Galaxy S22 Review: The iPhone of Android!

The early 2000s San Antonio Spurs and the current-day Phoenix Suns and the Galaxy S22 Series all have in common? Well, they’re all drama-free. They’re all kind of a bit boring, and all quietly, really, really good. So those Spurs weren’t really just a one-trick pony of being more athletic, or dunking all over the top of people, or just shooting tons of three pointers, or really any of the things that a casual fan would immediately appreciate. Just good, solid fundamentals, ball movement, high percentage shots, and sharing the load. Same kind of thing with the Phoenix Suns of today, they don’t necessarily have one, huge standout MVP superstar, but like the whole team is really, really good, and there aren’t really any weaknesses and they’re quietly the number one team in basketball. This phone is boring. Like I’m not the only one who’s thought that and said that, but that’s what happens when a phone gets so really good across the board, that there aren’t really any weaknesses ’cause they didn’t really take any huge risks. They just took a good thing and made it better. So I appreciate that you know what you’re getting with a Samsung flagship. Very similar design to last year, just a little bit smaller and a little more squared off, and with glass on the back now instead of plastic. That little spot where your finger rests under the camera bump too, if you use it without a case, it’s a little sharper, but I got used to that pretty quickly. But we all expect an IP68 water-resistant phone, solid speakers, clicky buttons, the best ultrasonic fingerprint reader in the game, a nice, satin finish. You know, not all of these things can be said about every other phone, but they’re all here. And I even wanna give a shout-out to the in-the-hand feel of the smaller Galaxy S22.

