Thanks to Jon Prosser of FrontPageTech and a tester with a flagrant disregard for Samsung's famous anti-leaking sticker, we recently got our first look at the hardware of Samsung's upcoming 2022 flagship phone, the Galaxy S22 Ultra. This could be one of the best Android phones of 2022, and as such, it is a pretty big deal.
In addition to confirming features like a built-in S Pen and hole-punch selfie camera, the leaked photos reveal a fairly ho-hum rear design for Samsung's next "Ultra" handset. The phone appears to be clad in black frosted glass, similar to the S21 Ultra, only without that device's prominent camera hump.
Samsung takes a leaf from LG's design book.
Whereas this year's flagship features a large raised portion covering almost a sixth of the surface area of the rear panel, next year's will instead opt for something closer to the LG Velvet's back design. If you'd forgotten what that looks like — and honestly, we couldn't blame you — it's essentially a series of minimalist lens protrusions that leaves the rear surface of the phone largely uninterrupted.
The black model pictured in recent leaks is just a little bit dull compared to its immediate predecessor. The S21 series features a distinct rear camera design across the entire product line, with the module surface blending cleanly into the outer frame of the device.
Compare what we've seen of the S22 Ultra so far to Google's latest Pixel phones, for instance. The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro is designed around its prominent camera bar, which extends along the entire length of the device. The Pixel is unmistakably a Pixel. The S22 Ultra shown in the recent leaks? You could argue it's pretty generic.
But this "boring" design is likely to hide some genuinely impressive technical innovations.
The 'boring' S22 design hides impressive technical innovations.
These early S22 Ultra appearances follow reports that two rival designs were in contention for the phone, the second sporting a P-shaped camera array. The fact that the bulge-free design has prevailed is notable because of the camera hardware we're expecting to see in the S22 Ultra. Folded periscope cameras like the one pictured often take up a considerable amount of space inside the phone, usually necessitating a raised area of some kind. Samsung, apparently, has engineered its way around this requirement.
A bulge-free design is also impressive, considering the presence of an S Pen silo inside this model puts pressure on the space available inside the phone. As well as housing what'll presumably be a large battery — at least 5,000mAh — and that periscope camera, a significant chunk of internal real estate will be used to house the stylus dock. Fitting all that stuff inside a phone — even a large one, like this — is no mean feat.
It's the antithesis of whatever OnePlus is apparently doing here, with the latest leaks for the OnePlus 10 Pro showing a design that fully leans into the idea of a camera bump, with results that can generously be described as a bit funny looking. This potential S22 Ultra design, while less remarkable, is closer to the platonic ideal of a phone that's entirely flat around the back and all screen on the front.
We're left with an incomplete picture of the S22 Ultra.
What's more, given that this will be the device to finally merge the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note lines, the sheer, flat back panel is a fitting complement for the rounded, Note-style side walls.
There's also the problematic nature of judging a product like this based on a few unflattering, low-quality photos. Phones in general, and Samsung phones in particular, are often used by testers in whatever the standard "black" color option happens to be, as opposed to more vibrant colorways that might be available at retail. That's exactly what we're seeing in these leaks. It's entirely possible, and in fact very likely, that we'll see Samsung address the blandness of the overall design by splashing a few eye-catching hues at launch time. (Rumors of an S22 Ultra in a bold red color have been circulating of late, and it likely won't be the only alternative besides black.)
The tendency of the press and the public to prejudge the designs of new products based on incomplete information or leaked photos is a major part of why many manufacturers hate leaks — beyond the obvious desire to control messaging around important products. There's a reason Samsung makes those little anti-leaking stickers in the first place, after all.
Fortunately for us, with an early February launch tipped, we won't have too much longer to wait to decide just how boring, or otherwise, its new flagship phone is.