Every Year, Samsung announces its next-generation Galaxy S series of devices at Samsung Unpacked. The Galaxy S series usually sets a lot of flagship standards for that year for smartphone innovation. Interestingly, one of the many strategic ways that Samsung innovates is by not putting all of its new technology in one basket but spreading it out over the year throughout its various device releases.
This method of announcing new technology is strategic because it allows Samsung to place new features and technologies in various smartphone categories, i.e., experimental, budget, and flagship.
As we jump into the new Samsung Galaxy S22, S22+, and S22 Ultra devices, let me first provide some context on how Samsung’s Smartphone categories have changed in recent years. Previously, Samsung had the Galaxy S series, the Galaxy Note series, and the Galaxy A series of devices. The Galaxy S series is its flagship lineup, and its Note series is its flagship lineup with a dedicated S Pen stylus. The A-series is its budget level. It then came out with its foldable line of devices, the Samsung Galaxy Z series, and transitioned its Note features to the Galaxy S series and eventually the Z series.
If we take a look back at the Galaxy S 21, Samsung brought support for S-Pen features on the Galaxy S21 Ultra and did not come out with a Galaxy Note 21. This was the first time that Samsung did not have a Galaxy Note device in over a decade. Samsung’s intention with this play was to consolidate its smartphone offerings to make room for its foldable lineup, which I believe it did successfully.
Like Aslan, the king of Narnia, the smartphone king is back
Like Aslan, the king of Narnia who rose from the dead, the Galaxy “Note” is back from the dead in ultra form. The Galaxy S22 Ultra is the Galaxy Note Ultra resurrected, and many people, including myself, are happy to see the Samsung flagship with a dedicated S Pen back. The Galaxy S22 Ultra takes the dedicated S Pen feature from the Note lineup and takes a lot of design cues from the 2019 Galaxy Note 20. It has a boxy form factor with rounded edges. The boxy form factor is iconic of the Note series, but I believe it could have gone without having the curved display and rounded portion on the screen’s side. The curved display does not make sense with the S Pen, and it is more prone to mistouches than what its worth.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra has a “4nm” Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor with either 8GB of memory and 128GB of storage or 12GB of memory and 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB of storage. While there is some pushback on the 8GB of memory and 128GB of storage, Samsung offers a capacity upgrade free of charge on launch. In the process of trying to maintain the same price point, Samsung decided to offer a lower capacity that is not expected to get a lot of sales to then offer the more reasonable 256GB and 12GB option for $100 more. To further this point, Samsung would have included a deal with the 128GB model to go along with the capacity boost if this were not true.
While the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 will be the standard for all flagship devices in 2022, Samsung is looking to make the Galaxy S22 Ultra stand out in performance with a new vapor chamber for the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. The new vapor chamber covers the PCB and the battery. Samsung has an extra thermal interface material (TIM) layer between the SoC and the vapor chamber. The new Tim moves heat quicker to the vapor chamber and cooling the phone quicker. I am interested to see the increased performance and thermals of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. With the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s new thermal technology and its larger size, it should have some of the best, if not the best, performance for a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 smartphone. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 also brings Wifi 6E to the Galaxy S22 Ultra, twice as fast as the Wifi 6.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra supports 45W super-fast charging and a 5,000 mAh battery. I am impressed that Samsung was able to maintain the size of the battery of the Galaxy S21 Ultra while also leaving room for the S Pen. Considering it hasn’t made any compromises for the S pen, has managed to make the display slightly smaller, and included a smaller camera bump, I am impressed with the overall internal Specifications.
I am glad that Samsung opted for the muted camera bump design rather than creating a cutout like in the Galaxy S 22 and 22+. It fits well with the square design and rounded edges.
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra has a Quad-lens camera system with a 12MP Ultra Wide, 10MP Tele 3X Optical Zoom, a 10MP Tele 10x Optical Zoom, and a 40MP front-facing camera. Samsung has a new Nightography mode, which is also available on all S22 devices, that uses AI and ML on its new ISP algorithm to enhance shape, detail, and color tone. The Galaxy S22 Ultra also has a Super Clear Lens for less lens flare and a 2.4um pixel sensor that captures more light. The 10MP Tele 10x optical Zoom is also capable of 100x zoom with 10x Optical Zoom and 10x Digital Zoom.
Samsung also has a new Expert RAW app that features in-camera editing tools that deliver a DSLR-like experience. This new app directly results from the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1’s Spectra ISP improvements that an 18-bit ISP up from a 14-bit ISP. It is capable of capturing 4,000 times the camera data. Just about every feature and improvement of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1that Christiano Amon, CEO of Qualcomm, talked about at the Snapdragon Summit has been realized in the Galaxy S22 Ultra camera. The Galaxy S22 Ultra has high-end camera improvements on a digital level as well as a hardware level.
The Galaxy S22 and S22+
The Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22+ have very predictable yet welcomed improvements. Samsung improved its camera offerings, upgraded to this generation’s latest SoC, and some minor design improvements.
Samsung always comes out with the best displays on the market and this year it is no different. The Galaxy S22 and S22+ feature an adaptive120Hz Infinity-O display FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2x display with its new Vision Booster technology. The great quality of an AMOLED panel is that it is able to produce true blacks by turning off the pixel that is the black color. One downside to this quality is that it makes the brightness of an AMOLED difficult to see in bright situations. Vision Booster is an algorithm that addresses this difficulty by intelligently adjusting the brightness of the display to the lightening around the display and then enhancing the color contrast. The Galaxy S22’s 6.1-inch display has a peak brightness of 1,300 nits, and the Galaxy S22+’s 6.6-inch display has a peak brightness of 1,750 nits. Samsung’s Vision Booster technology addresses the main concern of an AMOLED display. I am interested in seeing how much more battery this enhanced adaptive brightness technology takes up. This new technology is situational, which tells me it may not take as much of a hit on the battery as it may seem. However, it’s hitting the battery from an algorithmic and display brightness standpoint. I will have to get my hands on the device to see the real difference in quality and battery. There was a time when Samsung showed how much the display sucked up the battery in the settings. Unfortunately, it is not a setting in One UI 4 so it would have to be a noticeable hit over its predecessor to make a conclusion.
