Samsung's Galaxy S22 series keeps Note's legacy alive

Flagship line-up has improved cameras and productivity functions, while top-of-the-line S22 Ultra model has a slot for the S Pen

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Samsung Electronics unveiled its latest flagship smartphone range, the Galaxy S22, that has improved cameras and productivity functions while integrating a number of key features from its now apparently discontinued Galaxy Note range.

The world's largest mobile phone manufacturer released three devices, the Galaxy S22, S22+ and S22 Ultra, the last of which features a slot to hold the S Pen, the signature accessory of the Note series.

The South Korean company has never officially said it was discontinuing the Galaxy Note, but Wednesday's announcement seems to confirm this.

"We are opening a brand new chapter of Galaxy. Mobile devices have transformed how we connect, work and create. But let me assure you, mobile’s potential has just begun," T M Roh, president and head of Samsung's mobile experience business, said in a pre-event keynote.

Samsung has been ranked the top smartphone vendor globally, but was overtaken by rival Apple in the fourth quarter of 2021, according to preliminary data from researcher Canalys. The iPhone maker had a 22 per cent market share in the period ending December 31 compared with Samsung's 20 per cent, it said.

But overall shipments for the quarter inched up just 1 per cent, as vendors faced supply chain problems and a resurgence in Covid-19 case numbers, Canalys said.

Despite this, smartphones are still a category that has potentially immense growth, with technologies evolving and a good number of users who have yet to migrate to these devices, said Anshul Gupta, senior director analyst at research company Gartner.

"There is a lot of growth left on the value aspect as well where the user experience can be enhanced further on the areas of viewing, audio and on the processing front ... we could really expect the smartphone market not only expanding in the unit but also in the value terms," he told The National.

The first sign the Note's future was uncertain was during the February 2021 launch of the Galaxy S21, which offered S Pen support. Speculation of its demise increased when S Pen support was announced for the Galaxy Z Fold 3, which was launched last August and replaced the Note on Samsung's annual launch calendar.

The company's first acknowledgment of a Galaxy S device with a built-in S Pen came from Mr Roh himself last month, who said in a blog post that the next generation of the Galaxy S is "bringing together the greatest experiences of our Samsung Galaxy into one ultimate device" – an apparent reference to the S22.

The Galaxy Note series gained popularity for its S Pen, which revolutionised the way styluses are used on smartphones and further pushed the concept of the phablet – a portmanteau of phone and tablet – into the mainstream.

It also gained notoriety with the Note 7, the ill-fated version that was abruptly discontinued less than two months after its release in 2016 because of a battery problem that caused the device to overheat and catch fire. The debacle resulted in a financial hit of $17 billion and reputational damage for Samsung.

The integration of the Note's features into the Galaxy S series is more of a consolidation of Samsung's portfolio rather than a simple renaming of the Note, said Bryan Bassett, a senior research analyst at the International Data Corporation.

"The market viewed the Galaxy Note series as Samsung’s premier flagship device for the last decade, and I think that premier legacy will persist with the Galaxy S22 Ultra," he told The National.

With Samsung clearly positioning the S22 Ultra as its new top-of-the-line smartphone with the Note series' signature features, the company is unlikely to resurrect the Note line-up as a traditional smartphone since there is nothing the Note series offered – other than the name – that the new S22 Ultra does not, Mr Bassett said.

As for the Galaxy Z Fold series, built-in S Pen support may take a couple more years given hardware constraints, he said. Last year's Fold 3 had S Pen support, albeit not integrated.

Quote
The market viewed the Galaxy Note series as Samsung’s premier flagship device for the last decade, and I think that premier legacy will persist with the Galaxy S22 Ultra
Bryan Bassett, senior research analyst at the International Data Corporation

The high-end Galaxy S22 Ultra comes with a quad-camera system led by a 108MP wide sensor, a feature maintained from its S20 and S21 counterparts. Samsung, however, promises enhanced performance in night and low-light situations. It has a 17-centimetre screen and comes with a maximum of 12GB of RAM and 1TB of storage.

However, this will not be available in the UAE. Rather, the S22 Ultra will come in RAM/storage combinations of 8GB/128GB, 12GB/256GB and 12GB/512GB for Dh4,699, Dh5,099 and Dh5,499, respectively.

The Galaxy S22 and S22+ both have a triple-camera setup and configurations of 8GB and 128GB or 256GB. The S22 devices are priced at Dh3,199 and Dh3,399, while the S22+ units are at Dh3,799 and Dh3,999.

Samsung also launched its new Galaxy S8 Tab line-up – the S8, S8+ and S8 Ultra – as it seeks to further integrate tablets into an increasingly hybrid world in which users lean further into productivity on the go. The premium-end S8 Ultra has a 37cm display – bigger than Apple's iPad Pro.

Last month, Seoul-based Samsung reported a 53 per cent surge in fourth-quarter operating profit, jumping 43.4 per cent to 51.63 trillion won ($42.9bn), on the back of a record 279.6tn won in sales, driven by the strength of its semiconductor business.

Updated: February 10, 2022, 7:28 AM
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