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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra dilemma — more RAM or no price change?

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra renders
(Image credit: LetsGoDigital / Giuseppe Spinelli)

Shoppers saving up for the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra got some bad news this week in the form of a rumor about the Korean firm's upcoming phone. Instead of coming packed with memory as previous top-line Samsung flagships have, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is only expected to include 8GB of RAM in its base model when Samsung launches the new phones next month.

This rumor's likely to produce the usual gnashing of teeth, which we'd expect to only get louder should Samsung confirm the reduced RAM when at the Galaxy S22 Ultra's expected debut at the next Samsung Unpacked. But all the focus on memory ignores a more important part of that same rumor — namely that the price of the S22 Ultra may not change from its predecessor.

Specifically, leaker Roland Quandt says the Galaxy S22 Ultra is going to debut at €1,249, which is the same price in Europe that the Galaxy S21 Ultra featured when it arrived a year ago. The difference this time around is that the S22 Ultra will have 8GB of RAM, according to Quandt, and not the 12GB found in last year's model.

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That's clearly a downgrade, but I find it hard to overlook the unchanged price. Maybe that's because rumors surrounding the Galaxy S22 Ultra had been pointing toward a price hike. Specifically, some reports suggested that the new Ultra could come at a $100 premium over last year's phone. (We're assuming that if the European price isn't going to change from the S21 Ultra to the S22 Ultra, the U.S. price will stay put, too.)

Considering that the details about the Galaxy S22 Ultra's price and its reduced memory have leaked concurrently, it's hard to believe the two items are unconnected. Components are in short supply these day, driving costs upward. Assuming Quandt's claims about memory and price are accurate, it isn't too big a leap to think that Samsung concluded its best course of action was to offer less RAM if that allowed the phone make to hold the line on prices.

And you know what? That's a trade I would make every day.

While the Galaxy S22 Ultra may pack less RAM than last year's model did, the phone sounds like it's improving the overall experience in other ways. For starters, we're expecting an enhanced 108MP main camera in the form of a new Super Clear lens. Alongside that Super Clear lens, Samsung is teasing a "night-breaking" camera, which should make for some great low-light photography. What's more, the S Pen is expected to come integrated into this year's model — with the Galaxy S21 Ultra, Samsung's stylus was an optional accessory.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra render

(Image credit: LetsGoDigital)

Including a slot to house the S Pen makes it much more practical and useful as anyone who's ever owned a Galaxy Note phablet will tell you. But it potentially adds on to the cost of the device, so Samsung has to find someplace to cut back if it doesn't want the Galaxy S22 Ultra price tag reaching Galaxy S20 Ultra levels of ridiculousness.

RAM, then, seems like as good an area as any in which to cut back if it means a lower price. Yes, having lots of onboard memory helps a phone run more smoothly, particularly when it comes to multitasking and switching between apps. But the difference between 8GB of RAM and 12GB isn't likely something most users are going to notice.

Consider the Galaxy S21 FE, Samsung's recently released smartphone. As a cost-cutting measure from the rest of the Galaxy S21 lineup, the FE only features 6GB of RAM. But because it has the same Snapdragon 888 chipset as the other phones in the S21 lineup, its performance on benchmark tests is within shouting distance of more expensive phones. On Geekbench 5, for example, the Galaxy S21 FE posted a 3,199 result on the multicore test. The Galaxy S21, equipped with 8GB of RAM, turned in a 3,302 score, which is better — though not by a lot and certainly not by enough that you're going to spot a lag.

We'll need to wait for the Galaxy S22 Ultra to come out so that we can benchmark it. But with the U.S version of the phone likely to run on Qualcomm's top-of-the-line Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, I'd imagine the new Samsung phone will be among the best Android phones for performance, extra RAM or not. A phone like the OnePlus 10 Pro that runs on the same silicon and gets upgraded with more memory might outpace the Galaxy S22 Ultra on some tests, but not enough to spot a difference in everyday use.

Meanwhile, at a time when prices are rising on just about everything, you'd be getting a phone in the Galaxy S22 Ultra that's expected to cost the same as last year's model. In this climate, I'd hardly call that a downgrade.

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.