Galaxy S22, S22+, S22 Ultra: Only if Google Pixel 6 Pro didn’t exist…
Google might’ve killed three birds with one stone. But bear with me…
When we heard rumors of Google’s “first true flagships in years” back in 2020, we automatically assumed these would be expensive phones. Then when we saw leaks of the fancy new wrapping (design) of the Pixel 6 series, this belief was only further reinforced. And even as
on October 19, we were expecting something pricey.
did way back in 2017. The change in our perception of what’s enough money for a great flagship device incurred after the release of the iPhone X, which started at $1,000. A figure that was met with question marks from many but soon became normal. Apple’s viral influence worked.
broke the $1,000 mark. In fact, many Android phone-makers went well beyond that with a series of Ultra, Mega, Hyper, and foldable phones that cost an arm and a leg.
But in October 2021, Google said: “We won’t play along!”, by giving us a $599 Pixel 6 and an $899 Pixel 6 Pro.
So, should Samsung, the biggest smartphone maker in the world and Google’s main competitor, be worried? Business-wise – not yet. But if we’re talking about value propositions, things start to get interesting. Let’s see how the Pixel 6 series stacks up against the pricier Galaxy S22 series of phones in a slightly unconventional 3 vs 1 face-off.
3 vs 1: Does the Pixel 6 Pro deliver better overall value than any Galaxy S22 model?
I gave this comparison some thought because it’s a tricky one. The fact that we have just two Pixel 6 models, and three different S22 devices, doesn’t quite allow for a head-to-head match. Furthermore, the price disparities are sizable across the board and across the globe. As I said in a previous story, we’re comparing apples to oranges to peaches.
So, I figured we could do something unusual. Let’s take the Pixel 6 Pro and compare it to the Galaxy S22, Galaxy S22+, and Galaxy S22 Ultra all at once – like a WWE handicap match. It’s the only way to see if we can make the argument that Google’s device is a better overall deal than any Galaxy S22 phone.
Pixel 6 Pro is much better value compared to the Galaxy S22 & S22+
As you can tell by the longest table ever, the Pixel 6 Pro has an obvious edge over the Galaxy S22 and S22+ in virtually every area, except for battery life and display brightness when compared to the bigger model. While the S22+ should last a bit longer on a single charge, the display brightness factor isn’t a big one since the Pixel 6 Pro’s screen is perfectly viewable outdoors – a higher nit count doesn’t represent proportional gains in brightness. Not even close.
Galaxy flagships have never looked as overpriced as they do now… especially in Europe
But of course, it’s the price of the Pixel 6 Pro that makes this comparison easier. For example, in the US, the Google Pixel 6 Pro costs just $100 more than the Galaxy S22. The more shocking fact is that it’s $100 cheaper than the S22+.
So, whether you want to add $100 to your purchase (in the US) or save €20/220, by going with Google in Europe, you’d be getting a phone with:
- An overall better camera system, especially thanks to that 48MP periscope zoom lens and Google’s superior photos and videos
- Smoother, more fluid Android 12 experience with 4GB extra RAM
- More frequent software updates
- A variable LTPO refresh rate screen
- Richer microphone quality
And the last point I’ll make when it comes to the Pixel 6 Pro – Galaxy S22 & S22+ comparison is that although I love how compact Samsung’s phones feel compared to the Pixel, they also feel somewhat… less premium. Not cheap.
This is especially noticeable with the smaller S22. It must be the combination of lightness, compactness, and matte back finish, which almost doesn’t feel like glass (although it is), making the vanilla S22 feel like a toy.
Pixel 6 Pro makes the Galaxy S22 Ultra look ultra expensive
And we come to the real fight, which isn’t much of a fight in my book, and you’ll see why.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra costs $300 more than the Pixel 6 Pro in the US and €420 more in Europe! I repeat – that’s a $300/€420 difference. This money gets you some of the best smartwatches in 2022, a pair of TWS earbuds and a great smartwatch, a weekend getaway, or just an extra $300/€420 in your bank account.
As you can tell, it’s in Europe where the price difference is just hard to comprehend. Sure, timing plays a role too – Google’s phone’s been out for some time now, and it’s currently down to €829, while the S22 Ultra is still very new. But a €420 difference is a hard pill to swallow regardless. Even if the Pixel costed €899, that difference would still be huge – €350.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra has some things going for it, but…
The best part here is that there aren’t a ton of compromises you’ll have to make by choosing to save so much cash and opt for a Pixel 6 Pro over a Galaxy S22 Ultra. The biggest thing the Galaxy has going for it is the better battery life, which promises about 1-2h of extra use. That’s not a meaningless figure, so bear that in mind.
Google Pixel 6 Pro wins where it matters
But, if you can look past these few drawbacks, one of which is rather niche, the Pixel 6 Pro doesn’t just hold its own against Samsung’s much more expensive phone but overtake it in ways you wouldn’t expect:
- It’s more compact, noticeably lighter, and easier to hold, thanks to its curvier design (don’t forget the S22 Ultra is now essentially a boxy Note)
- It comes with 4GB extra RAM for the entry-level model
- It supports faster wireless charging (if you care)
The rest of the specs are comparable and don’t necessarily swing in one or the other direction. But specs don’t always show the whole picture.
The Pixel 6 Pro’s camera might be more practical for most
Stunning portrait taken with the Pixel 6 Pro’s 4x zoom camera, without artificial bokeh added.
