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Samsung Galaxy S22 review: The little smartphone that could

The Galaxy S22 Ultra may get all the attention, but don't sleep on the bébé S22!

Android Central's Derrek Lee with the Galaxy S22
(Image: © Derrek Lee / Android Central)

Our 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, the smaller size also comes with a smaller battery, which could be a dealbreaker for some.

For

  • Beautiful design, particularly the green colorway
  • AMOLED display looks fantastic
  • Good camera performance
  • Extended software support

Against

  • Middling battery life
  • The camera can be slow to capture images
  • Gets fairly warm when gaming

When Samsung launched its latest flagship series, 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 new processor, new camera sensors, a great-looking display, and a software promise that would make even the Pixel 6 jealous. But the smaller battery could very well be the Achilles heel of this flagship.

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.

Hardware and design

Samsung Galaxy S22 review

Galaxy S22 from the bottom (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

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, UWB
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.

Samsung Galaxy S22 review

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.

Display

Samsung Galaxy S22 review

The bezels on the Galaxy S22 are minimal and very symmetrical (Image credit: Derrek Lee / 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.

Samsung Galaxy S22 review

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.

Software and performance

Samsung Galaxy S22 review

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

The Galaxy S22 comes out of the box running One UI 4.1 based on Android 12. There aren’t too many differences from One UI 4 with the additional .1, but there are some notable changes that I enjoy. Firstly, the phone comes preloaded with Google Messages as the default messaging app. As a fan of the app, this is a huge plus for me, and I like that it’s designed to appear like Samsung’s own messaging app to give it a more native look. Aside from that, it acts just like the Google Messages we all know and love.

Other Google touches include the Discover feed just a swipe away from the home screen, which I appreciate. And of course, with Android 12 we’re introduced to dynamic color theming. That’s present here as well, and even lets you apply the theme to app icons if you’re feeling gaudy.

Samsung Galaxy S22 review

Color palette lets you change the look of your phone (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

One feature I absolutely love is Samsung’s Smart Widget, which lets you create a carousel of widgets without needing to crowd your home screen. 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. 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. 

Galaxy S22 Smart Widget

The Smart Widgets let you switch between various functions (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

I'd be remiss not to mention the fact that Samsung is promising four OS upgrades for the Galaxy S22 in addition to five years of security updates. That's seriously impressive, considering Google couldn't match that for its latest Pixel 6. 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.

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 while I’m juggling between apps or even when playing games. In fact, despite previous reports of throttling, 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. 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 review

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

Battery

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 am — 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.

The Samsung Galaxy S22 at low battery

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

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, nothing to write home about compared to some of the best Android phones on the market, but it charges the phone relatively fast given the battery size. That said, it would be cool to see Samsung toying with OnePlus levels of charging speeds, at least.

Cameras

Samsung Galaxy S22 review

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 vibrance 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 if you're lucky, 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.

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Samsung Galaxy S22 camera sample

Galaxy S22 camera sample 1: wide angle (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 1: ultrawide angle (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 1: telephoto (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 2: telephoto (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 2: wide angle (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 3: wide angle indoors (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 4: wide angle (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 5: wide angle indoors (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 6: wide angle (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 7: wide angle (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 8: wide angle (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 8: telephoto (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 9: telephoto (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 10: wide angle (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 11: wide angle (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 11: ultrawide (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 11: telephoto (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 12: wide angle (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 12: ultrawide (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 12: telephoto (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 13: selfie (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 14: wide angle night (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 14: telephoto night (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 15: wide angle night (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 16: wide angle night (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 17: indoors (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)
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Galaxy S22 camera sample 18: indoors (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

My main gripe with the Galaxy S22 camera is the time it takes between pressing the shutter button and the actual image being captured is too long. This can be quite inconvenient when trying to capture a quick moment, with the subject often coming out blurry or the camera missing the moment entirely.

The Galaxy S22 takes respectable selfies, even at just 10MP, and I especially like the Portrait selfies. There’s also a fun “Director’s View” mode that lets you preview all the cameras simultaneously and switch between them. You can even include a window for the selfie camera while you’re recording.

Expert Raw is another interesting feature in Samsung’s camera arsenal, something for users that like to really take control of their photography settings instead of relying on AI. I haven’t played around with it much because I am not a master photographer, but it seems focused on capturing only RAW images and has a cool shortcut to Adobe Lightroom so you can edit with ease.

Competition

Google Pixel 6 Material You

(Image credit: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

If you're looking for an "entry-level" flagship phone, the Google Pixel 6 is an excellent place to start. It comes in a few hundred dollars cheaper than the Galaxy S22 and uses the speedy Google Tensor, Google's first flagship chipset. It also gets great software support from Google, although not as good as the Galaxy S22, and the camera is also vastly improved from its predecessors — and much better than the Galaxy S22. Plus, you'll be among the first to try out the latest software features from Google. Still, Samsung is no slouch with updates, and you'll get just as much out of the Galaxy ecosystem as you will out of a Pixel, as well as a more consistent UI and arguably less buggy experience. I'd recommend the Galaxy before a Pixel any day.

Even though the OnePlus 10 is on the way, we still recommend the OnePlus 9. It has a great set of cameras, a flagship chipset for fast performance, and a fantastic design. Plus, OxygenOS comes with plenty of useful software additions to really get the best out of the phone, and it has a much larger battery than the Galaxy S22. You can easily find the OnePlus 9 at a great price, rivaling even the Pixel 6. However, Samsung seems to do a better job with software support, something that has been troubling OnePlus lately.

It seems blasphemous to say, but the entry-level iPhone 13 is a great phone for someone looking to make the switch to the dark side. Thanks to its flat display and flat frame, the design is quite familiar to the Galaxy S22. It also comes with a great set of cameras, although you'll get one less camera lens than the Galaxy S22 unless you spring for the more expensive Pro model. Of course, that's only if you're considering making the switch. If you stick with Android and are looking for a small, pocketable flagship, the Galaxy S22 is the way to go, thanks to Samsung building up its Galaxy ecosystem at almost Apple-like levels.

Should you buy it?

Samsung Galaxy S22

Overall, the Galaxy S22 is pretty great (Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

You should buy this if...

  • You want a flagship with the latest Snapdragon chipset
  • You prefer smaller phones that can fit in your hand or pocket
  • You don't care about expandable storage

You shouldn't buy this if...

  • You like large displays
  • You don't want to worry about charging your phone often
  • You absolutely need microSD card support

The bottom line with the bébé Galaxy S22 is that big things come in small packages. While not packing the most impressive specs, it manages to provide excellent performance that should be more than enough for anyone interested in a smaller flagship smartphone.

Not too much has changed between the Galaxy S22 and its predecessor, especially regarding design, but that's okay. Samsung chose to launch the Galaxy S22 as a refinement of an already excellent smartphone, and that shows in both the design and the cameras, which provide excellent output. And thanks to the extended software support, Samsung is banking on you owning the Galaxy S22 for years to come.

Of course, battery life is something to consider if you're planning on making this your daily driver. Samsung curiously decided to lower the battery capacity on the S22, and despite the more efficient chipset and smaller display, battery life is not this phone's strong point. Users may want to consider that if they're looking to buy a new phone. Additionally, there's no microSD support here, so you may want to spring for the more expensive 256GB variant.

That said, if you can get past the battery concerns and the lack of expandable storage, I find the Galaxy S22 to be a pretty solid smartphone.

Derrek is a long-time Nokia and LG fanboy who loves astronomy, videography, and sci-fi movies. When he's not working, he's most likely working out or smoldering at the camera.