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As a Galaxy S21 Ultra fan, I can't get behind the Galaxy S22 Ultra
Earlier this year, I wrote our long-term review of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. As usual, I used the phone as my daily driver for a few weeks to get a feel for it. Once we published the article, I will admit I didn’t stop using it. It’s an incredible device and probably my favorite phone from 2021. With that in mind, one would assume I would be pumped for the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, right?
Well, not really. The Galaxy S22 Ultra is nothing like the S21 Ultra, at least as far as design goes. As folks can immediately tell just by looking at it, the S22 Ultra is more of a sequel to the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra than anything else.
While many Android fans out there will be excited about this, I will admit I’m more disappointed than anything else.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: A Note by any other name
When Samsung briefed us on the Galaxy S22 Ultra, it fully acknowledged its connection to the Note family. It conceived the phone as a hybrid of the best of the S line and the Note line. It also told us that it’s not thinking of the Note line as a specific product anymore, but instead as an experience. In other words, this probably won’t be the last time you see what the Note used to be bleeding into other Samsung products.
History lesson: Every Galaxy Note phone ever
However, for this first run of a not-Note phone, Samsung didn’t bring any subtlety to the proceedings. The Galaxy S22 Ultra has the exact same design as the Note 20 Ultra. The S Pen slot is in the same place, the S Pen design itself is the same, and even most of the specs and features come from the Note 20 Ultra. Really, the only thing that’s changed is the design of the camera module.
I want a follow-up to the Galaxy S21 Ultra, with the best display, camera setup, and specs, and the S22 Ultra ain't it. Neither is the S22 Plus.
So let’s just go ahead and admit that the Galaxy S22 Ultra is more of a Note phone than it is a Galaxy S phone. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. When news started breaking that Samsung was abandoning the Note line, lots of our readers were upset. Those readers now have a new phone that will give them the Note experience even if the word “note” isn’t explicitly mentioned in the name.
That’s great for them, but what about me and users like me? I don’t want a Note phone. I want a follow-up to the Galaxy S21 Ultra, with the best display, camera setup, and specs, and this ain’t it. Neither is the Galaxy S22 Plus.
The Note features aren’t for me
The two major features that the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra lifted from the Note series are the S Pen and the overall design. The first has been a Note hallmark since the very first model launched in 2011. Meanwhile, the boxy shape with a flat top and bottom come directly from the Galaxy Note 10 and Note 20 lines.
I don’t want either of these “features.” For me, the S Pen is useless. I don’t draw, I would rather type than write, and most of the gimmicky tricks the S Pen can do aren’t interesting to me. The only exception to this is its ability to act as a shutter button. I did use that a few times and thought it was neat.
The things that make a Note a Note are things I don't want.
Regardless, in my opinion, the S Pen is just taking up space in the phone that could be better utilized. If Samsung didn’t include it, there would be more room for a bigger battery, for example. It could swap out the slot for a headphone jack, which would be far more useful to me. In fact, considering the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra supported microSD cards, I bet Samsung could find room for a headphone jack, expandable storage, and more battery if it removed the S Pen from the Galaxy S22 Ultra. Now wouldn’t that be something!
Likewise, the boxy design of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra just doesn’t do it for me. The edges of the phone dig into my palm and make it uncomfortable to hold for extended periods. It also is wider than that Galaxy S21 Ultra, which makes reaching my thumb to the far corner of the display even more difficult.
I’m just not a fan.
I’m happy for Note fans, but wish things were different
Obviously, I understand that not everyone agrees with me here. The Galaxy Note line has a fanbase that is very, very passionate. Just look at our Reader’s Choice awards over the past four years. The only year a Galaxy Note phone didn’t win is last year — because Samsung didn’t launch any Notes.
For me, though, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is a better experience. And what am I supposed to do this year? Samsung isn’t likely to release a real follow-up to the Galaxy S21 Ultra in 2022. Now that the S22 series launch is done, the next big flagships from Samsung will likely be foldables. That leaves me with two choices: keeping the Galaxy S21 Ultra or jumping to another brand to get a 2022 smartphone.
Continue reading: A complete history of the Samsung Galaxy S series
I know, I know… first-world problems, right? The Galaxy S21 Ultra is still an amazing device and it will be more than adequate throughout the rest of 2022. However, what about 2023 or even 2024? If Samsung has moved to the idea that its Galaxy S phones with an Ultra tag are just Note phones by a different name, does that mean the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the last of its kind? Will we ever get a true follow-up? This is especially concerning since Samsung has now stopped producing phones from the Galaxy S21 line. The existing Galaxy S21 Ultra phones out there right now are all we’re ever going to get.
Overall, I’m pessimistic. I think Samsung fans will take to the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra like ducks to water and the company will continue to create similar devices in the following years. That leaves me clutching the Galaxy S21 Ultra for as long as possible and hoping that something better comes down the pipeline.