So I talk about in-the-hand feel all the time, but Samsung made both of these phones smaller than last year. The S22+ went from 6.7 inches to 6.6 diagonally. Still big, but then the smaller S22 went from 6.2 to 6.1 inches. And dare I say, it has a bit of a compact feel to it. Now, obviously, it sounds crazy to say that about a phone that still has a six-inch screen, but the fact that I’m coming from bigger phones combined with the flat sides and the tiny symmetrical bezles and the corner-to-corner display. This has me feeling like it’s about as compact as the phone can possibly be. And I’m almost tempted to have it in the running for maybe compact phone of the year. Maybe it just holds that lead for right now, in February. But speaking of displays, that’s the one thing that we definitely know Samsung to have been good at for a long time. This year though, there was a bit of confusion around them. So let’s clear that up. So both the S22 and S22+ have flat, 1080P, 120 Hertz, adaptive AMOLED panels. The Plus is obviously bigger, and it also has the higher max brightness of 1,750 nits, where the S22 gets up to a very respectable 1,300 nits. They’re both very viewable outdoors, although the peak brightness on the bigger phones and also the Ultra is crazy bright. Like you can view it in direct sunlight. It’s awesome. But there was a question about whether these were LTPO displays or not. So that’s that newer tech that allows you to modulate the display refresh rate down to 10 Hertz to save battery. So, I’d asked Samsung, and I mentioned this in the impressions video that they told me that these are not LTPO displays. But then at the same time on the spec sheet, it also said that these go from 10 to 120 Hertz. So that was a bit confusing. But now a few days later, if you check, Samsung’s actually changed those spec sheets and their website saying it can go from 48 to 120 Hertz. So they clarified that data transfer rates to the display can go as low as 10 Hertz, but the display is still refreshing faster. So they updated their site to reflect the widely recognized industry standard of the actual refresh rate. Huh, it’s almost like some other companies sometimes lie to people by expressing the things in other non-standard ways. Anyway, so it’s not the full, variable refresh rate range of LTPO2, like we have on the Ultra, which is a bit of a downside to an 800 to $1,000 phone. But aside from that, it’s a great, bright, responsive display, and it’s adaptive mode. And that’s what matters most to me. I did notice there’s still some situations and still a few apps where it kicks down to 60 Hertz on purpose, like maps apps, like Waze and Google Maps, and still, the Galaxy Store App for some reason. But with all the color customization and a really good auto brightness, the only possible downside with this screen would be battery life. And on top of that, the only concern for me really going in to reviewing these phones was the battery life. Because number one, both the phones are smaller. And so both of them have a 300 million power smaller battery than last year. And number two, the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip had some concerns about it. It’s that it’s obviously brand new, and it’s supposed to be very efficient, but it also appears to be geared to be a very high-end chip, very high performance. So it performs really well, puts up great numbers, better than previous chips, on benchmarks and it crushes gaming, but it runs a little hot. And there’s a reason almost every flagship you see coming out with this new chip also has like a huge section in their presentation about their new, massive, super-innovative, new cooling solution. So with no LTPO, smaller batteries, and a potentially higher power-drawing chip, I was a little concerned about battery life on these phones. Turned out to be fine, not amazing, not like headline making, but San Antonio Spurs boring-level good. So David was testing the S22+ most at the studio, and got a solid day and a half of use. So starting a day at 7:00 am, and then getting to 1:00 pm the next day before the battery dies. Pretty solid. And I was using the smaller S22 for a few days, and had no problem ending a normal day with 10 to 20% left. Now, if I did a lot of high brightness navigation and gaming, big power draw stuff, I could take big chunks outta this battery fast. So that did not surprise me with this chip. It is a more efficient four-nanometer process node now. So it does really well with standby, but you can absolutely burn through it with heavy use. Something to keep in mind too though, the S22+ has a better overall battery experience because it also supports 45-watt fast charging instead of the 25 watts on the smaller phone. Now it doesn’t come with it, so it’s 50 bucks extra to get that 45-watt charger, but that’s a difference to note. You wanna know something I did find I like less about the S22 though than last year? It’s a subtle one, but it’s real. The vibration motor. So the haptics are still actually really good, and really strong and clicky and responsive, and I love that about it, but they’ve switched from a Z-axis vibration motor to an X-axis vibration motor. It doesn’t sound like it make a huge difference, but that’s a difference in the direction of the pulsing of the motor. And that makes it a lot less strong in my pocket and on a table for feeling the vibrations. I missed a lot of notifications just because it didn’t strongly buzz me enough. (S22 buzzing) (S21 Ultra buzzing) (S22 buzzing) (S21 Ultra buzzing) So yeah, I don’t know, that was a subtle thing. You can still feel the vibrations really well and turn vibration intensity all the way up, but the direction is different. Not sure why, maybe space savings, but it’s real. Maybe the most exciting potential superstar upgrade on these phones though is the cameras. The S22 having a major camera upgrade would be like the 2016 Golden State Warriors signing Kevin Durant, making them the clear number one favorite, right? You have a new 50-megapixel main camera, a 10-megapixel 110-degree Ultra Wide, and another 10-megapixel 3X telephoto camera. But this new camera system is more Harrison Barnes than Kevin Durant. Meaning it’s really good, but it’s not gonna blow your mind at how good it is. I love that we take photos this good from a smartphone for granted. You give it pretty much any normal lighting situation, and it handles it really well. Samsung’s colors are nicely balanced. They’ve hit their stride with processing that isn’t too overly sharp or saturated. The Ultra Wide is definitely softer than the main camera, but it still does well with a lot of light. And the telephoto is rock solid. No weird HDR haloing issues in pictures. No white balance inconsistency problems. No auto-focus issues, and pretty minimal shutter lag. It’s just boring. Tim Duncan with the bank shot level solid. Also, I gotta say I love that it no longer punches into 3X when I shoot 8K video on the phone. I know 8K video is not the most popular feature, but last time, the higher resolution camera was the telephoto, so if I shot 8K video, it would punch into a 3X crop. That was rough. It doesn’t do that anymore. Now, it’s just a tiny crop in on that main sensor, which is actually a smaller crop than on the Ultra because the Ultra is cropping into the middle 33 megapixels of this massive 108-megapixel sensor. So I’d actually rather shoot 8K video on the regular S22s than the S22 Ultra. Now I’m not gonna do it because it’s still 24 FPS, which is the wrong frame rate. But still, like why couldn’t Samsung add a little switch to make it 8K 30 if I wanted to? The last three Snapdragon chips have been able to support 8K 30fps video. And I know, 8K is supposed to be the super high-end, cinematic feature, but at least buried in the settings, let me do 8K 30 if I want to. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a Samsung thing. Other phones have been able to do it, not Samsung. Now there are way more software improvements with these cameras, like night photography, which Samsung calls Nightography because they have to name everything for some reason. That’s for better detail and night shots, and AI stereo portrait mode improvements for better cutouts, and Space Zoom, stability locking, and auto-framing that can track up to 10 faces around a frame, and a new separate Expert RAW app. I’m gonna talk way more about all this camera stuff in the S22 Ultra review video, which is coming soon. Definitely make sure you subscribe to see that one when it comes out. But in this one, I wanted to talk about its default status, which you know, especially in the US. And now, it’s kind of a running joke that outside of the tech community, we’ve heard people call it like iPhones and Galaxies. Like they’ve just been so dominant here anyway, that it’s kind of already understood, but especially with the S22 Series, now more than ever, it’s sort of solidified itself as the default Android phone, which is crazy when you consider what the Pixel 6 was supposed to be. Now, I used to rag on Samsung’s software for being incredibly clunky, weighted down with bloatware, looking like a cartoon skin on top of Android, while the pure Google experience from a Nexus or a Pixel, or even a lightweight skin from Motorola or OnePlus was the way to go. But today, now that OxygenOS has gone downhill, and the Pixels are a buggy mess, Samsung’s one UI has evolved into easily one of the most stable, performant, feature-packed Android experiences out there. They loop in the Google stuff when it’s good, like having a Google page next to your home screen and the new Material You wallpaper picker from Android 12, which lets you pick colors from your wallpaper to be accent colors in the menus of your phone. But then, they also sprinkle in tons of their own Samsung features that you can decide to use if you want. But not only that, Samsung has also vaulted ahead, and is doing some things better than Google’s own phones. So one thing that I’ve noticed is there as a a new Google Messages App as the default on all these Samsung phones, which is cool. If you go to a Play Store and try to download Google Messages, it says you already have it installed. But when you open, it’s a Samsung-skinned version. They’re the only ones who have been able to do that. So now it has that half-screen reachable UI to match the rest of Samsung’s one UI. Then there’s a new Google DUO feature that launched where you can essentially watch a YouTube video together with someone while on a video call, like Apple did with SharePlay over FaceTime. And this feature has launched in Google DUO, on the Galaxy S22’s only first. Why? So you have to use a Galaxy S22 or S22 Ultra to use this feature, which I did. We tried it, and it worked. But there is no timeline for when this feature will show up on other Android phones, including Google’s own Pixel, even though Google made this feature. And then on top of that, Samsung is promising four years of software updates for the Galaxy S22s after they launch. That’s more than the three years of software updates that Google is promising with their own phone in the Pixel. You see what I’m getting at? So the Galaxy S22s are boring. Yes, but the boringness comes from them having basically no glaring flaws, and makes them incredibly easy to recommend. I wish they were more sustainable. I wish they included a charger in the box, so you didn’t have to go out of your way to buy a 45-watt charger and make more waste to actually use that feature. And I can appreciate that some plastics being used in the phone are made from recycled fishing nets, but that’s really only a tiny dent in the big picture of Samsung’s footprint. But in that classic, frequently asked question of like if you’re in the market for a flagship phone right now and I don’t know anything about you, the first phones that I’m gonna bring up are the iPhone 13 and the Galaxy S22+, and they’ve earned that spot.

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