Samsung Galaxy S22 Review: Good choice for most people, but not revolutionary
Samsung finally revealed the Galaxy S22 series in February, with three models to choose from: the regular Galaxy S22, the Galaxy S22 Plus, and the Galaxy S22 Ultra. Most of the attention has been on the Galaxy S22 Ultra, mostly because it’s another Note-style phone and it has been a year and a half since the last Galaxy Note phones hit store shelves. However, at a starting price of $799.99, the entry-level Galaxy S22 is the one to buy if you want a top-tier Android phone without paying over a thousand dollars.
The Galaxy S22 is one of the best bang-for-your-buck smartphones available right now, especially given the extended software support, but there’s no denying there are a few missed opportunities here.
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Samsung Galaxy S22: Pricing and Availability
- The Galaxy S22 starts at $799 in the United States, with 8GB RAM and 128GB of internal storage.
- There’s also a 256GB model, with the same amount of RAM.
This is the cheapest phone in Samsung’s Galaxy S22 lineup, with a starting price of $799. That’s $200 cheaper than the Galaxy S22 Plus, and $400 cheaper than the Galaxy S22 Ultra. The base model gives you 128GB of storage and 8GB RAM — there’s no microSD card in this phone, so the internal storage is all you get. If that’s not enough, there’s an $899 option with 256GB of storage and the same amount of RAM.
No matter where you buy the Galaxy S22, there are four main colors available: Phantom Black, Phantom White, Green (why does Green not get to be Phantom?), and Pink Gold. There are four additional colors only available through Samsung.com: Graphite, Cream, Sky Blue, and Violet.
Most stores and carriers selling the Galaxy S22 also offer various trade-in promotions and discounts that can drop the final price significantly. Samsung promises “up to $700” of trade-in credit on its online store, though that much credit requires trading in a Galaxy S21 Plus, Note 20 Ultra, or another high-end phone in near-perfect condition.
Samsung Galaxy S22: Specifications
|Specification||Samsung Galaxy S22|
|Build||IP68 water and dust resistance|
|Dimensions & Weight||
|RAM & Storage||
|Battery & Charging||
|Security||Ultrasonic Fingerprint sensor|
|Front Camera||10MP (F2.2/1.22μm/80˚ FOV)|
Design and Display: The compact flagship
- One of the smallest flagship Android phones currently available.
- The flat display means a better fit for screen protectors and cases, and the AMOLED panel looks great.
- There’s no microSD card or headphone jack, same as the Galaxy S21 series.
The Galaxy S22 is your typical flagship-class slab of glass and aluminum. It’s one of the smallest Android phones you can buy with high-end hardware at the moment, at just 6.1 inches across the display, but that’s not saying much — the only competition there is the 5.9-inch Asus Zenfone 8. I personally prefer smaller devices, so the compact size is a win for me, though I wish it was even smaller (the iPhone 13 is 5.4 inches). If you want a Samsung phone with a larger screen, you’ll have to spend a bit more on the Galaxy S22 Plus, or drop back into the world of mid-range devices and buy the 6.5-inch Samsung Galaxy A52.
No matter how you feel about the smaller size, there’s no denying the front display itself is excellent. The Galaxy S22 is a typical high-quality Samsung AMOLED screen, with a resolution of 2340 x 1080 (425 ppi) and a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz. If you want to conserve battery (more on battery life later), or just don’t want the smoother animations for any other reason, you can set the display back to a 60Hz refresh rate in the settings. The screen also supports HDR10+, so video content always looks great, and there’s a small hole at the top for the 10MP front camera. Thankfully, the display is completely flat, instead of the curved design found on the Galaxy S22 Ultra and some other phones — a flat display makes installing screen protectors much easier.
The frame of the Galaxy S22 is made from aluminum, with a glossy finish covering all four sides. It’s less rounded than the sides of the Galaxy S21 but isn’t quite as blocky as the iPhone 13. The volume and power buttons are located on the right side, and the bottom has the USB Type-C port, loudspeaker, and SIM card tray. Just like last year’s Galaxy S21 series, there is no microSD card slot and no headphone jack. Not everyone cares about that, but it’s absolutely ridiculous that nearly all phones under $100 have both of those features, and this $800-900 phone does not.
Samsung is using glass for the back of the Galaxy S22, which I’m also disappointed about. Both the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Fan Edition had plastic rear coverings, which helped reduce the device’s weight and improved durability. Though, opinion might differ on this as many people prefer a glass or metal back on premium devices — opinions can be subjective, and that’s alright. The camera array is found on the top-left side, with three cameras and a single LED flash.
I also received some of Samsung’s official cases for the Galaxy S22, seen below. The silicone case offers a gripper feel, and I love the red color option.
The leather case is your typical genuine leather smartphone case — nothing special there.
Samsung has also brought the S-View case back this year, which is a cover with a small window on the front for the display. The panel can display a clock, incoming calls, and other basic functions (sort of like the small outer display on the Galaxy Z Flip).
