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Goodbye Samsung Galaxy Note. Hello Galaxy S22 Ultra

<i>JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>Advertisement for the Samsung Galaxy S21 smartphone at an underground shopping area in Seoul on April 28
AFP via Getty Images
Advertisement for the Samsung Galaxy S21 smartphone at an underground shopping area in Seoul on April 28

By Samantha Murphy Kelly, CNN Business

Samsung’s Galaxy Note smartphone line appears to be discontinued. But for those who miss it, the Note lives on in one of Samsung’s new flagship devices.

The company announced during a virtual event on Wednesday its next-generation flagship Galaxy S smartphones: the Galaxy S22, Galaxy S22 Plus and the Galaxy S22 Ultra. The Android-powered, 5G devices hit on what you’d expect from any new phones in 2022: camera upgrades, better battery life and next generation chips, among other features. They’re more eco-friendly too, all partially constructed with repurposed ocean-bound plastic.

The clear star, however, is the Ultra S22, which will look and feel a bit familiar to some who owned the Samsung Galaxy Note, the “phablet” line which has not been updated in two years and never quite rebounded from a massive recall in 2016 after reports of battery fires.

The new 6.8-inch smartphone merges the Note series that’s long appealed to professionals and creatives — yes, it comes with the Note’s signature built-in S Pen stylus and borrows the Note’s large design — with the advanced camera and performance of the Galaxy S line. The goal is to appeal to people who want one device to serve multiple purposes.

“The line between work and personal life continues to blur with smartphones, and fewer and fewer people carry separate devices to handle each,” said Ramon Llamas, director at market research firm IDC, referencing rumors about the S22 Ultra ahead of the event. “Smartphone owners don’t want to miss out on the productivity and convenience — both personal and professional — on their devices. So putting the best of what the Note was with the best of what the Galaxy line is can appeal to all customers.”

The entire Galaxy S22 lineup has a lot to offer, from more camera controls and photography tools to a faster processor, longer-lasting batteries and more privacy controls. But as with any upgrade, Samsung will need to show its latest improvements are worth the investment.

The S22 Ultra, which comes in black, white, green, and burgundy, starts at $1,199. (For comparison, the iPhone 13 Pro Max starts at $1,099.) The Galaxy S22 plus starts at $799, and the S22+ starts at $999 in the United States.

The devices are available in black, white, pink and gold. Pre-orders start Wednesday and the device begins shipping on February 25.

Samsung remains the top smartphone seller globally with its market share hovering between 20%-22% for the past couple of years, followed by Apple, according to market research firm ABI Research. Third-placed Xiaomi has been massively growing shipments over the past couple of years as it targets markets outside China, notably India and Europe.

Samsung strategically continues to experiment with its portfolio more than its rivals. In addition to the Galaxy S21 smartphones released last year, it also launched a long list of smartphones, including the Flip and Fold, which pushed the envelope in terms of form factor. It also has its mass-market A-series phones, and its customizable, personalized ‘Bespoke’ line for the Flip 3.

As Llamas put it, “You’d be hard pressed to find other companies innovating like Samsung here.”

Here’s a closer look at what Samsung’s newest phones have to offer.

The S Pen

Just like the Note smartphones before it, the 6.8-inch Ultra S22 features a slim, light frame, crisp angles and an expansive screen. But really it’s the iconic stylus that will resonate with people looking to get the most productivity out of the device. The S Pen now touts a quicker response time, the ability to save notes directly into Microsoft Office documents or Outlook emails, and its handwriting-to-text feature supports 88 different languages.

A faster chip

At a time when Apple and Google are pushing ahead with their own in-house chips, all three devices in Samsung’s S22 line are leaning on Qualcomm’s new 4nm processor. Samsung said it is the most powerful chip it’s ever used in a Galaxy product.

With the chip, Samsung’s new devices promise faster speeds for multitasking across apps, gaming and streaming videos on 5G. The chip also powers its artificial intelligence technology efforts and machine-learning algorithms, including vision booster, a new tool that automatically adjusts the display to the lighting and enhances the color contrast. (It’s a helpful feature on a sunny day or when you’re watching a video in bed late at night.)

Better cameras and photo features

Arguably the most impressive part of the new lineup is the camera systems. On the back of the S22 Ultra, five cameras are housed in a striking P-shaped arrangement. The S22 Ultra shoots 8K video and supports stabilization tools, which let users capture shots while moving, and an auto framing option to optimize the focus. With its largest pixel sensor to date, the lenses capture more light and data even in the dark.

Another new feature called Raw allows users to customize every camera setting, such as choosing the right lens for the shot, tweaking the shutter speed, gaining access to raw files that may appeal to professionals, and having the option to zoom in 100 times closer to subjects.

Meanwhile, the Galaxy S22 and S22+ features a 50MP main camera, 10MP tele-lens, and 12MP ultra-wide lens. Along with the S22 Ultra, the devices include auto framing, night photography support and an improved Pet Portrait mode feature, the last of which is an AI tool that lets users pick up on the smallest of details on a furry friend.

Privacy boost

Just as Apple has made privacy a key selling point. Samsung appears to be doubling down on giving users more control over their personal data. The Galaxy S22 series uses the company’s proprietary security platform that isolates sensitive data such as passwords, biometrics or Blockchain keys from the phone’s main operating system. It also features a privacy dashboard and indicator on Android’s latest operating system to see which apps are accessing user data and the camera so users can grant or deny permission to each app.

New tablets

The company also showed off its three new tablets: the 11-inch Galaxy Tab S8 ($699), the 12.4-inch S8+ ($899) and the 14.6-inch S8 Ultra ($1,099), which run on the same 4nm processor as the Galaxy devices and are also compatible with the S Pen. The Galaxy Tab S8+ and S8 come in graphite, silver and pink gold, while the S8 Ultra is available in graphite only. Pre-orders start Wednesday.

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