Another year, another phone, as Samsung updates its Galaxy range once again. Is the Galaxy S22+ the phone to consider, or does it still need work?
Taking a familiar design but updating it slightly, the Samsung Galaxy S22+ isn’t going to totally surprise if you’ve seen last year’s model, the S21, but it is a pleasing look all the same.
It’s a similar style of device, but with a more obvious and firm metal band around the sides, which in our model was a 7.6mm gold band that helped it look shiny and schmick. That band curves slightly, and isn’t quite like the flat edge on Apple’s iPhone 13 or iPhone 13 Pro, so don’t expect to stand up the S22+ quite so easily on its own.
The front is unsurprisingly all glass for the 6.6 inch screen, while the back feels like glass, as well, distinct from the plastic we found on the S21 in last year.
Underneath, Australian Samsung S22+ owners are in for a bit of a surprise, because while we normally get Samsung’s own Exynos chips for our models, this year we’re getting what American S22 models receive: Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1.
That’s a huge change for Australia, which normally joins the rest of the world in being distinct from the US, differing from what we expected: Samsung’s Exynos 2200.
But with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in this model, things should be solid all the same, with the eight-core chip paired with 8GB RAM and either 128GB or 256GB storage, the latter of which is fixed and doesn’t support a microSD card for storage.
Google’s Android 12 arrives on the S22+ out of the box, and you’ll find Bluetooth 5, 802.11ax WiFi 6, Near-Field Communication (NFC), Samsung’s Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST), and support for both 4G and 5G, as well. That handles wireless connections, and there’s only one wired connection: the USB Type C port at the bottom of the phone for charging, data, display out, and plugging headphones in if you still use wired headphones.
There are also three cameras on the back of the S22+, set up in the standard traffic light design Samsung introduced last year, offering a new 50 megapixel standard wide F1.8, a 12 megapixel ultra-wide F2.2, and a 10 megapixel 3X telephoto camera set to F2.4, with optical image stabilisation supported on Samsung’s cameras. Support for 8K video is found on that big 50 megapixel camera, while 4K video is found on the rest, and there’s even support for HDR video (HDR10+) if you need it.
At the front, there’s just the one camera, a 10 megapixel selfie camera set to F2.2.
All of this sits under the 6.6 inch screen on the Galaxy S22+, a Full HD+ panel running at 2340×1080 with a 120Hz refresh rate and support for HDR10+. There’s even a fingerprint sensor built into the screen.
And it comes with a 4500mAh battery supporting both wired and wireless charging, with an IP68 water resistant design.
With a design that doesn’t change things too dramatically comes an operating system that you may be quite familiar with, and one we like.
Google’s Android 12 arrives on the S22+ out of the box, and with it Samsung’s One UI, which delivers a nice, clean, and simple style for Android, with a look and feel that’s easy to use.
Some of the customisation elements from Android 12 are also here, something you can find if you decide to change your wallpaper, with colour accents able to be derived from your image choice, applying a rough look and feel from your wallpaper to the rest of the look of Android.
It’s cute and cool, and helps make the experience of owning a unique phone just that much better overall.
Using the phone is pretty easy, too, though unlocking the S22 can be hit and miss at times.
As usual, our experience with a screen-based fingerprint sensor is hit and miss, but there is at least a facial security camera to let you in, so even if one doesn’t work all of the time, the camera lets you in the other.
Armed with that Gen 1 Snapdragon 8 and 8GB RAM, the S22+ is unsurprisingly no slouch, delivering super swift speed in almost everything you do. Run an app and it’s good, with much the same as you multitask like a champion, and there’s even some quick WiFi and net connectivity, too.
While we couldn’t quite test 5G on Australian Galaxy S22+ review models — more on that later — the 4G speeds we were able to find on Telstra’s network in Sydney were still acceptably strong, and suggest there’s plenty of mobile speed in the S22+ to go along with the system speed.
More than the speed, however, the camera is one area that we expect people to really pay close attention to when they consider a new phone this year. It’s one of those main areas everyone looks at when a new model is out, and in the S22+, it’s an area Samsung has made some changes in.
Like last year, there’s a combination of an ultra-wide, regular wide, and 3X telephoto, so the concept hasn’t changed, but the main camera has. Kinda sorta.
You’ll find a 50 megapixel camera instead of the 12 megapixel in last year’s iteration, which isn’t quite the 108 megapixel of the S22 Ultra, but is a little better than simply 12. However, it will still likely capture at 12, downsampling from that big sensor to something a little easier to share.
It’s an improvement, for sure, and one that delivers some decent images, even if the camera can be slow.
You’ll find nice results in daylight, provided the shot fires on time, though it doesn’t always hit that mark. Whether you decide to get a little close with the 3X telephoto or back a bit in the ultra-wide, you’ll find pictures that work, though the 50 megapixel is where all the action is.
