Samsung has refreshed its smartphone lineup with three new Android smartphones: the Galaxy S22, S22+, and S22 Ultra. They're now officially on sale, but should you upgrade? If so, which of the three should you buy? We break down what's new with these models over their predecessors, what's different between them, and which is right for you. We've also highlighted a few great Galaxy S22 deals and offers from carriers and retailers.
Be sure to check out our Best Samsung Galaxy S22 Cases and Accessories guide to complement your new phone and our Best Android Phones guide if you want to see what else is out there.
Updated February 2022: We've added details from our review and replaced preorder language as the phones are now available.
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The New Tech in All 3 Phones
All three Galaxy S22 phones (9/10, WIRED Recommends) share many features and specs. They're all powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, which is the top-end Android chip of the year, and they're some of the best-performing Android phones around. They're made of aluminum and the strongest Gorilla Glass (Victus+) and have IP68 water-resistance so they can be submerged in water, an ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensor, and sub-6 and millimeter-wave 5G support. All have 120-Hz AMOLED screens, and they share the same 12-megapixel ultrawide camera, 10-megapixel 3X optical zoom telephoto, and 40-megapixel selfie cam.
All the major improvements over the S21 series can be found on each of these devices. That includes smoother Super Steady video stabilization and Portrait mode that does a better job at making sure your hair (or your pet's fur) doesn't get blurred out. Portrait mode also works with Night mode. A new video feature called Auto Framing will automatically detect up to 10 people and will adjust the camera to include everyone in the frame, even zooming in if needed.
The S22 and S22+ employ a 50-megapixel main camera, whereas the S22 Ultra uses a 108-megapixel sensor. The big new feature—Adaptive Pixel—is available on all three despite the different main sensors (you can read about it in detail here). But as I found in my review, it's not easy to access and the results aren't dramatically better.
All of these phones will receive four Android OS upgrades and five years of security updates, which is the best software policy around on any Android device right now. Here's where things start to differ:
This is the smallest of the lot, but most of the features are the same as on its siblings. The differences are small and might not even matter to you. For example, it supports Wi-Fi 6 and not Wi-Fi 6E, but unless you're about to buy a brand-new Wi-Fi 6E router, you're not missing much. This model does not have ultra-wideband (UWB) support, which is mostly utilized with certain tracking devices to locate them more precisely.
The S22's charging speed is restricted to 25 watts, while the devices below charge at 45 watts. They'll juice up faster, but the difference is negligible. Samsung does not include a charger in the box; you'll need to supply your own. Its 6.1-inch screen doesn't get as bright as the S22+, but this never caused me strife as it's still a really bright display. Its smaller size means you get a smaller 3,700-mAh battery, and it comfortably lasted through a full day of average use. If you're on your phone a lot, you might need a top-up at some point during the day.
At 6.6 inches, the S22+ might be a two-hand phone for most people. Otherwise, it's nearly identical to the S22 (except in the ways I mentioned above). It supports Wi-Fi 6E, UWB, and has 45-watt charging if you buy your own 45-watt charger. The bigger size means it can fit a larger 4,500-mAh battery, which I found lasts around a day and most of the following morning with average use. Its screen can get a bit brighter too. The main camera—the same 50-megapixel sensor as on the S22—is 23 percent larger than on the S21 and S21+, meaning it can take in more light for brighter night photos. That definitely helps, as the photos I captured on these phones are noticeably sharper and brighter than their predecessors.
This is the behemoth of the lot and the only one that includes a built-in S Pen stylus—just like Galaxy Note phones of years past. It even has a Note-like design. The S Pen sits on the bottom edge of the phone, and you can pull it out to take notes, sketch, or use it as a Bluetooth remote to control the camera (great for taking selfies without a timer). It has a 6.8-inch screen that will be flat-out too big for a lot of people, but phablet fans will love all that real estate. It has more RAM and storage options (up to 12 gigabytes of RAM and 1 terabyte of storage), and the screen has a higher Quad HD+ resolution too.
The 108-megapixel main camera means you'll get higher resolution and slightly sharper photos than with the S22 and S22+, and the Ultra remains the only one with the 10X optical zoom camera (in addition to the 3X optical zoom). It's a legitimate reason to splurge on this model if you love taking photos. You can digitally zoom up to 100X (Samsung calls this Space Zoom), whereas the S22 and S22+ stop at 30X digital zoom. Honestly, the quality at those ranges isn't all that great, so it's not a huge deal. It has UWB support, Wi-Fi 6E, and 45-watt charging.
There are other good phones: These are the latest from Samsung, but if you're just shopping for a new Android phone, they're far from your only options. Samsung's very own Galaxy S21 FE is a great phone if you can find it for $600, but so are phones like the Google Pixel 5A for $499 and the Pixel 6 for $599. Check out our Best Android Phones and Best Cheap Phones guides for more recommendations.
Where to Buy the Galaxy S22 Unlocked
Here at WIRED, we recommend you buy unlocked smartphones instead of buying from a wireless carrier. It's easier to switch networks in case you want to move on from your carrier, and unlocked phones typically have better resale value. They are also less likely to include bloatware apps (like Candy Crush Sage Online), and they will likely receive software updates faster. Here's where to buy the Galaxy S22 range unlocked (and remember to grab a case!).
If you order the S22 or S22+ from Samsung, you can get $50 in Google Play credit to spend on apps and games in the Google Play Store. Go for the S22 Ultra and that offer gets bumped to $100 in credit. Samsung's trade-in offer can potentially get you up to $900 in credit to use on the device of your choice, though this will depend on what phone you have and the condition it's in.
Amazon is offering a $100 Amazon Gift Card if you enter the code 86BONBGJ6AUU at checkout. This expires on March 13. Once you have your credit, you can use it for any Amazon purchase.
Best Buy doesn't seem to be offering any noteworthy promotions, but its trade-in program can net you up to $900 in credit, depending on your phone's model and condition.
Wireless Carrier Deals for the S22
These models will likely come to the wireless carriers locked, so it will be a hassle to use them on other networks. Purchasing on a payment plan can also quickly add up to much higher recurring expenses.
Verizon: If you upgrade your line to an existing unlimited plan and buy one of the S22 models, you can get up to $1,000 off a second (split via bill credit over the course of several months). There's a similar deal if you're adding a new line, and you can get up to $1,000 in credit if you switch to Verizon from another carrier.T-Mobile: If you trade in an eligible device and have or switch to the Magenta Max plan, you can get a Galaxy S22 for free via 24 monthly bill credits. Alternatively, if you add two new lines and buy one of the S22 models, you can get up to $800 to spend on another.AT&T: If you upgrade to an eligible unlimited plan, choose an installment plan for your S22 model, and trade in an eligible old Galaxy smartphone, you can get up to $800 off your device via bill credits over 36 months.Visible: You can get an up to $200 virtual gift card if you join Visible, transfer your number from an eligible carrier, set up your SIM, and complete three full months of service payments. You can only use the virtual card on anything from Visible Offers.
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