Galaxy S21 Ultra: Samsung’s best “old” flagship phone ever made – best Android deal mid 2022?

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The Galaxy S20 Ultra has seriously damaged Samsung’s ambitions as the flagship of Android phones. The 2020 Ultra came with a matte back and significant camera issues. Plus, ironically, priced at $1,400, it was the most expensive record phone Samsung has ever made. Fortunately, the South Korean company quickly realized that the unimaginable price and performance mistakes it had made, so it was redemption time…Sure, the bar was pretty low, but the following: Galaxy S21 Ultra wasn’t just a much better phone than the S20 Ultra. It was one of the most acclaimed phones of last year and is still one of the best devices money can buy, even in 2022.

This time the bar was set very highand Samsung knew it took something special to grab people’s attention, which of course led to DJ Koh & Co decide to merge Note and “S” flagship lineups. This is how we got Samsung’s current flagship flagship – the Galaxy S22 Ultra, that For real is a flagship of the Note in disguise. Although on paper, the Note is now “dead”.

However, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is more or less just an iterative improvement over the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but with coarser edges (literally) and an S-Pen. Surprisingly or not, Samsung’s flagship for 2021 enjoys a better review score not only from us, but also from most other technical outlets. And it’s for a reason…

If you’ve always wanted to buy a Galaxy S21 Ultra, but never did… Now might be a good time! Let me tell you why!

Galaxy S21 Ultra is probably the better Android flagship deal than the expensive Galaxy S22 Ultra

To be clear, I won’t convince you that the Galaxy S21 Ultra orbits the Galaxy S22 Ultra, because it isn’t. The S22 Ultra is the newer phone, with a newer processor and improved cameras and display. However, both have their pros and cons, and I think that’s where it gets more interesting.

Of course, the price either phone will be a huge factor, but we’ll talk a little more about it below…

Galaxy S21 Ultra arguably has a better design than the Galaxy S22 Ultra; it also has tons more RAM and better battery life

For starters, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is Samsung’s latest Ultra flagship that feels like a Galaxy “S”. It’s more rounded, making it more ergonomic and easier to hold for extended periods of time, and this is something that shouldn’t be underestimated, if you use your phone all day every day, which… of course you do. Furthermore (and this is more opinion than fact) the S21 Ultra just looks better than the S22 Ultra. The camera body looks sturdier and is much more practical too – it won’t collect nearly as much fluff as the individual camera rings on the 2022 model.

Then, as strange as it may sound, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the phone with the increasingly longer battery life. Please note that due to your individual usage habits, your mileage may vary and it is not a night and day difference.

That said, the Galaxy S21 Ultra certainly has no worse stamina than Samsung’s new flagship despite the fact that both come with the same 5000 mAh battery. Shockingly, the charging speeds are also similar, despite the Galaxy S22 Ultra supporting 45W fast charging, versus just 25W on the older phone. Both take about an hour to charge, which is very unfair to S22 Ultra users, who may have been told they will get much faster speeds.

The base model Galaxy S21 Ultra also comes with much more RAM than the equivalent Galaxy S22 Ultra, and that’s because of Samsung’s decision to downgrade this year’s Ultra Galaxy to just 8GB of RAM. This could be a much more important factor than you realize as Android phones can be terribly RAM-hungry.

So it looks like the extra RAM could give the S21 Ultra an advantage in the long run. RAM keeps apps running in the background and opening quickly after they were last closed.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra also has a few things, but is that enough to make you pay twice as much?

Now, no one can deny that Samsung’s Note-like S22 Ultra actually comes with a few meaningful upgrades over its predecessor…

Sure, the first one is the S-Pen, and if you want/need it, the S22 Ultra is all for you. Then again, if I had to guess, I’d say 90% of people won’t care about the S-Pen, and if they have it, they might not even remember to use it, so there’s that. ..

The Galaxy S22 Ultra also offers a slightly brighter screen on paper, which makes little to no difference in real life; better night photography – this one is worth mentioning if you take a lot of photos at night (most people don’t); and cleaner zoom photos thanks to improved image processing.

