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Galaxy Note users, rejoice.
Your day has finally come.
Samsung Unpacked 2022: The Galaxy S22 is here, and so is the S Pen
Samsung had a big week. It hosted its first keynote of 2022 where the new Galaxy S22 series debuted. The S22, S22 Plus, and S22 Ultra are all very interesting phones as they’re some of the first to come with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, Qualcomm’s newest flagship processor. But by far the most Note-worthy phone of them all is the Galaxy S22 Ultra (my apologies for the pun).
We haven’t had a phone equipped with an S Pen since the Galaxy Note 20 series in 2020. Little did we know, that would be the last time Samsung would ship a Note-branded smartphone. The company confirmed it was taking 2021 off from releasing a Note phone while focusing on broadening “beloved Note features to more Samsung Galaxy devices.” This involved releasing an S Pen compatible with the Galaxy S21 Ultra and Z Fold 3, but was sold separately and required a special case if you wanted to store it somewhere.
This is obviously a very clunky solution to the issue that arises when you don’t ship a phone with an S Pen silo. People began missing the Note series not just because they liked having an S Pen, but also because of how convenient it was to carry around. Selling the S Pen as a separate accessory instead of as an integral part for a smartphone isn’t sustainable to meet Note fans’ demand, so something had to change.
And boy did it ever. The Galaxy S22 Ultra is a tried-and-true Note smartphone if there ever was one. It has a big 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with a 120Hz variable refresh rate, a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, up to 12GB of RAM and 1TB of storage, a quad camera system with a 108MP main sensor and 100x Space Zoom, a 5,000mAh battery, and a silo for storing the included S Pen.
It all comes in a smartphone that looks more like a Galaxy Note than any Galaxy S that’s ever shipped. It’s so similar, in fact, that many have theorized the S22 Ultra is really the Note 22 Ultra under a different brand name.
While there’s no evidence that it is a Note in disguise, there’s no question that Samsung has heard and is responding to the feedback from users over the past couple of years. Note phones were so beloved, in fact, that carriers like T-Mobile began highlighting its absence from Samsung’s lineup and claiming negative consequences because of it.
If beyond a straight-up Galaxy Note phone there were ever a device that could fill this gap in the smartphone world, it’s the S22 Ultra. It has all of the features you expect from a Note phone under a new brand name. I’ve got one coming in the next few weeks for review, so stay tuned for my thoughts.
(By the way, if you decide to preorder one, go for the Sky Blue. It’s clearly the best color.)
The rest of Samsung’s announcements were a bit less exciting but still interesting. The Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus make marginal upgrades compared to the S21 series from last year, and the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra tries to steal marketshare from Apple and Microsoft in the tablet-first computing market. (It also has a notch above its display which… ew.) There are also a couple of lower-end Tab S8 models that are offered as generalized content-consumption machines.
Some new software features were also announced alongside the S22 series. Google says you’ll be able to share content from YouTube, Google Maps, Samsung Notes, and Samsung Gallery while on a Duo call with someone, as well as collaboratively use Google’s Jamboard whiteboard software. In addition, Google confirmed that dynamic theming options would be coming to more devices running Android 12 from OEMs like Samsung, OnePlus, Oppo, Vivo, Realme, Xiaomi, and Tecno.
What’s perhaps the most important software-related announcement from the event is Samsung’s commitment to updating it. According to the company, the new Galaxy S22 series and Tab S8 family will get four generations of major Android upgrades, as well as five years’ worth of security patches. What’s even better is this new support standard will be retroactively applied to the S21 family, the latest Galaxy Z devices, and the Galaxy Watch 4 series.
For context, Google only guarantees three major OS upgrades for its Pixel devices, while Apple regularly provides at least five major iOS updates on past iPhones. Samsung’s middle-man stance is a good sign for the Android industry which typically sees devices die due to lack of support over aging specifications. Hopefully, this will propel a trend amongst OEMs to commit more resources to ensuring their phones and tablets stay up to date further down the line.
This month’s Unpacked event didn’t break new ground or introduce anything revolutionary. However, it did set the stage for the direction Samsung is heading this year: listening to customer feedback and improving its products one step at a time.
That’s a pretty good direction to be in.
Tapping the Wire
Android 13 goes live… in beta form
This week, Google started beta testing Android 13 with developers. The first build is only available on Pixel phones, and I advise not installing it on your phone just yet. As anxious as you might be to take the plunge, it’s simply too early for the software to be anywhere near stable. App crashes and system glitches are all too common with these early previews, so you’ll wanna wait until the public beta arrives to get a more friendly version of Android 13 before it rolls out later this year.
That being said, it already looks like the upgrade will have some cool features. Google includes the ability for app icons to adopt Material You color schemes if their developer supplies a monochromatic version of the icon in the app package. There’s also a new photo picker that’s more secure and convenient to use, simplified settings for third-party Quick Settings tiles, new security measures, and more.
Obviously, we won’t know what’ll ship in Android 13 until it actually ships, and we won’t have a clearer picture of how the update will be positioned until Google addresses it. The company typically talks about new Android updates at I/O, its annual developer conference, but that hasn’t received a date yet. I assume that’ll happen in the next few weeks, so stay tuned.
I’ve got a full article on Android 13 and all the good stuff we know about it on the site. I also encourage you to read Abner Li’s piece on 9to5Google which rounds up everything they were able to find in the developer preview.
The return of MoviePass?
Remember MoviePass? It was a subscription-based service that offered a set number of movie tickets to members for just $10 a month. It’s an absolutely incredible value given the rising cost of theater tickets nowadays, so you can imagine the company’s bottom line was by no means stable enough for the long-term.
Not long after it picked up steam, MoviePass took a nose dive and died on impact. Investors lost money and trust, Helios and Matheson Analytics (MoviePass’ previous parent company) went bankrupt, and the service was officially shut down for good.
Now, MoviePass is trying to make a comeback. Stacy Spikes, a co-founder of MoviePass, recently purchased the company back and is trying to rejuvenate it success with a new approach: by relying on credits based on “web3 technologies” to purchase movie tickets. These credits can be earned by watching ads through Preshow (a advertising company also owned by Spikes) which tracks when users are paying attention to the content they’re presented. The credits can be traded with other users and will fluctuate in value depending on the film you want to see and when.
It’s a jarringly different approach to a movie ticket app compared to what MoviePass used to be. MoviePass 2.0, as Spike calls it, seems like a last-resort concept for an app that used to not be terribly complicated. Whether it pays off in the end has yet to be seen; it won’t launch until this summer.
Apple takes on Square with the iPhone
Apple announced a new feature it’ll roll out this spring called Tap to Pay, and it lets you use your iPhone like a Square terminal. You can accept payments from other Apple Pay users, Google Pay users, credit/debit cards, and more. The company says any EMV contactless payment will be accepted, which means the NFC chip inside your iPhone will finally be used for something other than Apple Pay.
It’s a very interesting concept, but I think it’ll be one that lives alongside services like Square instead of taking them down. The beauty of Square is having a simple POS system that’s virtually plug-and-play and remains at a checkout counter in a store. You don’t get that same experience with an iPhone since it’s used for so much more.
I’ll be curious to see how widely it’s adopted once it’s released. Maybe it’ll be life-changing, maybe it won’t. We’ll have to wait and see.