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Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus review: Avoiding the Ultra Note trap

The one S22 model where Samsung struck the right balance.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus
(Image: © Michael Hicks / Android Central)

Our Verdict

Bottom line: Sitting between the compact, small-batteried S22 and thick, pricey S22 Ultra, the Galaxy S22+ offers the most traditional flagship form factor. Its flat design is simple but gorgeous, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 performance doesn't disappoint, and the camera hardware and software offer a significant step up on the S21. Even the battery life remained reasonably long-lasting despite a downgrade from the S21+. Aside from some minor nitpicks, this is a solid upgrade on last year's model, and you may want to consider it over the S22 Ultra.

For

  • Fast-refreshing, absurdly bright display
  • The best design of the S22 series
  • OS updates to Android 16 / security updates through 2027
  • Solid camera upgrades with RAW editing
  • Surprisingly decent battery life
  • 45W charging is blazingly fast

Against

  • Consistently runs hot while gaming
  • Can be tricky to use one-handed
  • Still no 3.5mm/ microSD/ charger-in-box
  • Only FHD+/8GB at this price

Between the affordable, shrunken Galaxy S22 and the ultra-powerful S22 Ultra that resurrects the Note Ultra lineup, the S22 Plus flies under the radar, sticking close to what we saw in its 2021 predecessor. But don't let its middle child energy fool you into ignoring it.

Even if the Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus misses out on a few key upgrades designed to upsell you to the premium Galaxy S22 Ultra, Samsung's flagship is too expensive and unwieldy for a lot of buyers. The Plus only compromises for specs and features most people can live without, and offers a traditional pro-quality experience that makes it our current #1 pick for the best Android phone in 2022.

With reliable performance, a blazingly bright display, upgraded rear and front camera sensors, and the best battery life of the S22 lineup, the Galaxy S22+ is easy to recommend. But should owners of an S21 or S20 phone upgrade? Or should you wait, given the notorious thermal issues across all Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 phones? This review should help you decide.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus: Price, availability, and colors

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus Back Green

(Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

Samsung announced the Galaxy S22+ at its Winter Unpacked event on February 9, 2022. Allegedly, it pushed the announcement and launch a month to make room for the delayed Galaxy S21 FE. It officially shipped on February 25.

The Samsung Galaxy S22+ retails for $1,000, which gives you 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. It costs $200 more than the stock S22 and $200 less than the S22 Ultra. For $50 extra, you upgrade to 256GB of storage; you won't find any RAM upgrade options or expandable storage beyond that.

For color options, you'll find the Galaxy S22+ available in Phantom Black, Phantom White, Green, or Pink Gold from all major retailers. Samsung also sells it in Graphite, Sky Blue, Cream, or Violet exclusively from its website, though these may take slightly longer to ship.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus: A familiar, gorgeous design

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus back, sitting on a bookshelf

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

Take the iPhone 13 Pro Max's back, scrape off the Apple logo, and swap out the Play button-shaped sensor array and square housing for a thinner, vertical camera housing, and you have yourself a Galaxy S22+, more or less. Last year's Galaxy S21 and S21+ flattened the display, but this is the first Galaxy S series to fully flatten the back panel as well. Whether you find it stylish or boring is a matter of preference.

Samsung also raised eyebrows when it returned to a glass back design for the first time since the Galaxy S20. Our S21 reviewer praised the glasstic design for its durability and style, and without reigniting the glass vs. plastic debate, many feared switching back to glass would mean a higher price tag. Thankfully, those fears were ill-founded, but you're still going to want an S22+ case to prevent any unfortunate accidents.

The volume rocker buttons and power button sit on the top-right edge, colored to blend into the aluminum edge so they barely stand out. Otherwise, the top, left, and bottom-right edges lack any textures to bother your fingers as you browse. Thanks in part to Samsung's continued choice to deny its users a 3.5mm headphone jack or microSD card slot, the S22+ can squeeze the bottom-firing speakers, USB-C port, and dual-SIM card slot onto the phone bottom and leave everything else smooth and unblemished.

The camera housing remains mostly unchanged from the S21 lineup in size and layout, especially when looked at directly. On last year's model, it curved and stuck out slightly along the phone's rounded edge. This year, Samsung fully isolated the cameras, with a thin line separating the housing from the S22+'s unblemished edges. The housing color and phone color will match if you choose one of the four main S22+ models, whereas the exclusive Samsung variants have alternate accent colors.