It’s the camera and software experience that give the Pixel 6 Pro the big lead, in my opinion. For starters, although the Galaxy S22 Ultra comes with the technically most versatile camera system, which is admirable, the Pixel’s triple camera seems like it’s going to be more practical for most people.
For example, the 4x zoom camera from the Pixel 6 Pro is the single best zoom camera on any device. It supports the biggest sensor we’ve ever seen (for a zoom camera), which gives it incredible bokeh for nearby subjects. This allows you to take amazing portrait photos of things and people without using Portrait Mode. It’s seriously impressive.
Furthermore, when it comes to sheer magnification, the Pixel 6 Pro will give you hybrid zoom anywhere from 4-10x (and beyond). Combined with Google’s SuperRes digital zoom, the Pixel’s 10x photos can look almost on par, as good, or sometimes better than the Galaxy’s, depending on the light.
Unless it’s to read a sign, I’ve never found myself needing more zoom than 10x. If you do, the Galaxy will undoubtedly do a better job than the Pixel beyond that 10x mark the further you go.
The Pixel’s camera is more fun to use
Action Pan makes for some truly unique photos that you can’t get anywhere else. Not impressed? These photos were taken at 8x zoom.
Then, it’s the incredibly fun Action pan, Long exposure and Magic Eraser features that give Pixel another win in my book.
Action Pan is available on all cameras and creates an impression of ultra-fast moving objects by blurring their surroundings – sort of like professional action shots. When it hits, it’s absolutely unbelievable the photos come out of a phone. Long exposure, on the other, hand can smoothen out running water, spinning wheels, etc., which makes for some epic shots too.
In my experience, Magic Eraser is the one feature that’s left everyone who’s seen it in awe. The great thing about it is that it works really well. Samsung has an equivalent feature hidden within its photo editor, but Google’s is more convincing, especially if you’re willing to play around with it.
The Pixel 6 Pro has better picture quality, especially compared to the Exynos Galaxy S22, S22+, S22 Ultra
Our camera comparison shows the Pixel 6 Pro takes better low-light photos than the S22 Ultra. The Pixel’s photo is on the right.
The Pixel 6 Pro, on the other hand, takes some of the best videos on any Android phone with excellent HDR, which also applies to photos. Photos and videos (save for that ultra-wide-angle camera) are sharp and noise-free in virtually any setting. Night Mode is also more impressive on the Pixel 6 Pro if you can stay still for 2-3 extra seconds.
The “cherry on top” comes when you find out that the camera performance between the European and rest-of-the-world Galaxy S22 models is different. That’s, of course, because Samsung is still using Exynos processors for phones sold in Europe and Snapdragon chips elsewhere.
In the end: Pixel wins but it might not be the best choice for everyone
An important distinction to make here is that this is my take on this comparison, and the findings are nuanced, as well as biased in some cases. Let me show you:
Preference, with a hint of factual information – Android 12 on Pixel really does feel smoother than on any other phone.
This is a very biased opinion. You need to hold both phones and decide for yourself whether you agree or not.
That’s a fact, backed by samples, research, and reviews.
Sidenotes aside, the Galaxy S22 series of phones are brilliant. Samsung currently offers the best choice of compact, mid-sized, big, and foldable flagships in the business. The company’s ecosystem of premium tables, earbuds, laptops, and not to mention, washing machines and microwaves is unmatched.
But Google’s flagships have come a very, very long way – both since the Pixel 5 and since their initial launch, which was full of bugs. For example, today, the Pixel’s fingerprint reader feels 3x faster and more reliable than before, and although the battery life and charging speeds still aren’t great, they are consistent – you get used to them.
When compared to the Pixel 5, the Pixel 6 phones have made what looks like the biggest camera leap between two flagships ever. No exaggerations. Sure, the variety of focal lengths on the Pixel 6 Pro is the obviously impressive part, but it’s things like the much better video quality and faster camera that make you wonder what Google’s been waiting for… We should’ve had Tensor two years ago.
Value for money
Today, Google’s much-improved hardware and unmatched software (#opinion) make the aggressively priced $900/€830 Pixel 6 Pro and $600/€600 Pixel 6 arguably the best phones (this much) money can buy. What’s more important is that Google’s phones somehow seem to deliver the best overall value when compared to both cheaper and more expensive phones. Here’s an example:
If we take a look at the vanilla models, the €850 vanilla Galaxy S22 is €250 more expensive than the vanilla Pixel 6, which simply doesn’t look or feel €250 worse next to the Galaxy.
Of course, there’s a critical asterisk here
Do you live in a coutry where the Pixel isn’t officially sold? Are you already part of another ecosystem like Samsung’s or Apple’s? Is your entire family using iPhones? Or have you been using Samsung phones for years and don’t like change? Perhaps you also want the smallest flagship possible? Then the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro might not be the way to go.
I’d never be able to convince my mother to get a Pixel 6, and I shouldn’t. She likes small phones, and certainly doesn’t like to relearn how to use them. She loves her Galaxy S9, so my recommendation would be clear – a Galaxy S22. At least as far as flagships are concerned.
But if you aren’t my mother, which I hope you aren’t. Unless my mum’s reading this, which would be even weirder… You might strike gold with Google. Or Sorta Sunny. Whatever.