Samsung Galaxy S22 revisited: Keeping the dream of compact phones alive!
I have a confession to make: I am not really into compact phones. The last one I used was the Samsung Galaxy S10e. Remember that cute little phone that was made available in a bunch of fun colorways like Canary Yellow and Flamingo Pink? Even that didn’t impress me enough to keep it around in my pocket. I am not a fan of compact phones because I think they’re underpowered compared to their “regular” variants or they’re often too small to even handle the basic phone stuff.
However, I’d be lying if I said I don’t enjoy using the Galaxy S22. It’s almost like this phone is tricking me into liking compact phones. I say that because I keep coming back to it after using comparatively bigger and more powerful devices like the OnePlus 10T, for instance. The Galaxy S22 is not a perfect phone, and it doesn’t top our best Android phones list either. But it’s just a good choice for most people who don’t want to spend a lot of money. That sounds like a backhanded compliment, so allow me to tell you that it’s also one of the few devices out there to keep the dream of compact phones alive.
I’ve been using the Galaxy S22 for the better part of the last five months and I am here to tell you that while it may not be the cream of the crop, it’s not as bad as you probably think it is. That’s also largely true for all the compact phones in general, so hear me out.
About this longer-term review: This review was written after using the Galaxy S22 extensively for over five months. Samsung India provided us with the review unit for testing, but the company didn’t have any input on the content of this article.
The Galaxy S22 has held up surprisingly well
Foldable phones are getting all the attention right now, but there’s no denying that they’re no match to your typical flagship-class slab made out of glass and aluminum when it comes to durability. There are fewer moving parts to worry about and these are hence more durable. I’ve been using the Galaxy S22 without a case or a screen protector for the last five months, and I have to admit that it has held up surprisingly well. I did accidentally drop the phone a couple of times but I’ve managed to keep it intact with no visible scratches or cracks. Here, take a look at some photos of the phone in its current condition, so you don’t have to take my word for it:
The compact dimensions of the Galaxy S22 also make it very easy to handle on a day-to-day basis. Despite the smooth finish, I never felt like I was going to drop the phone, something which I experienced with other devices like the OPPO Reno 8 Pro or even the OnePlus 10T. I’ve been using the Phantom Black variant of the Galaxy S22, which I think does a great job of hiding fingerprints and smudges. The phone, as you can see, looks just as pristine as it did the day I took it out of the box. Even with relatively big hands which are used to handling bigger phones like the Galaxy S22 Ultra, I love how the Galaxy S22 feels confident in hand without the case.
The buttons on the right-hand side of the phone are easy to reach and have a satisfying click to them. The in-display fingerprint scanner is fast and responsive, and the speakers sound good enough for when I don’t feel like using my TWS earbuds. Overall, the Galaxy S22 has held up surprisingly well, and it’s everything I expected a compact phone to be. It’s downright petite in comparison to many other phones on my desk right now, but somehow it feels solid in hand and has an understated design. It’s a phone I’d recommend in a heartbeat purely for its design and in-hand feel.
The display is big enough for an adequate experience
One of the best things about the Galaxy S22’s display — besides the size, of course — is the fact that it is a flat panel. I’ve used plenty of phones with curved edges, and I can’t put it in words how refreshing it feels to use a phone with a flat panel. No accidental touches to worry about, nor any need to adjust your grip to avoid covering the sides of the display with your fingers. And the fact that the Galaxy S22 has symmetrical — and very thin — bezels around the display makes it that much better to look at. The punch-hole selfie cutout doesn’t bother me as much either. All this paves the way for an immersive experience while watching movies or playing some games.
The Galaxy S22, in case you’re wondering, has a Full HD+ AMOLED 2X display with a 120Hz refresh rate. Yes, it’s not QHD+, but it’s frankly not an issue especially given the smaller footprint of the phone. The AMOLED panel has great contrast ratios for inky blacks and vibrant colors. It also gets bright enough to be visible under direct sunlight. I was recently out on a vacation, roaming around and sitting by the beach on bright sunny days, and I was able to comfortably use the phone to snap photos, browse social media, and even navigate the streets under direct sunlight. The variable refresh rate, on top of everything else, ensures the battery life isn’t taking a significant hit, though more on the battery life in the sections below.
