No matter what camp you land on in the Android market, you have to admit that Samsung is the king. The company has a long history of being the most competent and successful Android phone maker. AT&T has given us over three weeks with the latest powerhouse with the Galaxy S22 Ultra and this is the pinnacle of Samsung’s vision.
I love my Pixel 5 and really enjoy the design language of all my Pixels, but damn this S22 Ultra is sexy. Samsung has mastered the mix of aluminum frame and glass materials unlike any team not named Apple. How it all molds together in seamless curves and turns is impressive.
It’s all business in the front with a gorgeous 6.8-inch screen. This AMOLED has a massive resolution at 3088×1440 and is smooth as butter with a 120Hz refresh rate. Samsung has nailed this screen. It pops color, has great viewing angels even outside, and I even don’t hate the curved sides.
At the top of the screen is a 40MP selfie camera and under the bottom third you find the ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. The right side of the unit houses the volume rocker and power button. On the left side is a blank slate with no buttons. On the bottom, you’ll find the speaker cutouts and a USB-C port.
Internally, you can spec the S22 Ultra with 128, 256, or a whopping 512GB of storage. The Snapdragon 8 Gen1 CPU paired with 8GB of RAM should power any scenario you throw at this phone. We’ll cover the battery more in-depth later but you have a 5,000mAh bank ready to take on your days.
The latest S-Pen is the true feature that sets the S22 Ultra apart from its siblings. Essentially, in every way but name, this is the Note for 2022. Predictably, this is the best pen interaction you will find on any smartphone.
Samsung has been polishing how a pen should work with its OS for over a decade now, and the S22 Ultra is the most recent rendition with great results. There’s less latency, more accurate inputs, and better app integration than ever before. These built-in hooks work best with Samsung’s own apps but it’s not exclusive.
While I found the usage case to be rare signings of documents or doodling on screenshots, I do think there’s a niche consumer market for the S-Pen. If you love to draw or take handwritten notes, then it’s a no-brainer. I also could see many users enjoying the write-to-text options.
Software and One UI
We’ve covered the latest edition of One UI recently with other reviews like the Fold 3 and the S22 Ultra carries most of the same DNA. IF you’ve used a recent Samsung phone this will be extremely comfortable.
One UI has come a long way and doesn’t have the bloated experience from past years. Samsung has found a great balance of unique UI elements not found in “stock” Android without muddling the software for users.
I actually prefer many One UI takes on the notification shade and quick tiles to the overly large circles found on Android 12 with my Pixel. Samsung makes the UI both scaled for large devices while still making sure it’s compact enough to not be exaggerated.
A few things still stand out as negatives in my eyes though. Bixby is still present along with a laundry list of redundant apps that Samsung insists on building. Calendar, Phone, Messages, and Samsung Pay all exist in a world where Google has better support and cross-platform presence.
It’s time for Bixby to move on as well. We finally got rid of the Samsung news screen to the right of the launcher and replaced it with Google’s Now feed. Bixby should be the next to go. Google Assistant runs circles around the other established Siri, and Bixby is so far behind both that I really think Samsung should retire it.
Samsung included a quadruple threat of arrays on the Galaxy S22 Ultra. This gives you a 108MP wide-angle, 10MP telephoto with 10x zoom, another 10MP dual telephoto with 5x zoom, and finally a 12MP main shooting capable of 100x zoom.
You really can’t find a setting that Samsung cant’ capture with this setup. All take great photos and the flexibility of multiple sensors makes the Galaxy series really shine in this new generation.
I’d stack this camera combination up with anything from the Pixels or iPhone has to offer. One exception I’ve noticed is that I do think Pixels still have a slight edge in Portrait shots. Google post-processing still creates sharper edges and more successfully pulls the entire object of focus to the forefront.
The Samsung S22 Ultra is a marvel to hold in the hand but you might want to keep a separate paw on it most of the time. That’s mainly due to the massive size of the Ultra. This might be the largest phone I’ve used in recent memory.
While I don’t think it’s a true negative with most consumers enjoying a large screen-sized phone, it is jarring with the S22 Ultra. One-handed use is pretty much a nonstarter on the device and you’ll struggle to not use the second hand for many interactions with the screen.
If coming from a previous Note or even the Pixel 6 Pro it shouldn’t be an issue. However, it’s worth noting as a real concern if you prefer a smaller phone like say the Pixel 5. This would be a stark difference that one might not enjoy.
The endurance of the Samsung S22 Ultra has been good. Much like anything with a screen with this size, refresh rate, and resolution, it is relative to how you use it. I had zero issues getting through a full day.
Most evenings I was hitting my charger at around 11 pm with over two and a half hours of screen time or more with at least 20% battery bank left. Could you deplete the full capacity in days with long hours of streaming or gaming? Probably. But for me, it was never an issue.
When you do need to refresh the tanks, you have two-way wireless charging and USB-C fast charge. Whether you want a trickle charge while you sleep, or you need a burst of power to get you through a night out, the S22 Ultra can accommodate.
Samsung is the king of the Android market and the S22 Ultra is the biggest and boldest phone the company offers. With a gorgeous screen, S-Pen, and great software tweaks, the S22 Ultra nails everything it tries to be.
Whether that experience is for you is the big question surrounding this big phone. If you don’t want the massive screen size or need pen input, there are countless other options better suited for you in Samsung’s lineup.
If you answered yes to needing those high-end options, then the S22 Ultra can be purchased from our friends at AT&T right now. Approved trade-ins can get the price down to a crazy $12 per month at the moment as well. If you prefer to avoid payments, then you can snag the S22 Ultra at full retail for $1,200 bucks.