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How Samsung reimagined the Galaxy Note to make the S22 Ultra

Is the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra really a new Ultra phone, or is it a new Galaxy Note just without the name? It turns out it’s both … and neither. It’s something new, where the essence of both these great device families has been rolled into one, and a lot of what we’re seeing comes from Samsung’s commitment to listening to its customers.

Digital Trends spoke to Nick Porter, vice president of product management and commercial operations at Samsung U.K. and Ireland, ahead of the new Galaxy S22 smartphone range’s launch about what makes the Galaxy S22 Ultra new, yet still surprisingly familiar.

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Taking Notes

“By listening and understanding what our customers want, we can push the boundaries,” Porter told Digital Trends. “When we think about making the next Galaxy Series, we listen to consumers about what they want, how they want the phone to feel, and how they want to use it. Our objective with the S22 is to set a new epic standard.”

Nick Porter, vice president of product management and commercial operations at Samsung UK and Ireland.
Nick Porter, vice president of product management and commercial operations at Samsung UK and Ireland.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra is certainly looking pretty epic, but it also looks and feels like a Galaxy Note phone. Was this intentional on Samsung’s part, and how much did consumer feedback influence the pseudo return of the Note?

“The Galaxy S22 Ultra represents Samsung’s top-performance device for those who want the complete technology experience. We’ve focused on joining the productivity of the Note with the incredible performance of the Galaxy S Series,” Porter said, confirming that the Ultra’s Note-like features and style is intentional.

“[We took] the beloved features of the Galaxy Note and seamlessly integrated them into the Galaxy S22 Ultra. We really listened,” he continued.

When asked if the Note name was ever considered, Porter was understandably noncommittal and replied,” I’m sure there was lots of debate about the products as we went through deeply understanding what people want.” At first, it seemed possible that Samsung could have kept the Note name. But, as Porter continued, that seemed less likely because the Note appears to no longer be thought of as a device, but more of a specific feature set.

Galaxy S22 Ultra in Phantom Black and Phantom White.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

“We’ve been expanding the Note experience across devices, and incorporated the very best productivity and creativity features from the Note, including the S Pen, into not only other ecosystem products, but also the S22 Ultra,” Porter said.

Although Samsung never really made a big deal out of it, the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s internal screen is compatible with the S Pen, and of course, it also worked with the S21 Ultra, too, but it was as an accessory, rather than an integrated feature. The Galaxy Note has evolved, but Samsung is fully aware of how well-loved the Note series is.

“We know Note customers love their Note. It’s has one of our highest retention rates, the U.K. has the highest Note base in Europe, with hundreds of thousands of active Note users, and what we’ve focused on doing is taking the very best of Note, the features people love from it, and marrying it together with the innovations within the S22 series,” he said.

Improving the camera

The Galaxy S22 Ultra really does appear to be the unofficial follow-up to the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, but what made the S21 Ultra so special was the excellent camera. Has the increased attention on the productivity features come at the expense of an even better camera for the S22 Ultra? After all, on paper, it does look like the S22 Ultra’s camera closely resembles the S21 Ultra’s camera.

The good news is Samsung hasn’t held back on the camera either, as Porter explained.

“The camera is one of the most important features, and we’ve focused on creating the most advanced lowlight camera on the market today,” Porter told us. “We have new Adaptive Pixel technology that enables us to use both the wide-angle camera and a 12-megapixel camera and combine results, with one focusing on detail and the other on brightness. Put with our Super Clear rear lens glass that removes reflections that are sometimes seen in lowlight photos, and add our Nightography feature which uses A.I. and the new processor, the results are spectacular.”

Galaxy S22 Ultra in burgundy.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Samsung Product Specialist Kadesh Beckford confirmed the Super Clear lenses on the S22 range are a new iteration of the lenses used on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3, then explained how Adaptive Pixel technology works on the S22 Ultra. It kicks in when you use the 108MP camera at full resolution with the Focus Enhancer mode, which then combines the incredible 108MP detail with brightness from one of the phone’s 12MP cameras into one high-quality image.

Don’t think Samsung has just brought across the S21 Ultra’s cameras and added a few new software features either. Beckford shared some interesting insights into the S22 Ultra’s camera hardware:

“On paper, it looks similar to the S21 Ultra, but it is all new,” he said. “It’s a totally new experience in every capacity, with the processor and a brand-new Image Signal Processor (ISP) taking [photography] to a new level. The telephoto sensors are different, the 108MP camera is different, and the lenses are different. The two new telephoto cameras read raw, uncompressed RGB data so when you zoom at 30x, you can see a four-times sharper, more vivid, and more truer to life image than before.”

Familiar, yet new

The Galaxy S22 Ultra may at first appear to be a confusing phone, being part Ultra and part Note. Even the design has been influenced by both device families, with Porter saying: “Samsung has built the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s camera with a smaller housing for a sleek, fashionable finish, including the S Series iconic contour-cut camera design, as well as Note’s sharp, modern angles.”

Galaxy S22 Ultra and S21 Ultra camera modules.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

But when you look more closely, it’s not confusing at all. The S22 Ultra reimagines the Galaxy Note and brings the best parts of it over to the Ultra family, and the result is more refined than we ever could have hoped for. Samsung’s commitment to understanding what we want from an expensive flagship phone like this has ensured it doesn’t lose any of the crucial appeal from those two device families, despite melding them together.

If you’ve been lamenting the passing of the Galaxy Note, or upon seeing the S22 Ultra are concerned the camera has been sidelined for a boost in productivity, it appears your worries are unfounded. Samsung has listened, and the result is a smartphone that is lining up to satisfy everyone. You can read our article on what we think about the Galaxy S22 Ultra. The phone will be can be pre-ordered now ahead of its February 25 release, and prices start at $1,200.

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