Screens that cascade over the edge like a waterfall, cameras with adjustable apertures, iffy retina scanners – Samsung is no stranger to adding oddball features to it’s Galaxy line of phones to see what sticks. The S22 is almost strange in that it doesn’t really have a novel tentpole feature. Instead of focusing on a party trick this year, the S22 phones are refreshingly regular. It makes for a dependable default, the kind of phone that does most everything well without being weighed down by extra guff. It’s got everything most people could want out of a phone, and should last a long time doing it.
The screen is the first thing that hits you with this phone. It’s bright, vivid and fast. It’s a 6.6 inch 1080p AMOLED with a 120Hz refresh rate that makes scrolling loaded feeds look smoother than on standard screens and text and images easier to see clearly while scrolling. By default the screen is a bit too vivid for my tastes, like a TV in a shop that’s got all it’s colours turned up to max – but thankfully you can switch it to a ‘Natural’ colour profile in settings. A feature that almost feels silly to mention but makes a world of difference is that the screen on the S22+ is totally flat. Your content is all visible, no awkward reflections or content flowing over the edge, and you won’t have to spend absurd amounts to get decent screen protectors. It’s a return to normal that I’m glad Samsung chose to make.
The S22+ is a big phone, but it’s design makes it as easy to hold as I could imagine for a phone of this size. The flat screen means you’re not worrying about false touches while trying to hold it and the subtly curved side rails make for a phone that nestles comfortably into the hand. It’s rather fetching in looks as well. The camera bump is integrated into the side rail in a way that looks like it’s properly part of the phone rather than kinda bolted on like the cameras of many other flagships.
That camera takes fairly fantastic photos. Using a technique Samsung calls Adaptive Pixel it takes adjacent pixels from the 50 megapixel sensor and combines them in to one – letting each of these combined pixels take in more light when needed to get a brighter, more pleasing and more detailed 12MP picture. You can choose to take full 50MP photos if you want to, but this will result in worse performance in lower light and much, much larger files. All this is when using the middle ‘Wide’ camera, there is also a 12MP Ultrawide camera for when you want to capture more of a scene, and a 10MP 3x Telephoto lens for when you just can’t get close enough to a subject and need to zoom in.
Each of the lenses is capable of the Night Mode photography feature, and I found this resulted in pleasing low-light shots as long as the subject was relatively still. Shots from the 10MP selfie camera on the front are crisp and detailed too, once you turn off the default smoothing filters. The video camera can record in 4K at 60 frames per second, as well as a wild 8K at 24 frames per second. There does seem to be a bit of shutter lag which is unfortunate. It’s tiny, but can make it feel like you’re missing a shot even if you tapped the shutter at the right time.
The heart behind all this screen and camera is more than powerful enough to keep things moving at a good pace. I never noticed the phone missing frames, navigation was silky smooth. Playing games like Legends of Runeterra or Need for Speed No Limits never seemed to stress the phone out. With this high performance chip I was worried the battery life might take a hit, but I found it able to get through a day of my very heavy usage pattern of constant music streaming over mobile to bluetooth, some occasional gaming and scrolling social feeds, and not hit the 20% mark until I’d had about 4-5 hours of screen time. I found it lasts an extra couple of hours compared to my year-old iPhone 12 Pro, which is not entirely surprising given how much bigger it is but a useful point of reference nonetheless.
One thing I was looking forward to most was the nice level of customisation offered by OneUI and Android 12 with ‘Material You’. The idea is that you can coordinate your interface and icon colours with your wallpaper so it looks cohesive and really yours. In my experience, this works well enough but not quite as well as I’d hoped it would. It themes standard Android elements wonderfully – the Quick Setting pull down, dialer and supported apps will all take on your chosen colour palette. Unfortunately the option to theme app icons doesn’t work nearly as well since almost no third party apps support it. Material You doesn’t quite live up to the promises it makes of personalising your entire phone, but it is lovely to have supported apps and screens all consistently coloured according to your chosen vibe.
With all that said, none of the issues I found with this phone stop me from thoroughly recommending it. If you want a reliable, powerful Android phone that looks stylish, takes fantastic photos, has battery to last most of the day and runs everything you throw at it without breaking a sweat, the Galaxy S22+ is an impressive option. It's boring in the best kind of way, the kind of phone I think almost anyone would be happy with.