As we gear up for Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2022 on February 9, certain things are expected. We will certainly get new phones like the Galaxy S22, which was pretty much assured by Samsung’s promise of a Note-worthy event, and we may see tablets like the Tab S8 as well. Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra was one of the best phones I’ve ever used, and probably the best camera experience you could get on a phone in 2021. So it’s very exciting to see its successor.
Leading up to the event, though, I wanted to share some things I hope to see from the S22 series. Since phones are the only real guarantee right now, I’ll focus on those, though I can think of a few things I’d like to see from rumored tablets as well. Some of these wishes are entirely possible, based on technologies available on other smartphones, while others are, to use a Samsung term, “moon shots.”
Last year, we got S Pen compatibility in the Galaxy S21 Ultra for the first time. That experience was hobbled by the need for a special case and a separate S Pen. It was not an awesome experience, and definitely not “Note-worthy.” One of my only complaints about the Ultra last year was the “duct tape and baling wire” solution that Samsung seemed to offer for the S Pen. It seemed like the S Pen was an oversight that was corrected at the last minute.
This year, it seems likely the S22 Ultra will finally deliver a truly noteworthy experience by putting an S Pen slot inside the body of the phone. Now that Samsung has had an extra year to figure all this out, this is the year to do it right. I wouldn’t be surprised if Samsung simply called it the S22 Note instead of the S22 Ultra. In fact, I think it should. It would be a great way to continue the Note legacy that is arguably part of why Samsung is in the place it is these days. Sure, a few billion dollars in marketing helped, but many tech enthusiasts look back at the Note as the start of a new and wonderful era. Keep it going, Samsung.
Last year’s Samsung Galaxy S21 lineup started at an impressive price point. But that price point lost a lot of its luster in light of the compromises that were made. Most point to the plastic backplate as a major stumbling block that kept the S21 from being considered a “true” flagship. While I personally don’t have a problem with polycarbonate build materials in midrange/budget phones, my colleague Andy Boxall goes into great detail about why the S22 lineup should be considered the best of the best, and not suffer the indignity of a plastic back.
Last year’s Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra still offers the best camera experience you can find on an Android phone right now along with the Pixel 6 Pro. I particularly loved the 10x zoom lens, but it came with a fairly small f/4.9 aperture. It’s fine during the day in broad daylight, but if the lighting was a little bit dim, image quality suffered quite a bit. Most of the time, I noticed this during indoor events when the lighting wasn’t the best.
One of the biggest use cases for a powerful zoom is capturing things close up when you can’t be close up. Often, that’s in a concert hall, or a playing field, or a gym. Those won’t always have the best lighting, and if you can’t capture a good image, there’s no point in having the zoom lens in the first place.
Periscope zoom lenses are fairly new, so there are plenty of allowances here. But if there’s any way Samsung can up its telephoto game, that would make the best even better. Isn’t that the point?
While we’re on the topic of zoom, let’s talk about Samsung’s hybrid zoom capability. On the S21 Ultra, Samsung claimed you could zoom into 100x Space Zoom, Let’s just say the results were pretty mixed. If your goal was to capture text from a long way away, hybrid zoom did pretty well with that. But once you moved away from angular shapes and into the more organic shapes of trees, landscape, and people, you start to get modern art masterpieces rather than photos.
Samsung has spent a lot of time and processing power working on the algorithms behind zoom processing, and for the record, up to 30x was pretty serviceable on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. But if Samsung is going to continue to promise 100x Space Zoom, then there’s a lot of work to be done there.
Last year’s Samsung Galaxy S21 series of phones were limited to 25-watt fast charging and 15W wireless charging. Personally, I have never been one to advocate for faster charging since I charge my phones overnight. But technology has gotten a lot better even in the past year. The OnePlus 9 Pro is capable of 50W wireless charging, to say nothing about the impressive 65W wired charging it’s capable of. And while it’s not available in the U.S., the Xiaomi 11i HyperCharge can safely charge at an incredible 120W.
When that kind of speed is possible, plugging in your phone overnight is less of a necessity. Topping off before heading out is crazy fast. Not only that, but some phones last year and this year have started to ship 65W chargers in the box. This is not a huge ask for Samsung, especially since things have reached the point where 25W charging is laughably slow.
Are all of these first-world problems? Absolutely. But when you’re looking at phones north of $1,000, those are the kinds of fixes you want. This is a fairly short list of things that could put the S22 series of phones above and beyond the rest of the competition, and if that’s not Samsung’s goal, what are they even doing here? So we’ll all stand by for Unpacked on February 9 and see what Samsung has to offer.