Cameras: Not bad at all
- The Galaxy S22 has a 50MP main camera, a 12MP ultra-wide, and a 10MP telephoto.
- Photo and video quality are good, but zoom photos won’t look nearly as good as with the Galaxy S22 Ultra.
The Galaxy S22 has three rear cameras: a 12MP main camera (actually 50MP, but with binned pixels), a 12MP ultra-wide, and a 10MP telephoto. That’s almost the same setup as the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 FE, though the Galaxy S21 had a 64MP telephoto. If you want that higher resolution telephoto camera, you have to go for one of the phones in the Galaxy S21 series as the camera setup is the same on the Galaxy S22 Plus as well.
Samsung still pumps up color saturation on its cameras more than some other smartphone manufacturers, but the results from the main 12MP camera are still sharp and detailed. Indoor or outdoor, light or dark, the Galaxy S22 is up to the task. Even low-light performance is usually solid (seemingly comparable to the Galaxy S22 Ultra), and in areas that are almost completely dark, you can switch the camera to Night Mode to improve image brightness. I rarely had to use the dedicated Night Mode, though.
The telephoto lens is also decent, but the 3x optical zoom definitely won’t come close to the abilities of the Galaxy S22 Ultra. Photos of farther away objects still look decent, especially if you can manage to stay under 5x zoom, and the camera also comes in handy for zooming in on subjects close to you (almost like a macro).
My dog Daisy was standing a few feet away from me in the below photos, which isn’t much of a challenge for any telephoto lens, but I was still impressed by how much detail was still present at 10x zoom. Again, the telephoto on the Galaxy S22 Ultra is significantly more powerful, but the regular Galaxy S22 isn’t shabby here.
The camera app has many different alternate modes, though most of them are available on every other recent Samsung phone. You can switch to Pro Mode or Pro Video for traditional camera settings (manual focus, more shutter speed options, etc.), Slow Motion and Super Slo-Mo, Night Mode for better photos in low-light conditions, and so on.
Portrait Mode is one of the more useful modes, giving you a blurred background on photos and video. As long as your subject is relatively still and around 5-7 feet away (~1.5-2 m), you shouldn’t have a problem capturing a great photo. There’s also a slider in the settings for changing the intensity of the effect, and there are a few different options for colors and backgrounds, as seen below.
Software: Android 12 and One UI 4
- The Galaxy S22 has Android 12 and One UI 4.1 out of the box.
- Samsung is promising four major Android OS upgrades, and five years of security updates.
- Google and Samsung are working more closely together on software.
If you’ve used any Samsung phone in the past few years, you’ll feel right at home here. The Galaxy S22 is running Android 12 out of the box, the latest available version, with One UI 4.1 on top. Samsung’s One UI changes nearly every aspect of Android, and has many built-in applications that serve the same functions as Google’s own applications. This approach definitely isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re a fan of the software experience on Google Pixel phones or other devices that stay close to “stock” Android. I ended up using a mix of Samsung and Google’s applications (Gmail for email, Samsung Calendar for calendar, etc.).
Samsung and Google have been collaborating more closely over the past two years, which has led to a few changes with the software on the Galaxy S22. Google Messages has replaced the Samsung Messages app for handling SMS texts (which was previously only true for Galaxy S phones outside the US), complete with support for Google’s implementation of RCS. If you text other people that are using Google Messages, which is available on all Android devices, you get some iMessage-like features such as read receipts and larger file sizes for attachments.
Google Duo also has a few features currently exclusive to the Galaxy S22 and Tab S8 series. You can use “Live Share” to stream your phone’s screen to other people in a Duo call, similar to Apple SharePlay, and YouTube videos are playable from inside the Google Messages application. Google apps also look more “at home” than ever on Samsung devices with the introduction of Android 12’s dynamic themes — for example, Gmail and the Play Store will use the same accent colors from your wallpaper as Samsung’s Phone app and quick settings panel.
As always with Galaxy devices, it’s not too difficult to revert to a more “stock” experience. You can replace Samsung’s home screen launcher with something like Lawnchair 2 or Action Launcher, install Gboard to replace Samsung Keyboard, and so on. You’ll still see Samsung’s design language in the Setting and other core system functions, but the Galaxy S22 can still get close to the Pixel experience.
I received the carrier-unlocked Galaxy S22 to review, so there isn’t any carrier bloat. However, Samsung still installs a handful of Microsoft applications (such as OneDrive and Windows Your Phone), Facebook, Netflix, and a few others. Some of Samsung’s usual apps can probably be described as bloatware too, like Samsung TV Plus. Most of these can be uninstalled completely.
Samsung is promising four major Android OS updates for the Galaxy S22, as well as five years of security patches, which is currently the longest software support you can get on an Android phone (tied with the Pixel 6’s security updates) outside of installing custom ROMs. That should mean the Galaxy S22 will receive Android 13, 14, 15, and 16 when they become available. However, Google is currently planning an interim Android 12L release, and it’s not clear if Samsung will roll that out to any of its devices and include it as one of the major updates.
