Samsung’s latest flagship, the Galaxy S22 Ultra, seems to eat into the space of the iPhone 13 Pro. If you are someone who has decided to buy the Galaxy S22 Ultra, it means that you have already eliminated most of your choices in the now-crowded android market. After all, it is not a phone everybody can afford (the phone is priced at ₹ 109,999 in India). Unless you are someone who is specifically looking at the S22 Ultra, you are not missing out much, considering that Samsung has enabled some of these flagship features in the previous phones in the S series.
That, however, is not to suggest that S22 Ultra is a bad choice by any stretch. It is a pretty-looking phone and powerful too. If I were to get a high-end Samsung phone today, I would focus on three areas that help me decide if I should or not: display, camera and battery. These areas are where the Galaxy S22 Ultra flexes its muscles, making it a well-rounded phone. I have been testing the S22 Ultra on and off for two weeks and here is what I found:
Samsung phones have the best displays. You cannot contest that. The Galaxy S22 Ultra has an eight-inch AMOLED display and comes with a Vision Booster technology. This, as the name suggests, boosts colours and brightness in low-light conditions or when you are using the phone on an extremely sunny day. At the peak of brightness, the S22 Ultra can go upto 1,750 nits, bigger than iPhone 13 Pro — on paper. Simply put, this phone is the brightest in this segment. So much so that, if you are looking for your glasses at night, you don’t even need the phone’s torchlight…just unlock the device.
The S22 Ultra has a 6.8-inch screen curved around the edges, giving it a classy touch and finish. Furthermore, it comes with a 120Hz refresh rate, which has become the standard these days. There is something that needs to be said about S22 Ultra’s display: is it the best that we have? Hard to say, but it does contribute remarkably to the overall experience of this phone, especially when you are watching videos or scrolling through Twitter.
Build, design and software
The Galaxy S22 Ultra comes in three colours: Phantom Black, Burgundy and White. I was sent the phantom black review unit, which looks stylish and sturdy. Both the front and rear of the phone are supported by Gorilla Glass Victus Plus for scratch protection, and have an aluminium frame. At 229 grams, the phone is heavy and it looks huge in hand, thanks to the massive 6.8-inch display. The phone runs on Android 12 with Samsung’s One UI 4.1. I almost had no issues on the software front in my regular usage. There was no lag and the everyday performance was smooth and snappy. According to reports, Samsung has reportedly promised four years of android updates and five years of security updates.
My favourite part about the Galaxy S22 Ultra is the speakers; it has stereo speakers armed with Dolby Atmos. It does not matter if you are watching videos on YouTube or listening to music on speaker, the sound quality is superb.
The S22 Ultra has a quad camera setup: 108MP primary camera with f/1.8 aperture, 12MP ultra-wide camera with f/2.2 aperture, and two 10MP telephoto cameras with 3X and 10X optical zoom. To compare the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s camera performance with my Google Pixel 4a 5G would seem far-fetched. It is true that the S22 Ultra produces images that are superior in terms of quality. The results did make me wonder about Google’s post-processing software, which is easily miles ahead of the Samsungs and iPhones. The images on S22 Ultra were sharper, brighter and cleaner. I was particularly taken by surprise by the rich colour reproduction my Pixel phone was able to achieve in the post (notice the colour of the sky in images attached below).
Even when it came to the night mode, on some occasions, I could not put a finger on the images shot on these two phones, though, broadly speaking, the photos on S22 Ultra look sharper. I preferred the ultra-wide images and portrait mode on S22 Ultra rather than what I got from Pixel; the former has a better dynamic range too. The S22 Ultra packed a lot more detail in portrait mode; the 10X zoom feature is not a gimmick since you actually get clearer processed images, even if you find a lot of noise in the viewfinder before you hit the shutter button. I got better results on S22 Ultra in low-lighting conditions, though it can be argued that Pixel was not far behind either.
(Left) Pixel 4a; (right) Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
The Galaxy S22 Ultra has a 40MP front-facing camera with f/2.2 aperture. This is the area where S22 Ultra tops; selfies were crisper with lots of detail, while colours looked more natural on Pixel. You can shoot videos upto 8K videos on S22 Ultra. Though my Pixel could match S22 Ultra’s video output in daylight settings, the sound quality you get in Ultra is truly remarkable. In addition to this, Samsung has given tons of camera features, ensuring that it is not inferior to iPhone 13 Pro and Pixel 6 Pro.
As most of them have pointed out already, Samsung’s latest offering is a cross between the Note and Galaxy S phones. Unusual for the Galaxy S series, the S22 Ultra houses a S Pen stylus, which comes with an IP68 dust and water resistance. Some people might scoff at Samsung for the (needless) add on — S Pen. Nevertheless, it proves to be useful on a number of occasions and let us admit, it is cool.
Unlike the previous Note series, Samsung has reduced the latency rate on the S Pen from 9ms to 2.8ms, thereby making you feel as if you are taking down notes on a piece of paper. Yes, the S Pen is that smooth and has almost no hiccups. With Air Command, it supports a range of operations such as music control and gestures. S Pen can be a very useful addition to the Galaxy S family especially for cameras — if you are someone who is into vlogging or takes selfies frequently.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra comes with a massive 5,000 mAh battery and supports fast-charging upto 45W and upto 15W of wireless charging. A bigger phone does not necessarily mean a bigger battery performance. However, the battery life you get in Galaxy S22 Ultra is fairly good — but, a word of caution: the phone seems to have heating issues and gets warmer, despite the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, made with Samsung’s 4nm process. I was testing the camera app and shot a few photos and videos for not more than a couple of minutes. The phone ended up getting warm.
It does get warmer when you are using mobile data. The heating issues may signal a red flag for some users, since how is it any different from the experience you get dealing with Samsung’s own Exynos processor? Furthermore, the S22 Ultra, which is powered by fast-charging with a 45W USB type-C charger, heats up even while on charge. Having said that, the heating issues were mildly resolved after I updated the phone with its latest March update, which included a “performance management feature based on device temperature”, “not limit CPU/GPU performance during early stages of gameplay” among other improvements.
If you are an average user — like this writer — who primarily uses phones for browsing and videos, then you will easily get a battery for a day; sometimes even more. The phone’s battery does drop rapidly when you are on mobile data or shooting videos; this was not the case in Pixel 4a’s powerful Snapdragon 765. It is not something to be alarmed of; you will still get a decent battery by the end of the day. The challenge is for heavy users who use the phone to shoot videos and editing. Even for those who crunch those battery numbers with heavy usage, you will get at least six hours of screen-on-time. All of these, of course, are relative numbers.