Samsung has a new design for the Galaxy S22 generation, shared between the vanilla S22 and the S22+. This is yet another area where the S22 Ultra deviates from the crowd in a very "Note" way with an entirely different outward aesthetic.
Samsung has a new look for 2022, which is quite "minimalistic" and a bit "flatter" compared to last year. To be fair, though, neither qualifier entirely fits the S22. While it is definitely flatter than its S21 predecessor, the S22 is still rounded and curvy in a few key aspects. Most of the previous design leaks and renders for the S22 made its middle frame look almost entirely flat, akin to Apple's current iPhone look.
That is not the case, though. Under the right angle, the frame does look deceptively flat, even in person. It is symmetrically and gently sloping along its central line. Next to the S21 and its aggressively curved back side, the overall silhouette of the S22 is indeed a lot "flatter".
While we like the new shape, it's not exactly great for handling. In fact, the S22 is very slippery. It is rather difficult to hold on tightly without any sharp edges or chamfers. Plus, the particular finish Samsung chose for the aluminum frame is a grease magnet. Since Samsung apparently meant for the finish to be more on the matte side rather than glossy and reflective, even when greasy, the frame doesn't look too bad, but it does become even more slippery.Samsung Galaxy S22+ • S22
The backside of the S22 fairs a lot better when it comes to dirt. In fact, aside from the occasional speck of dust that gets drawn from the big flat area, there is no notable grease accumulation. Speaking of the flat back panel, it is probably the biggest design change on the S22 and S22+. It is almost entirely flat - a stark departure from the deep curves on the S21 Galaxy devices. It is made from Gorilla Glass Victus+, like the front side.
Another simplified aspect of the new galaxy S22 design is the new camera island. Gone is the particular "wrap-around" aesthetic of the S21 family, which had the island sort of extending over the edge of the back and into the metal frame. The S22 and S22+ simply have the camera island end where the middle frame begins - an arguably less-recognizable look.
In case it wasn't clear, the S22 is basically a shrunken-down version of the S22+. Or perhaps it's the other way around. The point is that their design is identical. That goes for color options too. There is a slew of old and new options. The Phantom Black is still present, and so is the White option, now just a bit different and called Phantom White. You also get Green and Pink Gold. These are the so-called "basic" colors. Their middle frames and camera islands are color-matched with the back panel, except for Phantom White, which gets silver accents.
Then there are four other colors exclusive to Samsung.com and the Samsung Experience store - Graphite, Cream, Sky Blue and Violet. These have varying frames and color accents - Cream and Sky Blue get silver, whereas Graphite has black accents, and violet has them in soft gold. We haven't seen the latter in person, but we believe the secondary color is borrowed from the Pink Gold, which is the unit we have for review. Its colors, in particular, are soft and subtle. If you are not into that, Samsung clearly has bolder choices.
Circling to the front of the Galaxy S22, we find another mostly flat Gorilla Glass Victus+ surface. While the S21 also has a flat display, a point can be made that the S22 is flatter still on this side as well. The top glass on the S21 has a distinctive curve around its edges - sometimes referred to as a 2.5D glass edge - that extends down into the side frame. This means the entire screen assembly, glass and all sticks out above the frame.
By contrast, the S22 design is even flatter since the glass front is much lower and sunken into the aluminum side frame. The two lie flush at basically the same height and meet at a right angle, which naturally makes the whole surface a lot "flatter".
While the S22 is far from "bezel-less", we don't see that as a bad thing at all. Having a few extra millimeters of buffer between the actual edge of your device and its display panel is a good thing in terms of protection as well as structural integrity. Getting a nice glass screen protector to stick to the front of a device without the need for fancy and janky liquid adhesive is also great. Plus, the whole fad with "endless displays" seems to have passed anyway.
Even so, the bezels are still pretty thin and impressively symmetrical on all sides. We can appreciate that.
Samsung's flagship Galaxy S devices have always offered great all-around, if not industry-leading, build quality. Last year the vanilla Galaxy S21 did experience a bit of backlash from the community after opting for a plastic back panel instead of glass. An unfortunate debacle that the Korean giant clearly took to heart since the entire S22 family has glass on both sides this year-the latest Corning Gorilla Glass Victus+ version, to be precise.Samsung Galaxy S22 • S21
Unfortunately, we couldn't find any exact information on what makes this protective finish worthy of "+" over the regular Victus. Considering the size of Samsung's order to Corning for the S22 series, we are guessing any name was not off the table. But we digress. If there are some improvements over regular Victus, we expect them to be in shatter-resistance, which is already stellar. As for scratch resistance, like any other glass out there, a safe bet would be scratches at level 6 on the Mohs hardness scale and deeper grooves at level 7.
Our Galaxy S22 unit came without a pre-applied screen protector, which is something Samsung used to do until the S21. We aren't sure what to make of the move, but none of the Galaxy S22 models have a screen protector. Hopefully, that means the display surface is more scratch-resistant this time around and is not just a cost-saving measure since there are now official screen protectors for sale up on Samsung.com.
The Galaxy S22 is exceptionally sturdy. It has practically no flex to it, which is mostly thanks to its aluminum middle frame. The frame itself has grown in size for the S22 generation, which is probably helping it keep the double "glass sandwich" construction better. Samsung actually has a name for its particular aluminum alloy blend - "Armor Aluminum" frame. If this name sounds familiar, it is because Samsung already used this particular aluminum on its latest foldables - the Z Fold3 5G and Z Flip3 5G, while advertising 10% better durability.
