I gave my Galaxy S22 Ultra new life with Galaxy AI features, but it exposes a conundrum — here’s why

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra with Galaxy AI.
(Image credit: Future)

Artificial intelligence has been the priority for many phone makers, including Samsung, who recently released its One UI 6.1 update for the aging Galaxy S22 Ultra. I’ve had mine locked away in a cabinet for the better part of the last year, but recently brought it back from the grave thanks to a turbocharged software update that brings Galaxy AI features.

Samsung’s One UI 6.1 update started to roll out to many older Samsung Galaxy S22 devices, following after how I tried out Galaxy AI features on my Galaxy S23 Ultra, and I cannot begin to tell you how it’s changing my perception about AI. With this rollout, it takes the once best phone contender and brings it to the same conversation as the newer Galaxy S24 Ultra — which also exposes this conundrum I have about AI features in general.

Either way, Galaxy S22 Ultra owners who’ve neglected to make the upgrade to a newer phone are certainly eating up this latest software release. Here’s what I found after spending time with these new AI features.

Nearly all the same Galaxy AI features

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra with Galaxy AI.

(Image credit: Future)

In my Galaxy S24 Ultra review, I specifically highlighted how the Galaxy AI features were a central part to the flagship’s story — especially with the controversy around its telephoto camera downgrade. What’s apparent is that it pretty much gains all the same Galaxy AI features I’ve used on the Galaxy S24 Ultra. They include the following highlights:

  • Generative Edit: I can remove reflections in my photos with the help of AI, make crooked photos look centered, and even have generative AI to fill in gaps when I remove or resize subjects.
  • Instant Slow-Mo: Technically it’s not using generative AI to take existing videos and transforming them into slow motion. Instead, it simply takes existing videos I’ve recorded and simply cuts down the frame rate.
  • Circle to Search: By long-pressing the on-screen home button, I can circle whatever I want to search on my Galaxy S22 Ultra with Google’s Circle to Search function.
  • Chat Assist: With the help of Galaxy AI, I’m given the ability to translate messages in select messaging apps — so I don’t have to run a separate app like Google Translate. Additionally, Chat Assist also offers me different writing styles to choose from.
  • Interpreter mode: This one functions just like on the Galaxy S24 Ultra, allowing me to use it for real-time conversation with someone speaking another language. It’s accessed through the notifications panel.

I still can’t believe that the Galaxy S22 Ultra, a phone that came out in 2022, matches the S24 Ultra in this area. One would think it hurts the S24 Ultra when it comes to value, but it still beats the S22 Ultra in other metrics — like its processing performance, longer battery life, and brighter screen.  

The AI conundrum

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra with Galaxy AI.

(Image credit: Future)

As I mentioned already, these Galaxy AI features on my S22 Ultra function practically the same as on the S24 Ultra, which is dandy and all, but it exposes a conundrum — they’re not exclusive to just the latest and greatest devices. For example, when the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro launched last fall, I was initially under the impression that AI features were going to be tied down to those devices. But subsequently, some of those features made their way to the cheaper Pixel 8a.

In Samsung’s case, the Galaxy AI features were available to the entire Galaxy S24 lineup — which are powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip. However, I was really surprised when the previous two flagship lineups, the S22 and S23, eventually got Galaxy AI features. The conundrum here is that this gives consumers less incentive to go out and buy the newest phones.

On the other hand, I think it’s a good thing because this will save them money, while giving them even more time to save up for their next one.

Will Apple also follow suit?

ios 18

(Image credit: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/Shutterstock)

Lastly, I’m eager to know how Apple intends to roll out AI features when they’re believed to be announced at next week’s WWDC 2024 keynote. This is because Apple’s been pretty straightforward with the features in iOS rolling out to many phones; not just the latest iPhone releases.

Knowing that, I’m crossing my fingers that iOS 18, and presumably its new AI features, will be broadly available to older iPhones. In contrast, it could be a major departure if Apple decides to do something untraditional by keeping these AI features locked into its higher end devices — like the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max. I don’t think this will end up happening, given Apple’s history.

That’s because the features in iOS have been broadly rolled out to all devices that support the new software. Therefore, it’s quite possible that older iPhones, like the iPhone XR, will be able to tap into these new features.

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John Velasco
Senior Channel Editor for Phones

John’s a senior editor covering phones for Tom’s Guide. He’s no stranger in this area having covered mobile phones and gadgets since 2008 when he started his career. On top of his editor duties, he’s a seasoned videographer being in front and behind the camera producing YouTube videos. Previously, he held editor roles with PhoneArena, Android Authority, Digital Trends, and SPY. Outside of tech, he enjoys producing mini documentaries and fun social clips for small businesses, enjoying the beach life at the Jersey Shore, and recently becoming a first time homeowner.