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Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. Samsung Galaxy S21

The Samsung Galaxy S22 is the latest entrant to Samsung’s flagship smartphone range alongside its more expensive Galaxy S22 Plus and Galaxy S22 Ultra siblings. Like the Plus and Ultra, the vanilla Galaxy S22 sports stronger stats at the same price tag as its predecessor. It might look like an iterative update over the Samsung Galaxy S21 on paper, but there are major differences all around. But how different are they? In this comparison we’ll be taking a look at the Samsung Galaxy S22 against the Galaxy S21, to see if you should buy the latest S-range flagship, or save some money with an older smartphone.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy S22  Samsung Galaxy S21 
Size 71.12 x 144.78 x 7.62mm (2.8 x 5.7 x 0.3 inches) 71.12 x 151.63 x 7.87mm (2.80 x 5.97 x 0.31 inches)
Weight  167 grams (5.9 ounces)  169 grams (5.96 ounces)
Screen size 6.1-inch Dynamic AMOLED FHD+ 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED
Screen resolution 2220 x 1080 pixels 2220 x 1080 pixels
Operating system Android 12 based on OneUI 4.1 Updated to Android 12 based on OneUI 4.0
Storage 128GB, 256GB 256GB, 512GB
MicroSD card slot No No
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 / Exynos 2200 (depending on the market) Qualcomm Snapdragon 888/ Exynos 2100
(depending on the market)
RAM 8GB 8GB
Camera 50-megapixel primary, 12MP ultra-wide, 10MP 3x telephoto

10MP selfie camera

12MP primary, 12MP ultra-wide, 10MP  hybrid 3x telephoto

10MP selfie camera

Video Up to 8K 24 fps Up to 8K 24 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.2 Bluetooth 5.2
Ports USB C USB C
Fingerprint sensor Yes (in-display ultrasonic) Yes (in-display ultrasonic)
Water Resistance IP68 IP68
Battery 3,700mAh

25W wired charging (no charger included in the box)

15W wireless charging

4,000mAh

25W wired charging (no charger included in the box)

15W wireless charging

App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support All major carriers All major carriers
Colors Black, White, Green, Pink Gold Black, White, Lavender Purple
Price Starting at $799 Starting at $799 (at launch)
Buy from Samsung Samsung
Review score Hands-on review 3.5 out of 5 stars

Design and display

The Galaxy S22 and its predecessor might look similar but the in-hand feel will be different. While the Galaxy S21 has a plastic build, the new Galaxy S22’s glass build and metal frame feel a lot more premium. Both have a contoured design where the camera module blends the camera module seamlessly into the side of the phone. You get Gorilla Glass Victus+ on the new flagship, which should offer better drop durability. Both the smartphones offer IP68 water and dust resistance.

The Galaxy S22’s display is more compact than the Galaxy S21’s. While the latter was a compact flagship, the Galaxy S22 shaves 0.1-inch from the screen to offer a 6.1-inch Dynamic AMOLED display. Both offer a variable refresh rate that can go up to 120Hz for smooth system UI transitions and better gaming performance. However, they both go down to 48Hz and not 1Hz like the more expensive Galaxy S22 Ultra.

The new shorter and thinner design should help people with small hands have a better in-hand feel. You should get a more premium build, a more compact design, the same IP rating, and the same display on the new Galaxy S22. While one might prefer the glass build, it must be noted that the plastic build of the Galaxy S21 might be more resistant to drops.

There’s really not much to differentiate the two here. This is a tie.

Winner: Tie

Performance and battery

Galaxy S22 held in hand and seen from the side.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Both the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S21 are flagship devices. As you might expect, they are powered by the top flagship chipsets of their respective years. The Galaxy S21 was powered by the Snapdragon 888. By contrast, the Galaxy S22 is powered by the powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset. The Galaxy S21 performed very well last year and garnered a favorable review. We didn’t have a single hiccup in any multitasking or gaming — and we expect the Galaxy S22 to continue with this amazing performance. There’s plenty of RAM with 8GB on board and you get 128GB or 256GB of storage, even if you don’t get a microSD card slot on either. However, there shouldn’t be any stutters in the UI or lags while playing games or multitasking.

