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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra revisited: The good and bad over six months later

It started the year with a bang, but how well has Samsung's expensive flagship held up?
By
September 11, 2022
samsung galaxy s22 ultra back
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Samsung entered 2022 with a bang, launching its flagship Galaxy S22 series before the end of February. While the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22 Plus felt like iterative updates (albeit very capable ones), the premium Galaxy S22 Ultra was a power lover’s dream with its Galaxy Note-inspired design and features. It quickly established itself as one of the best Android phones you could buy, but has it stayed there? Let’s look back at one of the best phones from early 2022 in our Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review revisit.

I should say before we get into it that I’ve never considered myself a power user when it comes to smartphones, instead prioritizing a more balanced — and slightly smaller — device when I’m lucky. However, with some work events and personal travel planned for the summer, I figured it was time to see what Samsung’s productivity powerhouse could do. I popped my primary SIM into the Galaxy S22 Ultra, wedged the massive phablet in my pocket, and set off to experience the best that Samsung has to offer.


The good

Samsung’s stylus-toting flagship earned four and a half stars and our coveted Editor’s Choice badge in our full review, which means it had plenty in its favor off the bat. It should be no surprise that the premium device has aged well over the past half-year. In fact, Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra remains at or near the top of many of our best lists despite the countless number of devices launched in the months since.

Cameras

samsung galaxy s22 ultra cameras up close
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra soared to its place among the best camera phones shortly after launch. That it did so without any significant improvements over its predecessor is a testament to how ahead of the game Samsung has been in the imaging stakes.

The phone’s four-camera setup is a well-rounded quartet, with a class-leading 108MP main sensor as the star of the show. Two 10MP telephoto sensors and a 12MP ultrawide option provide coverage for almost every scenario and distance, and that’s before we’ve even touched on photography software features. Finally, the 40MP punch hole selfie shooter rounds out the ultra-premium package.

Although I relied on the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s primary sensor during most of my time with the phone, I never felt hesitant to give the peripheral lenses their run. Samsung’s camera app offers quick options to optical zoom in 3x or 10x thanks to the two corresponding telephoto lenses. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can punch in digitally for 30x or 100x “Space Zoom,” but I found that the extreme zoom made more sense as a magnifying glass than an actual camera.

You can check out the full range of zooms for yourself and decide where your cutoff point would be.

As you can see, once you stretch past 10x zoom, you’re doing so at the cost of colors and details, though for a smartphone camera these are mightily impressive results. You can still identify the weathervane at 30x, but the shingles and red-painted wood are far darker than in reality. At 100x, the shape of the duck is still clear, though there are some odd color effects around the edges. That said, Samsung’s image stabilization is excellent at these longer lengths and almost eliminated my shaky hands.

No matter which camera you use, you’re bound to notice Samsung’s slightly oversaturated color profile. Certain hues, mostly reds and greens, come back far richer than reality, especially the pepperoni on the pizza below. The grass at Yankee Stadium wasn’t that green, but it’s still better than the product on the field (sorry, Yankees fans).

Overall, Samsung’s camera app remains one of the best, especially if you like control. The large viewfinder is surrounded by settings that let you control everything from the aspect ratio to dedicated shooting modes for food and panoramas. If that’s not enough, the default app packs a Pro mode, which swaps the controls to focus on your ISO, shutter speed, white balance, and more. If that’s still not enough, there’s Expert RAW. Samsung’s most powerful camera app doesn’t come installed by default, but if you download it you can then export images in RAW format to dig into the editing process using Lightroom or any other platform you prefer.

Software and updates

samsung galaxy s22 ultra themed apps
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Samsung shipped its premium flagship with Android 12 onboard, and it’s still there — for now. The Android 13 update isn’t too far off, but the latest generation of One UI software is already excellent. It incorporates some of the best Material You customization options with clever Samsung features that make one-handed use that much easier. One UI will never be the lightest Android skin, but it’s bound to remain one of the most feature-rich.

I particularly appreciate that Samsung has finally accepted Google Messages as its default SMS app. It’s not Google Messages as you commonly know it, however, it has some Samsung twists. Instead of launching your conversations to the top of the expansive display, they start about halfway up, making them much easier to reach. It’s a small touch but a welcome one for those of us with small hands.

One UI is one of the best Android skins in the game, and long-term update support is the icing on top.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra’s S Pen integration is another perfect example of what the phone gets right. Where its predecessor required an external stylus and a pairing process, the internal housing means that the S Pen springs to life the moment you set it free. It’s become a go-to for quick note-taking, and the ability to double as a remote shutter button isn’t half bad, either.