While the S22 is quite slippery and a big hard to hold without a case, the phone itself feels very "dense" in a good encouraging way. It is also well-balanced. The weight distribution is excellent, with the center of weight almost exactly down the middle. Not that this is as important on a compact phone such as the S22.
The body on the S22 has the standard IP68 ingress protection rating we have come to expect from Samsung flagships.
Samsung has been ramping up its environmental efforts with the Galaxy S22 family in a few ways. First up, there is the "Repurpose Ocean-Bound Plastics" initiative, which is basically Samsung recovering and recycling old fishing nets from the ocean.
As per this one sketch the company has provided, the material salvaged from the nets was used to manufacture the power button and volume rockers across the Galaxy S22 family. Actually, not even the entire parts, but the plastic key brackets of the buttons. Also, the inner cover for the S Pen on the S22 Ultra is made in the same way. This sounds laughably minuscule, but operating at the Galaxy S22 unit manufacturing scale, it still adds up, and Samsung deserves at least a pat on the back for the initiative.
Plus, Samsung also claims that other bits of its power button and volume rocker and the speaker module are made from "post-consumer material". That's basically a fancy way of saying recycled material from discarded consumer goods. Again, it's not like the outer shell or the frame are recycled, but we still think some effort in this area is better than no effort.
Since recycling is actually at the relatively far end of the sustainability pyramid, so to say, Samsung also made an arguably much more significant software support commitment to go along with recycling efforts. All of its 2022 and 2021 flagship devices will be getting four OS updates and five years of patches.
The Galaxy S22 has a familiar and straightforward control setup. Identical to that on the S22+, which makes sense given that the phones share the same design. You get a power button and volume rocker on the right-hand side-both well-positioned, clicky and responsive.
The opposite left side frame is empty, sans for a few antenna lines. Perhaps it's worth noting that the antenna lines on the S22 are not symmetrical from side to side. Not that it matters in practice.
The same is mostly true for the top side, where there is just a single tiny hole for the secondary microphone alongside another antenna line.
The bottom of the S22 is quite a bit busier. The Type-C port has USB Host support as well as video output through Type-C Alt mode. Charging is capped at 25W and is tone through PD with PPS. The primary microphone is also on the bottom side and the dual nanoSIM card tray. There is no expandable storage on the Galaxy S22, S22+ and S22 Ultra models, which is unfortunate. There is a bottom-firing speaker on this side of the S22 too. It is part of a hybrid stereo setup with the earpiece.
Speaking of the earpiece, it is well hidden and practically invisible, with just a small slit, barely noticeable above the display on the front side. Despite its diminutive size, it still gets quite loud.
The punch hole for the selfie camera is quite small, which we've come to expect from Samsung flagships. While the area around the top of the display looks deceptively empty, there are at least several well-hidden sensors underneath the display. Notably, an STM STK33915 light sensor and a proximity sensor. These are invisible even when shining a light directly at the area, but that is hardly a surprise since Samsung has nearly perfected under-display sensors.
Just like its siblings, the Galaxy S22 has an under display ultrasonic fingerprint reader. Samsung has stuck with the technology and continued to improve on it, deciding to lean on its strengths and live with some of its downsides.
To be fair, these ultrasonic sensors have changed noticeably since the early days. They have grown in size and otherwise improved their performance generation to generation. Still, we honestly can't say they are quite as speedy or reliable as modern optical units. The one inside the S22 is about as good as ultrasonic tech gets. We found it to be very accurate and reasonably quick. Only long-term testing can tell if this behavior holds up, though.
Despite its compact size (relative to today's average phone, that is), the Galaxy S22 makes no compromises in the connectivity department. Well, except for Ultra Wide Band (UWB) support. The S22 doesn't have it, while the S22+ and S22 Ultra do.
There are at least two major variants of the Galaxy S22, depending on how you choose to count the mmWave one. That one is limited to the USA and is hence based on the Snapdragon 8 Gen. 1 chipset. Beyond that, almost every country outside of Europe is getting the Snapdragon this year, while European units, including our review one, are built on Samsung's Exynos 2200 chipset.Samsung Galaxy S21 • S22
While there are unquestionably differences between the two chips, in terms of connectivity, both manage impressive parity. All S22 units support dual SIM and dual Standby SA/NSA/Sub6 5G, with a few differences in bands here and there. There is also integrated eSIM support, but you can't have three-way simultaneous standby. A single-SIM version of the S22 exists on some markets as well, but it is not the norm. mmWave is a whole other variant that even weighs a bit more.
There is nifty parity between the Snapdragon and Exynos in terms of local connectivity too. Both get dual-band Wi-Fi 6e, Bluetooth 5.2 with LE support and NFC. GPS capabilities are basically shared between the pair as well. Both have dual-band (L1+L5) GPS receivers and A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO support.
You also get a full set of sensors on the S22, including an accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass and barometer. There is also NFC. If you are upgrading from an older Samsung flagship, you might notice the lack of ANT support and Samsung's MST. Neither is a new omission, though. There is no notification LED nor a 3.5mm audio jack either. Hardly a surprise.
Circling back to the Type-C port on the S22 for a bit. It is being advertised as supporting a USB 3.2 data connection. While that definitely looks impressive on paper, due to the current sorry state of the USB naming convention, practically any USB port can be labeled 3.2. We did some testing with an external Thunderbolt drive and a PC with a Thunderbolt 3 port and known fast USB cables and never even got close to the 5Gbps expected transfer rate of the 1x1 USB 3.2 spec. Make of that what you will. On a more positive note, you can get both video and audio output over the Type-C port. Better still, DeX is the industry leader when it comes to a desktop environment.