Performance continues to be great, as expected from a flagship
The performance of the Galaxy S22 is mostly on par with what you’d expect from a flagship smartphone in 2022. Thanks to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, the phone can handle everything very smoothly. I am yet to experience any jitters or lags while navigating the UI or using the phone for my day-to-day activities. This, mind you, is after five months of constant use. I have hundreds of applications installed on this phone right now, and I constantly juggle between a lot of them at any given point. I consider myself a heavy user, so the fact that it has managed to keep up with my usage speaks about the phone’s reliability over time. It’s a flagship chip and it continues to work like a flagship chip.
That said, I am not a huge mobile gamer, so your experience may vary based on the type of games you like to play. The only “resource-intensive” game I’ve played on this phone so far is Apex Legends Mobile, which it was able to handle very well. The phone does get quite warm, so that’s something worth keeping in mind. I noticed that the phone tends to get warm to touch even when I am just, say, taking photos or using it at peak brightness for navigation, etc. The performance of the phone, however, never took a significant hit. You can learn more about the Galaxy S22’s performance in detail in our full review that’s linked earlier in this article. The general performance overall has been excellent. It does get surprisingly warm with moderate and heavy tasks but I didn’t face any performance throttling as a result, so that’s good.
I must also point out how Samsung offers the best support among Android device makers in 2022. The Galaxy S22 is eligible to receive up to four major Android OS updates. That’s even better than what Google promises for its Pixel phones. Notably, the Galaxy S22 will also receive security updates for the next five years, meaning it’s perfect for those who want to keep their phones around for a long time. Samsung has also been very consistent at pushing updates to its phones. My Galaxy S22, for instance, is currently on the latest build with the August 2022 security patch level. And based on my experience so far, I can put money on the Galaxy S22 being one of the first in line to receive the next security patch level and all the other updates in the future.
A lot of the software issues that we highlighted in our original review have mostly been ironed out. The device, however, ships with a decent amount of bloatware so you’ll have to do a little bit of cleaning before getting started. Lucky for you, we’ve put together a simple tutorial explaining how to remove bloatware from the Galaxy S22 without root access, so be sure to check it out.
But that battery life…..
Now to the part that’s bothered me the most throughout my time with the phone — the battery life. The Galaxy S22 gets a small 3,700 mAh battery, which drains at an alarming rate. In a day of typical use, the Galaxy S22 will drop down to 50-percent or sometimes even less by 3-4 PM. It’s alarming because this is without even trying to push the phone to its limits. I spend a lot of time using messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram, and browsing social media apps like Instagram and Twitter for the most part. I don’t watch a lot of videos or play games on my phone on a daily basis, so the stamina here is definitely weak.
If you are a heavy user who constantly uses the phone to record videos, make a lot of video calls, or use GPS a lot, then the Galaxy S22 is not for you. If you are like me, who can’t stand seeing a lower number on the battery level indicator, then you’ll have to carry a portable charger. I found myself relying a lot on a portable power bank during my recent vacation when I was constantly moving around with GPS, taking a lot of photos, etc. The phone would go down to, say, 20-percent even before I could see the sunset during these days.
It’s also been quite disappointing to see others rocking phones with significantly faster-charging speeds while I was stuck with 25W charging. You may initially brush it off thinking it’s just a number on the specs sheet but these things start to bother you as you use the phone and compare it with others over some time. The battery life of the Galaxy S22 is a bit problematic and there’s no other way to put it, really. My advice would be to keep a charger or a portable power bank handy at all times.