Finding the right grip for one-handed browsing can be a challenge, but it's not nearly as uncomfortable to hold as the boxy S22 Ultra.

If the Galaxy S22+ design has a flaw, it's that its narrow housing causes the phone to wobble if you tap it on a flat, hard surface like a desk — though, again, a case should solve this issue. 

A more general issue is that folks with smaller hands may not find it comfortable to hold a 6.6-inch phone for an extended period of time, with or without a case. That's not specific to the S22+ — and it's certainly more comfortable to hold to the boxy S22 Ultra — but it's worth mentioning.

Finding the right grip that offers good thumb positioning for one-handed browsing can be a challenge, even for someone with larger hands. At home, I tend to cradle it on my fingertips so my thumb has enough range to reach across, but holding it that way outside would tempt dropping it. On the go, I'm more likely to hold it in my off-hand so I can tap away with my dominant one. If that sounds annoying, you may want to consider the smaller Galaxy S22 instead, or invest in a Popsocket.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus camera module

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

In his Galaxy S22 hands-on, Android Central's Nick Sutrich called the S22+ design "decidedly manmade" in feel compared to the more natural, rounded texture of older Samsungs. In my case — perhaps because I've used iPhones regularly in the past — I find it much more natural to rest the S22+'s flat edges firmly against my palm without fear of false touches or the edge digging into my hand. To each their own!

I like that Samsung gave us three distinct phone designs by shrinking the S22, Note-ifying the Ultra, and making the S22+ the "traditional" flagship.

Beyond all the nitpicky details, the Galaxy S22+ in Pink Gold looks stunning, with a subtle coloring that isn't quite as shiny as past Mythic models and doesn't accentuate finger smudges. Samsung invited comparisons to the iPhone 13, and I think the narrower S22+ camera housing makes the square iPhone module look excessive or bloated by comparison. Plus, you've dodged a bullet with this housing compared to the S22 Ultra and its unhoused camera sensors, which attract a disgusting amount of dust and lint that ruin the unique look.

Maybe the Galaxy S22 Ultra is the Note 22 in all but name, but I like that Samsung gave us three distinct phone designs by shrinking the S22 and Note-ifying the Ultra. No one paid attention to past Pluses unless they didn't like the Ultra's pricing or large size; now, the S22+ is the "traditional" flagship with a compelling design of its own, and shoppers have good options at each price point.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus: A display built for sunlight

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus display in sunlight

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

Samsung maintained the flat display excellence we saw with last year's phone models. Dynamic AMOLED 2X technology continues to exhibit vibrant, accurate colors that look especially beautiful when playing HDR content. It retains a 120Hz refresh rate for seamless scrolling and 240Hz touch sampling while gaming for the most accurate performance possible. And Samsung added a new Eye Comfort Shield that's an effective blue light filter mode.

CategorySamsung Galaxy S22+
ChipsetSnapdragon 8 Gen 1 or Exynos 2200
Display6.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Display
1080x2340
120Hz refresh rate (48-120Hz) with 240Hz touch sampling
Up to 1,750 nits
Memory8GB RAM
Storage128-256GB
Rear cameras50MP, ƒ/1.8, 1.0μm, (85-degree wide-angle)
12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.4μm (120-degree ultra-wide)
10MP, ƒ/2.4, 1.0μm, 3x optical zoom (telephoto)
Front camera10MP, ƒ/2.2, 80-degree wide-angle
Battery and charging4,500mAh
45W Fast Charging
15W Wireless Charging
ConnectivityWiFi 6E (6GHz)
Bluetooth 5.2
5G mmWave and sub6
Ultra wideband
Dimensions75.8 x 157.4 x 7.6 mm / 2.98 x 6.2 x 0.3 in
196g / 6.9oz
ProtectionIP68
Gorilla Glass Victus
ColorsPhantom Black, Phantom White, Green, Pink Gold
(Samsung.com exclusives) Graphite, Sky Blue, Cream, Violet

The major improvement for this year's model is Vision Booster, which supercharges the display up to 1750 nits (according to Samsung) to keep it visible in direct sunlight. Last year's model (and the base S22) hit 1300, so you can easily read or watch content outside, but that extra 450 nits changes the game for people like myself who live in sunny climates.

