From 2002 through 2011 I was an avid PalmOS phone fan, moderating a PalmOS phone forum, and moving from the Samsung i330, i500, and i550 to the Treo line after Samsung killed off their Palm phones. After PalmOS was killed off, I have been on the Samsung bandwagon since 2011, going from the Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S4, Note 4 Edge, Note 8, and Note 10+.
Over that time, Samsung killed off some features that I loved, like having a user replaceable battery and an IR remote control, but they still had some unique features like magnetic payment via Samsung Pay and micro-SD storage.
But Samsung killed off those final features last year and for the first time in a decade they failed to release a new Note phone.
Last August, Samsung said the Note line was done and instead of releasing a Note, they released 2 foldable phones. I tried the Fold 3, but I was not a fan.
With nothing tying me down to Samsung, I gave the Pixel 6 Pro a shot. It had a great camera, but I found it to be very buggy and didn’t care for Google’s locked down software approach so I went back to my aging Note 10+.
I was excited when the news broke that Samsung would make the S22 Ultra a Note in everything but name.
Samsung.com had major tech issues on the launch date, but eventually I ordered it with $250 in free accessories and $425 off for my Note 10+ trade-in. Samsung raised that trade-in value to $500, which they matched for me. They recently raised trade-in values yet again, and they gave me a site credit to make up for that as well.
Here’s what I think about the S22 Ultra and how it compares to the Pixel 6 Pro.
- The plethora of wide-angle and zoom cameras take excellent photos, though the Pixel 6 still has the lead over Samsung for photo quality. However this is a big upgrade from the Note 10’s camera and the zoom lens is really great for far away shots or even seeing detail on the moon. The photo software allowing for background blur and erasing unwanted objects, is also great.
- The phone runs extremely smooth with 12GB of RAM, with nary a hiccup to be found. And the screen is incredible.
- I don’t love in-screen fingerprint readers, but this is by the far the best one I’ve tried. It’s very fast and accurate, which is much more than the Pixel 6 can say. And it doesn’t need to brighten the screen like on the Pixel.
- Face unlock is fantastic and I wouldn’t buy a phone without this. It’s mind boggling that Pixel 6 doesn’t offer this option.
- 5G is much better than past versions of it.
- The S-Pen is more responsive than ever and is great for taking notes, coloring, or selecting part of the screen to save. But perhaps it’s most useful feature is using it as a remote control to do things like snap a selfie or better yet, a group picture from afar. It’s unfortunate that the S-Pen shifted from the right side to left, but c’est la vie, at least it’s back!
- I do like that the volume rocker and power button have migrated back from the left side to the right side.
- The battery life isn’t anything to write home about, but typically lasts through a full day of heavy usage, which is much better than on my Note 10+. The super fast charging is much better than on Pixel 6.
- The phone brings back 45W charging, something that Samsung stripped out of the Note 20 and Fold 3, which is fantastic.
- Samsung allows you to easily hide contacts without phone number, something that Pixel does not.
- In general, I’m a fan of Samsung’s One UI software, which adds Android customizations that Google has stripped out from vanilla Android as they work to simplify options. For example, with one swipe down, you can toggle your WiFi on and off, something that is stupidly difficult on Pixel. Samsung even allows you to add customizations like adding the brightness bar on top of notifications.
- Samsung allows you to turn the phone on and off by double tapping the screen, a nice feature.
- Samsung’s one-handed shortcut app and gestures like screenshot swiping are excellent.
- Unlike with Pixel 6, my WhatsApp easily restored to my new phone.
- The phone doesn’t run as hot as Pixel 6.
- WiFi and Bluetooth work better then on Pixel 6.
- While Pixel 6 has impossible to remove “At a glance” and Google search bars on the home screen, the S22 is fully customizable, allowing for 7 rows of apps.
- The look of the camera islands on the back is love it or hate it, but it certainly gives it a distinctive look, which is saying something for today’s slab phones.
- I love the wide range of colors! I decided to wait a little longer and hold out for the Blue color. It stands out and even gets compliments, again, something that’s rare for a slab phone these days.
- It doesn’t have any of the bugs that plagued my Pixel 6 Pro.
- I hate that Samsung killed off the micro-SD card. Yes, I went with the free upgrade from 256GB to 512GB launch offer. And yes, my Note 10+ has 256GB of storage and I had a 256GB micro-SD card, so the storage is the same. But I like backing up my photos locally to my computer and now I can no longer just pull out the memory card to do so. Plus I don’t have the redundancy of having it backed up on the card.
- The phone is expensive, but trade-in offers are generous.
- Samsung has removed magnetic payment via Samsung Pay, so there are stores, such as Walmart, where you won’t be able to use that feature any longer.
- The phone is wobbly when placed on a surface due due its array of cameras.
- I have always enjoyed having a big phone, but as other phones copied the Note’s size, the Note kept getting bigger. I felt like the Note 10+ was as big as a phone should be, but the S22 Ultra is even bigger, thicker, and heavier than it. Frankly, it’s a bit much for my hands to handle, and that’s exacerbated by the Spigen case that I got for it. I got annoyed at how big it was with the case and tried going caseless, though the phone is slick and is sure to drop. I dented a corner doing that before putting the case back on, though I find myself going back and forth. I think that the size of the S22+ is the sweet spot for a phone, but downgrading to the S22+ would mean giving up on the zoom camera, superior selfie camera, the S-pen and more. So, that means my options are between going caseless and relying on insurance when it inevitably breaks, or using the case that makes the phone slightly too much to handle.
- It’s worth noting that JJ also upgraded to the S22 Ultra and doesn’t think it’s too big, even with the Spigen case.
Overall though, the phone is an excellent flagship device, a worthwhile upgrade from the Note 10, and a worthy successor of the Note line. I’m very happy with it overall.
But to be fair, I got my wife a Pixel 3 when they had the free phone offer in 2018. She tried upgrading to the S22+ for several days before ultimately switching back to the Pixel 6. She didn’t like that the Pixel seemed buggier and didn’t have all the features the Samsung had, but her top priority was the camera and photos is takes of the kids and the Pixel does still have the lead over Samsung if that’s your only priority. Android brand lock-in may be nearly as strong as iPhone vs Android lock-in these days.
Do you have an S22 Ultra or Pixel 6? What do you think of it?