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Samsung Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus — top 5 rumored upgrades

Renders allegedly of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus phone, on a white background
(Image credit: OnLeaks/91Mobiles.com)

The Samsung Galaxy S22's cheaper two models, the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22 Plus, are in line for some solid upgrades according to the rumors. While they're not quite as dramatic as the Galaxy S22 Ultra's rumored upgrades are, the S22 and S22 Plus are tipped for notable changes to their cameras, chips and display that should make the two phones substantially better.

By offering some tempting features at a competitive price, we expect one of the Galaxy S22 and the S22 Plus (or perhaps even both) to make it onto our best phones list. Phones like the Google Pixel 6 or the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro are right in the same price range we expect for the S22 and S22 Plus, so it'll be some tough competition.

We aren't going to find out which features are real and which are not until the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2022 event, which is rumored for February 9. So for the time being, take a look below for the changes we will be the most excited for if they come true.

50MP main camera with Adaptive Pixel 

After using 12MP main cameras since the Galaxy S7 (excluding the recent Ultra models), Samsung is rumored to be moving to 50MP main cameras. Assuming it's the Samsung GN1 sensor that's going into these phones, then it'll make for more detailed and attractive images. It's the same sensor found in the Google Pixel 6, after all.

There's more to be excited about than just the sensor though. Another part of this rumor is that this will be an "Adaptive Pixel" camera, which supposedly means the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22 Plus will be able to take photos at both lower and higher resolutions. Lower resolutions from camera sensors aren't unique; this is what's known as pixel-binning, and creates larger virtual pixels from the sensor's real ones to capture enhanced brightness from a scene. Extrapolating smaller images to create larger ones isn't something we've seen before as a built-in smartphone camera option, so it'll be interesting to see what Samsung wants to do with this ability.

Galaxy S22: a 3x optical zoom camera

a Galaxy s22 concept graphic based on new rumors about the phone's design

(Image credit: Super Roader/YouTube)

Another photography feature to get excited for is the alleged addition of a 3x optical zoom camera. The previous few Galaxy S phones (again excluding the Ultra models), only offered 3x hybrid zoom, using a mixture of optical and digital zoom. But this year the rumors seem to say it's fully optical magnification.

That's notable since it comes close, or even beats, much more expensive phones' telephoto cameras. The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max have 3x zoom, for example. The OnePlus 10 Pro has a slightly more powerful 3.3x magnification for its telephoto camera, and the Pixel 6 Pro manages 4x zoom. It'll be hard to find higher magnification on a phone in this price range.

A new compact size for S22 and S22 Plus

Basically every single phone made today qualifies as a "phablet". However, the Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus are reversing the trend of continuous size increases by reportedly shrinking a bit — from 6.2 to 6.06 inches in the S22's case and from 6.7 to 6.5 inches for the S22 Plus.

A smaller size does likely mean a smaller battery, so we'll be keeping a close eye on what this means for battery life if we get our hands on these phones and find the rumors are true. But for users with small hands or pockets, having this size decrease may be well worth it.

New Exynos 2200 and Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chips

As expected, there's a new generation of chipsets tipped for the Galaxy S22. And yes, there's two: either the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 if you're in the U.S., or the Samsung Exynos 2200 if you're elsewhere. Both of these have produced some impressive leaked benchmarks that should make sure the S22 and S22 Plus offer some of the year's best performance figures.

However, there's one unique extra edge for the S22 handsets equipped with the Exynos 2200 chip: AMD graphics. The Xclipse 920 GPU in the Exynos 2200 uses RDNA 2 architecture to offer enhanced power and ray-tracing graphics, which could put the S22 series at the top of the best gaming phones in a way none of the current phones can match. 

Galaxy S22: improved adaptive display refresh rate

An adaptive refresh rate is important for flagship phones to have, as it balances power consumption against a smooth user experience. While this was a feature the S21 and S21 Plus had last year, it may be getting an improvement this year.

That would come in the form of the S22 Plus (and possibly the base S22) adopting LTPO displays. Using this instead of LTPS screens like last year, the S22 and S22 Plus could be capable of dropping to a 1Hz refresh rate, instead of the 48Hz minimum the S21 and S21 Plus can manage. That would mean even more battery life savings while keeping the screen just as responsive as before.

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, gaming, audio and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.