I did notice a few minor software bugs with the Galaxy S22. Plugging the phone into my car for Android Auto resulted in the location indicator rapidly flashing, as seen in the embedded tweet below. I also noticed the phone frequently switching between LTE and 5G on my Ting phone service (which uses T-Mobile’s network) in some locations, but I’ve had issues with T-Mobile’s 5G on other phones, so I won’t pin that on Samsung.
This is what happens when I use Android Auto with the Galaxy S22. Never seen this before on any other phones… pic.twitter.com/rgcKUzcq3y
— Corbin Davenport (@corbindavenport) March 3, 2022
In summary, if you’ve used a Samsung phone in the past few years, you won’t notice much difference here. The longer support cycle is excellent, and now that Samsung has seemingly ripped out the last remaining advertisements from One UI (at least on my US model), I don’t have many complaints with Samsung’s take on Android. If you have an adverse opinion on Samsung’s UX skin from its TouchWiz days, One UI is worth a shot as it can turn your opinion around.
Performance and Battery life: Fast phone, small battery
- The Galaxy S22 uses a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset in the United States and a few other countries, and an Exynos 2200 chip everywhere else.
- All versions of the phone have 8GB RAM.
- The 3,7000mAh battery might be too small for demanding smartphone owners.
The Galaxy S22 uses Qualcomm’s latest flagship chipset for smartphones, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. That means everything from gaming to scrolling through Twitter is fast and responsive, especially paired with that 120Hz display. Both models of the Galaxy S22 (128GB and 256GB storage) have the same 8GB RAM, which is the same amount found in all versions of the Galaxy S22 Plus and most Galaxy S22 Ultra variants. In most countries outside of the United States, Samsung is using an Exynos 2220 chipset instead of a Snapdragon — I haven’t tested an Exynos S22, but the Exynos Galaxy S22 Ultra is definitely having problems. My colleague Adam comments that the Snapdragon Galaxy S22 series is better than the Exynos Galaxy S22 series, so people in regions where Exynos is the only choice should explore other options.
Battery life is more of a grey area. The Galaxy S22 has a battery capacity of 3,700mAh, which is a bit below what you would find on most other smartphones, due to the phone’s more compact size. The Galaxy S22 Plus has a much larger 4,500mAh battery, while the Galaxy S22 Ultra goes even further to 5,000mAh. Depending on how you use your smartphone, there’s a good chance you might be running for a charger before the end of the day.
I work from home and don’t play many mobile games, and I always have Always-On Display turned off, so battery life usually isn’t a problem for me with any smartphone. My usual mix of checking emails and work messages, doom-scrolling on Twitter, streaming YouTube videos, and web browsing still left me with 30-40% left at the end of every day. However, if you frequently play games or leave your phone’s screen on for 3+ hours on most days, this is not the smartphone for you. My colleague Aamir uses his phone heavily for games like Genshin Impact, and apps like Instagram, Slack, and more, and he has had the phone die even before the evening on a weekend. Run Spotify in the background, use Google Maps for a while for navigation, and you will soon be hit with battery anxiety for the rest of your day.
Charging the Galaxy S22 takes about 50 minutes with a 25W charger, which is nothing to write home about in this era where 65W charging on phones has become a norm and companies are working on 150W charging. But for what it is worth, we’ve also spotted that the Galaxy S22 Plus and the Galaxy S22 Ultra don’t really offer any tangible benefits with their “faster” 45W charging. So the Galaxy S22 series as a whole is disappointing when it comes to charging. The Galaxy S22 offers the poorest experience within the series, with short battery life and slow charging, and we hope Samsung considers upgrading these aspects of the phone.
Should you buy the Galaxy S22?
Samsung’s latest entry-level Galaxy S phone is in an interesting position this year. It’s at the same $799 price as last year’s Galaxy S21, but it has a slightly smaller display and a worse telephoto camera. Between the increasing number of options in the $600 range (such as the Galaxy S21 FE and Google Pixel 6), and the smaller battery, the Galaxy S22 definitely isn’t for everyone.
You should buy the Galaxy S22 if…
- You want a compact Android flagship smartphone — the Galaxy S22 isn’t exactly small, but it’s nearly as small as you can get for good.
- You’re looking for the cheapest Galaxy phone with the latest flagship-class Snapdragon chipset and a capable camera.
- You plan on keeping their phone for several years — Samsung is promising five years of security patches, and four major Android updates.
You shouldn’t buy the Galaxy S22 if…
- You use your smartphone all day, or frequently play intense mobile games — get the Galaxy S22 Plus instead, or another phone with a larger battery or better charging.
- You already have a Galaxy S21.
- You want a more “stock” Android software, or just don’t like Samsung One UI.
Here’s hoping Samsung can bring more improvements to the base model Galaxy S phone next year, whether that means more cameras, the return of the microSD card slot, or some other functionality.