Buyer Beware: Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Suffers Crazy OS Bloat

Samsung galaxy S23 phone versions photographed

Smartphone photographers take note, the Samsung Galaxy S23 may be insanely powerful, but its Android OS also goes completely over the top on size and bloat.

If you’re a photographer who loves robust smartphones with razor-sharp cameras, few mobile devices can quite top Samsung’s Galaxy S23 phone variants and their powerful camera metrics.

As we recently covered, this phone comes with some truly impressive camera specs and resolution capabilities that -though they should be taken with a grain of salt- are still quite strong.

However, it also suffers from a major problem that seems to accompany so much processing and photographic power.  Specifically, its Android OS can occupy up to a whopping 60GB of internal memory.

This is 4x as big as a typical Google Android build and twice the size of a Windows 11 installation for powering an entire modern PC with all of its apps and software!

That so much operating system build is needed for such a small device seems dubious at best, even if the S23 has lots to offer its users.

As the tech site Ars Technica recently reported, the new Samsung phone is completely outside of average parameters with the rest of the cutting-edge smartphone industry. In other words, even among other high-end, powerful phones, it goes way over the top.

Several users of the S23 have reported their phones using as many as 60GB of space, according to a recent survey by Mishaal Rahman, the senior technical editor at Esperdev, a cloud platform for Android device fleet systems.

Thus, if you bought yourself one of these phones for its photographic capabilities but it’s a 128GB edition, nearly half of that could be taken up by your OS alone…

Considering the pixel-binned 200MP maximum size of the RAW/JPEG photos it can capture, this will leave you precious little room for actually storing them in the phone itself.

This applies especially after you also discount all the other apps you yourself will probably download to your shiny new Galaxy phone.

By comparison, Google’s Pixel 7 Pro phone, which is no slouch in the specs department either, and sports a 50MP camera resolution, needs just 15GB for its entire Android partition.

This leaves the obvious question: What the hell does Samsung do with such a huge version of Android in the Galaxy S23?

The answer seems to be a Samsung classic that generations of its phones and other devices have suffered: Bloatware.

This company in particular has a notably terrible reputation for releasing low-quality code and overloading it with bloatware/crapware (even by the often dismally poor standards of modern electronics software).

Samsung does this with all sorts of pointless extras, needless software, changes, and tweaks done mainly for the sake of tweaking.

Samsung often changes and adds things just to separate its own Android builds as much as possible from those of other Android devices.

One major example of this is Samsung’s habit of cloning nearly every native Android app in its Android build with a Samsung version.

However, because the native Google apps also have to stay there by contractual obligation, users are left with both versions, often whether they want them or not.

To make things worse, Google itself is no stranger to including its own bloatware in its own native Android app roster, leaving users with both Samsung’s (arguably much more notorious and pervasive) bloatware, and Google’s own.

This sludgy combo can rapidly build up to absurd levels of memory and storage hogging.

Then there’s selling space to crapware vendors. Samsung also has a nasty habit of doing this to high corporate bidders with often sleazy data harvesting and software policies.

As a result, users are sold a phone that’s far from cheap but still loaded with so many low-end software apps that few people ever need or want.

This is something we could expect from a low-end, knock-off phone maker, but not so much from one of the world’s premier electronics brands.

Finally, Samsung has an odd policy of refusing to follow Google’s own A/B Partition best practices that most brand-name flagship phone models with Android follow.

With these, a phone keeps two copies of the OS inside it. One of them remains online for regular use while the other lies dormant as a backup.

During system updates, the dormant backup is updated in the background while the front-running OS keeps working and then they’re swapped during a simple 30-second restart with all the old app data shifted to the backup.

In many Samsung phones, the company keeps only one version of its bloated Android OS and updates that, slowly, leading to as many as 30 minutes of downtime while the OS itself along with all its bloatware gets revamped.

The worst thing about all of the above is that the 60GB partition likely won’t stop growing over the lifetime of the Galaxy S23.

Instead, as more updates get added on top of existing software (so much of it unnecessary to begin with), your own Galaxy S23 could get very heavy and slow indeed.

Samsung is a superb company when it comes to innovation and hardware design. Its flagship phone’s internal Snapdragon processors are also absolute powerhouses of design and capability.

photo of people using galaxy S23 phone

Image credit: Samsung

The cameras in the new phone are reportedly (and very likely) excellent too, but when it comes to Samsung’s software and policies, things get wobbly.

What good is a superb camera that takes huge photos and processes them will if the $1200 phone surrounding it eventually slows to a crawl through its own software defects?

Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra, the top-shelf version among the S23 flagship models, mitigates against the above somewhat by being available in a version with 1TB internal storage.

But this doesn’t change the frustrating bottom line that the same wonderful storage and other hardware specs are possible without also including such hostile software practices.

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Shotkit Journalist, Writer & Reviewer

Stephan Jukic is a technology and photography journalist and experimental photographer who spends his time living in both Canada and Mexico. He loves cross-cultural street photo exploration and creating fine art photo compositions.

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