The chassis of the Galaxy S22 and S22+ are almost identical to the Galaxy S21 and S21+ with its waterfall camera cutout. Samsung decided not to accent the camera cutout as it did in the previous generation, which I prefer. The same color makes the cutout more subtle, with the material difference being the only noticeable difference.
The Galaxy S22 and S22+ have the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor with 8GB of memory and the option of 128Gb and 256GB of storage. Considering the Snapdragon 8 gen 1 has a higher PPW than the Snapdragon 888, if it has any thermal concerns, it would be most noticeable on the Galaxy S22 and S22+ due to the there smaller footprint than the Galaxy S22 Ultra. The Galaxy S22 and S22+ also have a smaller battery than last year’s devices. The Galaxy S22 has a 3,700 mAh battery compared to last year’s 4,000 mAh battery, and the Galaxy S22+ has a 4,500mAh battery compared to last year’s 4,800 mAh battery. I believe this is due to the slightly smaller display. The Galaxy S22 features 25W Fast charging, while the Galaxy S22+ features 45W Super- Fast charging.
Transitioning to the cameras of the Galaxy S22 and S22+, both have the same triple camera setup. At the beginning of Samsung’s keynote, it did a short movie showcasing the Galaxy S22’s cameras. It instantly reminded me of Apple’s short movies in its keynotes that were shot by the iPhone 12, showcasing its cinematic mode. Samsung missed its shot to film the short movie with the new Samsung Galaxy cameras. Let’s take a look at the specifics.
The Galaxy S22 has a 50MP, 12MP, and 10MP triple camera setup and a 10MP front-facing camera. The Galaxy S22 and S22+ support Nightography and from the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1’s Spectra ISP for better camera performance. Both devices have a 23% larger sensor and Adaptive Pixel technology.
As someone who has rocked the Galaxy S21 Ultra all year, I believe Samsung missed the opportunity to bump its S22 and S22+ offerings up. Instead of bumping the S22+ up into the last year’s Galaxy S21 Ultra position by making the screen and battery larger, it decreased the display size and battery. The reason is that the Galaxy S22 Ultra is clearly reclaiming the market share of the Samsung Galaxy Note devices. By lowering the display size of the Galaxy S22+ from 6.7-inches to 6.6-inches, Samsung no longer has a non-Note device in the 6.8 to 6.7-inch range. While a whole community of Note fans prefers the S Pen insert, I believe many people who are not committed to the S Pen, love the larger 6.7-inch displays and the unparalleled high-end specs that come with it would prefer another Galaxy S21 Ultra-like device.
My concern with the Galaxy S22+ is that it is too close to the Galaxy S22 that it smothers it. While the 6.6-inch range is a nice middle ground between the 6.1-inch and 6.8-inch devices, I think having a middle ground is contrary to the reason why people choose either a large or small device with the exception of the gender-specific audience; for the same reason, a woman would choose a 40mm Galaxy watch 4 instead of a 44mm Galaxy Watch 4 she would choose a 6.6-inch display over a 6.8-inch. It would be a different story if the Galaxy S22+ did not share the same size memory, storage option, camera system, SoC, etc.
The idea of integrating the Note series into the S series was to consolidate its flagship lineup, but I think there was more of an opportunity to spread out its devices more cleanly. As mentioned above, I believe the Galaxy S22+ should have moved up in display size as a non-native S-Pen offering. The Galaxy S22 should maintain the 6-inch+ range and then below that offer a sub-6-inch flagship to rival the iPhone mini. Suppose Samsung made a Galaxy S device below the 6-inch display size that maintained the flagship specs. In that case, I believe it could justify its price point starting at where the Galaxy S22 is bumping each device a tier with the exception of the Galaxy S22 Ultra. The price of the Galaxy S22 “Tiny” (don’t ask me to name a product) would be justified in its flagship offerings in a compact format. What is more incredible than putting unparalleled specs in a large beautiful screen? Samsung putting those same specs in a compact, well-engineered form factor.
Although the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22+ are more familiar than I would like, Samsung has made some really great devices. The Galaxy S22 Ultra is the top-dog in terms of camera specs, but the Galaxy S22 and S22+ have competitive camera specs that should give Apple and the Pixel 6 and run for their money. Samsung could spread out its Galaxy S22 and S22+ and introduce a more compact device during its consolidating phase, but I doubt it would do that. Samsung would rather show off its incredibly large display than being challenged by a compact design. The slightly smaller display and even smaller battery on the Galaxy S22 and S22+ are a testimony to that. Samsung doesn’t do small phones, and that’s okay.
Like many Samsung Galaxy fans and specifically Galaxy Note fans, I compulsively want the Galaxy N—S22 Ultra because the king is back. However, part of me almost recommends others to wait. Keep in mind the Note features were not just brought to the Galaxy S21 series. It was also brought to the Galaxy Z Fold, and that gets me even more exciting, especially considering the leaps and bounds Samsung has made with its foldable lineup. If that were to become a reality, I still believe the Galaxy S22 Ultra would be the no-compromise king. It has the best smartphone display on the market, the most comprehensive camera system, the best thermals and SoC, and an S Pen. Great job, Samsung.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.