According to lab-test results from our parent company, Future, it measured slightly above 1,300 nits, compared to merely 830 nits on the S21 Ultra. While both results fell short of the marketing, it's clear at least that the 450-nit increase over last year's model isn't false advertising. And in practice, the S22+ quite simply keeps the display visible in California sunlight, even when streaming content outside — though it'll drain your battery with prolonged use.

Only the Galaxy S22 Ultra offers QHD at 120Hz, which will likely burn through your battery life fairly quickly. The difference between the Plus resolution (~390 ppi) and Ultra resolution (~500 ppi) is fairly significant, but the Plus's display is more than pixel-rich enough to make most people happy. Still, other $1,000 phones largely offer QHD, so you can and should question Samsung's decision to reserve it for the Ultra only.

What matters more is that the S22 Ultra has an LTPO display that supports refresh rates as low as 1Hz for prolonging battery life. Samsung originally claimed the S22 and S22+ ranged from 10Hz to 120Hz for similar results, but recently updated its news release (opens in new tab) to note the refresh rate range is 48Hz-120Hz. It later told Phone Arena (opens in new tab) that the "data transfer rate" drops as low as 10Hz, sparing the processor a bit, the display still sticks to 48Hz or higher — which will give your battery a tougher time.

All three Galaxy S22 models have an under-display fingerprint sensor, and given the Pixel 6's optical fingerprint sensor woes, it's a relief that Samsung's ultrasonic sensor works near-instantaneously — and that isn't hyperbole.

Add in attractively thin bezels and the option to manually change the color mode or RGB settings, and you'll have very few complaints with the S22+ display aside from the lack of LTPO support. Brightness, vivacity, and customization all make it a pleasure to use. So you may want to invest in a Galaxy S22+ screen protector and keep it safe.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus: Familiar software, spicy performance

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus Burgundy Case

(Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

Launching with One UI 4.1 based on Android 12, the Galaxy S22 UI looked very similar to the dozens of Samsung phones that had already received the One UI 4 update by that point. From Material You theming to revamped Smart Widgets, along with revamped privacy features and notifications, the look and utility of 4.1 and the Samsung launcher were largely unchanged.

The "new" OS did bring Samsung and Google closer together: it made Google Messages the default app over Samsung Messages — giving RCS a boost — and enabled Google Duo Live Sharing for sharing your screen with friends or hosting YouTube watch parties between Galaxy and Pixel phones. Unfortunately, I found the feature to be disappointingly underbaked after field-testing it.

In hindsight, the Galaxy S22 series had very few software launch highlights to make it particularly exciting, as a by-product of Samsung drastically improving its update speed. 

Samsung has become the undisputed champion of Android updates.

Samsung has become the undisputed champion of Android updates in both speed and longevity. The Galaxy S22 will receive four software updates through Android 16, plus five years of security updates. And this year, Samsung began updating three-year-old flagships like the S10 as early as January, proving the S22+ will receive timely OS updates for years to come — while other brands keep former flagships waiting through the spring or summer.

On that note, we've heard that the One UI 5 beta will arrive this summer, and you can be sure it'll be available on the Galaxy S22 series before any other Samsung phone if you want to test out the latest Samsung software tricks. And the Galaxy S22+ should receive the stable launch by late fall or early winter.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus Review

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

Now, let's talk performance. I received the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 variant exclusive to the U.S., Canada, and China, so those in other territories will have a different experience with the Exynos 2200

In my initial review, I had very few issues with performance, and that hasn't changed since February. Both the fingerprint sensor and Face Unlock open the phone faster than you can snap your fingers. Scrolling and swiping look smooth and stylish, hitting the 120Hz max. Apps or Chrome web pages load faster than on any phone I've tested before. Even downloading Play Store apps takes less time than on other Android phones, possibly due to the Wi-Fi 6E support. 

I've noticed some slight shutter lag — a problem with all Samsung phones, frankly — and slow speeds when the phone is first turned back on. But nothing I would call deal-breaking.

But even at the time, I found that the phone got consistently warm, bordering on hot when playing graphically demanding Android games like Genshin Impact or Sky: Children of the Light, or when filming 4K video. My colleagues who reviewed the Galaxy S22 and S22 Ultra encountered similar heating issues, though it didn't seem to affect performance.

