It might not be the biggest dog in the yard but it's got enough fight behind it to be worth betting on. Samsung's Galaxy S22 includes most of the hardware you'll find in its larger siblings and is, largely, an identical experience for almost R10k less than the price of the Ultra. But you're making do with a less impressive camera, so factor that in when you're making your purchase choice.
So you want in on Samsung’s newest crop but don’t have R28,000 to splash out on the Galaxy S22 Ultra. Maybe you’re on a budget, or maybe you’re just ambivalent about camera performance. In that case, the S22+ is also off the list. Time to examine the stock Galaxy S22, the only phone in the lineup that costs less than R20k.
As is usual with the only flagship lineups that matter, most of the specs are common throughout the range. If you’re looking for powerful, you’ve found it. There are a few concessions — the jump forward between generations isn’t as wide as we’d have liked, for one. It seems like the ongoing chip shortage may have a little to do with that. The result is an excellent device, but one that’s difficult to recommend if you grabbed a Galaxy S21 of any variety last year.
Looking a little green
Samsung might well be a victim of its own success here. When there’s a new device every year, you expect there to be some innovation when in reality it tends to be much more incremental. That’s the case with the Galaxy S22. There’s little change in terms of design compared to last year’s phones. The camera bump has been shaved a tad, and colour coded to fit in with Samsung’s new hues.
Otherwise, we’ve got the same flat-on-both-sides design. Rounded, sturdy edges hem in the glass (up front) and metal (rear), and it’s a good-looking phone. You’ll ruin those lines by putting it into a case, but it’s nice to see when it comes out of the box.
The standard physical buttons are on the upper-right edge, with all the other action taking place on the base. A USB-C charge port, SIM tray and the speaker grille all live here. We’ve seen it all before, but it all looks — and feels — very premium. You’re getting your money’s worth on the design front.
A rather sweet spot
This may well carry through to the Galaxy S22’s performance. Our review model arrived packing one of Samsung’s Exynos 2200 processors. It was a bugger to nail down exactly which chipset was inside, but the Xclipse 920 GPU was a bit of a giveaway. 8GB of RAM is standard across the two storage sizes. Technically, you can get the same power here as found in the Galaxy S22 Ultra‘s base model.
But the screen is, understandably, smaller. The S22 features a 6.1in 1,080 x 2,340 Super AMOLED panel that peaks at 1300 nits. It’s got a dynamic refresh rate of 120Hz, is layered over with Gorrila Glass Victus+ — it does all the right flagship things, in other words. And it looks the part too. In actual practice, the phone’s icons are crisp and clean and colours are bold. Staring at the screen feels like you’re gazing through a window into a magical kingdom. Thanks to the magic of the internet, that’s exactly how smartphones work. You get to choose if it’s dark or light magic, however.
Lack of vision
A little more magic would have been nice on the camera front. We’ve alluded to this already but, as Samsung phones go, the Galaxy S22 doesn’t feature the greatest camera hardware. You might not notice too much coming up from a Galaxy A or from another brand, but the S22 Ultra is streets ahead of the stock phone’s three camera sensors.
There’s a 50MP main sensor (f/1.8), a 10MP telephoto (f/2.4), and a 12MP ultra-wide (f/2.2) on the back, with a 10MP front-facer. Samsung offers 8K video recording (at 24fps), hitting all the other branches on the way down to 720p at 960fps. On paper, it’s not a bad bit of camera.
But you can certainly achieve better camera performance elsewhere. There’s noticeable vignetting when taking some shots, and low-light performance isn’t up to the standard Samsung itself has set with older phone models. Edges when shooting with even minor zoom start to break down and whipping out the 30x zoom — a pleasure on the company’s Ultra phones — sees the results being heavily over-processed. Software can only account for so much — even Samsung’s software, which is generally on the ball.
Business as usual
Everything else is what you’d expect from a Samsung phone. OneUI 4.0 and Android 12 are standard. The experience is identical across the whole Galaxy S22 range. Even the fact that you’ll find less than 12GB of RAM in this phone doesn’t result in anything like stutters or slowdown.
There’s only a 3,700mAh battery. Samsung’s taken (and then fixed) steps to optimise battery life in its phones and this one will last the day, with a little leftover. 25W fast-charging, while not up to the speeds of its Chinese counterparts, see Samsung’s phone top-up in an acceptable amount of time.
But you’re not getting much more than a charging cable in the box. Remember the days when you received headphones and a charge block with your R19,000 smartphone? We do too. Those were the days…
Samsung Galaxy S22 Verdict
Samsung’s Galaxy S22 isn’t the most powerful device on the company’s menu for 2022 but it’s also not far off either. It’s R9,000 cheaper than the S22 Ultra, too, and that makes a big difference when it comes to putting down your money. Of course, there are concessions made to skim the price down that much. Camera performance seems to be the main victim, but that’s never been a deal-breaker. If you’re more inclined to use your phone as a phone, or a portable computer that lives in your pocket, you might as well save some cash at the same time. Social butterflies and wannabe influencers, though, will want to look at the S22+ or Ultra instead.