The Galaxy S22 Plus is the one you should buy

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus Choice Hero
Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus Choice Hero (Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

Once again, Samsung's latest phone series debuted in three decidedly different varieties. The Galaxy S22 is the smallest flagship phone Samsung has produced in recent history, finally heeding the call of folks who have grown tired of smartphones' size creep over the years. The Galaxy S22+ is, essentially, just a larger version of the Galaxy S22 with little differences outside of its larger size, screen, and battery size.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra then, would make sense as the pick of the litter, right? With four rear cameras, an S Pen docked inside, and all the trappings of a Galaxy Note, surely this is the best phone of the bunch.

But you'd be wrong. At least, unless you really care about the S Pen or using that 100x space zoom feature.

No, instead, I say save yourself $200 and buy the Galaxy S22+, one of the best Android smartphones. As you might find in real life, the middle child is the most well-balanced of the three. This includes better battery life and a frame that's much more comfortable to hold than the S22 Ultra's boxier design.

Convenient, comfortable design

Galaxy S22 Plus Hero Image

Source: Michael Hicks / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

When you compare the three Galaxy S22 models, two of them are notably distinct. As I said above, the smaller Galaxy S22 is the smallest flagship Samsung has made in years and it's something that'll make small phone enthusiasts very happy. My thumb can reach every inch of the screen when holding it with one hand and that's not something very common anymore on today's smartphones.

Meanwhile, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is, quite literally, a Galaxy Note in every way. That includes the overall boxy corner design that Note phones have taken of late — it's got straight 90-degree-angle corners that really don't feel good to hold with one hand — and the curved "waterfall" style display that makes finding a good-tempered glass screen protector pretty darn difficult.

What makes the Galaxy S22+ better? Balance.

Balance is the name of the game for the Galaxy S22+. For starters, it's sized directly between both the smaller Galaxy S22 and the huge Galaxy S22 Ultra. The Galaxy S22+ is also smaller than the Galaxy S21+, making it a bit easier to hold, while still retaining a large screen that makes it pleasant to get things done. It also carries over Samsung's unique contour cut camera hump design — meaning your phone looks both attractive and unique, even if you put a case on it — and better resists attracting dust and lint the way the S22 Ultra's separated camera lens design does.

Another huge selling point is how nice the rounded corners feel in hand. The S22 Ultra's 90-degree angled corners make it uncomfortable to hold one-handed, while the S22+ has rounded-off corners that sit right in your palm while cupping it. It's comfortable to use with and without a case — something that's important for both sides of the spectrum — even if it doesn't solve the wobble caused by a raised, non-centered camera hump.

Power up with the Plus' better battery

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra Battery Life

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

Despite what looks like a fairly linear progression in battery size based on phone size, the Galaxy S22 series' has two phones with mediocre — or even poor — battery life. The Galaxy S22 Ultra's battery life is mostly fine, but power users will have a hard time getting through a full day without having to top up the battery. The smaller Galaxy S22, from all the initial impressions and early tests, seems to have a hard time getting through half a day on a single charge. Both models have notably worse battery life than their predecessors, and that's not a great place for Samsung to be.

Conversely, the Galaxy S22+ delivers almost identical battery life to last year's Plus model. That's a huge deal considering how much more powerful the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is compared to the Snapdragon 888 inside the Galaxy S21 family. It's even more surprising given that the battery shrunk between years — 4,800 mAh in the S21+ vs. 4,500mAh in the S22+ — and it's using a more power-hungry processor. It's odd but, hey, I'll take it.

The Galaxy S22+ delivers almost identical battery life to last year's Plus model while the other S22 models are fairly worse.

The notably longer battery life of the S22+ is particularly great in light of the new 45W charging power controversy. It sounds strange, but it seems that Samsung is only using close to the full 45W amount right at the beginning of the charge cycle and tapering off quickly after. The result is that you'll charge at almost the exact same rate with the new 45W charger as you would with the older 25W ones. If this wasn't the case, it would have been one advantage that the S22+ and Ultra could have had over the smaller S22 (the 45W charger is not compatible with this model).

Okay, but what advantages does the Ultra have over the Plus?

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra S Pen Writing

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

We've already covered why the S22+ is better than the regular S22. So what, exactly, will you be missing by not spending an extra $200 on the S22 Ultra?

Mainly, the ability to use the S Pen and zoom in more while taking photos and videos. While both of these are great features and will no doubt be a perfect fit for a number of users, I'm not sure most people will get much use out of either.

Note diehards should, of course, stick with what they love, but for most people, neither feature is likely necessary.

Don't get me wrong, the S Pen is a great tool for power users who love to take notes all day. It's an indispensable tool for several tasks on the Ultra and it's incredibly useful for cropping more precisely, doodling or annotating on images, sending fun animated notes to friends, and a host of other things. However, it's probably not worth the battery life loss that comes with S Pen support and having an even larger screen — again, for most people. Note diehards should, of course, stick with what they love.

On the camera front, the Galaxy S22 Ultra has a secondary telephoto lens that helps increase zoom detail on anything beyond 10x. That applies to both photo capture and video recording, which top out at 100x and 20x, respectively. But how many times do you find yourself zooming in that far? The Galaxy S22+ offers up to 30x photo zoom and 12x video zoom which, I imagine, is more than ideal for most circumstances.

Considering the S22, S22+, and S22 Ultra all use the same 3x optical telephoto lens, you'll likely never notice a difference until you zoom extremely far in, anyway.

Same great software

Samsung Galaxy S22 Regular Plus Ultra Crop

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

No matter which Galaxy S22 model you choose, you'll be getting the same great overall software package. That includes the new Samsung-designed Google Messages as the default messaging app, as well as Google Duo Live Share, an exclusive app for Pixel and Galaxy phones.

That also means Galaxy S22 owners of all sorts will be getting four years of updates as well as five years of security updates. Given Samsung's release schedule over the past few years, that means the S22 family will be among the first to get the next four major Android updates all the way up to Android 16 in 2026.

When you get a Galaxy S22+ you can still use it five years from now thanks to Samsung's software update commitments.

When you get a Galaxy S22+ — or any other Galaxy S22 that might fit your style better — you can still use it five years from now and not be worried about being on some ancient, outdated software platform.

In a nutshell, it's the oft-forgotten middle model that's our favorite this time around. Both of the other models have their positive points but, for most users, I think the Galaxy S22+ is the way to go.

Nicholas Sutrich
Senior Content Producer — Smartphones & VR
Nick started with DOS and NES and uses those fond memories of floppy disks and cartridges to fuel his opinions on modern tech. Whether it's VR, smart home gadgets, or something else that beeps and boops, he's been writing about it since 2011. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @Gwanatu