Since then, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 has become a topic of controversy. The Galaxy S22 series' thermal issues proved to be widespread. Then, we learned Samsung was throttling 10,000 apps via the Game Optimizing Service (GOS), dropping performance by as much as 50% while ensuring benchmarks weren't affected. Geekbench banned Samsung's flagships from its site, and S22 sales dipped.

The S22+ gets consistently warm (bordering on hot) trying to keep up with demanding Android games — but it can play them.

Does this performance controversy mean you shouldn't buy the Galaxy S22 Plus? Well, it's complicated. The phone remains perfectly quick for day-to-day tasks, and Samsung patched the throttling issue months ago. You can safely buy the S22+ knowing it can handle almost any of your favorite Android games.

On the other hand, Samsung chose to keep the Galaxy S22 Plus at 8GB with no 12GB upgrade option. Similarly priced phones like the Pixel 6 Pro offer 12GB, and I'd argue Samsung fell into archaic thinking by reserving a memory upgrade for the flagship only. If you're going to make the Ultra a Note, then don't punish the people who'd rather buy a proper Galaxy S phone.

The other point to consider is that the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 arrives this summer, fixing the overheating issue and offering a 30% efficiency boost and 10% performance boost (allegedly). Even if the Galaxy S23 won't arrive until next year, you could hold out for the Z Flip 4 this summer since it'll likely cost the same as the S22 Plus.

But future phones will always offer better performance, and that's not a reason to hold off on the Galaxy S22+ when we're perfectly happy with its performance as is.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus: Bet on its battery to last

Galaxy S22 Plus with rugged Caseborne case

(Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

Given Samsung shrunk the Plus battery from 4,800mAh last year to 4,500mAh this year, I came into my Galaxy S22+ review expecting the worst on this front. Instead, I came away impressed with the phone's longevity and ability to hold a charge when not in active use.

(Image credit: Source: Android Central)

Across its first full day of use, during which I was actively downloading and playing massive titles like Genshin — and the S22+ was running so hot, it felt at times like I'd left it in the sun on asphalt — it lasted 12 hours with 5 hours of active screen time and with 20% battery remaining.

Left overnight unplugged, it remained at 15% after about 10 hours of idle time. Then, plugged in using a 45W-capable charger I own, it recharged in less than an hour. It's frustrating that Samsung didn't include a charger in the box, but with a compatible charger for $30 or so, you'll have the option to top off a drained phone with some emergency juice in just a few minutes.

Across my next day of active testing, 5 hours of fully active screen time — including gaming, streaming, Slacking, Chrome browsing, camera testing, calling home, and two extra hours of idle time — took the phone to just 50% battery life. My phone typically never gets that kind of attention, but it's nice to know that if I go on a gaming binge or stream an HDR10+ movie in bed, it won't completely destroy the battery.

Don't stress about the S22+'s battery "downgrade" compared to last year. It didn't have any practical, negative impact that I could measure.

Our parent company's S22+ stress test looked a bit less favorably on the battery life, as it lasted slightly less than 10 hours while constantly loading content over 5G on low brightness — a few minutes below the S21+ in total duration. But the S22 Ultra lasted an hour less under the same conditions despite its larger capacity, and my colleague regularly fell into the single digits with regular use by end of the day, while I still had plenty of juice.

In other words, don't stress about the S22+'s battery "downgrade" compared to last year. It didn't have any practical, negative impact that I could measure.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus: Upgraded (if unremarkable) cameras

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus camera module

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

Given Samsung retained the S20 camera sensors for the S21 lineup and only upgraded the software, we were overdue for a hardware upgrade this year. On this front, Samsung only partially delivered: the 12MP ultra-wide and 10MP selfie camera remain the same as they did before. But it did upgrade the main sensor from 12MP to 50MP and add 3X optical zoom to the telephoto lens instead of hybrid zoom.

Samsung also credits the revamped neural processor in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 for improved night photography and its "AI Stereo Depth Map" for better focus in portrait shots.

In practice, the Galaxy S22+ takes perfectly respectable photos with good color accuracy and decent detail, though you do tend to see some blur once you zoom in past 3X. Portrait mode does seem capable of capturing some beautiful shots with a stylish focus on the subject.

