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Galaxy S22 first impression: Samsung's new phone is stuck in the middle

One step above the Galaxy S21 FE, two steps below the Galaxy S22 Ultra.

Patrick Holland Managing Editor
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
Expertise Apple | iPhone | iOS | Android | Samsung | Sony | Google | Motorola | Interviews | Coffee equipment | Cats Credentials
  • Patrick's play The Cowboy is included in the Best American Short Plays 2011-12 anthology. He co-wrote and starred in the short film Baden Krunk that won the Best Wisconsin Short Film award at the Milwaukee Short Film Festival.
Patrick Holland
3 min read
Samsung S22

The new Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus retain the same design aesthetic as last year's S21 line.

Richard Peterson/CNET

With the release of the Galaxy S22, S22 Plus and S22 Ultra, Samsung cemented its flagship lineup for 2022. It was just a month ago when the South Korea-based phone maker launched the Galaxy S21 FE, a scaled-down, more affordable version of the Galaxy S21 (here's how the S22 compares to the S21 FE). On Wednesday during a virtual Samsung Unpacked event, Samsung announced the three new phones -- the Galaxy S22, S22 Plus and S22 Ultra -- along with the Galaxy Tab S8.

Read more: Where to buy Galaxy S22: Preorder deals for Samsung's newest phones

The new Galaxy S22 series brings a number of refinements and new features to the S22 and S22 Plus, but it isn't a drastic change from the S21 series. In terms of design and brand legacy, the Galaxy S22 Ultra underwent the most changes and adopted the design and functionality of the Galaxy Note line, which had its last phone launch in 2020.

Read more: Galaxy S22 Ultra: Samsung's $1,200 luxury phone fully replaces the Note

Galaxy S lineup prices compared

Phone Storage/RAMUS priceUK priceAU price
Galaxy S21 FE 128GB/6GB$700£699AU$1,000
Galaxy S22 128GB/8GB$800£769AU$1,249
Galaxy S22 Plus 128GB/8GB$1,000£949AU$1,549
Galaxy S22 Ultra 128GB/8GB$1,200£1,149AU$1,849

Essentially Samsung's current S series puts the Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus in a strange middle-child situation. At $800, the regular Galaxy S22 is $100 more than the $700 Galaxy S21 FE, which, again, is just a month old. That makes choosing between the two a tough decision.

In terms of what's new, the S22 and S22 Plus both get Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip in the US and other markets where Samsung's Exynos chip isn't available. The battery on both phones shrinks somewhat, but since both phones are running OneUI 4.1 on top of Android 12, the smaller batteries might not mean a dip in battery life.

Watch this: Samsung Galaxy S22 first look: Hands-on with all 3 new phones

The Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus retain a similar design to the S21 series with a camera bump that melts into the side. The S21's two-tone color scheme (which I rather liked) is less flashy on the S22. On the whole the body is millimeters smaller which gives the phones a slightly boxy feel. The back of the phone is glass instead of plastic.

The displays still have a 120Hz high-refresh rate, but at 6.1 inches for the S22 and 6.6 inches for the S22 Plus, they're a smidge smaller than their 2021 Galaxy predecessors. Both phones support 5G  and have an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance. The S22 Plus also has ultrawideband support for things like Samsung's Galaxy Tag Plus tracker.

In terms of cameras, the ultrawide, telephoto and selfie cameras are largely the same ones the S21 series had. The main camera now has a new 50-megapixel sensor instead of the 12-megapixel one found in the S21 and S21 Plus. The sensor not only has more pixels but is 23% bigger than the one in the S21. In terms of image quality we'll have to wait and see how it performs.

Galaxy S22 photos: Get a closer look at Samsung's new phones

See all photos

Samsung is touting improved low-light performance for both photos and videos and this is mainly due to processing. For photos, the entire S22 series uses a hybrid of pixel binning (combing multiple smaller pixels into a larger one) and high-resolution images to create photos with less image noise and better detail.

For video, Samsung is adopting something Apple does with the iPhone. In low-light situations it will automatically choose the ideal frame rate for the scene and can even change it while recording. The phones can also blend multiple exposures into a single video frame, which can help improve videos recorded in dimmer situations even more.

None of these upgrades seems out of the ordinary for a yearly phone release cycle. On paper the S22 and S22 Plus seem like respectable follow-ups to the S21 and S21 Plus. 

Check out the full specs of the Galaxy S22, S22 Plus and S22 Ultra below. For more comparisons, here are all the differences between the Galaxy S22 and the S21 (and the Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. the S21 Ultra), and how the Galaxy S22 stacks up to the iPhone 13 Pro and Pixel 6 Pro.

Specs: Samsung Galaxy S22, Galaxy S22 Plus, Galaxy S22 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S22 UltraSamsung Galaxy S22 PlusSamsung Galaxy S22
Display size, resolution 6.8 inches; QHD+6.6 inches; FHD+6.1 inches; FHD+
Pixel density TBDTBDTBD
Dimensions (millimeters) 77.9x163.3x8.9mm75.8x157.4x7.6mm70.6x146x7.6mm
Weight (grams, ounces) 229g, 8.1 oz196g, 6.9 oz168g, 5.9 oz
Mobile software Android 12Android 12Android 12
Camera Quad camera with 108MP wide, 12MP ultrawide, dual 10MP telephoto lensesTriple camera with 50MP wide, 12MP ultrawide and 10MP telephoto lensTriple camera with 50MP wide, 12MP ultrawide and 10MP telephoto lens
Front-facing camera 40MP10MP10MP
Video capture 8K at 24fps, 4K at 60fps8K at 24fps, 4K at 60fps8K at 24fps, 4K at 60fps
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
RAM/Storage 8GB RAM with 128GB internal storage 12GB RAM with 256GB internal storage 12GB RAM with 512GB internal storage 12GB RAM with 1TB internal storage8GB RAM with 128GB internal storage 8GB RAM with 256GB internal storage 8GB RAM with 128GB internal storage 8GB RAM with 256GB internal storage
Expandable storage NoneNoneNone
Battery/charger 5,000 mAh with up to 45W wired charging and 15W wireless charging4,500 mAh with up to 45W wired charging and 15W wireless charging3,700 mAh with 25W wired charging and 15W wireless charging
Fingerprint sensor Yes, ultrasonicYes, ultrasonicYes, ultrasonic
Headphone jack NoneNoneNone
Special features S Pen included, quad camera, ultrawideband location detection tech, 120Hz refresh rate screenTriple camera, ultrawideband location detection tech, 120Hz refresh rate screenTriple camera, 120Hz refresh rate screen
Price off-contract (USD) $1,200$1,000$800
Price (GBP) £1,149£949£769
Price (AUD) AU$1,849