Let the leaks, renders and predicted specs pale into insignificance – Samsung's three-strong Galaxy S22 smartphone lineup is finally officially here, and Samsung's top of the line Galaxy S22 Ultra smartphone is its most powerful Ultra to date.
The headline grabber is the built-in S Pen, the first time it has been included (housed in the casework – it pops out when pressed from the unit's underside) since Samsung's now defunct Note series.
- Hands on: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review
When it comes to Samsung's range-topping S22 smartphone, camera upgrades compared to the Galaxy S21 are of paramount importance too and here, expect Samsung's brightest and smoothest video and Nightography features, thanks to a two-times faster NPU which enables better night-time snaps, even in very low light.
And if you're a professional photographer, you can have full control of your camera settings with Pro Mode and, new and unique for S22 Ultra, downloadable Expert RAW application, which lets you customise settings and save 16-bit RAW files for further editing (on your new Tab S8, for example) with ease.
The main camera hardware on the S22 Ultra is, says Samsung, "completely different" and includes the firm's new Adaptive Pixel Tech, allowing the capture of 108MP (Re-mosaic mode) and 12MP (Nona-binning mode) images at the same time to create a more detailed and brighter image. The dual telephoto lenses (both 10MP, one with 3x optical zoom and one with 10x) are also different to promise a crisper zoomed-in image, and the sensor is now re-engineered for optimal performance in low-lighting.
It now has a "massive" 108MP sensor with pixels that are 1.23 times brighter than the S21Ultra. This bigger, higher-resolution sensor, combined with Samsung's Multi-Frame Processing tech blends multi-exposure frames to boast seriously levelled-up night photography and actually processes four times more data to sharpen your images.
A quick glance at the back reveals a veritable smorgasbord of lenses. It may be easiest to note that only the 40MP front camera and the 12MP ultra-wide camera remain untouched from the older-generation S21 Ultra – but the way in which they're implemented is very different. The handset is available in Phantom Black, Phantom White and new sophisticated Green and Burgundy hues.
Sizes? Of course. The Galaxy S22 is 6.1-inch, Galaxy S22 Plus is 6.6-inch, and Galaxy S22 Ultra is 6.8-inch of Dynamic AMOLED 2X display, all measured on the diagonal, although the S22 and S22+ have a familiar rounded feel, where the S22 Ultra is now a far more angular beast than its older sibling.
The S22 and S22+ (above), meanwhile, sport a new 50MP camera that has 23 per cent larger pixels, 1300nits peak brightness on the S22 (which jumps to 1750nits on the S22 Ultra and S22 Plus, aka the brightest displays on any Galaxy smartphone to date) and a new 3x Optical Zoom camera which now also supports Raw RGB data. This means when zooming in on your subject, your images can be up to four times clearer.
That Adaptive Pixel tech here uses the 50MP camera in Re-mosaic mode and 12MP snapper (Tetra-binning mode). The camera housing on both devices is analogous with the colour of the phone (available in a "more refined" Phantom White, Phantom Black, plus all-new Green and Pink Gold finishes, featuring double-layer nano coating) and the notch design is also upgraded for a sleeker, linear setup.
Now, the fan-favoured Portrait Mode. Updates introduced with S22 include AI Stereo depth map, a feature that deploys the smartphone's more sophisticated AI algorithm and AI learning to produce a striking soft-focus effect. Samsung says even single strands of hair on your head will be brought into complete focus, while backgrounds are blurred – no matter how busy said background is.
New studio lighting features should also ensure better selfies – and pet pictures too. You can now pinpoint the light-source on a circle around your face, to highlight your best side, even at night (using night portrait mode, which refreshingly also works on the front camera).
Back to the Galaxy S22 Ultra and, in terms of videography, (which apparently accounts for over 80 per cent of all consumer internet traffic) the highest resolution frame rate is 8K @24fps (i.e. the same as the S21 Ultra) with 120Hz refresh rate, but Samsung has introduced plenty of new features here thanks to that new NPU, including AI-based Auto focus, Super Steady System and Super HDR. As such, expect its on-device AI to work better, sharpening details and reducing noise and physical movement, especially in low light conditions. Samsung is clearly proud of it all too, claiming it is the firm's "best AI camera ever".
To explain a little more about those auto-framing capabilities, the S22 Ultra is able to detect people within five metres, and can track up to 10 people in order to automatically pan out or adjust, to keep them all in-frame. And, if you select one individual, your phone will track them, adjusting the zoom to always place them in the centre of a shot.
The casework is made from more durable armour aluminium for the first time plus another exclusive, Corning Gorilla Glass Victus+, on the front and back of the device, which Samsung says is 12 per cent stronger than its predecessor.