That said, it might not last as long due to the lesser capacity of the battery. The Galaxy S22 packs a 3,700mAh battery as compared to Galaxy S21’s 4,000mAh pack. It can be a worrying sign, especially considering the Galaxy S21’s battery life wasn’t stellar. The adaptive refresh rate and efficiency of new chips can help, but we’ll reserve our verdict on the battery life for our full review.

While the company upgraded the wired fast charging support of the Ultra variant to 45W, the Galaxy S22 still stays at 25W. But considering the new smartphone has a smaller battery capacity, it should charge faster than the Galaxy S21. Still, this is a tie until we get more time with the Galaxy S22.

Winner: Tie

Cameras

Galaxy S22 camera module.
Galaxy S22 camera module. Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

This is one department where the Galaxy S22 stands out from the Galaxy S21. While both smartphones sport three cameras on the back, the lenses are different. The Samsung Galaxy S22 features a 50-megapixel wide-angle primary camera, while the S21 has a 12MP main lens. As for the ultra-wide-angle capabilities, both devices use the same ultrawide 12MP lens. On the front, there’s a 10MP (f/2.2) shooter on both devices.

The telephoto segment is where it gets interesting. Samsung has dropped the megapixel count on the latest vanilla flagship. The Galaxy S22 sports a 10MP shooter with a full 3x optical zoom, while you get a 64MP hybrid 3x sensor on the Galaxy S21. As we have said before, the megapixel count isn’t everything, and it’s the lens quality that determines the overall results. The new smartphone has a larger sensor that will allow it to take in more light, which could tip the balance.

The new cameras are likely to perform better than the Galaxy S21, which already has an impressive image quality. You get great colors and clarity in brightly-lit conditions and the device struggled in low light. However, with the new optics, we expect better camera performance in tough conditions. You will also get a better bokeh effect, thanks to stereo depth mapping that makes for better portrait shots.

You get Samsung features like Zoom Lock and Director Mode on both devices. While the optical zooming capabilities have been improved on the Galaxy S22, both the devices have the same maximum digital zoom at 30x. However, we expect better images with that new telephoto lens.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S22

Software and updates

Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus screen length difference.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Galaxy S1 shipped with OneUI 3 based on Android 11, which has since been updated to Android 12 based on OneUI 4.0. On the other hand, the Galaxy S22 ships with One UI 4.1 based on Android 12. Both the smartphones feature a nice-looking interface with lots of slick animations and subtle uses of color. One UI offers a good amount of customization and you can tweak it your way. Combine it with a 120Hz refresh rate, and you’re in for a treat!

As expected, the Galaxy S22 will last longer than the Galaxy S21. But in a surprising turn of events, Samsung will be supporting its latest devices for more years than Google supports its Pixel hardware. The company is pushing other smartphone manufacturers to up their software update game.

Coming to the numbers, Samsung has bumped up its 3-year OS update policy to 4 years, so you can expect the Galaxy S22 to get the Android 16 update and get one additional year of security updates. Comparatively, last year’s Galaxy S21 is already on its first OS update and will be updated to Android 13 and 14 — that’s two years less than the latest flagship.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S22

Price and availability

The Galaxy S21 was launched at a starting price tag of $799 for the 8GB and 128GB storage variant, and Samsung is sticking to the same price for the same amount of RAM and storage on the Galaxy S22. You’ll be able to find both devices at all the major and various third-party retailers, and crucially, you’ll be able to find the Galaxy S21 at a lower price now.

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy S22

Galaxy S22 Plus camera module.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Samsung Galaxy S22 shares a lot with its predecessor but comes out at the top due to its newer camera sensors, glass, and metal build, and longer life, thanks to Samsung supporting the software for four years. The new flagship will take better photos and last longer than the Galaxy S21, while also feeling more premium in the hands. It is a good device to go for, and definitely the winner here. If you’re deciding between the two, buy the Galaxy S22.

But what if you’re just deciding whether it’s worth upgrading from the Galaxy S21 to the Galaxy S22? Well, at the moment we’d say it’s not worth it. While the Galaxy S22 is clearly the better phone of the two, the changes are incremental, rather than ground-breaking. It’s a better smartphone, yes, but only slightly, and the benefits are relatively minor if you’re already enjoying your Galaxy S21.

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