Samsung Galaxy S22 review: Small, mighty, and imperfect

Even against Google's best Pixel phones, I still prefer the baby Galaxy S22.

Derrek Lee holding the Galaxy S22
(Image: © Derrek Lee / Android Central)

Android Central Verdict

The smallest of the Galaxy S22 family makes up for its small size by offering big power, thanks to the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset. The design has been refined from its predecessor, giving us possibly the best-looking Galaxy smartphone we've ever had. However, all this power comes at the expense of some comfort, which could be a deal-breaker for some.

Pros

  • +

    Beautiful design, particularly the green colorway

  • +

    AMOLED display looks fantastic

  • +

    Good camera performance

  • +

    Great software support and AI features

Cons

  • -

    Middling battery life

  • -

    The camera can be slow to capture images

  • -

    Gets fairly warm when gaming

  • -

    Display scratches somewhat easily

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When Samsung launched its latest flagship series earlier this year, the Galaxy S22 Ultra got all the fanfare as the first Galaxy S phone to feature a built-in S Pen, a staple of the now-dead Note series. That left the other models to linger quietly in its shadow, particularly the smallest of the three.

It's clear to see why the standard model and Galaxy S22 Plus would be overshadowed. Compared to the S22 Ultra, these offer fairly minor upgrades over their predecessors, with similar but refined designs and some new attractive colors. But despite its small size, the base Galaxy S22 still has a lot going for it, and if you're looking for a small but powerful Android smartphone, this could be the one for you.

The Galaxy S22 features a powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, improved camera sensors, a great-looking display, and a software promise that would make even the Pixel 6 jealous. However, the impressive power might be too much for the phone at times, and the smaller battery could very well be the Achilles heel of this flagship.

After spending several months with the Galaxy S22, my feelings about the phone have not changed, and I still find it to be one of the small Android phones to beat.

Samsung Galaxy S22: Price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy S22 lying in some plants

Galaxy S22 rear glass (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

The Galaxy S22 was announced on February 9 and was available for preorder through February 24, with sales beginning February 25. The phone is available at Samsung's website, various retailers such as Best Buy and Amazon, and all of the best wireless carriers in the U.S.

The Galaxy S22 retails for $800, although there are plenty of deals that can land you the phone for as little as $0. You'll have to check with retailers or your carrier for details on how you can get the best deals.

Samsung Galaxy S22: Hardware and design

The Samsung Galaxy S22 USB-C port and speaker grille

Galaxy S22 from the bottom (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
Swipe to scroll horizontally
CategorySamsung Galaxy S22
Display6.1-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Display (1080x2340), 120Hz refresh rate (48-120Hz), Up to 1,300 nits
ChipsetSnapdragon 8 Gen 1
Storage128GB, 256GB
Memory8GB
Rear Camera 150MP Wide-angle, F1.8, 1/1.56", 1.0μm (12MP 2.0μm), 85°
Rear Camera 212MP Ultrawide, F2.2, 1/2.55", 1.4μm, 120°
Rear Camera 310MP Telephoto (3x), F2.4, 1/3.94", 1.0μm, 36°
Selfie Camera10MP, F2.2, 1.22μm, 1/3.24, 80°
Battery & Charging3,700mAh, 25W wired, 15W wireless
Connectivity5G (sub-6, mmWave), Bluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi 6
Dimensions70.6 x 146 x 7.6mm, 167g
ColorsPhantom White, Phantom Black, Green, Pink Gold

Off the bat, the Galaxy S22 has a great design. It takes after its predecessor, the Galaxy S21, and looks nearly identical. However, Samsung has refined the design, giving the S22 a more angular look. The front and back are flat slabs of glass, held together by a nearly flat aluminum frame. The effect: the Galaxy S22 looks nearly like an iPhone 13, depending on how you look at it, and that’s definitely not a bad thing.

But looks are just part of it. The device feels great, as well. The glass on the back is frosted, so the phone is incredibly smooth to the touch, and you don’t have to worry about collecting fingerprints. Of course, you can always throw on a case, but the phone feels so great that I try not to when I can help it. And surprisingly, despite how smooth the phone is, it doesn’t feel at all slippery. I never felt like I was going to drop the phone, something I’ve experienced with other devices in the past, like the similarly sized LG G8, which I managed to drop (and crack) within days of owning it. Of course, this is why I wear cases now, but I take it off every so often just to get a good feel.

I managed to get my hands on the green colorway, which is absolutely stunning. While the official renders and images look great, somehow, they don’t do justice to just how amazing this green looks. In some lights, it appears green, but view it in a different light, and the phone appears bluer. The phone comes in a few other colors such as Phantom White, Phantom Black, and Pink Gold, not to mention the Samsung-exclusive colorways, but none as impressive as the green in my opinion.