Fast processing speed ensures the camera captures its subject quickly; I was able to get some action shots of birds flying or cars driving by with decent crispness, though in other cases moving people or pets looked blurrier than I'd have liked. Compared to the Pixel 6 lineup, the S22 phones seem to have more trouble on this front.

Overall, it's fair to say that the S22+ beats mid-range phones for photo quality, but with so many Android brands developing or using 100-200MP camera sensors with powerful zoom, it's fair to say the S22+ feels a bit last-gen compared to the S22 Ultra, Pixel 6 Pro, and other flagships with similar pricing.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus: Competition

Sorta Sunny Google Pixel 6 Pro in Fall leaves

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

If you're looking for a "flagship" that matches the Galaxy S22+ in most specs, you'll want to look at the Pixel 6 Pro. For $100 less, you get 12GB of RAM, QHD+ resolution as an alternative to the 120Hz mode, a 5,000mAh battery, and access to Google Tensor AI features that Samsung phones largely don't have yet. On the flip side, the 6 Pro has slower charging, the curved display is dimmer, and Pixels have dealt with fingerprint and cellular issues since launch. But if you weigh the S22+ vs. the Pixel 6 Pro, it's fair to lean towards the Pixel if you prefer stock software.

If you want a true one-handed phone, you may consider the Galaxy S22, which has the same performance and cameras as the S22+. But you do lose 450 nits of brightness and ultra-wideband, drop down to 25W charging and 3,700mAh capacity, and regress to Wi-Fi 6 instead of 6E.

Or, of course, you can choose the Galaxy S22 Ultra for an extra $200 — or $300 if you want 12GB of RAM. That upgrades you to QHD+ resolution, a possible 512GB or 1TB of storage, a 108MP main sensor and a second telephoto lens with 10X zoom, and a built-in S Pen. Just be prepared for a phone that's even less suited to one-handed use than the S22 Plus!

If you don't live in North America, you may want to avoid the Exynos 2200 variant, which has reportedly dealt with even worse issues than the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. In that case, you may want to look into the OPPO Find X5 Pro, which is available in Europe and Asia. Our reviewer called it the "perfect Galaxy S22+ alternative," with its QHD 120Hz AMOLED display, 80W fast charging, and the same 8 Gen 1 chipset with 12GB of RAM. On the flipside, it has one fewer OS update, a shorter battery life, and its cost is closer to the S22 Ultra.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus: Should you buy it?

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus Review

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

You should buy this if...

  • You regularly browse your phone out of doors
  • You want top-class hardware that'll last for years
  • You care more about smooth scrolling than resolution

You shouldn't buy this if...

  • You want cameras with powerful zoom and next-gen resolution
  • You struggle to hold large phones
  • You're happy with your current S21 or want to wait for the 8+ Gen 1 chip.

I titled this review "avoiding the Ultra Note trap" despite the fact that the Galaxy S22 Ultra is the better phone in terms of performance and cameras. Why? Because the Galaxy S22+ is an excellent phone that offers all the essentials you need in a much better form factor. 

While the RAM and resolution upgrades will tempt you, the Galaxy S22 Plus is a stronger alternative in terms of value-to-price ratio, with the speed, display, and cameras that you need in a phone you can (mostly) hold one-handed, whereas the Ultra is really only for people that will regularly use an S pen with their phones. It's not a "flagship" but most people don't need one, and if you're going to spend $1,300 to get the 12GB S22 Ultra, you honestly might as well look at a foldable instead. Even the Z Fold 4 won't cost that much more!

Despite all of Samsung's post-launch controversies about pseudo-LTPO displays and throttled apps, the Galaxy S22+ beats most of the Android ecosystem handily. You'll love the outdoor screen brightness, smooth scrolling, and workhorse battery life of the Galaxy S22+. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 offers a decent performance upgrade on the Snapdragon 888, and if you find a clear case, you'll enjoy the phone's look without risking a glass-shattering disaster.

It's not a perfect phone, and S21 owners who've waited this long can wait a bit longer since the Snapdragon 888 hasn't lost its edge yet. But keep an eye out for trade-in deals or a Black Friday deal down the line, because this phone is worth buying.

Review changelog

This review was originally published on February 17, 2022. It was updated in June with the following:

  • Updated introduction and conclusion sections with new info
  • Addressed throttling issues in Software and Performance
  • Added Oppo Find X5 Pro to Competition
  • Added mention of One UI 5 beta