Update: The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is indeed a spiritual successor to the Galaxy Note, but it's also a surprisingly impressive gaming phone.
I’ve written before that the death of the Samsung Galaxy Note line has left me a little sad as I loved the kitchen sink tech feel of the almost-too-large phones. They were the ultimate expression of Samsung’s smartphone efforts and I loved them for it.
But with the Samsung Galaxy Note S21 killed off, and the Galaxy Z Fold 3 seemingly taking its place as the do-everything phone, it’s the end of the road for the Note line. Well kinda.
From an increasing amount of rumors and alleged leaks, it’s looking very much like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra will be a next-gen Note in all but name.
Images of what’s claimed to be a case for the Ultra model shows off a design that sports the sharper edges and gentler curved display of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra rather than the more rounded look of the Galaxy S21 Ultra. And there are rumors of a built in S Pen holder, something the Galaxy S21 Ultra lacked.
That’s all very good news for a Galaxy Note fan, and it also makes sense.
The past two generations of Ultra phones in the Galaxy S series have been encroaching upon the Note line’s territory, only lacking that sharper design and S Pen holder but rocking very similar specs. And as the Note line got diluted with a standard model and Plus/Ultra handsets, it started to feel like it was lacking the whole ‘this is the one Samsung phone to rule them all’ that Notes used to be, at least in my eyes.
But with all the signs pointing towards the Galaxy S22 Ultra being the spiritual successor to the Note, I feel Samsung could be getting back on track to present a single phone that aims to crush all Android rivals and tempt people away from the iPhone 13 Pro Max. It could also be the best Note that ever/never was.
We’re expecting the Galaxy S22 line up to come with boosted cameras, a new chipset — likely the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in the U.S. — with the Ultra model getting the best upgrades, such as an improved 108MP main camera. All good so far.
Yet what’s caught my eye is the feeling that the Galaxy S22 Ultra will not simply ape the Note’s design, but blend it in with the hardware styling and feel we’ve seen with Galaxy S-line phones.
For example, rather than having a whacking great big rectangular or pill-shaped camera module, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is tapped to get a ‘P-shaped’ rear camera array, which could see a suite of five sensors sitting almost flush with the phone’s back and removing a camera ‘bump.’ To me that has the whiff of an evolution on the Contour Cut design we saw in the Galaxy S21 phones, which not only looked good but was a lot more ergonomic than a standard rear camera module.
I also feel that having a Note-like Galaxy S22 Ultra launching early in the year, also gives Samsung the scope to iterate on the software side, improving camera performance and features over a longer period, as well as giving people the best phone it can make some six month earlier. That’s a compelling prospect for me, and could be the reason I might end up swapping from my already beloved Google Pixel 6 Pro.
Speaking of improvements, I reckon that by not having a Note-style phone for more than 18 months, Samsung can fully dedicate its resources and attention on making the Galaxy S22 Ultra one of the best big phones possible.
I expect that blending the Note and Galaxy S-line DNA will result in an overall more refined phone design. And on the software side, lessons learned from split screen multitasking on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 could be brought over to the Ultra’s predicted 6.81-inch display.
Obviously, one expects phones to improve from generation to generation, but I’m getting the distinct impression that the Galaxy S22 Ultra could actually be the Note phone I’ve been waiting for. After all the previous Notes were very good but far from perfect; the camera system didn't quite win me over.
One area that has got me particularly excited about the Galaxy S22 Ultra is its potential to have an new Exynos chip with AMD RDNA 2 based graphics; the same graphics architecture found in the PS5 and Xbox Series X. Now I stress potential here, as it’s now looking more likely that the Galaxy S22 line will use the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 rather than a chip created in partnership with AMD.
But if the rumored Exynos 2200 does sport AMD graphics and makes its way into the Galaxy S22 Ultra, then we could be looking at a phone that delivers proper console-quality gaming rather than a facsimile of it. I’ve already written how the Galaxy S22 Ultra could be a form of Xbox gaming phone, given the AMD partnership and Samsung's close relationship with Microsoft. And this idea further fuels the idea that the Galaxy S22 Ultra will be the ultra Note phone.
Of course, all we have at the moment are rumors and hearsay, albeit some rather compelling ones. But with the Galaxy S22 range set to launch early 2022, likely around Mobile World Congress time, I’ve not got long to wait before I see if these rumors come to fruition or wither on the vine.