It started when I felt a tiny ridge – an imperfection – on the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra's perfect plane of glistening Gorilla Glass.
My finger caught on something I couldn't see. I absentmindedly ran my finger back and forth over the screen, which was currently displaying my Twitter feed. Did I feel something? Nah...no, wait...there is it.
I stopped reading angry tweets and started examining the screen as my mind flashed back to two days prior.
Standing in my kitchen, I fumbled with the 6.8-inch Android 12 smartphone (which I'd been using frequently, especially for its stellar photography chops), it slipped from my grasp and clattered to the tile floor just one meter below.
"What was that? Was that your phone?" my wife called from the other room.
I quickly snatched the prone device from the floor. It's nestled in a rubber Samsung case, so I wasn't too worried. I looked it over, noticed no breaks, and yelled back, "Yes. It's fine."
"Why do only my phones shatter?" asked my wife.
First, I don't drop phones. In nearly 20 years of testing them, I've never broken a review unit. I did once drop a 12.9-inch iPad Pro on a glass table, shattering the screen, but that was an arguably unwieldy tablet. I don't drop phones...or rather, I didn't.
Now, on the train, running my finger over what I realized was a crack, I understood what I'd done.
Looking closer, I could see a fine fissure snaking from the top of the phone, just above and to the right of the selfie camera, nearly two-thirds of the way down the face of the display to the right edge.
When the phone is on, you can barely notice it unless a letter falls right under the crack and is split into two slightly displaced halves.
This should not have happened.
With the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, Samsung built a brick of a phone off the original Galaxy Note design base. It's a large, solid, rigid, but not unpleasant to hold, 229-gram device that, from the look of it, should be up for a drop or two.
The phone is wrapped in Gorilla Glass Victus+ (which is rated by Corning to handle drops of up to 2 meters). It covers that back and my now damaged 6.8-inch AMOLED screen. Plus, I had it in a case.
You might wonder why I didn't arrive at this conclusion when I reviewed the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. The fact is that I don't do drop tests with review units, devices temporarily handed to me by manufacturers that they have every expectation will be returned in reasonably pristine condition.
I'm happy to dip them in water, but not drop them on concrete knowing that, even if they don't break, they'll get some unsightly scuffs. I don't think it's a good idea to do that with equipment you don't own.
Also, my review process reflects how I would use these products if I owned them. I generally don't drop technology (or really anything).
Still, here I am, confronted with the result of an unplanned drop test and the results aren't good.
A three-foot (or 1 meter) drop of the cased smartphone shouldn't have resulted in this crack. However, I understand that with any glass-screened device, all you need to do is find the optimal stress point and where the physics are just right to fracture even the toughest screen.
At least this is a clean crack and not a shatter – you know, the ones that make the screen unusable and even dangerous to touch (those tiny glass shards). This is a break that, while substantial, you really have to look closely to see it or turn off the screen, which seems to highlight it more.
It's also worth noting that the screen crack in no way affects the performance of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. It's just as fast and fun to use as ever – until my digit skips over that fine, sharp edge. That break also means that the device is no longer sealed against the elements. I wouldn't confidently drop it in a bucket of water or even use it out in the rain for too long.
I'm disappointed in myself for my clumsiness and, a bit, in the Galaxy S22 Ultra for not being equal to such a short fall.
It's not a great look for this Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, but I caution against assuming that all S22 Ultras are prone to fragility. My guess is that the fall caught the top edge of the phone and that a screen-first fall might've had a different result.
On the other hand, get a case on your Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and hold onto it – tight.
- Find out how to protect your Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra with our favorite cases.
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A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.
Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.