get for free on any smartphone by installing co-pilot or ChatGPT. Samsung however have adopted a smarter and well-executed approach with Galaxy AI. Its deep integration with the phone’s hardware saw my already good Galaxy Fold Z5 become an indispensable tool when I was travelling, making many of the pain points I’d previously experienced on holiday into something far more bearable. So, would I recommend Galaxy AI? Definitely

https://www.samsung.com/au/galaxy-ai/

Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

4 Comments

  1. As “a cynical journalist” why take photos and edit out things, cos that’s not what was there, you’re altering reality and you never experienced it that way. Hopefully you were just playing.

  2. Yep I was testing the AI app with the camera, it’s my job as a reviewer 😉

  3. However well it summarises Tripadvisor reviews doesn’t alter the fact the data itself is worthless. Tripadvisor is a paid for service that allows companies to delete bad reviews if they cough up £££… the old saying “garbage in, garbage out” is appropriate here.

  4. Sadly, there is no one good source of truly independent travel reviews, might be a good category for witchdoctor to cover though?

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