Similar to the Tab S8 Ultra, I wanted to take a look at how well the Galaxy S22 Ultra performs in everyday life, rather than just a standard “review”. So buckle up, because it’s definitely a bumpy ride.
What I love about the Galaxy S22 Ultra
One of the main reasons I upgraded from the Galaxy Z Fold 2 to the Galaxy Z Fold 3 was the S Pen support. But before that, I had always been a huge fan of the Galaxy Note (RIP) range because of the included S Pen. And while I’ve owned a Galaxy S21 Ultra for a short period of time, there were a few times I wanted to use the S Pen just so it wasn’t with me. So it was only natural for me to come back to take it with me all the time. And as you might expect, it did not disappoint.
It’s not that I’m sitting with the S22 Ultra next to me at a desk and taking handwritten notes all day, because that’s what my actual notebook is for. But for those times when an idea pops into my head, or my wife asks me to remember to do something, I can just take out the S Pen, jot down what I need to remember, and go from there. It’s just something that pleases me with the quality of life, and I’m sure many others feel the same, my wife included with her S22 Ultra.
What stands out most about my time with one of the best phones of the year has nothing to do with the software features or even the improved camera system. It’s all about the design and the screen. Even with its massive 6.8-inch screen, the rounded edges make the Galaxy S22 Ultra more comfortable to hold and use on a daily basis, especially compared to the 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max. The difference is in the details, and Apple’s solid edges don’t make for a very enjoyable experience, no matter if you’re picking up the phone to answer a message or sitting back and scrolling through Twitter or Reddit.
And the screen is absolutely amazing. When Samsung announced the Ultra, I was skeptical about its ability to reach the 1,750 nits of advertised brightness. Of course, it’s not like I carry a lux meter with me, but I can clearly see what’s on the screen even when the sun is directly behind me and I’m wearing sunglasses. No other phone (I’ve used at least) offers this kind of ease of use, and it has become so invaluable to me.
There are still many disappointments
My biggest disappointment with the Galaxy S22 Ultra has nothing to do with the performance of the phone. Instead, it was the fact that in order to get the best combination of processor and RAM, you need to shell out an additional $100. Since I canceled my original pre-order I missed the free storage upgrade offer Samsung was on, but you live and learn. Of course, not everyone will need or want 12GB of RAM or 256GB of storage, but that just felt like Samsung was intentionally holding back its phone to get to a specific price point.
Well, with that being said, there have been a few other frustrating things that I’ve come across since switching to the Galaxy S22 Ultra. While I’m very happy that Samsung Good Lock offers more than the phone’s home screen customization options, it doesn’t match what you can do with a third-party launcher. There are quite a few loops that you need to jump through just to make sure that all of your icons are placed correctly when using different icon packs. Using a combination of Theme Park, Icon Pack Studio, and/or Shortcut Maker can solve this headache, but it’s frankly too cumbersome and annoying to use regularly.
So instead of sticking with Samsung’s One UI Launcher, I chose to switch to the Lawnchair Launcher, which is currently still in alpha. But then I had another series of issues, and this is an Android issue rather than a Samsung one. See, when a third-party launcher is set as the default gestures, multitasking gestures are practically disabled and it’s impossible to use them reliably. You can try to swipe up just to meet nothing, as nothing happens on your screen except moving the multitasking knob at the bottom.
As for Samsung’s credit, there’s little to no solution available, which again is thanks to Good Lock. One Hand Operation + is another one of those modules that allows for more customization than is already available in the “stock” version of One UI. So I was able to customize the gestures so I could actually toggle the display of the app switcher instead of just forcing me to use the built-in launcher.
But Samsung isn’t completely out of the woods here. Although a lot of tools are offered to actually make my phone usable, that means you should miss out on the other features. For example, the new Smart Widgets feature introduced with the Galaxy S22 lineup is not available on third-party players. I certainly understand why this happens, but if Samsung simplified the ability to set custom icon packs on your home screen, I wouldn’t feel the need to use a third-party launcher. But here we are.
