Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra eats the S Pen to finally bury Note

As smartphone strategies go, Samsung's Galaxy S22 Ultra is pretty obvious in its recipe for success. Having insisted for years that there's light between the Galaxy S and the Galaxy Note series, 2022 sees Samsung relent and finally bring the two together. The result is an S Pen toting, Super AMOLED flaunting, productivity boosting behemoth, with the specs – and price tag – to match.

Samsung flirted with S Pen support with 2021's Galaxy S21 Ultra but, with no place to store the stylus in the phone itself, it always felt like an afterthought. This time around there's a dedicated S Pen silo, the pen slotting into the bottom of what's clearly a heavily Note-inspired design.

Making it far more likely that you'll have the S Pen with you is a good start. Samsung is also tweaking its performance: a claimed 70% lower latency, for example, trimming it from 9 ms to around 2.8 ms so as to feel even more like actual pen and ink. The new algorithm can now anticipate the direction in which you're writing or drawing, while Samsung's software can now convert handwriting to text in 88 languages. There's also new Quick Note support, and the ability to save notes into Office documents or Outlook emails.

The screen itself is a 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2x 120Hz panel, supporting adaptive refresh rates: that means it can switch to lower speeds to save power, depending on what's on-screen. It has a peak brightness of 1,750 nits, but arguably more useful is Samsung's Vision Booster. That adjusts screen tone and contrast according to the ambient lighting conditions, promising to improve visibility beyond just cranking up the display brightness.

There's an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor built into the screen, too, along with Samsung Knox security. For physical protection there's there's Gorilla Glass Victus+ front and back, and the whole thing measures a not-insignificant 77.9 x 163.3 x 8.9 mm and weighs 229 grams. A 5,000 mAh battery supports up to 45W wired charging, 15W wireless charging, and Wireless PowerShare. That means 20 minutes of wired charging should be enough for 50% more power, which is solid though a far cry from the significantly faster rates we've seen other Android phones embrace over the past couple of years.

Galaxy S22 Ultra cameras

Unsurprisingly, Samsung is pushing the Galaxy S22 Ultra's camera tech hard: there are five sensors overall. On the back, there's a 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera (f/2.2 and 120-degree field-of-view), a 108-megapixel wide camera (Dual Pixel AF, f/1.8, and 85-degree FoV), a 10-megapixel telephoto for 3x optical zoom (f/2.4 and 36-degree FoV), and a 10-megapixel telephoto for 10x optical zoom (f/4.9 and 11-degree FoV).

With AI Super Resolution trickery, Samsung can coax out a 100X Space Zoom, though we'll need some hands-on time to see if the results are more than just a marketing gimmick. The front gets a 40-megapixel camera (f/2.2 and 80-degree FoV).

Smartphone photography, of course, is as much about software as it is hardware these days. Samsung says that its primary sensor is 23% larger than before, and combines that with enhanced AI high-resolution processing that – by capturing 4x more data – can deliver a significant bump to night shots. There's improvements to Super HDR, too, which blends data from multiple exposures into a single frame.

Low light photos and videos are where the Galaxy S22 Ultra might shine brightest, in fact. Adaptive Pixel Technology, for example, combines a re-mosaic mode and a binning mode to condense 9 pixels-worth of data into a single pixel, improving detail and brightness. Portrait mode uses a new AI Stereo Depth Map for better subject selection – down, Samsung says, to distinguishing a single strand of hair from the background – in both stills and videos, across day and night use, and for both the front and rear cameras. Pet Portrait mode should also be more precise.

If you'd rather take charge yourself, though, there's now a new Expert RAW camera app. Separate from the primary camera app – which still offers a Pro mode with more room for settings tinkering – Expert RAW allows adjustment of ISO, shutter speed, white balance, and focus, and as the name suggests can capture up to 16-bit RAW images. Those can be exported directly into Lightroom, or other compatible apps.

Advanced Auto Framing, meanwhile, is used for video (unfortunately only up to 1080p resolution, cropping the S22 Ultra's otherwise 8K maximum). It can detect up to 10 subjects with the frame, optimize focus and zoom level to keep them all in the shot, and then track them intelligently; you can manually override who you want included. Finally, there are improvements in the Super Steady system, with OIS covering a larger correction angle and the AI better at predicting movements to compensate for.

Galaxy S22 Ultra productivity

Out of the box, the Galaxy S22 Ultra will run Android 12 with Samsung's own One UI 4.1 interface. The company is committing to up to four generations of Android OS upgrade, however.

One UI 4.1 introduces a new privacy dashboard, along with indicators to show when different apps and services are accessing things like the camera or your location. There's app-by-app permissions for allowing or denying that, while Knox Vault is used to keep passwords, biometrics, and blockchain keys separate from the primary memory.

Samsung is debuting its new Samsung Wallet on the Galaxy S22 series. Initially that'll go live with digital ID later in 2022, along with boarding pass and ticket storage that will launch in South Korea initially. It'll also be able to hold things like digital keys and vaccination cards.

There'll also be custom integrations with Google Duo for Live Sharing. That will be exclusive to Samsung devices – initially the Galaxy S22 series, though with other models to follow – with support for up to Full HD video in 1:1 calls, and QHD for group calls of up to four participants. There'll also be audio improvements, like noise reduction and video audio share, and quick shortcuts to certain apps for sharing like Samsung Notes, Samsung Gallery, YouTube, Google Maps, and Jamboard.

For connectivity, there's 5G, WiFi 6E, and Bluetooth 5.2. The Galaxy S22 Ultra will support dual SIM in the US, with one physical slot and an eSIM.

Galaxy S22 Ultra pricing and availability

The Galaxy S22 Ultra starts at $1,199.99, in Phantom Black, Phantom White, Green, and Burgundy. The entry-level model has 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage; there are also configurations with 12GB/256GB, 12GB/512GB, and 12GB/1TB. Below you'll also see the rest of the Samsung Galaxy S22 handset family.

Preorders for the Galaxy S22 Ultra open today, February 9, 2022. Deliveries start February 25th. Those who preorder the 128GB or 256GB versions of the phone will get upgraded to the next storage tier; preorder customers can also get up to 25% off the purchase of a new Galaxy Tab S8 Series tablet.