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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra — 5 biggest rumored upgrades

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra renders colors with S Pen
(Image credit: LetsGoDigital / Giuseppe Spinelli)

The Samsung Galaxy S22 will be the first major smartphone release of 2022, with the Galaxy S22 Ultra expected to represent the best of what Samsung has to offer smartphone shoppers. In one sense, that's not much of a surprise — after all, the Galaxy S21 lineup offered three models with the S21 Ultra headlining the product launch.

But there could be a major change with the S22 launch. Rumors surrounding the upcoming phones suggest that the S22 Ultra will stand more apart from the standard Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus, with a distinctive look and features that position it almost as a separate phone. In fact, the Galaxy S22 Ultra could be a proper Galaxy Note replacement with a built-in S Pen. 

Our Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Galaxy S22 Ultra comparison has a detailed look at the changes expected among the different S22 models. For now, though, let's focus on exactly what will set apart the Galaxy S22 Ultra from the rest of the crowd.

Here'a a look at the five top rumored features for the Galaxy S22 Ultra and what they say about how Samsung's release plans are taking shape.

1. Built-in S Pen support for Galaxy S22 Ultra

Support for the S Pen wouldn't be a first for Samsung phones outside of the Galaxy Note lineup. After all, the Galaxy S21 Ultra was the first such phone to work with Samsung's stylus last year, followed by the Galaxy Z Fold 3. We're expecting the Galaxy S22 Ultra to keep that trend going.

The difference, though, is that for those first two devices, the S Pen was an optional accessory. For the Galaxy S22 Ultra, Samsung looks like it's going to integrate the stylus into the phone itself, just like it did with the Galaxy Note phablets.

galaxy s22 ultra leaked photo showing the s pen in its slot

(Image credit: Front Page Tech)

There's no official confirmation on this, of course — just rumors and device renders. Photos allegedly showing off the S22 Ultra's design include a slot for the S Pen, making this upcoming phablet a true successor to the Galaxy Note, which went without an update this year.

We can't emphasize enough how important it will be to have a built-in S Pen included with the Galaxy S22 Ultra. Not only do you have to pay extra for an S Pen to use with the Galaxy S21 Ultra or Galaxy Z Fold 3, you also need to buy a case to house the stylus. A slot within the phone itself promises a much more integrated experience.

2. A new Note-like look for Galaxy S22 Ultra

Speaking of those leaked photos, if they're accurate, they promise that the Galaxy S22 Ultra is in line for a new design that actually draws on an older Samsung phone for inspiration. The alleged S22 Ultra looks a lot like the Galaxy Note 20, with a blockier, squared-off design.

leaked image of galaxy s22 ultra showing camera array

(Image credit: Front Page Tech)

It's the rumored camera array that piqued our interest, though. Instead of the big blocks that characterize current camera layouts, Samsung is reportedly going with more subtle waterdrop-style lenses that blend into the back of the phone. The cameras look to be arrayed in what's calling a P-shaped design, with the lenses descending by size.

It's worth noting that the rumored look for the Galaxy S22 Ultra sounds much different than what's supposedly in the works for the S22 and and S22 Plus. Those two models are expected to look more like their predecessors, further heralding a split in how Samsung develops and sells the S21 Ultra.

3. Galaxy S22 Ultra Snapdragon 898 processor

It's not exactly going out on a limb to forecast that a Qualcomm Snapdragon system-on-chip will power the Galaxy S22 Ultra — and indeed, all three models in the Galaxy S22 lineup. After all, Samsung typically uses Qualcomm's best available chipset in its phones, at least for those models that go on sale in the U.S.

Snapdragon 888 features

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

Expect that to continue this year, with the Galaxy S22 in line to run on the still-rumored Snapdragon 898. Chatter about that chip suggests a 20% boost in performance over the Snapdragon 888 in this year's Galaxy S21 lineup, and while early leaked benchmarks haven't borne that out completely, at least one prominent leaker expects the Snapdragon 898-powered S22 models to outperform their predecessors, even if the iPhone 13 and its A15 Bionic processor continue to set the pace.

One change from Samsung's past approach that could impact the Galaxy S22 Ultra outside the U.S.: Why Samsung normally uses its own Exynos chip to power flagship devices selling in those markets, a new rumor says that Samsung will use the Snapdragon 898 across all devices, regardless of region.

4. Galaxy S22 Ultra could have brightest screen yet

Samsung will be hard-pressed to improve upon the display it used for the Galaxy S21 Ultra, which relied on LTPO technology to offer an adaptive refresh rate that could scale up or down depending on what you were doing with the screen. That feature's all but certain to come back to the Galaxy S22 Ultra.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

(Image credit: Future)

But there's more than one way to improve a display, and one prominent leaker claims that the Galaxy S22 Ultra will offer Samsung's brightest display ever. Considering the S21 Ultra was rated for a maximum of 1,500 nits, that figures to be a very bright screen.

When we tested the Galaxy S21 Ultra, we measured its display at 821 nits, which is certainly bright. However, since that phone's release, the iPhone 13 Pro Max has come along with a 1,038-nit reading when we had adaptive brightness turned on. That gives the Galaxy S22 Ultra a target to shoot for.

5. Galaxy S22 Ultra cameras: Taking 108MP to the next level

As with the display, the cameras on the Galaxy S21 Ultra figure to be a tough act to follow. No wonder that rumors suggest that rather than attempt to top those camera specs, the Galaxy S22 Ultra will offer a similar camera array — a 108MP main shooter joined by a 12MP ultrawide angle camera and a pair of telephoto lenses.

An unofficial render of the Galaxy S22 Ultra, showing the phone's front, back and S Pen in white on a white background

(Image credit: Technizo Concept/LetsGoDigital)

The specs may be staying the same, rumors claim, but the features aren't. The main camera will reportedly get a wider aperture to let in more light, while the two telephoto lenses are supposedly larger, letting in more light. We're also hearing that the S22 Ultra's 108MP sensor will get a new detailed mode for even sharper pics.

As good as Samsung's cameras are, they do sometimes struggle with consistent color. If rumors of a Samsung partnership with Olympus don't pan out, we hope that Samsung could adapt an SRGB sensor for better colors in high-contrast scenes.

Galaxy S22 Ultra outlook

It's an exciting array of rumors surrounding Samsung's largest Galaxy S models, and that's before new rumors bring additional facts into contest. With the Galaxy S22 Ultra and the rest of the Galaxy S22 family supposedly coming in February, that gives us a few months to sort out what features will and won't move the needle for Samsung.

Philip Michaels
Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom's Guide. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics and old movies. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.