It’s been 3 months since the S22 Ultra launched, and for those of us outside the US, we’ve had to put up with some pretty bad performance issues.
But have those issues now been fixed?
As you may already be aware - I’m a ‘Lifelong iPhone User’ who’s getting a little bored of the never-changing iPhone, and seeing Android phones with features like the S22’s 10x to 100x camera, Google Pixel’s voice assistant, and all of the customisation features available to all Android phones - well, it keeps making me want to switch to Android, to experience this life without shackles.
TL;DR, I’m basically an idiot who doesn’t know Android, who keeps trying Android.
I’m not going to rehash what I said in my first review, but instead, I’m just going to focus on any differences now 3 months later with this phone to see if anything has actually changed.
So we’ll do the good, and the bad, and answer the overall question of whether this phone has gotten any better.
Firstly I will address the BIG question that everyone’s going to be wondering, and it was the biggest problem with this phone when I last review it, and actually, it’s the reason why I sent it back to Samsung and had to re-buy this phone. And that is how is the Exynos chip holding up when compared to the Snapdragon?
I was glad to see that a tonne of you were also seeing the exact same issues with the Exynos being slow and sometimes unusable, but those comments have died down a little recently - so, I wonder, maybe…
And the answer is a noticeable improvement over 3 months ago. But with a caveat.
Whilst the overall interface does feel snappy, it doesn’t hesitate anymore and I’m yet to experience any random slowdowns as I did before, I have switched away from using the default launcher. Instead, I’m using the Nova Launcher, which is the Paid version - it costs a couple of bucks, but for me, and along with 1Password, they’re the first 2 apps I install onto any Android phone.
Having the Nova launcher installed unlocks a level of customisation that you just don’t get on any stock android phone.
With nova you can set app icons to do different things when you swipe up and down on them, which makes my home screen even less cluttered, you can launch apps or do certain things when using certain gestures, and to fix the biggest issue that I had with my last S22 Ultra, which - is still an issue to this day, of wanting to be able to swipe up and instantly jump to the search bar. You can do that with Nova.
Now you can do that on the stock OS, but ONLY if you have the home page set to Home Only, and even then it still, yes even 3 months later feels slow, and putting them side by side with the iPhone, or even the S22 Plus you can see the speed difference between the Nova launcher and the stock Samsung one.
Kinda weird why a third-party app can do it better and faster than the stock Android, but it is what it is.
There is just a tonne of other options to customise and personalise your phone that at the moment, the iPhone just can’t compete with.
I would say that the new lock screen customisation features coming in iOS 16 are really nice and do work really well, the widgets I feel work better. But as we all know, that’s cherry-picking one or two things that the iPhone does better in terms of customisation at least, when Android can basically do anything in terms of customisation.
iPhone has a habit of being really late to the party on many things, but when they get there, they’ll implement it really well, and I personally feel like that’s the case with the lock screen.
Whilst we’re here, it’s worth noting that on basically all of my Android phones, I always go into Developer settings by going to About, Software and tapping the build number a few times, then go into those settings to change the animation speed from 1x to 0.5x, just to speed things up that little bit more.
It’s not just the interface that seems to have improved, doing the same side-by-side comparisons with my iPhone 13 Pro and it’s pretty much exactly the same as the iPhone in terms of app launching. It mostly just depends on how well that app utilises the available memory, because a few of the Android apps actually repeatedly launch faster, than the iPhone version.
The one thing that does still annoy me though with the interface, is the gesture navigation to switch apps. I do find that Apple has just nailed the swipe across to switch apps. Android is really hit and miss, at least on the S22 Ultra, and you have to swipe up then hold before swiping across for it to actually work. It’s a small thing, but very noticeable if you happen to switch back and forth between apps.
The next thing to talk about is the S-Pen, which I still believe is a bit of a marmite accessory.
To die-hard Samsung Note fans, it’s of course an essential tool. Or as one lovely commenter put it, if you don’t think it’s useful, then I should ask the lawyer how useful the pen is for urgent noting.
So, if there are any lawyers out there, is this crazy guy right?!
I am finding myself using it more than I normally would, mainly because I feel like I’m forcing myself to use something that I’ve obviously paid for - but were the choice there, I would probably opt to buy an S22 Ultra, without the S-Pen. So basically buy the S22 Plus, except with this year's S22 Plus you then lose out on some of the other features.
You’re basically stuck with the S-Pen whether you like it or not. But the most useful thing I’ve found has been for taking photos and using the pen as a remote shutter button.
This actually brings me on to a new accessory and one that I didn’t have when I last reviewed the S22.
This isn’t a sponsored thing - they are legitimately something I’ve come across that I’ve really, really enjoyed using.
These cases are amazing. So much that I have one for my iPhone Pro, my Wife’s iPhone, and now I have them for the S22 and S22 Ultra it really makes the S22 Ultra fit back into my daily workflow.
They’re basically really, really sticky magnetic cases that let you stick your phone to any metal surface and they can wirelessly charge too - basically, it’s Magsafe for iPhone, brought to the S22 Ultra.
