Samsung, I better see these Galaxy S22 upgrades today
Commentary: Rumors say Samsung's new phone may look exciting, but I have my own Galaxy S22 wishlist.
Andrew LanxonEditor At Large, Lead Photographer, Europe
Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.
Here then, are my top five wishes for the Galaxy S22.
1. The Galaxy S22 needs a better camera
The camera on the S21 Ultra is superb, with an awesome optical zoom that lets you get shots that few other phones can. But it wasn't a big upgrade over the S20. Both had 100x zooms, both did 8K video, both had 108-megapixel sensors. The S20 Ultra was the big leap forward, the S21 Ultra just refined it slightly. It's time, then, for a bigger update, and some early rumors suggest a 200-megapixel sensor and much-improved zoom systems on the S22 Ultra.
That would be lovely, but more megapixels doesn't necessarily mean better photos, so I'd also like to see an even bigger image sensor -- maybe a 1-inch sensor. It's no secret that a bigger image sensor allows for better dynamic range in a photo. If Samsung paired that resolution with a big sensor capable of capturing tons of light and contrast details it could have an absolutely astonishing camera system on its hands.
But Samsung needs to make sure its software is on point too. There are more advances needed to allow for improved computational photography and better raw image capture. Apple's ProRaw has blown me away: It can capture beautiful HDR images that still give me full control over editing in apps like Adobe Lightroom, just as I would with any raw file from a DSLR. Samsung's software isn't quite at that level and I'd like to see more focus here.
2. Samsung, please give us expandable storage back
Samsung used to allow you to expand the base storage of its phones with microSD cards, but it removed that option with the S21 range. This means you're stuck with only the phone's built-in storage.
That might not be an issue on lower models in the range, particularly if you don't shoot a lot of video or play many demanding games, but if you're into your photos and videos and you plumped for the Ultra model, that base storage can be limiting. If you shoot 8K videos on the S21 Ultra you'll know that you can fill up that storage quickly -- and it'll go even faster if Samsung brings 200-megapixel photos to the S22. I can't even begin to imagine how big those files might be. The 512GB maximum storage currently available on the S21 Ultra won't last long.
Even if you're not into photography, there are plenty of glossy games in the Google Play store (such as Asphalt 9: Legends) that are multiple gigabytes in size and may result in you having to delete other apps or media in order to make room.
Popping in a microSD card would allow you to dramatically increase the storage by 1TB or more, which would give a huge amount of space for all your apps and videos. But then Samsung wouldn't be able to charge you extra for a higher-capacity model, so don't hold your breath for this one.
3. The Galaxy S22 should have dedicated AMD graphics
The S21 series already offers superb performance all around, but a partnership between Samsung and graphics chip manufacturer AMD has us hoping for a big leap forward in graphics power for gaming applications. This partnership actually happened back in 2019, but so far Samsung hasn't stuffed any kind of AMD hardware into its phones.
I'd love to see dedicated AMD graphics on the S22 line that push the boundaries of what we expect from mobile gaming. Sure, some phone games already come close to rivaling the quality you'd expect on older consoles, but if Samsung and AMD could give that processing power a big push forward, it could allow for a lot more console-standard games to make their way to phones, turning your handset into a capable mobile games console.
4. I want a smaller Galaxy phone
Today's top-end phones with the best specs around are, let's face it, huge. The S21 Ultra measures a whopping 6.8 inches, while even Apple's iPhone 12 Pro Max comes in at 6.68 inches. That means that if you want the best performance and the best camera, you've got to be prepared to stretch out those jeans pockets to accommodate a massive slab of a phone. And maybe start doing some thumb exercises to help them reach across the screen.
I'd love to see smaller versions of this phone -- 6 inches or under -- that don't force you to compromise on performance. There are rumors suggesting the base S22 models might get a little reduction in screen size, which is great news if you have smaller hands, but there's unlikely to be any real size reduction in the top-end Ultra model. So yet again we'll likely be in a situation where buying a smaller phone size means missing out on those top-end features. Excuse me while I go and sew expansion panels into my pockets.
5. The S22's price needs to be more affordable
Sure, we all want the best tech and we want it wrapped up in a slick design, packed with cool new features. But we also want it to be affordable. That's a difficult combination to achieve, but Samsung did manage to make its S21 range cheaper than the preceding S20 series. It needed to, as the S20 series didn't sell well, in part due to financial uncertainty around COVID-19.
Samsung employed a range of tactics to make the S21 range more affordable, including swapping out the glass backs on some models for strengthened plastic. And you know what? It worked. It also knocked a decent amount off the asking price. While the base Galaxy S20 went on sale for $1,000, the base S21 undercut that at $800. So I'm keen to see similar decisions being made with the S22 that will allow for a great all-round mobile experience at an approachable price.
So what I'm asking for is a super powerful, AMD-equipped phone with the world's best camera that'll also fit comfortably in the palm of my hand, that's reasonably priced and lets me expand the storage on the cheap. That's not too much to ask, is it, Samsung? Come on, guys, step up.