Air Command S22 Ultra
Joe Hindy / Android Authority

However, there’s still a little bit of bloatware out of the box, which is disappointing for a device of this stature. You have to tell Samsung that you have no interest in extra Microsoft apps (unless you do want them, of course), and the Galaxy Store is all too happy to send push notifications for games you’re not interested in.

While bloatware and app store ads will never have a place in my heart, Samsung’s incredible update promise gets a lot of love. The Galaxy S22 Ultra is primed for four full Android updates and five years of security coverage. It’ll stay current through Android 16 and into early 2027 before it heads out to pasture. This is beyond any other Android OEM on the market, and it keeps Samsung’s flagships among the easiest to recommend for long-term value.

Build quality and display

samsung galaxy s22 ultra home screen standing
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Although we’ll come back to the design itself (in a slightly less positive light), there’s no denying that the Galaxy S22 Ultra is built to last. It’s a massive slab of Gorilla Glass and Armor Aluminum wrapped up with an IP68 rating to stand up to the elements. The overall package oozes quality, not just because it has a certain heft when you pick it up.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra's build oozes quality.

Samsung’s Phantom finishes were some of our favorites when introduced on the Galaxy S21 series, and they remain excellent. The black satin glass has hardly aged in the months since launch and continues to feel excellent in my hand. My Galaxy S22 Ultra has admittedly taken a tumble or two, but it isn’t showing any wear.

As for the display, Samsung’s behemoth 6.8-inch AMOLED is as good as they come. Despite plenty of use (and a multiple trips across the country to various members of the Android Authority team), it only shows one minor scratch on its Gorilla Glass Victus Plus display, and the 120Hz refresh rate and Quad HD resolution make the blemish easy to ignore. The Galaxy S22 Ultra is one of the brightest phones I’ve used, offering a peak brightness of 1,750 nits that stands up to the sun without issue. It houses the 40MP punch hole selfie camera and the ultrasonic fingerprint reader, both of which have continued to excel since launch.

Performance

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra GeekBench 5 benchmark
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

The Galaxy S22 Ultra’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor (in the US) might be a double-edged sword overall, but it remains a sharp performer half a year after its introduction. It breezed through everything I threw at it, including four hours of Spotify streaming and GPS navigation on a road trip across Pennsylvania. Qualcomm’s flagship chipset still runs hot under load, but I found it more than capable of getting the job done.

You can also pair the premium processor with up to 12GB of RAM and a whopping 1TB of storage, even if it’s more than most people need. The base configuration drops to 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, but I still found it more than adequate throughout my testing. It’s worth looking at increased base storage, given that there’s no option for a microSD card, but you can always sign up for more cloud storage to save money.

As for connectivity, the Galaxy S22 Ultra sports Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2, which continue to set the standard among flagships. It also packs NFC, a must-have for Samsung Pay (or Google Pay, depending on your preference).

Although the Galaxy S22 Ultra sets the standard for Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 devices, it’s behind the curve compared to the newer Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1. The Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro and OnePlus 10T leave Samsung’s top dog behind thanks to their half-generation improvements, with the main boost coming to sustained performance. Nevertheless, it’s still a very powerful smartphone. For those in regions with the Exynos 2200 variant, the praise isn’t quite so effusive, though it’s still a perfectly capable flagship-tier device for day-to-day use.

Charging

samsung galaxy s22 ultra charging
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

What’s old is new again, right, Samsung? Keep your apple-bottom jeans in the closet, we’re talking about charging. Samsung introduced 45W wired charging on its Galaxy Note series a few years back before knocking it back down to 25W in recent generations. Now, the top speeds are back once again — as long as you have a capable charger.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra demands a USB PD PPS-capable charger to reach its high-speed potential, and it’s worth the investment. My testing achieved a full charge from around 5% remaining in just over 70 minutes. It’s much faster than even a 30W charger, which took nearly an extra half-hour to fill the hefty cell. Check out our guide for some advice on the best Galaxy S22 chargers to buy.

Samsung’s 15W wireless and 4.5W reverse wireless speeds are nice, though neither is particularly useful in a rush. You can expect to spend two hours tethered to the wall on a compatible wireless pad, while the reverse wireless option is best saved for earbuds and wearables. I had to use it once in an emergency situation, but it was barely worth the battery drain on my secondary device.


The not so good

Earning our top award and coming home with more than four stars makes it tough to find much wrong with a device. However, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra still isn’t perfect. We’ll skip over the lack of expandable storage, headphone jack, or a charger in the box (three omissions that, for better or worse, are common on almost all modern premium flagships), but there are a few other shortcomings worth mentioning.

