In the run up to the final official reveal of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, I was hyped to get a phone that was set to be the spiritual successor of the Galaxy Note phones, which were pretty much killed off after the Galaxy Note 20.
And thankfully Samsung delivered that with the Galaxy S22 Ultra, neatly blending the best bits of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra with the Galaxy S21 Ultra, as well as adding in some refinements. With its latest flagship, Samsung has created one of the best Android phones and indeed one of the best phones you can buy right now. Yet I’m underwhelmed.
When I got my hands on the Galaxy S22 Ultra, I was fully expecting it to pull me away from an increasingly beloved iPhone 13 Pro, as I’m a natural big Android phone fan. But that didn’t happen thanks to the stellar consistency of the iPhone 13 Pro experience.
FYI: I do reckon the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra stands out as a very impressive gaming phone, even though, thankfully, it doesn't look like one.
So instead, I expected the Galaxy S22 Ultra to become my go-to Android phone, replacing the excellent but occasionally janky Google Pixel 6 Pro. Afterall, I adore the design of the S22 Ultra, with its expansive flatter, rectangular display making it a great screen on which to gawp at pretty much anything.
And the cameras are simply excellent, especially for zooming. While the S Pen is a nice accoutrement to what I’d expected to be the near-ideal smartphone dish.
But something weird happened.
It’s far from a perfect phone, with a thick design and a cover display that feels a little too cramped to use like one uses a non-folding phone. It also has no included S-Pen and an inferior rear camera array. Yet it's the phone I ended up reaching for over the Galaxy S22 Ultra, something that I really didn't expect.
In spite of its flaws, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 has started to change my expectations around what I expect from a big flagship Android phone.
I've already spouted how good the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is for being productive on the move, but I had thought the Galaxy S22 Ultra would be a challenger, given how well Note phones have been at getting stuff done when away from a laptop; I basically S Pen-ned my application letter to Tom’s Guide on the Galaxy Note 10 Plus.
But even the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s fantastic 6.8-inch display pales in comparison to having a proper folding screen, which offers 7.6 inches of diagonal screen space that’s a lot bigger in use than that number sounds.
Everything from watching videos, perusing photos, browsing websites and reading digital books just feels superior on the Galaxy Z Fold 3. Yes it’s extra trouble folding it out, and the added weight and bulk in my pocket isn’t ideal. But that’s a price I’m surprisingly happy to pay for the extra screen space.
And sure, the cover screen could be a little wider. But once you adjust to it, it’s fine for checking messages or tapping out a quick message; there’s an argument it’s easier to use one-handed than the Galaxy S22 Ultra.
Yet more than the display, it’s what the Galaxy Z Fold 3 represents that's held onto my attention. It may not have the fastest chip around or the very best cameras — its cameras are still mostly very good — but it has more cutting-edge tech than the Galaxy S22 Ultra or indeed many other top Android phones. The folding mechanism is just lovely in terms of design and feel, and the use of an under-display camera is also noteworthy.
Sure, both are ripe for improvement, as is the Galaxy Z Fold line in general. But it changes what one can expect from a smartphone both now and in the future. It’s also the one folding phone that’s polished enough for me to start to feel like foldables are the future, rather than a niche for tech fans with deep pockets.
In comparison, the Galaxy S22 Ultra feels more like a well-polished and semi-nostalgic look back at the near-past rather than a true step forward.
For that reason, I’m finding myself increasingly reaching past some excellent Android phones and beyond the stellar S22 Ultra for its foldable stablemate. And I can’t wait to see what the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 can bring to the foldable phone table.