That’s right, I TikTok. Don’t look at me like that. There are lots of middle-aged people lip-synching, dancing, showing off hacks, and demonstrating oddball skills on the wildly popular social media platform.
My channel is not filled with dances or songs. It’s mostly a hodgepodge of conversations with myself, visual tricks, tech stuff, and a lot of me experiencing the latest trending filter. Lately, I’ve been using a lot of filters, which rely on augmented reality to transform my face into animals, movie characters, optical illusions. They’re harmless fun.
While I can find filters that do work, some of the newest, coolest and maybe most sophisticated ones do not work on Samsung’s premier smartphone.
This came as something of a surprise to me. The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is an excellent and powerful Android 12 phone. It has a great collection of powerful cameras, including two 10 MP telephotos, 108MP wide and 12Mp ultrawide on the back, and a 40MP camera on the front.
It’s that last camera that I rely on for TikTok work. It’s more than capable of shooting standard TikTok videos. However, every time I try to use a new, trending filter like Raindrop control (which lets you freeze raindrops by using hand motions), or SYMMETRY (which lets you see what you’d look like if both sides of your face were exactly the same – for me the answer was Voldemort), the app informs me, “This effect doesn’t work with this device.”
Even simple filters like the “Your Decade,” which guesses your birth decade theoretically based on how you look (though I think it may be random), don’t work.
Listen, I like to spend a portion of each evening losing myself in the TikTok stream. It’s mind-numbing, entertaining, and kind of relaxing. When I see a fun filter, I like to try it out. I don’t always post the often-embarrassing results, and my draft folder is filled with unpublished efforts.
There’s real joy in consuming TikTok video on the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s high-definition 6.8-inch AMOLED, 120Hz-capable display, which only intensifies the frustration when I can’t test drive a new filter.
From a technical perspective, this, at least on the surface, makes little sense. The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra’s 40MP front-facing camera is capable of some light AR work. There’s literally an AR Zone in the Camera app that lets me doodle in AR on my face, turn my whole head into an AR emoji, and do other AR-based tricks.
There are, when it comes to the front camera, limitations. In the AR Doodle, it will only support face doodles. Plus, even though the phone can plop a dinosaur head emoji on my body that can follow my head's movement and some facial expressions, it’s not that precise.
If I were to compare what’s possible with Apple’s TrueDepth Module on the front of its iPhone 13 line with what the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra’s single front-facing camera is capable of, I’d call the Samsung effort a 1.0 version.
Ever since Apple introduced that depth-sensing module, its front-facing camera’s AR capabilities have grown substantially. When the iPhone 13 Pro paints my face with Mardi Gras makeup, the effect is realistic and disturbing. As I’m sure you know the camera is fully capable of supporting all of TikTok’s latest filters and effects.
Need some answers
I’ve contacted Samsung for more details on why the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra doesn’t support all these filters and will update this post with the company’s response. Perhaps they’ll tell me it’s just a matter of a software update, but I doubt it. That lone camera can only do so much with software to understand the real-world depth and create a realistic marriage between artificial reality and my face.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra’s rear camera array includes a laser to assist with autofocus. It does that by reading the depth information of a subject and their environment. I’d have to assume that if Samsung had drilled one additional hole in the screen next to the 40MP front camera for a laser, it might also have brought that depth info to the front of the phone, and then better support all those TikTok filters.
So, while you’re passing harsh judgment on my TikTok activities, maybe spare some for a brand-new, innovative phone that somehow forgets to fully support the world’s most popular social media platform.
As for me, I guess I’ll stick to my iPhone 13 Pro in my unending quest to become TikTok famous.