Battery life

samsung galaxy s22 ultra battery
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

The Galaxy S22 Ultra packs a massive battery — a full 5,000mAh. It’s sized to rival the best flagships on the market, yet I can’t help feeling like it comes up short. We called it “good enough” in our initial review, but that’s as high as the Galaxy S22 Ultra will ever reach.

While I never struggled to make it through a full day of usage during my month with the Galaxy S22 Ultra, I never came close to two full days. Instead, I often reached for a charger by lunchtime on my second day. It’s certainly not terrible, but it pales compared to the iPhone 13 Pro Max, a phone I’ve found can easily push through two full days of use in testing.

Unfortunately, some of the battery woes can be traced back to the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s processor. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 has been chewing through battery life on several devices launched in early 2022, with little hope of a remedy. It returned underwhelming results on Samsung’s other Galaxy S22 devices, and a massive battery isn’t enough to save the Ultra. The tendency to run hot means that once the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 kicks into high gear, there’s no good way to slow the battery drain outside of quickly toggling Power Saving.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra’s battery life is far from bad, but it’s one of the areas where the phone doesn’t live up to its “Ultra” moniker.

Design

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra back glass
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Yes, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is built to last, with premium materials and a durable design, but so is a tank. Unfortunately, the two are on equal footing when it comes to sex appeal, too.

Samsung’s wide, flat slab is devoid of almost any personality, and what it does have is entirely borrowed. Its size and shape are pulled from its Galaxy Note cousin, while the camera layout is nicked from its predecessor and slimmed down. There’s nothing inherently wrong with reusing design elements, like the built-in S Pen slot, but it’s also fair to expect unique and exciting features when dropping $1,200 on a smartphone.

It's not short on quality, but the Galaxy S22 Ultra's borrowed design misses the mark on personality over time.

Some of Samsung’s other style choices draw ire for the fact that they make life harder. The glossy frame, for example, is like a magnet when it comes to fingerprints. It picks up noticeable smudges from the minute you pick it up in the morning until the time you go to bed.

Then, there’s the waterfall display. Many of us at Android Authority have never been shy about airing our grievances against the design choice, but the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s curved display edges are more annoying than most. I found myself cleaning up multiple typos per day resulting from accidental button pushes along the edges of the keyboard. I’m willing to blame my fat fingers to some extent, but I’ve never had this much trouble on other waterfall panels like that of the Pixel 6 Pro.

That said, you might love the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s design. It’s tailor-made for power users and Galaxy Note fans, and you’ll probably end up slapping a case on it anyway.


Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review revisited: The verdict

samsung galaxy s22 ultra s pen
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

It’s not always easy for a smartphone to pull double duty. The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra had to satisfy fans of both the Galaxy S series and Galaxy Note series and it found a way to do so. All it took was throwing the kitchen sink at the problem and not cutting corners along the way.

Despite the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s few flaws — the battery life and relatively uninspired design — the flagship remains one of the best all-around phones you can buy right now. It’s built to last thanks to its mix of Gorilla Glass Victus Plus and Armor Aluminum with an IP68 rating on top and a long-term update commitment to match. Samsung’s productivity powerhouse offers far more than simple fan service to those missing the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, with in-depth S Pen integration and the return of a built-in housing. We’re still impressed by its all-star set of cameras, and 45W wired charging should be the baseline for flagships, not the outlier.

Samsung's Galaxy S22 Ultra still checks almost all of the boxes, and continues to live up to its sky-high billing well into 2022.

Despite all of that, the premium flagship market is incredibly competitive. It no longer takes $1,200 to get an excellent all-around device, as the Pixel 6 Pro ($677 at Amazon) demonstrates. Google’s flagship leapfrogs the Galaxy S22 Ultra for quick updates, and it offers image processing that’s among the best in the business — all for $300 less at MSRP. Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro Max ($1099 at Best Buy) is another premium option that undercuts the Galaxy S22 Ultra, though it requires a move to iOS. It pushes a smaller battery to incredible lengths thanks to impressive optimization and might be the one flagship to rival Samsung’s software commitment.

Fancy splashing even more cash? Where the Galaxy S22 Ultra is Samsung’s safe bet, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 ($1799.99 at Samsung) is where it looks to innovate with refinements to the folding form factor it has pioneered around the world. It’s certainly not cheap, the crease is still there, and the upgraded cameras aren’t quite as impressive as those on the Ultra, but if you’re looking to live life don’t the cutting edge, the Fold 4 is Samsung’s biggest and boldest play.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
Ultra-premium build quality • Gorgeous screen • Solid performance
Samsung has merged the Note and S series into one device
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra pushes productivity, power, and photography to the utmost to satisfy those seeking a premium experience. It combines outstanding performance, a stunning design, and an S Pen in one device.

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Is the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra still worth buying?

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