The Galaxy S22 is a long ways off, likely six months or so. In the meantime, we'll have the new foldables from Samsung, the iPhone 13, and Pixel 6 to deal with. But rest assured, Samsung is already looking ahead to 2022 and has probably already finalized many details for what will become the Galaxy S22.
We've heard some interesting rumors, like a collaboration with Olympus for the camera and an AMD GPU in the next Exynos chip. There's a lot of wishlisting and daydreaming over the next version of anything, so it's best to temper expectations now. It's way too early to say if the Galaxy S22 will be game-changing or not.
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Having used both the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus, I have a few things I'd like to see the S22 address to make it more than just an iterative upgrade over its predecessor. Some may surprise you.
Improved refresh rate range
While Samsung makes most of the displays for the best phones, I found the ones on the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus to be simply adequate. The S21 Ultra's is fantastic, but upstarts like the OnePlus 9 Pro surpassed Samsung's own flagship in my opinion. Part of this comes down to the refresh rate range.
That means how far the phone's display dips to save battery life. On the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus, the lowest the screen falls is 48Hz in the adaptive mode. Compare that to the S21 Ultra or OnePlus 9 Pro, both of which will clock down to as low as 1Hz for static images. This can have noticeable effects on battery life (which I'll get to in a bit).
I'd like to see all of the Galaxy S22 models to feature the 1Hz-120Hz range, not just the Ultra model. This is more than just a premium feature — it could also have an impact on improving battery life for all of the models we'll eventually get.
Better battery life
This applies more to the non-Ultra Galaxy S22 models, since the Galaxy S21 Ultra has superb battery life. The S21 Plus was decent, too, but the little S21 wasn't great. In order to see acceptable battery life on the little guy, you had to use the 60Hz refresh rate mode. What's the point of having something as nice as a high refresh rate if the phone's battery life notices a significant decline?
Granted, the smaller Galaxy S21 is, as you might have guessed, a small phone by today's standards. But the Pixel 5, which is also a compact phone, can last for almost three hours longer in our battery life test with the display set to 90Hz.
I'd like to see Samsung figure out why the cheapest S21 saw subpar battery life and address it with the S22. If the company improves the refresh rate like I mentioned above, I think that would help things by letting the display clock down to a lower refresh rate, thus saving battery life. Regardless, Samsung can do better in this regard.
Make no mistake, the Galaxy S21 cameras are the best we've ever seen from Samsung. All three phones feature some impressive stuff, notably wicked zoom capabilities. The S21 Ultra, with its ability to zoom up to 100x, is especially noteworthy.
But I noticed some camera inconsistencies with the Galaxy S21 Plus in my review, as did my colleague Roland Moore-Coyler in his Galaxy S21 review. Samsung still has some work to do with its computational photography prowess if its hopes to match Apple and Google. In recent memory, Samsung phones favor high saturation in the final images.
This can be okay in some cases, but in others, it gets out of hand. Compare this to the consistency we see from the iPhone 12 Pro Max or Pixel 5. You can always bump up the saturation in post-processing (or just apply a filter) if that's to your liking, but I have found Samsung's approach to be too heavy-handed.
I'm less concerned with overall megapixel count, as Apple and Google have proven you don't need sky-high numbers to put out beautiful photos. And while I understand that Samsung needs to differentiate the Ultra model from the regular and Plus ones, but it would be really nice if the Korean company would at least keep the main cameras the same across the entire family, much like Apple did with the iPhone 12 (and what Google will reportedly do with the Pixel 6).
Bring back expandable storage
This one's pretty simple. Samsung should bring back expandable storage as an option for those who wish to use it. I still can't fathom why premium phones, which people pay a pretty penny for, dropped this poweruser feature. Baffling.
After all, an "Ultra" moniker implies no holds barred, right? Maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree here — or perhaps fighting an already lost cause — but I still hold that Samsung should reintroduce expandable storage for the Galaxy S22.
Apple, Google, and Samsung have all strangely resisted the fast charging trend. While the likes of OnePlus and Xiaomi push the physical limits of what's possible with batteries, Samsung went back to 25W charging for the Galaxy S21. For reference, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus and S20 Ultra had 45W charging options.
If Samsung happens to use larger batteries in the S22 models, it would be really nice to be able to recharge them faster when needed. I think 45W would be a good compromise, even though it's hard to go back to anything slower once you've seen how fast a phone can recharge on a 65W charger. There's already a report that Samsung is contemplating 45W fast charging or higher for the Galaxy S22.
The only bummer I see here is if Samsung continues to not include a charger with the Galaxy S22. Then a 45W charger would be just another cost on top of what will likely be an expensive phone.
The Galaxy S21 features high-end specs for an Android phone, making all of three of the models excellent gaming machines. But if you've used one for a long session, you'll likely have noticed how hot the phone can get. This isn't as big of an issue on some other phones, especially the best gaming phones.
While I don't think anyone expects the Galaxy S22 to be the ultimate gaming phone, it would be nice to have better cooling onboard. Rumors suggest that the S22 will have vapor chamber cooling, which would be really nice for heat dissipation during extended gaming times.
S Pen support for all models
The Galaxy S21 Ultra was the first Galaxy S phone to support the S Pen, which was previously limited to the Galaxy Note series. With the latter likely on the way out, it would be nice to see all of the Galaxy S22 models come with S Pen support for those that want it.
Again, I understand that Samsung needs things to entice people to buy the more expensive Ultra model, but I'm more concerned with everyone who buys the S line to have a similarly premium experience. That, or Samsung needs to make less phones — and that's not going to happen.
The S Pen on the regular S22, which I expect will be compact like the S21, might be a bit awkward because of the smaller screen. But having options is rarely a bad thing and, like expandable storage, I'll continue to advocate for people to get the most for their money. Even if that means the rather large S Pen on a small phone like the Galaxy S22.
Galaxy S22 outlook
We're still a few months out from serious leaks for the Galaxy S22, but that doesn't mean we can't think about what the phone needs to be better. And not just better than its predecessor, but better than the upcoming iPhone 13.
Samsung leads the charge each new year for new phones, but it should capitalize on that position to set a high bar for the year. A lot of us use the Galaxy S phones as the baseline comparison for many other phones that follow and it wouldn't be in anyone's best interest for Samsung to get lazy.