The 50 megapixel camera is certainly decent, and even offers some interesting choices for portrait photos, allowing you to play with the background in cute and fun ways. The software isn’t quite like what you can find on the iPhone, which offers a more photographic inspired approach, but it’s still fun all the same.
Samsung has also improved the low-light performance, but it’s not a staggering improvement that can really push the edge against the competition. The results are good, but the details aren’t always super sharp, and that’s kind of true even when the lights are on at times.
The results from the camera will be good enough for most, but for the year’s flagship, we’re just hopeful for that little bit more.
Armed with a 4500mAh battery, the S22+ won’t win any major awards for its battery life, but in fairness to Samsung, after a couple of days of use, it also didn’t fare too badly.
Last year’s S22 achieved about a day of life, delivering a full day but not much more. In the S22+, you’ll find something close to that plus a little more, but only after you’ve spent some time using the phone.
Our first few days with the S22+ found the battery needing a charge nightly, and then once Android’s battery learning kicked in, we found we could get a little more life out of the phone.
Granted, you’ll still likely want to charge the S22+ nightly, because that little bit extra is likely to only be a few hours, but if you had to have a night on the town, you could get by on the Galaxy S22+ without reaching for a charging cable. You know, if you had to.
The price is the other aspect pulling the S22+ together, which offers acceptable value, but nothing mind-blowing.
With high-end phones regularly hitting it out past the thousand dollar mark, the $1549 price in Australia for the S22 Plus isn’t a total shock, which isn’t necessarily a winner of the value argument, but isn’t a total loss, either. This just normal these days.
What needs work?
While the Galaxy S22+ is a decent update, it’s one that lacks something we actually expected: an updated 5G technology called “mmWave”.
It’s not a deal breaker at all, but it is something Google included on last year’s Pixel 6 Pro, and that we expected on more devices this year, starting with Samsung’s latest. The technology is basically an improvement on what 5G can do, delivering faster speeds than the 2Gbps maximum the sub-6 technology can offer, which is already plenty fast.
The lack of mmWave isn’t a big issue, but is a surprise, and something we wish Samsung had catered for.
Our biggest issue is actually with the camera speed of the S22+, which is much slower than we could have wanted.
Even though the Galaxy S22+ sports a good 8GB RAM and a fast Snapdragon chip, we found the camera would often take one to three seconds to fire a shot, resulting in missed shots and opportunities.
It was not the sort of performance you expect from a phone retailing for over a thousand dollars, and a genuine surprise, just not a good one.
There’s also a bit of a catch with our S22+ review.
Australian S22+ 5G review units lacked 5G
Unfortunately, the S22+ review units sent to Australian journalists lacked the ability to latch onto local 5G networks. It wasn’t just the lack of support for mmWave technologies, a factor we’ve mentioned, but the inability for our S22+ review models to latch onto local 5G at all.
In fact, from what we can tell, after asking several other Australian reviewers, the catch can more or less be applied to every Australian S22+ review, and likely the S22 Ultra reviews, as well. We checked with Alex Choros at WhistleOut, who first noted it, as well as Vertical Hold’s Alex Kidman, and The Age’s Alice Clarke, and then heard it in passing from a few others.
It means not only could we not test the 5G — something which should definitely work — but we couldn’t see the impact of 5G on its battery life in general, a problem because we have no idea what it would be.
In recent years, Samsung and other manufacturers have made a lot of progress on 5G’s impact to the battery, and this isn’t 2019 anymore. That means 5G may not make an impact at all, which is great. But we couldn’t test it, and we feel it’s worth pointing out simply because our tests typically account for it, and they couldn’t with our S22 review unit.
Final thoughts (TLDR)
While our review model came with a caveat of sorts, the Galaxy S22+ is still a nice phone, though it’s one that doesn’t really shake up the formula too much.
Last year’s S21 was good, and this year’s S22 is good, too. But do they change much? Not really.
The design is tighter, the cameras have improved slightly, and the phone is basically updated for now, but that’s more or less all that Samsung feels like it has changed.
It’s the same but different, and while that might be enough for some, it’s not a model all will need to upgrade from.
There are definite strong points if you do like the look of the S22+, such as the lovely design and the great screen, but it’s an iterative update that doesn’t break the mould and only marginally refreshes things. That’s not to say the S22+ is bad — it’s not — but is it a game changer? Not really.
It lacks the S-Pen support of its “ultra” sibling and its 108 megapixel camera, but the changes aren’t so big that you’ll be jumping over yourself to choose this phone over another. It’s another Galaxy S phone, and while that’s not bad, it’s also not really exciting.
As such, it’s hard to recommend the Galaxy S22+ by itself, except to an ardent fan of the range. If you have a Galaxy S20 or a model before it — say a Galaxy S10 or even an older S9 or S8 — the logic for upgrading is probably clearer, though we’d consider looking around all the same.
Frankly, we’ll be interested to see what the S22 FE looks like, because if it’s a less expensive version of this package later in the year like the late S21 FE was, there’s probably a better deal to be had.