Realme's next cheap phone gets Samsung tech that even the Galaxy S22 Ultra didn't

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
A Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra (Image credit: Future)

It's no secret that the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra didn't bring any camera hardware upgrades over the S21 Ultra, but a newer version of those phones' main sensor has been announced, and curiously it's debuting in an upcoming cheap phone from Realme.

This announcement comes from the up-and-coming Chinese phone company itself, which has confirmed via a press release that the upcoming Realme 9 will be the first mobile with the 108MP Samsung ISOCELL HM6 camera sensor.

The latest two Samsung Galaxy S Ultras used the 108MP HM3 (there wasn't an HM4 or HM5), and they were notably the only phones to use this super-powered phone sensor.

This is a big win for Realme, which has been growing rapidly in the last few months, and the Realme 9 could continue this rise - if it's any good.

We don't know when it's coming out, but the Realme 9 Pro Plus landed recently and it impressed us a lot - judging by the names, the upcoming phone will likely be a more affordable version of that.

Analysis: will the Realme 9 beat the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra?

It's worth pointing out that the HM6 isn't necessarily better than the HM3, as Samsung's ISOCELL sensors aren't always straightforward improvements over each other. While the HM1 and HM3 were both big sensors exclusive to Samsung's phones, the HM2 was smaller and was used by loads of other brands.

We don't have enough information on the HM6 to know if it's better or worse than the HM3 - but it doesn't matter. The Realme 9 won't beat the super-powered Samsung flagship for photography.

That's because the Realme 9 is destined to be a cheap phone, given that the name alone tells us it'll be more affordable than the low-cost Realme 9 Pro Plus. So while the handset might have a high-res main camera, that doesn't mean it'll have equivalent sensors for its other rear cameras.

Great camera phones don't just have one amazing camera, they have loads, so photographers can get great snaps with a wider field-of-view, from a distance, or up close. You need periscope, ultra-wide, macro and more lenses for that.

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra has four rear cameras, so it's great for a range of situations. That kind of array costs lots of money though, which is why the Ultra is a premium phone. The Realme 9, costing a lot less, just can't match that hardware.

So the Realme 9 won't match the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra (unless Realme surprises us by launching this as a $1,000+ mobile, but that's not likely at all). But it could still be the best budget camera phone.

Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. He also currently works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.