Update: The Galaxy Note line is fully dead, RIP.
Samsung didn't have to look far to find inspiration for the Galaxy S22 Ultra. In teasing next month's Galaxy Unpacked event, a Samsung executive essentially confirmed that people have been clamoring for Galaxy Note-style features in the Galaxy S lineup, and that the S22 Ultra is going to take them up on that request.
"For years, Samsung has converted the skeptics who thought our ideas were impossible," wrote Samsung president TM Roh in a blog post that goes on to call out some Galaxy Note capabilities. "Whether it’s a screen that’s too big, a stylus no one knew they needed or a pro-grade camera that could truly bring mobile photography out of the dark."
"At Unpacked in February 2022, we’ll introduce you to the most noteworthy S series device we’ve ever created," Roh added in his blog post. "The next generation of Galaxy S is here, bringing together the greatest experiences of our Samsung Galaxy into one ultimate device."
None of this will surprise long-time users of Samsung's phablet lineup, which last saw an update with the release of the Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra in 2020. But if you haven't used either of those phones — or any Galaxy Note handset — looking back at some of the phablet's key features can help you understand why the S22 Ultra is drawing so heavily on the Note, and how that could help Samsung's new device stand out.
Samsung may have gone through 2021 without releasing a Note update so that it could focus on new versions of its foldables. But with the Galaxy S22 Ultra it sounds like some very important Note features aren't going to remain in the past.
It's all about the S Pen
In the early days of the Galaxy Note, one of the principal appeals of Samsung's phablet was its screen size. These days, most phones offer displays larger than 6 inches. In fact, all three Galaxy S22 models are expected to have large displays, with the S22 Ultra's screen rumored to be 6.8 inches.
But the Galaxy Note offered productivity-minded users another tool besides ample screen real estate to get things done on their phone. It also included a built-in stylus. And if the rumors are correct, so will the Galaxy S22 Ultra.
If 2021 was the year that the S Pen moved beyond the Galaxy Note — Samsung added stylus compatibility to both the Galaxy S21 Ultra and Galaxy Z Fold 3 — this sounds like the year Samsung will integrate the S Pen into other devices. For the S21 Ultra and Galaxy Z Fold 3, the S Pen was an optional accessory; with the S22 Ultra, the S Pen's expected to be included as a built-in feature.
The importance of that potential switch can't be overstated. I used the S Pen when I tested the Galaxy Z Fold 3, and while it was fine for sketching out notes on that foldable's super-sized interior screen, I found it cumbersome to have to lug around a separate stylus. I missed the Galaxy Note feature that brought the screen to life the moment I popped the stylus out of its slot in the phone. And I would have liked the remote control features Samsung built into the versions of the S Pen that shipped with recent Galaxy Note models.
Presumably, an integrated S Pen that ships as part of the Galaxy S22 Ultra will retain those features. And that will make the upcoming phone a worthy productivity tool for a lot of people who like to get things done while on the go.
A more Note-like design
Leaked renders of the Galaxy S22 Ultra hint at a design that looks more like something out of the Galaxy Note series than any other Galaxy S flagship. And that's not just because there's a slot for the S Pen.
Whereas Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus renders show off a phone with rounded corners and curved edges, the S22 Ultra looks flat and rectangular. It's the kind of design that gives the impression you'll have as much screen space as possible to sketch and take notes on the phone's display; the phone should also be easy to hold in one hand while using the S Pen with the other.
In other words, if the designs purporting to show off the Galaxy S22 Ultra do as they say, this isn't just an oversized S22. It's a phone designed to put as much screen at your disposal as possible.
Boosting battery life
You can't get much done on your phone if you're always looking for an outlet to recharge your device, which is why the Galaxy Note series has traditionally packed a big battery that lasts a long time. For example, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus from 2019 lasted just shy of 11 hours on our demanding battery test, which would place it just outside of the best phone battery life list these days.
As Samsung's turned to fast-refreshing displays in recent models, battery life has suffered. The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra was able to hold out for nearly 10.5 hours when we tested it two years ago, but only if we kept its refresh rate at 60Hz; enabling the adaptive display rate drained the battery much more quickly.
That was a problem with the S21 series, too, though less so with the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Still, we're hoping that Samsung's apparent embrace of the Galaxy Note for the upcoming Galaxy S22 Ultra release means a return to a long battery life for Samsung's premium phone.
The Galaxy Note has the last laugh
Of course, it's easy for Samsung to cherry-pick the top Galaxy Note features for its upcoming phone release. The Note's fingerprints are already over many of the marquee features added to Samsung's flagships.
We've already talked about how the Note's popularity helped push phone makers to bigger displays. But it was the Note that was the first Samsung phone to feature an adaptive refresh rate, a capability Samsung subsequently added to the Galaxy S lineup. The Galaxy S and Galaxy Note have also swapped camera features back and forth to the point where it's hard to remember which phone influenced the other.
So when Samsung rolls out a new Ultra model next month, it may have the Galaxy S22 name. But it will most definitely have the Galaxy Note's DNA.