So if you’re at the Gym, you can just stick your phone in front of you whilst working out and watch a video or track your workout, if you’re out and about and want a quick photo then find a metal surface, grab your S-Pen, stick down the phone and use the S-pen to snap away. It’s honestly so practical for me, and I have a bunch of other MagBak chargers and accessories like the wallet which all work together. You even get these tiny magnetic strips that you can just stick anywhere that you’d want to stick your phone but isn’t metal.
If magnetic cases just really aren’t your thing, then before I had these cases I was using a bunch of cases from Rhinoshield which are in various styles and colours, so I could just switch up the case depending on my day, I’m not really much of a phone case reviewer, but let me know if you want to know more - so, for now, I’ll just leave links to all of these down below in case you want to pick some of them up for yourself.
DeX is up next - a flagship feature of many Samsung phones and tablets. But in reality, and kinda like the S-Pen and also multi-tasking, I just don’t find myself needing to use these features. I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by tech, so if I really needed a tablet or ‘desktop-like experience’ I can just pick up an iPad, or grab my laptop.
Genuine question, if you own a phone with DeX built into it - do you actually use it? I know a tonne of people with this phone, and not a single one of them actually uses DeX.
I’ll admit that it’s a really cool feature - and I’ve just picked up the new Samsung M8 32” Display, where it’s quite cool to be able to bring my phone content onto the screen wirelessly, I just find it a little impractical to use.
I’ve also never been in a situation yet where I’m out and about, and decide that I want to dock my phone to do ‘desktop type stuff’. I guess maybe if I’m in a pinch - but then I have my phone plugged into a screen, and now what, I have to use the phone as the keyboard and mouse? It’s not really that easy to multitask when all you have is this 6” screen to use to control the large screen - whereas you really need a separate keyboard and mouse to be able to really multi-task efficiently.
So whilst it’s a great feature, and I really, really want to see this technology improve over the years - it’s not something I have had the need for.
Cameras are next, and as an iPhone user, I was actually really looking forward to getting back onto this phone because of that 10x telephoto camera.
Having just come from the Sony Xperia 1 mark IV that has a 5x optical zoom lens but overheats after just 2 minutes of using it, RIP Sony, I’m really glad to have the ability to use a 10x fixed lens again, just to punch into areas where you can’t physically get closer - like at sporting events, or your kids running around and not sitting still.
The only thing I find myself doing is having to decide whether I want to shoot using the 3x lens and then know I’ll need to crop in a little or jump straight for the 10x lens which might be a little too close, but it captures that extra detail that a digitally zoomed 3x lens just won’t.
Even with their crazy 100x zoom, you can still comfortably get to 80x in before the image starts totally falling apart - though I’ve never needed to zoom in that far personally, it goes to show the incredible power that you can fit into a phone.
I’ve also come to, I think, prefer the S22 photo’s over the iPhone - it’s a really odd feeling - but the more and more I use other android phones, the more aware I’m becoming that the iPhone really heavily over-processes images, and often to the stage where it just doesn’t look like a nice image to post.
I think I personally prefer the more saturated images that the Pixel 6 produces, but as far as things go - I’m starting to really notice the differences and improvements on the S22 over the iPhone now that I’ve been using this phone again.
I'm really enjoying the Portrait video, like I mentioned in my last post, I find it to be so much better than the iPhone's Cinematic video. Admittedly it’s not got the clever AI processing for knowing who to focus on based on where the subject’s looking, BUT I’d take a vastly better image quality over a fuzzy and blurry image with some clever autofocus features.
Though speaking of fuzzy and blurry, both the iPhone and S22 Ultra really don’t deliver great slow-motion footage. Having just come from the Sony Xperia phone that overheats, but, it could shoot 4k 120fps with autofocus, and did it really well. Just not well enough to stop it from overheating.
BUT, and there’s always a BUT - shutter lag is a thing with the S22 Ultra, and it can be really, really annoying at times.
This seems to be quite polarising because I’ve seen a lot of people very strongly argue that there isn’t a shutter lag - but there is.
I can pick up my phone, and try and snap some pictures in quick succession, and only a handful of those pictures will actually get taken.
The rest of the time is delayed or skipped completely because the phone is trying to calculate what light is available, what to focus on, the colour - I dunno. Whatever it’s doing, it’s slow.
I’ve replicated this in all sorts of different environments, I was in a restaurant with some friends who had different Android phones, we had the S22 Ultra, the S21 Ultra, the Sony Xperia 1 IV, a OnePlus phone, and all of them, all of them were slower than the iPhone which just captured shots instantly, even in a lower light situation.
That’s a key difference for me with an iPhone. I know I can pick up my iPhone, point it at something, and other than perhaps an act of god, it’s going to snap a reasonable photo.
Try the same with my S22 Ultra, and it’s about a 95% chance it’s going to work, and about a 50/50 chance it’s not going to have any shutter lag at all.