Cameras are reliable in all conditions
Just to give you a quick refresher on the camera specifications, the Galaxy S22 sports a triple camera setup at the back, and they’re housed inside a chic contour cutout. You get a 50MP f/1.8 main camera along with a 12MP ultrawide camera and a 10MP telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom. There’s also a 10MP camera on the front to handle selfies and video calling. You’ve probably seen a lot of Galaxy S22 camera samples already but allow me to use this space as an Instagram feed to show off some stunning photos that I was able to capture during my time off recently. Here, take a look:
Everything we talked about the cameras in our original Galaxy S22 review still stands true. The photos look nice and sharp with enough details to pixel peep. I was particularly impressed to see how the portrait shots turned out. A lot of the samples I was able to capture using the Galaxy S22 were almost on par with the ones taken on a Galaxy S22 Ultra. Of course, the Galaxy S22 Ultra still has an edge with its versatile camera system, but you’re not missing out on a whole lot with the Galaxy S22. I also recorded a lot of stunning videos using the Galaxy S22 over the last few months. But upon comparing similar footage captured using an iPhone 13, I can confidently say that you are better off buying one of the newer iPhones if you shoot a lot of videos.
Closing thoughts: What’s next after the Galaxy S22?
This Galaxy S22 unit, as mentioned earlier, is a review sample that was shared with us for testing. It essentially means Samsung can collect it from me any time they need to, forcing me to switch to a different — and hopefully — a better phone. So what’s next for me after the Galaxy S22? Which phone do I turn to after using this pocket-friendly device for so long?
Well, allow me to advise on some alternatives you can consider over the Galaxy S22. The first and perhaps the most obvious alternative seems like the new Asus Zenfone 9. It’s the only compact phone that has managed to grab my attention since, say, the Galaxy S10e. XDA’s Senior Editor Ben has some really good things to say about Asus’ new compact powerhouse, so you might want to check out his Zenfone 9 review before making a purchase decision.
The next choice is Samsung’s new clamshell — the Galaxy Z Flip 4. It unfolds into a full-fledged smartphone, thanks to a foldable display. The Galaxy Z Flip 4 is fun to use and it’ll fit inside the pocket, but it’s not quite the compact or the small phone of my dreams. Unlike the new Moto Razr or even Samsung’s own Galaxy Z Fold 4, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 doesn’t have a cover display that’s big enough to let you do anything on it. This means nine out of 10 times you actually have to open it, at which point it just becomes a bigger phone to handle. Not to mention, it also adds the step of having to open the phone, which can be quite the task if you have your hands full. Sure, you can always flick to open it as the cool kids do, but it turns out I am not as reckless when it comes to handling a $1,000 phone. I can think of a lot of other reasons why the Galaxy Z Flip 4 isn’t a solid alternative to the Galaxy S22, but I think it warrants a separate discussion altogether.
There’s also the iPhone 13 Mini which qualifies as a compact phone. However, it runs on Apple’s iOS which is a different software altogether, so keep that in mind.
The fact that the Galaxy Z Flip 4 isn’t the perfect alternative, and the Asus Zenfone 9 isn’t readily available across all smartphone markets, makes me really hopeful about another compact Galaxy S series flagship next year. While I don’t roam around wearing a T-shirt that reads “Compact phones FTW”, I have to admit that I enjoyed keeping my pockets free of bulk these past months. That’s especially true if the “compact phone” I am carrying can handle my day-to-day workloads, albeit not as elegantly as the Galaxy S22 Ultra or the Galaxy Z Fold 4 would.
Despite the potential alternatives reaching the market, the Galaxy S22 continues to remain the phone that’s capable of handling just about any task you throw at it. It also has top-notch cameras and arguably the best software support in the Android space. I hate that I have to adjust my phone usage to compensate for particularly weak battery life, but that’s the only qualm I have with using what is — in my opinion — one of the best Samsung flagships in years.
Long story short, the Galaxy S22 is still one of the best compact phones that you can readily buy in most markets across the globe. It’s the device that’s keeping the dream of compact phones alive for me, and I am excited to see what the next Galaxy S series flagship has in store for us.