The back of the Samsung Galaxy S22

The green Galaxy S22 is almost blue, and I love it (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

However, it’s not all perfect, and I have a few small gripes with the design. While the phone has a decent heft that adds to the premium feel, some may find it a bit on the heavy side despite its small stature. Initially, you may not notice it, but after some time holding the phone, my hand will start to get uncomfortable. This is also a negative side effect of such an angular design. The edge often digs into my pinky finger the longer I hold the phone, which would drive me to throw the case back on.

Also, while the Galaxy S22 has stereo speakers, I've never been a fan of the bottom-firing speaker below the display and wish more phones would come with front-facing stereo speakers, even if that means a slightly larger chin at the bottom of the display. However, the speaker audio sounds great, although I recommend during off Dolby Atmos if you want a fuller sound.

Samsung Galaxy S22: Display

Samsung Galaxy S22 Gallery app full screen image

The bezels on the Galaxy S22 are minimal and very symmetrical (Image credit: Android Central)

I personally haven't used a phone this small since the LG G8, and coming from a Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, I was nervous about missing my larger display. However, despite the Galaxy S22 being a smaller phone, the display manages to provide a surprisingly adequate experience for me. No, it's not as large or as sharp as the Note 20 Ultra or even the new Galaxy S22 Ultra, but it's a great display nonetheless.

The Galaxy S22 has a Full HD+ AMOLED 2X display with a 120Hz refresh rate. It's not QHD+, but it still appears quite sharp, probably due to the smaller size, which is one way the base S22 one-ups the Plus. The variable refresh rate also manages to keep things smooth, colors are vibrant even when I set the display to "natural" mode, and it's bright enough that I don't have a problem seeing it even in direct sunlight. The display reaches a peak brightness of 1300 nits, 450 nits shy of the S22 Plus. That said, I haven't found that the extra brightness is even necessary.

I have to say, I love that the display is flat. Curved displays are frankly annoying, and it's the biggest gripe I have with my Note 20 Ultra. The flat display on the S22 is surprisingly refreshing because that means no more accidental touches that would pull me out of whatever I'm doing on my phone. I'm also impressed by the incredibly small yet symmetrical bezels that, frankly, are hardly noticeable. Aside from the hole-punch selfie camera, the flat, nearly bezel-less display creates a very immersive experience when watching videos.

Playing a video on the Samsung Galaxy S22

Videos look great on the Galaxy S22 (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

The display also houses the in-display fingerprint sensor, which works very well. Unlike a certain Google phone, it's very fast and responsive. All in all, you won't be disappointed with this display.

That said, I might recommend throwing on one of the best Galaxy S22 screen protectors. While I'm not particularly rough with my phone, I've noticed after a few months of use that the display has received some unsightly scratches across the display, particularly around the selfie camera. I feel like this is typical wear and tear for a smartphone, but it can be easily minimized or avoided completely with a screen protector.

Scratches on the display of the Galaxy S22

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

They're not too prominent, and the display hasn't cracked once, but I also can't imagine what caused the display to get scratched up like it has when I normally keep it in a pocket clear of any other items.

Samsung Galaxy S22: Software and performance

The app drawer on the Galaxy S22

The Smart Widget is a very useful feature (Image credit: Android Central)

The Galaxy S22 was launched out of the box, running One UI 4.1 based on Android 12. However, it has since been updated to One UI 5 based on Android 13 in many regions, which brings a host of new features and UI enhancements. You won’t really notice many visual changes from Android 12, which is fine for me as the software was already pretty great. However, I do appreciate that notifications are even more condensed to save space, and the added Material You dynamic color selections are pretty nice.

Smart Widget on Android 12 was one of my favorite features, letting you create a carousel of widgets without needing to crowd your home screen. The feature has received a slight upgrade with One UI 5 and is now called Smart Stack, which does more or less the same thing, except now you can create multiple stacks on a home screen. That way, you can have one stack focused on essentials, another on music apps, and so on. You can swipe through different widgets depending on what you need, or the widget will auto-rotate itself based on what might be relevant at the time.

Swiping through widget stacks on the Galaxy S22.

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

For example, when I listen to music with the Samsung Music app, the widget will automatically show me the player if I have it enabled in the carousel. It will also pop up relevant calendar events that you may have coming up, which is quite handy. It’s kind of like Samsung’s version of the At a Glance widget on the Pixel, although it’s much more akin to the Smart Stack widget on iPhones.

Samsung has also made improvements to the camera app, making it easier to zoom in and out or add a watermark to images. The new Camera Assistant module gives you even more settings to adjust your camera to your liking. Samsung also included new features for the Expert RAW app, like a dedicated Astrophoto mode that’s actually pretty cool to use.

The Gallery also gets some nice improvements, like the addition of the Recents album, which is a nice space to see all the images recently captured or saved to your device. The software is now able to recognize text within an image, and with a tap, you can select and copy the text if you need to search or translate something.

Selecting text from an image in the Gallery app on the Galaxy S22

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

Of course, my favorite Gallery features are still here, such as Samsung's Object Eraser. It's similar to the Magic Eraser on the Pixel series, using AI to remove unwanted elements from images. On the Galaxy S22, Samsung has a couple of additions called Reflection Eraser and Shadow Eraser. I tested Object Eraser on some old photos and ended up quite surprised at how well the results came out.

