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Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra is a Note by another name

It gains an on-board stylus, plus some incremental hardware and software upgrades

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The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra has shaped up to be everything that leaks, hints, and speculation indicated it would be: a Samsung Galaxy Note, minus the Note branding. It offers a 6.8-inch screen, a built-in S pen stylus, a boatload of cameras, a $1,199 price tag, and a boxy shape straight from the Galaxy Note series.

In addition to the stylus silo, the S22 Ultra gains some incremental camera upgrades for low light and portrait photography, faster wired charging (adapter sold separately, of course), and all the latest components you’d expect to find on a 2022 flagship. And it’s altogether a device that looks worthy of that flagship title — at least as far as Samsung’s non-folding phones are concerned.

Aside from the stylus and a slight design shift, the S22 Ultra is an evolutionary update to the S21 Ultra. Naturally, it replaces last year’s top-shelf Qualcomm chip with the newest version: the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in the US (other parts of the world may have a 4nm Exynos chipset). Its 6.8-inch OLED still features a 120Hz variable refresh rate, but it can reach an even higher 1,750 nit peak brightness if you are in direct sunlight.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra has a large, 6.8-inch screen
The Galaxy S22 Ultra has a large, 6.8-inch screen
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge
The Galaxy S22 Ultra sheds the camera bump in favor of a minimalist design.
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Other spec upgrades include Gorilla Glass Victus Plus on the front and back panels, boosted 45W fast wired charging (wireless remains 15W), and a variant with a massive 1TB storage capacity. There’s a 5,000mAh battery, 5G and Wi-Fi 6 / Wi-Fi 6E, and, naturally, IP68 weather resistance.

Samsung’s software support policy is also getting a little better with the S22 generation, too. It’s promising at least four generations of Android OS updates, which is one better than the three OS updates it previously guaranteed for S-series devices and matches its current four-year policy for security updates.

But the stylus! Samsung has done more than just add a silo and call it a day — S pen latency has been improved from 9 milliseconds to 2.8 milliseconds. It felt very responsive in our (thus far) brief experience with the phone, if not life-changing. Samsung says the algorithm that predicts the path a user will draw with the pen has also been improved and that its handwriting recognition rate is higher (and includes a dozen more languages). The S22 Ultra also supports S pen air actions, like flipping through your photo gallery or controlling the phone’s camera remotely, without touching the screen.

Samsung says the S22 series’ night photography capabilities have improved, including the ability to take portrait mode photos in low light.
Image: Samsung

Camera specs on the S22 Ultra are similar to its predecessor — you’re still getting a 108-megapixel main camera, 3x and 10x telephoto cameras, a 12-megapixel ultrawide, and a 40-megapixel selfie camera. Instead, improvements are largely focused around low-light photo and video capabilities. It’s now possible to take night mode portraits, and users can capture high-resolution night mode shots — previously, you could either take a high-res or a night mode shot, not both at once. On the Ultra, the result is a 108-megapixel image that incorporates the added light-gathering benefits of pixel-binning technology; on the S22 and S22 Plus, you get a 50-megapixel image.

Samsung is claiming some impressive updates to portrait mode depth mapping, too. The company says that thanks to processing improvements, the S22 series can better identify subjects and separate them from the background — down to the level of individual strands of hair. That’s a real feat if true, but we remain skeptical. In any case, the improvements aren’t limited to human subjects — Samsung says that pet portrait mode photos are better now, too.

Expert RAW, an app that Samsung made available for the S21 Ultra late last year in beta, is making its full debut on the S22 series. It can be used across all of the S22 Ultra’s rear cameras and allows for capture of computational RAW images — combining the benefits of multi-frame capture with the post-processing flexibility of RAW shooting. It also provides access to manual exposure controls like ISO and shutter speed.

The Ultra will be sold in burgundy, white, and black color options.
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Equipped with its stylus, the S22 Ultra is re-writing (sorry) Samsung’s definition of a flagship S series device. It’s not hard to find a pricey phone that checks all of the boxes that Ultra checks: big screen, top-shelf processor, advanced camera system. By condensing the Note and S series, Samsung gives the Ultra a feature to stand apart from the other big-screen, high-performance phones from the likes of Apple, Google, and OnePlus. Do high-end phone shoppers actually want a stylus with their device? Samsung is betting that they do — at least until its foldables really take off.

Fans of non-folding stylus phones can preorder the S22 Ultra from Samsung starting today in phantom black, phantom white, green, or a new burgundy color. The device goes on sale February 25th in 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB variants. The 128GB model has 8GB of RAM; all others include 12GB.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra is a large phone.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra is a large phone.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge
The Galaxy S22 Ultra next to the regular Galaxy S22
The Galaxy S22 Ultra next to the regular Galaxy S22
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge
The Galaxy S22 Ultra has an S-Pen stylus built-in.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra has an S-Pen stylus built-in.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge
The Galaxy S22 Ultra, front and back
The Galaxy S22 Ultra, front and back
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge


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