Samsung unveiled its latest series of smartphones and tablets during Wednesday’s Galaxy Unleashed event with plenty of pomp. Beyond the Bridgerton and Batman set dressing, the company’s new S22 smartphone line feels like the improvement it needed after last year’s S21 series failed to stand out from the Android pack.
A slew of improved photography features, an increased focus on low-light image capture and what Samsung says is the fastest processor ever powering the devices definitely position Samsung well for the coming year. Here are the major takeaways from Wednesday’s presentation.
Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus ($799.99, $999.99)
The rumored S22 series proved to be the star of the show thanks to Samsung’s commitment to improved camera and performance iteration. The camera array on the S22 and S22 Plus features an improved 50-megapixel main camera with a 23% larger sensor to capture more light and produce crisper images. It is rounded out by a 12MP ultra-wide and 10MP telephoto camera, a noted decrease from the S21’s 64MP telephoto camera. Despite the downgrade, it still features a 3x optical zoom. More on photography later.
The S22 series touts improved displays as well, including a variable refresh rate AMOLED 2X display that automatically shifts refresh rate based on device usage with a 120Hz max. The S22’s 6.1-inch and S22 Plus’ 6.6-inch displays are the first to be protected by Gorilla Glass Victus Plus, and Samsung claims the brightness of the displays is automatically optimized to light conditions thanks to its “Vision Booster” technology.
Samsung says both devices feature all-day battery life, though the S22 Plus’ battery is larger and claims longer than one day battery life. There is also a distinct difference in charging speed and max brightness between the two (S22: 25W fast charging and 1,300nit, S22 Plus: 45 W fast charging, 1,750nit). Both are available for pre-order now in four colors (additional colors available through Samsung’s storefront) with 128GB and 256GB storage options ahead of their Feb. 25 release date.
Galaxy S22 Ultra ($1,199.99)
The star within a star is the Galaxy S22 Ultra. The S22 Ultra fuses the best of Samsung’s Note line with the S series to deliver what looks to be the best of both worlds, especially for Note fans who were left hanging last year after the Note series’ absence. The S22 Ultra is the first S series phone to include the S Pen stylus with a built-in sheath with improved S-pen functionality thanks to a better prediction algorithm and air actions integration.
The S22 Ultra carries over many of the features on the S22 and S22 Plus, but with some key differences. Like the S21 Ultra, it adds a 10x optical zoom telephoto to the back camera array and boosts the main camera and front camera to 108MP and 40MP respectively. The S22 Ultra also sets the back cameras into the casing, creating a sleeker look. It also features a 6.8-inch AMOLED 2X display.
Samsung claims the S22 Ultra’s battery delivers more than a day’s use on a full charge with 45W super-fast charging. It features faster Wi-Fi speeds thanks to Wi-Fi6E integration, though you’ll need a Wi-Fi6E router to take advantage of those faster speeds. As for storage, The S22 Ultra starts at 128GB with a max of 1TB, and most models feature 12GB RAM. The Galaxy S22 Ultra is available for pre-order now in four colors (additional colors available through Samsung’s storefront) ahead of its Feb. 25 release date.
Galaxy Tab S8, Tab S8 Plus and Tab S8 Ultra ($699.99, $899.99, $1,099.99)
While the phones were the most anticipated items, Samsung introduced its latest line of tablets as well. The Galaxy Tab S8 series boasts some noted improvements with a heavy focus on productivity and connectivity. The Tab S8 Ultra got the most screen time, featuring a 14.6-inch OLED display, the largest on a Samsung tablet to date.
The Tab S8 series is set up to be great for multi-tasking, with Samsung adding the ability to open multiple windows and connect to Samsung PCs as a wireless second display. New Google Duo implementation streamlines collaboration between users during video calls, letting people interact with certain apps within Google Duo calls. That tool can also be used to watch YouTube videos together for your leisure needs.
The Tab S8 Ultra features a dual camera interface for video calls with Auto-Framing technology (which is also included in S22’s rear camera) that automatically recognizes how many people are in frame and adjusts to include up to 10 people. Storage can also be expanded up to 1TB. The Tab S8, Tab S8 Plus and Tab S8 Ultra are available for pre-order now and are expected to ship later this month.
Much of the camera and photography tool improvements Samsung claimed Wednesday centered on the S22 series’ ability to produce better night-time and low-light images. Using the buzzy dubbing of “Nightography,” Samsung said it had improved Portrait Mode to better capture small details and items more clearly in images, including at night. S22 devices also allow users to take high-resolution night-time photos for the first time thanks to the improved sensor in the main back camera.
Samsung also boasted improved AI processes on The S8 Ultra that process multiple frames of an image and combine the best ones to boost the quality of photos. Video capture also gets an improvement thanks to improved image stabilization and automatically adjustable shutter speeds that adjust to lighting conditions to keep images crisp and consistent. Couple that with improved editing and customization tools and Samsung claims to have produced a powerful suite of tools to improve image capture across the board.
All of these new devices run on a new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor in the U.S., though international releases will feature Samsung’s Exynos chips. The Snapdragon is a 4-nanometer chip that Samsung says delivers faster performance to power its improved AI and machine learning tools.
With all the talk about the S Pen, it was expected that there would be some time spent on the app that utilizes it the best within the company’s ecosystem. The latest update to Samsung Notes lets users open two pages at once and quickly import links and entire websites into the workplace. Improved syncing across devices will also let users move between devices and quickly open projects.
Data privacy and security were topics given considerable time as well. Samsung Wallet lets you store everything from financial information, cryptocurrency and flight boarding passes in one spot protected by Samsung Knox. The company also took time to highlight its privacy dashboard and opt-out tracking user controls for limiting data tracking by apps.
Samsung touted its relationship with the United Nations as its shift to incorporating reusable materials into its products. The S22 devices repurposes used fishing nets recovered from the ocean in their power and volume buttons, as well as the S22 Ultra’s S Pen sheath. The company also stated that device packaging is made from 100% recycled paper and it will support its new devices across four generations of Android OS in an effort to limit electronic waste and prolong usage of new devices.
Samsung Watch 4 Updates
Samsung Watch 4 also got some nifty updates. Samsung is working with Google to bring Google Assistant integration to the wearable device later this year. It will also run a new operating system, Wear OS, co-developed with Google to improve app availability and performance. Throw in some health updates and some new, colorful watch straps and you have some valuable improvements.