Overall, the software is pretty on-point, and while it brings a bunch of small updates, One UI 5 (Android 13) nicely refines software that already felt pretty mature. Be sure to check out our One UI 5 review for our thoughts on the new update, which is currently rolling out to more and more Samsung smartphones.

I'd be remiss not to mention the fact that Samsung promises four OS upgrades for the Galaxy S22 (we’re already one down) in addition to five years of security updates. That's seriously impressive, considering Google couldn't match that for its latest Pixel 6 or even the latest Pixel 7. That means you can hold onto the Galaxy S22 for years to come while still getting the latest features up to Android 16.

Samsung already offers fast updates for its smartphones, often ahead of the Pixels, so the fact that it's extending its software support is pretty awesome.

Playing a game on the Samsung Galaxy S22

NeiR Re[in]carnation plays well on the Galaxy S22 (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

For the most part, the overall experience is generally what you should expect from a flagship Samsung smartphone, and thanks to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, everything runs very smoothly. I haven’t noticed any jitters while navigating the UI, and with just 8GB of RAM, the Galaxy S22 seems to be able to handle anything I throw at it. I’ll often forget to close a lot of apps, but fortunately, the phone doesn’t seem to mind, even while playing a video in picture-in-picture mode, juggling between apps, or even when playing games. In fact, despite reports of throttling earlier this year, the Galaxy S22 has always handled games much better than my Pixel 6 Pro despite having less RAM.

That said, when playing graphically intensive games like Genshin Impact, GYEE, or NieR Re[in]carnation, the phone does get quite a bit warm. Sometimes I won't even have to play games, and I'll just be juggling through apps or watching videos, and I'll often notice the phone getting hot. 

Other phones I've reviewed or used this year, like the Moto G Stylus 5G (2022), have not gotten nearly as hot when playing these same games. Throttling may no longer be a problem, but thermal issues still remain, whether it's due to the chipset or Samsung's own thermal management. That said, wearing any of the best Galaxy S22 cases seems to mitigate the issue. Still, given that Samsung has opted for a glass back on the base Galaxy S22, you may want to be wary of your gaming time on this phone, especially if you want to make your battery last.

Samsung Galaxy S22: Battery

The Samsung Galaxy S22 at low battery

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

While my experience with the Galaxy S22 has been mostly positive, I can’t say I’ve been too impressed by the battery life. I start my days pretty early — around 5 a.m. — and I’ll notice the phone will be on its last legs by noon. Between charges, I’ll average somewhere around 4-ish hours of on-screen time, which isn’t fantastic. I’m often surprised at how quickly the phone will get down to 15% battery life on a day of average use. That includes streaming on YouTube Music, juggling between social media and messaging apps, snapping a few pictures, about half an hour of mobile gaming, and light swiping through Tinder or Bumble BFF.

Granted, you may be able to squeeze out more battery life if you omit some gaming or doomscrolling on Twitter, but frankly, that shouldn’t be the case. Plenty of people seemed concerned about battery life given the smaller 3,700mAh battery, a downgrade compared to the 4,000mAh battery on its predecessor. I initially brushed off these concerns going into my review, but I do see how it’s a bit problematic.

If I’m going to spend flagship money on a smartphone, I should get flagship performance with battery life that can keep up. Instead, I haven’t been able to get through a full day on a single charge in my use.

You may fare better with the Galaxy S22 Plus, which has a larger battery and faster 45W charging. The Galaxy S22 charges at 25W, which is nothing to write home about compared to some of the best Android phones on the market. However, it charges relatively fast given the battery size, and I often find myself surprised at how quickly it tops up. That said, it would be cool to see Samsung toying with OnePlus levels of charging speeds, at least.

Samsung Galaxy S22: Cameras

Samsung Galaxy S22 cameras close up

The Galaxy S22 has a triple camera setup (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

Samsung took a slightly different approach to the camera setup on the Galaxy S22. Instead of the tried and true 12MP primary camera from its predecessor, Samsung went with a new 50MP sensor, capable of capturing more light for better daytime and nighttime photography. Photos from the primary sensor are good, although nothing to get too excited over. I do enjoy how the camera reproduces colors, which appear slightly on the warmer side, but with plenty of vibrancy without being oversaturated.

The 12MP ultrawide angle camera manages to keep up with the primary sensor, and images seem to match up nicely between the two sensors. This is nice to see since the ultrawide sensor tends to be a bit of an afterthought for OEMs. That said, I'm not as impressed with the 10MP telephoto sensor, which Samsung downgraded from the 64MP sensor on the S21. It's decent enough in certain situations, but colors don't reproduce quite as well. Although you might get a good shot sometimes, depending on the conditions, the new telephoto lens is less consistent overall.

Nighttime shots are surprisingly good, even without Night Mode turned on. This applies to video as well, as there was little noise when recording in 4K in low-light conditions.