Speaking of photos, the camera hardware on the S22 Ultra is relatively unchanged compared to the S21 Ultra. Both give you four cameras on the back: an ultra-wide angle snapper, a primary camera and a set of telephoto cameras fixed at 3x and 10x optical zoom. Yeszoom shots from the S22 Ultra are definitely cleaner (well done, Samsung!), but the S21 Ultra has the same range and features.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra gets an extra year of updates, but the S21 Ultra also gets long software support

Another thing to note is that the Galaxy S22 Ultra has a slightly newer chip and gets an extra year of Android OS and security updates. This is not something to cover up:

  • Galaxy S21 Ultra will be updated to Android 15 and will no longer receive security updates in 2025
  • Galaxy S22 Ultra will be updated to Android 16 and will no longer receive security updates in 2026

If you are someone who likes to get the most out of your phone and keep it as long as possible, then the S22 Ultra is your jam. Don’t forget, though, that the remaining three years of OS updates and four years of security patches, combined with the extra 4GB of RAM on the S21 Ultra, will help you get the most out of the cheaper flagship.

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs S22 Ultra mid-2022: more or less the same experience for a fraction of the price

Speaking of price, that’s probably the main reason to even consider buying a used Galaxy S21 Ultra instead of a new Galaxy S22 Ultra. The former will cost you an average of $550, while the latter will cost you twice as much to get brand new. You can find used/refurbished Galaxy S21 Ultra units in good condition in the US, UK and Europe. I did the first research for you:

  • In the U.S, Swappa might be one of your best options, where a used S21 Ultra in good condition will set you back just $550-650
  • In the United Kingdom, eBay is arguably your best shopping buddy, where deals on Galaxy S21 Ultra in good condition can be as low as £500
  • In Europe, eBay is again one of the best options for shopping for a used Galaxy S21 Ultra, where the average price is €600

Safe shopping and always looking for the Buyer Protection: label if you buy from eBay!

Galaxy S21 Ultra is (probably) the best flagship phone Samsung has ever made and ages like a fine wine

That’s a For real good question, and there are a few different ways to answer it…

Of course, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is a slightly better phone than the S21 Ultra. It’s newer – it makes sense. But there’s another take on this, and it’s from the POV of someone who bought the S21 Ultra at launch…

In that case, the S21 Ultra was and always will be the more stable and highly-rated Galaxy flagship, even compared to the newer S22 Ultra, which arrived with some jittery swiping and micro-stuttering; less RAM and slightly less battery life.

At launch, the Galaxy S21 Ultra delivered the best value of any premium Galaxy flagship we’ve ever seen and the good news is that even if you bought one now, it wouldn’t age quickly or badly. It comes with extreme capable hardware across the board (better than that on many 2022 flagships), and since the Note is now dead, Samsung’s next big plate release – the Galaxy S23 Ultra, coming in more than six months.

Speaking of outside competition, I’d say the Galaxy S21 Ultra is a lot safer buy the newer one Google Pixel 6 Pro and gives you a whole lot more features compared to any iPhone on the market right now. It has more versatile cameras than both Google’s and Apple’s phones, and it beats the Pixel in areas like battery life, charging, and software updates.

Is the Galaxy S21 Ultra the best premium flagship phone ever?

utilities, this one is an even harder question to answer, as there are phones like the Huawei P30 Pro and Mate 20 Pro that received even better reviews at launch. Looking past the lack of a high refresh rate display, the Huawei P30 Pro has aged gracefully (I have it and it’s still performing admirably in 2022).

There is also the iPhone 13 Pro Max, which changed our perception of “great battery life” and became one of the easiest ultra-premium flagships to recommend. However, Apple’s phone has yet to prove its longevity. My educated guess is that the conservative camera system and large notch will age rather badly, which will not be the case with the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

And a bonus round for you! Is the Galaxy S21 Ultra the most improved flagship phone ever, as it was preceded by the horribly priced and poorly received S20 Ultra? That’s a tough one too… The upgrades to the Pixel 5 – Pixel 6 Pro and Galaxy Z Fold – Galaxy Z Fold 2 were massive and probably deserve just as much (if not more) credit for year-over-year improvements.

Let me know! Is the Galaxy S21 Ultra Samsung’s most affordable ultra-premium phone ever and do you plan to buy one in 2022?

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