Android phone manufacturers have stopped making compact smartphones and sadly so. But when I recently started using the Galaxy S22, I heaved a sigh of relief. Here was a device that could comfortably fit in my track pant pocket and still offer the experience expected of a plus-size smartphone. Does that mean I have finally found a small Android flagship that I could take to my next holiday, or is it a phone with a compromise? Here is my experience of using this new compact flagship and who should really buy the Galaxy S22 in 2022.
After a long time, I have seen a compact phone from Samsung and it’s a great feeling. The Galaxy S22 is much smaller than last year’s Galaxy S21, and you feel it the moment you hold the phone in your hand. The device still has a 6.1-inch screen, and that might still look large enough for many people, but when you add the 19:3:9 aspect ratio, the phone becomes narrow and easy to hold in one hand. I am refraining from calling the Galaxy S22 a true rival to the iPhone 13 mini, the latter is tiny compared to Samsung’s phone but the concept, of making a smartphone that delivers one-handed usage, seems common.
Even though the Galaxy S22 is almost identical to the Galaxy S22 Plus, I adapted to the compact form factor differently. For instance, I didn’t feel the need to keep the phone in my pocket every time I met someone. I like to keep the phone in my hand, whether I am having a conversation with another person or when I come to the park in the morning. You would easily know from the distance that I am using a phone that fits exceptionally well in my hands, and the white review unit is eye-catching.
The Galaxy S22 feels well-built and has a flattened look. The back material is glass with a matte finish. Not to forget, this is as premium and high-end as the Galaxy S22 Plus but squeezed into a body that has a much smaller form factor but without cutting back on capabilities or features.
The smartphone is tougher than ever, thanks to Samsung’s Armor Aluminum which makes the phone’s sides all shiny. I also liked its camera module that wraps around the phone’s side. Like the other models in the Galaxy S22 lineup, the S22 carries the IP68 rating for dust and water resistance. The in-screen fingerprint scanner continued to work flawlessly in my testing during Delhi’s summers. The physical buttons, which include a volume button and a power button, are both on the right side. On the bottom of the S22 sits its stereo speaker, SIM card slot, and USB-C charging port.
As I said at the beginning, a 6.1-inch screen isn’t small but the phone is designed in such a way that it gives an impression of an ultra-compact smartphone. That means it fits in my pocket and works great for calling and messaging. The Dynamic AMOLED 2x is superb: crisp and bright. It has a resolution of 1080 x 2340 pixels, with the pixel density reaching 422 pixels per inch. Because the screen is large, you don’t feel cramped watching videos and playing games. The experience of browsing the web or using Google Docs on the go feels as good as any other smartphone. Also, the screen refreshes dynamically between 48Hz and 120Hz. I have been using smartphones with high-refresh-rate screens for quite some time, so I am no stranger to that experience. A 120Hz screen makes everything fluid – animations are smooth, scrolling text and playing games feel incredible.
The Galaxy S22’s speakers offer Dolby Atmos stereo sound – and they sound loud and clear. A 3.5mm headphone is missing on this phone (even Apple’s iPhones no longer support a headphone jack), but since I have completely switched to truly wireless earbuds for a daily commute and jogging, I didn’t miss the headphone jack.
Being a compact phone and priced on the lower side compared to the Galaxy S22 Plus and Galaxy S22 Ultra, I am glad Samsung chose to ship the Galaxy S22 in India with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor. That makes the Galaxy S22 the fastest compact Android smartphone on the market.
The lack of a microSD card slot did bother me as a user. Although I am not a content creator or YouTuber, I do feel that 128GB of internal storage will quickly run out if you use this phone for shooting videos in 4K or store lots of mobile games and music. A 256GB storage option is also available, but you need to pay Rs 76,999 for that model.
The Galaxy S22 runs the same OneUI 4.1 on top of Android 12 as the rest of its lineup and takes advantage of the new Material Design approach. I have had no issues with the user interface, except for the inclusion of duplicate apps like Samsung’s version of the internet browser in addition to the ones from Google. Samsung will provide at least four years of software and security updates, if you buy the Galaxy S22. To my knowledge, no Android smartphone manufacturer other than Samsung, is promising this – not even Google which only promises three years of OS updates for its Pixel phones.
It’s commendable to see how Samsung managed to make the Galaxy S22 as good as the Galaxy S22 Plus in terms of features and performance. But I do want to point out here that the S22’s battery isn’t any close to the S22 Plus, it can’t be given the size. The battery doesn’t last quite as long as the bigger phones, and that is a reality. For me, it’s good enough but that doesn’t mean I expect you to use this phone differently from a bigger-screen sized smartphone. Intense usage drains the tiny 3700mAh battery like crazy, and although the phone managed to last just about a day, it’s not bad but also not so great. Wired charging is restricted to 25W, not the maximum 45W that the Galaxy S22 Plus is capable of. However, the S22 matches the other members of the Galaxy S22 family with 15W wireless charging. Call quality, 4G and wifi reception were solid.
The Galaxy S22 has the exact same camera setup as the Galaxy S22 Plus. There’s the 50-megapixel main wide-angle camera, a 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera and a 10-megapixel 3X telephoto camera. I have already shared my detailed experience of the camera system on the Galaxy S22 Plus. You can read the review here.
For me, though, the biggest improvement in the Galaxy S22 lineup is the camera. It’s a very good camera system, closer to the shots you get on the iPhone 13 but tuned in a Samsung way. The main camera captures detailed shots in good lighting conditions and this time the low-light performance has been drastically improved over the previous generation models. The telephoto camera has a 3x optical zoom and produces sharper images in good light. Meanwhile, the ultra-wide camera is better than what you get on the iPhone 13 and the camera samples (below) proves my point. I wish the 10-megapixel selfie camera could be better. The Galaxy S22 is great at capturing videos; the video is excellent at handling different lighting conditions.
It’s a question you need to ask yourself before shelling out Rs 72,999 on the Galaxy S22. I liked the Galaxy S22, because I have an affinity for compact smartphones. I have my own reasons to use smaller phones – I am happy to live with trade-offs. I am aware the battery life won’t match the same level as the Galaxy S22 Plus, and I am okay with that. But that does not mean the Galaxy S22 also works for you. I know people who want a bigger screen and bigger battery and aren’t ready to settle for a phone with a smaller footprint. They are willing to pay more – and for them the Galaxy S22 Plus makes sense.
The Galaxy S22 feels like a phone that is specifically made for certain users, and I am one of them. I don’t mind paying more for a compact smartphone but I want the device to have a great camera, fast performance, long software support, bright and beautiful display and decent storage.