So yeah, great, incredible cameras with some really unique features that I love. But reliability still needs some work, even with all the software updates we’ve had after 3 months of the release of this phone.
iMessage - is of course one of the biggest ‘omg, what do I do’s when it comes to switching to Android. I have semi-cheated here because since switching to Android, rather than worry about what to do, I just found a service that lets me keep my blue bubble whilst also using my Android.
That service is called Beeper, it costs me $10 per month - expensive for some I know, but for $10, it doesn’t just let me send iMessage, it centralises ALL of my messaging services across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Slack, Discord, SMS, and so many others, and Yes, also iMessage.
For those of you who want to switch to Android but iMessage is the one and the only thing keeping you from doing so - then I’d check out Beeper, and at least get registered because there is a bit of a waiting list and you can always decide not to pay for it once you reach the front of the queue. For me, it’s well worth it.
I’m finding that over time, most of my iPhone contacts have already moved to another messaging platform like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, and I know all of those have their own privacy issues but for most day-to-day messages, I don’t really mind what messaging platform I use. So over time, iMessage itself is becoming less and less of a barrier.
So unless you want to pay for something that brings all of your messages together as I have, why not just ask those iPhone friends and say to message you on WhatsApp or something else, because there’s a high probability that they’re already on those platforms and using them with their other friends.
A quick pitstop on battery life now, and having used this phone for a few weeks, I can honestly say that the battery life does get better. There’s this thing with Android phones where in the first 2 weeks the phones are actually learning your usage and adapting the power accordingly. It really does make a difference - in the first couple of weeks, I was really struggling to make it a full day with this battery. But fast forward beyond 2 weeks and I’m generally left with anywhere between 5 to 20 percent depending on how heavily I use the phone each day.
If you watch any videos that say ‘Hey, I’ve had this phone for a couple of weeks’ and that also says the battery life is trash - they may not be accurate.
The size of the phone, let’s talk about that for a minute.
This is a big phone.
If you’re coming from an iPhone Pro Max, then it’s probably going to be OK. If you’re going from an iPhone Pro or smaller, then this is a giant phone. It’s not something you can really use with one hand. Not unless you really want to risk dropping it - it’s definitely a 2 hander job.
That’s what she said, and yes I am still 12.
Personally, I do wish that the S22 Ultra was in the shape of the S22+, which I find more comfortable to hold and use, but of course, you don’t get the telephoto, and you don’t get the pen either.
Another minor annoyance that got me in the first review - was the mute / toggle switch.
Android has a feature that lets you individually control the volume for notifications, phone calls, and media, and by default, the volume switch only controls one of them.
The issue I had, was that I would turn the volume all the way down, or so I thought, and then I’d get a loud notification whilst on a video call or recording a video - when what I should have done is opened the phone up, swiped down, tapped mute, and be done with it.
But that’s a bit of a faff over what we get on the iPhone, which is a simple toggle switch for mute.
So what you can do on Android to fix that, is just change the default behaviour of the volume so you can mute the phone, as long as the phone is unlocked whilst you move the volume slider, which still kinda sucks - but it solves most of the problem for me.
Over to the Apple Watch replacement, the Galaxy Watch 4, and I still have issues with this watch. It still feels sluggish at times, still has issues using it when wet, and just doesn’t feel as robust to use as the Apple Watch. I am very, very interested to see what the new Pixel Watch looks like, so be sure to subscribe to my newsletter to get the first look at that - but I have enjoyed the smaller and I’d say more comfortable form factor.
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That is comparing the smallest Galaxy Watch 4 vs the larger Apple Watch Series 7 so it’s not a fair comparison, but it’s definitely solidified that my next Apple Watch is going to be the smaller model instead of the larger one.
Pricing is also one area where Apple, unfortunately, just cannot compete. Because even at Launch, the S22 Ultra had some very attractive discounts.
Maybe not on the phone itself, but if you buy the phone then you got free earbuds, and a discount on other devices or accessories - and it’s no different now.
Buy an S22 Ultra, and you can get 6 or 12 months of Disney+ for free.
You can also get 15% off any Galaxy Buds, Tablets, or Watches - and if you join the Samsung Rewards program then you can get 1% back in points on every purchase.
But it’s not just that - I checked with my affiliate link provider, and there are links - which I’ll add below, which give you up to £240 off the S22 Ultra, and there’s another that gives you 10% off of everything, plus a further 5% if you spend more than £2k.
Those are just prices and deals that Apple won’t compete on. Apple's price is Apple's price, and other than a few tiny percent discounts for Business or Student purchases, and their refurbished store, there’s no way that I see Apple ever offering a discount on buying an iPhone.
The question of all questions though is of all of the phones that I’ve tested recently - if I HAD to give up my iPhone, which one would I switch to? It’s a really tough one. The S22 Ultra is definitely one of the flagship phones of the year, even though it’s basically a note. The S22 Plus isn’t far behind either, and there’ll be an updated post on that coming soon too.
To throw a spanner in, I actually really like the Google Pixel experience as well - and you can see my thoughts of the Pixel after 6 months right here.
Thanks for reading, see you soon!
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