How do you make a better flagship phone every year? That’s becoming a difficult question for almost every smartphone brand, with faster processors and similar camera improvements in every new flagship ever released, there’s no denying that things are getting a little stagnant and settled.
Fortunately in the case of the Galaxy S22 Ultra, it isn’t just a faster flagship than its predecessor, but it also incorporates the Galaxy Note’s most celebrated feature – the S Pen, which simply sets this flagship apart from the rest that makes it a true Ultra flagship, and I’m pretty Samsung is going to have a hard time making a successor for it.
I have been using the Galaxy S22 Ultra for a month now, and one thing you can’t deny here is that the phone resembles the old Note 20 Ultra with no design continuity from last year’s S21 Ultra, which kind of feels like driving an old car with new internals, and I happen to like the the squarish design a lot, the phone still features a 6.8-inch Dyanmic AMOLED 2X display that’s 0.1-inches smaller than the Note 20 Ultra, it refreshes at 120Hz and is incredibly colorful and bright for whatever you view on, and I have to commend Samsung on finding space to fit the S Pen and a 5000mAh battery.
Compared to the regular S22, the S22 Ultra is a pretty big phone that you won’t find it easy to manage single handedly, but its sleek and squarish form does make it easier to slot into my jeans pocket than the Galaxy S21 Ultra, and I am thankful that Samsung has continued to utilize a frosted glass back that doesn’t attract fingerprints, which is great if you are someone that doesn’t use a case.
My review unit is the base storage configuration that Samsung sells, which comes with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage that supports the flagship Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, while my first few days with it was pleasant with the phone being able to breeze through most of my tasks, things eventually got bogged down by Samsung’s software experience, apps can sometimes freeze with a black or white screen, transition animations lagged whenever I tried to switch between apps, it can be a frustrating day-to-day experience that you shouldn’t expect from a modern flagship Android phone.
Performance apart, I’d be mad to tell you that 128GB of storage is sufficient for anyone, because it totally isn’t enough for the average user for what you are going to do on the S22 Ultra, the phone’s system files already took up 20% of the total storage at 23.91GB, my library of apps including games such as Genshin Impact and PUBG Mobile would happily take up an additional 30GB of storage, and the amount of road trip photos I took recently and some 4K videos have taken up another 20GB, which ultimately I am left with around 40% of the available storage, that’s hardly sufficient throughout the ownership if I continue to stack up my photos and videos.
Granted, Samsung isn’t the only company that sells a RM5000 flagship with 128GB of storage, and you could argue that Google One and an external flash drive is a good alternative for expanding storage, but such storage capacity should never be made available on a phone made for power users, I could live with lesser RAM but definitely not storage, especially when the phone doesn’t support storage expansion.
When it comes to the S Pen, there is definitely no competition on this and Samsung is making things better with a higher polling rate when you write on the S22 Ultra, though I am neither a heavy note taker nor a creative artist, I definitely find the writing experience to be noticeably better than my Galaxy Z Fold 3.
The S22 Ultra basically features a similar camera setup as the S21 Ultra, though the primary 108MP camera now gains a larger sensor that now takes photos in a new nona-binning technology, which Samsung claims to offer an even superior low light photography experience compared to its predecessor.
With all that marketing talk out of the way, the S22 Ultra main camera takes very impressive photos in whatever lighting conditions I took, I love how it managed to boost dynamic range of photos, colors and details are on point, and the results are pretty consistent when you switch to the ultrawide and telephoto cameras in daylight photos. Low light photography is just as impressive as you’d have expect from a flagship camera, there’s minimal noise levels while details are maintained very well, which is all thanks to that larger sensor on the primary camera.
I have no doubts on Samsung’s flagship phone cameras when it comes to everyday videography, and in fact I’d consider them to be almost as good as the iPhone. This time, I was even more impressed with low light videography as I tried taking a night scooter ride video as you can see above, it is taken at an almost dark area with the only main light source coming from nearby lamp posts and the scooter’s light itself, the S22 Ultra is ultimately a superb vlogging video camera.
As far as things go, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor has definitely made the S22 Ultra a more efficient phone compared to last year’s Exynos 2100 powered S21 Ultra, I detected significant lesser battery drain during my sleeping hours, where from the period of 12AM to 8AM, the phone’s battery would only drop about 5% which is very reasonable.
During the review period, the S22 Ultra can hold more than a day of charge when I’m not doing anything heavy, but once I start pushing it with social browsing and texting, I will usually end up with 15% of battery life before ending my day, which is common for most flagship Android phones.
Since there’s 45W fast charge support this time, the phone does charge slightly faster than a 25W, but sadly that fast charging wattage is only effective when you aren’t using the phone and from the charging range of 0-50%, it can drop to as low as 10W when using the phone and 18W after it passes the 60% mark, which to be honest isn’t quite as impressive as what you get on other Android flagships.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra is a great flagship Android phone from Samsung and it is one that Samsung has pushed past the boundaries on how it can make a better succeeding flagship, though my experience has no doubt been plagued by the storage variant I’ve been provided and it is one that you should definitely skip, this is the default Android flagship you should be looking at if you are looking to replace your Galaxy Note, or simply want a camera system that just works. As of now, it’s hard to imagine what the next Galaxy S phone could be.
Buy the Galaxy S22 Ultra here.