It's all fuelled by a 4nm processor, the fastest processor on a Galaxy device, plus a battery that promises to charge your phone by 50 per cent in less than 20 minutes – although take note, this is the same 5000mAh found in the S21 Ultra. The operating speed of the S22 is, says Samsung, up to two times faster than in the S21.
On the S22 Ultra's S Pen, the entire experience has been improved. Battery capacity remains 5000mAh, but the built-in S22 Ultra S Pen's hardware has been adapted to reduce the latency as you write on the S22 Ultra's screen, from 9ms to 2.8ms to boast a much smoother and more natural writing experience, aided by an upgrade to Wacom's handwriting component enhanced by an AI-based coordinate prediction technology. Basically, it is better at understanding your handwriting and can pre-empt what you're trying to write or draw with greater intelligence. Getting very technical, the new Wacom IC also improves the speed of coordinates delivered from the S Pen to the S22 Ultra display, from 360 to 480 circuits per second – and the AI tech even boosts the latency reduction.
There's also an advanced Handwriting to Text feature, boasting a higher recognition rate to transform your rushed scrawl into cleanly typed notes, and it now works in up to 88 languages, which is 12 more than usual.
How does it work? Launch Samsung Notes and create a fresh note. Then select the pen option and write your innermost thought. When you've finished, tap the Convert icon to see your note in clean text. While we're here, there are also two major new features in Samsung Notes. The first is Quick Note, which lets you attach or link to content easily, in a pop-up note, when using apps including Samsung Internet, Messages and Gallery, thus reducing the number of steps (and time) when trying to share content.
To optimise its multi-device usage experience (and keep you locked within Samsung's ecosystem), the second new feature is Collaboration View, which promises seamless syncing between Galaxy S22 Ultra and the brand new Tab S8 Series. Start sketching in Samsung Notes on your Tab S8, for example, connect to you Galaxy S22 Ultra and you'll be able to change your colour palette, pen width and settings on the smartphone, thus reserving the entire tablet screen for your creation.
The One UI 4 now features more options for customisation, a wider variety of emojis and GIFs, plus enhanced security and an improved privacy dashboard and Google Duo.
Crucially, the S22 lineup should also prove more efficient. High throughput and low latency (key connectivity requirements in any definition of mobile performance) are enhanced. Data heavy applications such as streaming in 4K require high throughput, while low latency is fast-becoming a more relevant indicator of performance, since it enables real-time gaming and high-definition video calls as well as setting the stage for AR/VR and edge computing.
How is Samsung enabling higher throughput and lower latency? With the latest Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E capabilities (first introduced in the Galaxy S21 Ultra), that's how. And as more countries open the 6GHz band for wi-fi, more Galaxy users can take advantage of this faster internet browsing.
Of course, the trade-off for all of this low latency browsing is power consumption, but Samsung has an answer for that too – a new intelligent software algorithm. In gaming, without said software your phone would need to stay active and ready for as long as you're playing, but the Galaxy S22 can actually analyse the game and power usage (ie. a shoot-out, with long periods of hiding) and make smart decisions about quick screen refreshes and fast responses. Essentially, between all of your fast-paced battles, the AI can detect small time gaps where it can 'rest' the wi-fi radio and conserve energy. With this AI-based software optimisation, Samsung claims gamers can save an average chipset power consumption of 30 per cent, without sacrificing performance.
As introduced with the S21 series, you're also getting Samsung's Knox Vault security to protect your data, and thanks to the adoption of ARM's new architecture (which brings improved security features to the OS such as Pointer Authentication [PAC] and Branch Target Identifiers [BTI]) the S22 lineup should level up the game yet again.
Elsewhere, the phones include, for the first time ever, 20 per cent transformed repurposed fishing nets into polyamide resin pellets as an eco-friendly material (on the key bracket and S Pen inner cover) – the overall quality of which has been tested and is 99 per cent equivalent to that of the plastic the firm normally uses. But that's not all: post-consumer materials such as CD cases and water bottles have also been used in small quantities in the phone's makeup (the inner part of the power and volume keys; the inner speaker module), and all of the S Series packaging packaging has been reduced by 19 per cent of package volume since the S21, or 51 per cent compared to the S20 – and the package is now 100 per cent recycled paper.
So what about the price?
The Galaxy S22 costs £769 / $799 / AU$1249 (128GB) and £819 / $849 / AU$1349 (256GB); the Galaxy S22+ is £949 / AU$1549 (128GB) or £999 / AU$1649 (256GB) and the S22 Ultra is £1149 / $1199 / AU$1849 (128GB), £1249 / AU$1999 (256GB), £1329 / AU$2149 (512GB) or AU$2449 (1TB).
The Galaxy S22 phones will be available to pre-order on 9th February, and be released on 25th February.
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