How is Samsung going to outdo the Galaxy S21 Ultra? I ask this in all seriousness, as the 2021 flagship is still one of my favorite android phones paired with the Google Pixel 6 Pro. I’m using it again as I write this, and it’s just as awesome and capable as it was the first time reviewed it at the end of January 2021.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra will almost certainly launch alongside other members of the S22 range on February 9and perhaps more than any other year before, Samsung really has to go to great lengths to make the new phone noticeably better.
remember the Galaxy S20 Ultra? Possibly not, and despite being technically very capable, it had one of the least interesting and most forgettable designs ever seen on a smartphone. It even came in Battleship Grey, as if Samsung was deliberately trying to make it disappear into the background. The Galaxy S21 Ultra was a huge step forward in design and I still think it looks amazing today, especially in the matte black finish.
The S22 Ultra needs to build on this. It should look even better than the S21 Ultra, perhaps minimizing some of the bulk generated by the huge camera module on the back, but retaining its character. The S21 Ultra is very recognizable, and while the camera module is large, the cleverly integrated design has proven to be a big winner this year, it’s been copied by other manufacturers since then. It became a trendsetter and Samsung needs to do the same for 2022 with the S22 Ultra.
Interestingly, looking at some of the leaked images and rendersthe S22 Ultra may become a continuation of the galaxy note 20 ultra in terms of design. There’s something about the square corners, integral S-Pen, and rounded sides in these unofficial images that are more reminiscent of the latest Note phone than the latest S-Series Ultra phone. Not all of the leaked images agree with the potential design, so we don’t really know what it will look like just yet, but we’ll come back to possible Note similarities shortly.
What else would I like to see changed? As much as I love the matte black finish, it’s had a lot of scuffs and scuffs over the last year, though I haven’t used it every day. Additional durability would be very welcome. Reducing the weight from the 229 grams of the S21 Ultra would also be great, just to make it a bit more manageable and pocketable. But as long as Samsung doesn’t play it safe with the design, it won’t matter if these aspects don’t really change.
The design and attractiveness of a phone are subjective. Many won’t even care what it looks like or what color it is, but where Samsung really has to impress is with the camera. The Galaxy S21 Ultra’s camera is excellent. the Google Pixel 6 Pro just hit it a side-by-side camera test, even though Pixel came out months later. The 10x optical zoom feature is almost undisputed and it’s still a fantastic feature that makes the S21 Ultra more versatile than most of the competition.
I sang the praises of the camera on our six month update on the S21 Ultra, showing how the macro feature using 10x zoom can take amazing photos that aren’t really possible with other phones. the iPhone 13 Pro macro mode comes close to matching it, but it’s not as fluid or natural to use. The 108-megapixel main camera has wonderful tone and the editing package is comprehensive and easy to use. It’s easily one of the best smartphone cameras I’ve ever used.
All the rumors point to the Galaxy S22 Ultra which has basically the same camera setup as the S21 Ultra, which, if accurate, indicates there will be software changes. The S21 Ultra came very close to the Pixel 6 Pro in our test, showing that Samsung’s computational photography expertise isn’t too far behind Google’s, but experience also shows that it doesn’t always take the subtler route when it comes to to adjust images. Samsung was notorious for excessive saturation in its photos, and although it toned it down for the S21 Ultra, it’s still present in some of Samsung’s other cameras.
If Samsung is relying on software and not new hardware to update the S21 Ultra’s cameras, you have to tread carefully. Gimmicks aren’t enough, and neither are nominal software alterations in pitch. I want to see performance improvements for the wide-angle camera especially. You’re following an excellent camera, and the results have to be really good for it to be worth upgrading.
Leaked images of the Galaxy S22 Ultra and talk of the phone coming with an S Pen worries me that there’s a risk the S22 Ultra has an identity crisis, which may lead to confusion about what the phone actually is. It may have an internal slot for an S Pen stylus, and as we’ve already noted, the overall design in some leaks is quite reminiscent of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. The Note line has effectively ended in 2020, with Samsung seemingly focused on making the Z Fold series its semi-official replacement.
But if Samsung puts an S Pen in the S22 Ultra, instead of offering it as an accessory like the S21 UltraSo it’s not a Galaxy Note? After all, the line between the two had blurred so much that the S Pen was really the only differentiating feature, and Samsung seemed unsure why the two should even exist. If the S22 Ultra has an S Pen, is that an admission that it made the wrong choice earlier, when it should have ditched the Ultra in favor of the Note?
Flagship phones with great cameras are more common than flagship phones with a stylus inside the body, and the Note’s uniqueness won it many dedicated fans. Samsung has spoken repeatedly about his loyal fans, and he had to know that the S21 Ultra and S Pen accessory would never be a true alternative to the hardcore noters. If the S22 Ultra is more Note than Ultra, should I call it that?
Marketing and identity issues aside, the main concern about the Ultra’s “Noteization” is the final price. The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra started at an expensive $1,300 at launch, $100 more than the still expensive S21 Ultra. Put the two devices together and factor in additional costs related to the mobile industry pandemic and rumors suggesting the S22 Ultra may start at $1,300 seem worryingly accurate.
In short, what we want to see from the Galaxy S22 Ultra is a new, modern design that builds on the distinctive look of the S21 Ultra, less weight and more durability, an updated camera that won’t be ruined by heavy-handed software tweaks. , and a clear identity. Finally, if it’s an Ultra, do it like this, but if it’s really a Note, feel free to say so.
But then maybe if the S22 Ultra ends up being the Galaxy Note 21 or 22 in all but name, will it be exactly the kind of special feature it needs to really top the S21 Ultra? It’ll be a big trick if Samsung pulls it off, and we’ll find out how it fared when the S22 series is revealed at its Galaxy Unpacked Event held on February 9.
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