February 29, 2024

At its Unpacked event earlier this week, Samsung unveiled its Galaxy S24 series of smartphones, with the new phones boasting several upgrades on their predecessors — including Galaxy AI, the company’s set of free generative AI features. But starting in 2026, owners of S24 phones may have to start paying for their exciting new AI tools.

This story is part of Samsung Event, CNET’s collection of news, tips and advice around Samsung’s most popular products.

Buried in the fine print of the Galaxy S24 listing on Samsung’s website are these sentences: “Galaxy AI features will be provided for free until the end of 2025 on supported Samsung Galaxy devices. Different terms may apply for AI features provided by third parties.”

Samsung responded to a request for comment with a slightly longer version of that fine print, saying, “We are committed to making Galaxy AI features accessible to our users and will provide them for free until the end of 2025 on supported Samsung Galaxy devices.” Samsung repeated that AI features provided by third parties may have different terms.

Read more: Galaxy S24 Ultra: One Day With Samsung’s New Phone

Based on that wording, it does seem like Samsung could charge for its Galaxy AI features after that period of free service ends. It’s also possible Samsung could keep extending its offer of free features, much like Apple has extended its Emergency SOS service to iPhone 14 owners beyond the originally promised two free years. 

The difference is that Apple was up-front about how long it would offer Emergency SOS to users for free, and Samsung relegated its free-service pledge to the fine print of a product page. Heck, it wasn’t even clear that the generative AI features on Samsung’s new phones would be considered a service separate from the phones’ other perks.

But there’s a crucial difference between the sort of generative AI features we’ve heard about and Samsung’s Galaxy AI. Late last year, chipmakers Qualcomm and MediaTek showcased the AI features that manufacturers could include in their phones that would process data and generate content only on the device. But Galaxy AI has several features that can be handled only via the cloud, which seemingly includes the Google-partnered Circle to Search perk.

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Watch this: ‘Circle to Search’ Lets Users Google From Any Screen

Presumably, this is the justification for treating Galaxy AI like a service rather than a static feature like many AI photo-editing tricks that have been coming to phones for years. Google hasn’t mentioned any time restriction on the AI photo-editing offered on its newest Pixel 8 phones.

It’s unclear whether the time limit for free service applies only to cloud-based AI features or the entire Galaxy AI suite. When asked for comment, Samsung reaffirmed the fine print.

It’s possible Samsung guaranteed Galaxy AI for free through 2025 to leave the door open for its future plans, or to allow for shifting technologies and service offerings. Generative AI wasn’t a household concept until ChatGPT arrived in late 2022, so it’s possible that AI features will look very different in 2026. But until we know more, prospective Galaxy S24 owners should be aware that the fanciest features announced for the newest Samsung phones may not be free in the coming years.

Editors’ note: CNET is using an AI engine to help create some stories. For more, see this post.