By most accounts, last year’s Galaxy S21 lineup didn’t measure up to Samsung’s sales expectations. Flanked by more Android competition than ever before, the S21 and S21 Plus struggled to stand out on their own merits. It didn’t help matters that Samsung gave the base model a “cheap” first impression by using plastic materials on the back instead of glass.
So with the new Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus announced today, the company is trying to right some of those wrongs and re-establish these as premium, dependable, flagship-grade smartphones — even if they lack the Note DNA of the S22 Ultra.
Unlike that device, these bear a closer resemblance to last year’s phones with slight design refinements. The screens — 6.1 inches on the S22, 6.6 inches on the Plus, and both at 2340x1080 resolution — are flat on both models.
The “contour” camera housing now matches the phone’s overall color instead of contrasting with it, like on the purple S21. And Samsung is the first phone maker to use Gorilla Glass Victus Plus, which is on the front and back of both the regular S22 and S22 Plus; there’s no more “glastic” to cheapen the feel.
Both phones will come in black, white, green, and what Samsung calls pink gold. They go up for preorder today and will be available February 25th. The Galaxy S22 starts at $799.99, with the S22 Plus priced at $999.99. Both come with 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. A higher-capacity 256GB model will also be offered, but it sticks with the same amount of RAM.
Among all of the usual spec upgrades, Samsung is putting the biggest spotlight on camera performance. The main 50-megapixel camera has a 23 percent larger sensor than what was inside the S21. Both phones also have 10MP telephoto (with 3x optical zoom) and 12MP ultra-wide cameras. Samsung claims to have made huge strides in night-time photography and says those photos will now be more detailed. Part of this is also due to pixel binning — you’re still getting 12MP images out of the primary camera — and Samsung’s “adaptive pixel technology.”
The company is also touting major improvements to portrait shots and says it can now distinguish individual strands of hair to keep a subject in focus and more accurately blur the background. Hair and glasses remain a challenge for phone cameras and fake bokeh, so I’ll believe this when I see it.
The displays on the S22 and S22 Plus have a max refresh rate of 120Hz but can dial down to 10Hz depending on the content on-screen to conserve battery. Samsung says they use a new “vision booster” algorithm to maintain clarity and color saturation even in bright conditions. The S22 Plus has the same peak brightness as the Ultra — 1,750 nits — but you can only reach that in direct sunlight. (The S22 has a lower peak of 1,300 nits.)
Both phones are powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor in the United States — Qualcomm’s 4-nanometer chip — but, as usual, will contain Samsung’s own Exynos chips in some international markets. They’ll run Android 12 and Samsung’s OneUI 4.1 out of the box.
Unsurprisingly, there’s a significant difference in battery capacity between the two: the S22 has a 3,700mAh battery, while the Plus ups that to 4,500mAh. So it’s pretty clear which of them will be the endurance champ. Charging speed is also slower on the smaller S22, which is limited to 25-watt wired charging, whereas the Plus can hit 45 watts; both top out at 15W on wireless chargers.
At first glance, the S22 and S22 Plus aren’t a major change in direction or design from last year. It’s not clear whether these improvements will boost consumer interest in meaningful ways. But there’s something to be said about Samsung’s expertise, premium displays, and reliable user experience. Sure, you can buy a Pixel 6 for $599, but its OLED panel isn’t on the same level as Samsung’s, and Google’s going through a rough patch of sorts with software right now. Meanwhile, Samsung just upped its software commitment to four years of major OS updates. That extended support timeframe applies to these S22s, but also last year’s S21 lineup and others like the Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3.
Stay tuned for our full review of the Galaxy S22 Plus coming soon.
Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge