Refinements in almost all the places that count

(Disclosure: Samsung lent the S22+ unit used for this review)

If you take the Samsung Galaxy S22+ on its own, without looking at what came before it, it’s a near-perfect Android phone, more than delivering on almost all the places that count. It’s just that when you compare it to the S21+, it’s not such a big step forward, mostly feeling like another incremental lull before the next technological leap. Then again, it’s easy to look beyond the supposed lack of innovation because of how great the overall experience is.

The middle child of Samsung’s new flagship series packs an elegant design, a stellar display, and top-of-the-line performance. There are a couple of minor problems, but for the most part, the S22+ is another knockout for Samsung in my book.

Refined design

At first glance, the S22+ doesn’t look all that different from its predecessor. Once you have it in hand, however, it’s immediately apparent that some subtle changes were made to refine the design.

The edges, for one, are no longer curved like on the S21+, instead, they’re flat and squared off, making the phone a lot easier to hold. There’s more space for your fingers to get a secure grip without feeling like they could slip. It’s iPhone-esque in a way, but it works in the context of Samsung’s design language.

The material on the back has also been changed arguably for the better. The silky, smudge-magnet finish on the S21+ is now gone in favor of a more premium frosted glass coating. It’s still prone to fingerprint marks and streaks, but they seem to be much less visible on this material. It also feels more durable to the touch as though it doesn’t easily crack. Below is the S22+ on the left and the S21+ on the right:

The S22+ is also slightly shorter than the S21+. The former sports a 6.6-inch panel while the latter sports a 6.7-inch one. But the change is subtle enough that it doesn’t take anything away. I appreciate that Samsung has adjusted the 20:9 aspect ratio on the S21+ to 19.5:9 to accommodate the smaller panel. If I were to choose, I typically would pick the larger display. In this case, though, it’s almost a toss-up for me as to which is better. Some might say that the new aspect ratio makes for a more natural display image. And while that may be true, the change is, again, so subtle that you probably won’t notice it, unless you’re comparing the two phones side-by-side.

This being a flagship Galaxy release, the display is, in my opinion, one of the best in the market right now. You get vibrant colors with good contrast and deep blacks from the AMOLED panel. Plus, it can get very bright – a lot brighter than the S21+ – meaning you don’t have to worry about visibility under the sun. Expectedly, it also features an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate setting, which is great.

As a whole, I love how the design is beautiful yet functional. Among the three, it’s this model that strikes the perfect balance of heft and size – it’s not too big nor is it too small. You still get a lot of screen real estate without having sacrificing ergonomics and practicality.

Solid performance

To the surprise of no one, the S22+, which pairs an Exynos 2200 chipset with 8GB of RAM, is a performer. It handles multitasking, gaming, and other demanding tasks with ease. And the One UI software is as robust as ever. I’ve always liked the customization options that come with Samsung’s Android skin and that remains true here. You can even take it a step further, with the new Android 12-based features that come out of the box, including custom color palettes.

Samsung, like other manufacturers, also promised that it would be supporting the S22 series for four years of major Android updates and five years of security patches. This means, when it comes to longevity, you’re covered. As to how well the device will run in four years, obviously remains to be seen. But at least you’re still getting software support down the line.

Upgraded cameras

The S22+ boasts camera upgrades over the S21+ across the board. This year’s model ships with a 50MP primary sensor instead of a 12MP one. And the additional megapixels here do indeed add to the amount of detail that the sensor captures. The quality of photos is generally excellent in environments with plenty of light, with fairly good color accuracy and sharpness.

The larger opening of the sensor also lets in more light, helping make shots appear brighter and more vibrant. Despite this, low-light shooting still has room for improvement. The camera – or perhaps the software – tends to add a warm tint to compensate for the lack of light, which rarely looks natural. To be fair, it’s quite amazing how the sensor manages to make dim settings look incredibly bright, but, again, it comes at the cost of accuracy, along with some details.

The 12MP ultrawide sensor is almost just as good as the main sensor. You get sharp-looking photos with details aplenty. At night though, expect to lose a lot of those fine details and textures.

And rounding out the rear trio is the new 10MP telephoto sensor with 3x optical zoom, which is a significant upgrade over the 3x hybrid zoom of the S21+. Optical zoom adjusts the hardware itself to magnify subjects rather than relying on image-processing software, allowing zoomed-in shots to look sharper and cleaner. That’s largely true for what you get on the S22+. The dedicated sensor improves the quality of photos you get if you zoom beyond 3x or 5x, which makes it such a nifty addition to this setup.

You also get a 10MP front-facing camera, which seems to have been left untouched from last year’s model.

As to how the cameras stack up against other heavy-hitters like the iPhone 13 and the Google Pixel 6, I can’t say. Regardless, the cameras here are undoubtedly flagship level.

Smaller battery

Now, the battery is where I was left a bit disappointed by the S22+. It has a 4,500mAh cell, which is smaller than the S21+’s 4,800mAh. And, from my observations, the S21+, in some cases, outlasted the S22+. Don’t take it as gospel though as my tests weren’t exactly scientific. What I’m saying is that the battery life of the two is close to indistinguishable. Still, the S22+ can last about a full day of moderate use with the 120Hz setting turned on, which is not bad.

The fast charging, on the other hand, was improved, with it going from 25W to 45W this year. Does it charge faster than the S21+? I think so but not by much. It still took more than an hour to fully juice the phone from 20% even with the right cables and adapters. I should probably test it with the proper Samsung-branded accessories, but given how you only get the cable out of the box, you might have the same luck as I do with charging this phone.

All in all, the S22+ lets its position as the middle option in the series work to its advantage. It hits that sweet spot of performance, display size, and price. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still an expensive phone, but the extra screen space, for me, is worth the extra cost over the base model.

It’s just that, except for the higher-end S22 Ultra, these new flagships feel a little familiar to last year’s S21 models – worth considering if you’re thinking about upgrading. Battery life isn’t very good too. Aside from these, the S22+ is another Galaxy release that doesn’t disappoint. – Rappler.com

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