Camera is embarrassing
When I say the camera is embarrassing, I’m not talking about the device itself. Samsung is the best in the business when it comes to pure camera hardware on the Android side of the world. And in many cases, the Galaxy S22 Ultra can easily outperform the iPhone 13 Pro Max just for the inclusion of two additional cameras. We’ve already touched on how well the S22 Ultra does, especially when compared to the Pixel 6 Pro and where Google’s software prowess is a different kind of competition.
The camera hardware has already been proven to be incredible, so what’s my problem?
Holy crap, Samsung’s stock app is horrible to use. If you’re trying to take a picture of something that isn’t moving, and you don’t, that’s fine. It is a nice. It is a nice. It is a phenomenon. But good luck trying to catch something, anything that moves in the least. Samsung shutter lag is a distasteful thing that needs to be resolved ASAP. I mean, like yesterday. It is very frustrating to try to take a quick photo, only to move the subject or even something in the background. The end result is a completely unusable image, and despite Samsung’s frequent “camera improvements” updates, nothing has changed. It’s the same experience it had today when the phone was originally launched.
Next up is Space Zoom and using the program’s 100x magnification. Don’t use it. Well, don’t try to use it for anything other than motion as the software can’t try to force a photo to make it look like you took a picture of the moon from your phone. I’ve tried using this in different scenarios, and the end result is an image that looks like a really bad watercolor. Of course, this isn’t necessary for the overall experience of using the S22 Ultra, but it’s definitely something you might think is great only to find that the photos are unusable. Plus, it’s still really scary.
Possibilities, endings and final thoughts
During my time with the Galaxy S22 Ultra there were a few things that would have made their way into this piece in a negative connotation, but they have since been remedied. We’ll start with the battery, which is pretty frustrating, but I’m going to asterisk this because I spoiled the multi-day battery the S22 Ultra offers. The day before I wrote this, I started my day with a Galaxy S22 Ultra that woke me up at 7:30 AM, and the day ended around 11:30 PM before I hit the straw. The screen came on time in less than 3 hours, but the phone still had 20% juice left, so I could definitely push that a bit higher if I needed to.
But there’s a secret to the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s battery life, pretty much any Android phone you might consider. Turn off 5G. seriously. Even if you’re connected to Wi-Fi all day, the battery will still drain faster. In another example, I started the day around 9 am and spent time with my friends traveling to a semi-local ice cream shop during the day.
By 4pm my battery was drained to 30% and that was because the S22 Ultra was constantly looking for a 5G signal. Meanwhile, even if I use Google Maps to traverse the two hours between my home and Baltimore, my iPhone 13 Pro Max still works easily at the end of the day. I don’t know if any Android phone maker can do something to come close to what Apple does, but it looks like the iPhone will be battery king for a long time.
Finally, I wanted to talk a little bit about software updates. Samsung has pretty much outperformed Google in this department, as there aren’t as many bugs found in the Galaxy S22 Ultra as we saw with the Pixel 6 Pro. But there was one mistake that made me throw my phone in a drawer so I would never see it again. I was using the S Pen to try to customize my home screen (drag widgets with thick fingers is not easy). But the S Pen will stop working completely.
Recognized by the phone, the little Air Command icon was still there, but actually using the S Pen to interact with the screen was so inconsistent that I gave up using it entirely. Low and lo and behold, there was a software update available that I didn’t see any of those fixed issues seeming to pop up out of nowhere. This is just one of the reasons why it is so easy to recommend the Galaxy S22 or even the Galaxy S21 to anyone, as Samsung continues to impress when it comes to software updates and bug fixes.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed using the Galaxy S22 Ultra as my daily driver. There are many reasons why you might not want to get one yourself, but if you really want the best that your Android phone has to offer, this is the way to go. It can get expensive, but Samsung offers some amazing business deals that slash $1,000 off the price if you’re trading a Galaxy Z Fold 3 or Galaxy S21 Ultra. But chances are, the carrier you choose also offers some kind of trade promotion if you want to go the subsidized route.
Samsung does a great job of making it very difficult for other phone makers to compete and compete here in the US. And while this still grinds gears endlessly, the truth is that Samsung is pulling all the right threads to try to please everyone.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
If you want the best that Android has to offer, the Galaxy S22 Ultra truly offers the ‘kitchen sink’ approach. The combination of amazing hardware with greatly improved Samsung software makes for a great experience.