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Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. Galaxy S21: What are the biggest differences?

galaxy s22 vs galaxy s21
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Now that the Samsung Galaxy S22 is here, it’s time to see what changes Samsung has made from last year’s Galaxy S21. On the surface, a Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. Galaxy S21 comparison reveals an iterative upgrade. The new model looks similar, offers very similar camera hardware, and promises a modest bump in performance thanks to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor.

But there are some key differences between the two phones that highlight what’s new for this year’s flagships. (As for the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy S21 Ultra, that’s another comparison.) . Here’s how the Galaxy S22 differs from the Galaxy S21.

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. Galaxy S21: Specs

Galaxy S22 PlusGalaxy S22Galaxy S21 PlusGalaxy S21
Price$999$799$999$799
Android version12, One UI 4.112, One UI 4.112, One UI 412, One UI 4
Display6.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED FHD+6.1-inch Dynamic AMOLED FHD+6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED FHD+6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED FHD+
Refresh rate48Hz-120Hz48Hz-120Hz48-120Hz48-120Hz
CPUSnapdragon 8 Gen 1Snapdragon 8 Gen 1Snapdragon 888Snapdragon 888
RAM8GB8GB8GB8GB
Storage128GB, 256GB128GB, 256GB128GB, 256GB128GB, 256GB
Rear cameras50MP (f/1.8) main, 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide, 10MP (f/2.4) 3x telephoto50MP (f/1.8) main, 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide, 10MP (f/2.4) 3x telephoto12MP (f/1.8) main, 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide, 64MP (f/2.0) 3x hybrid telephoto12MP (f/1.8) main, 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide, 64MP (f/2.0) 3x hybrid telephoto
Front camera10MP (f/2.2)10MP (f/2.2)10MP (f/2.2)10MP (f/2.2)
VideoUp to 8K 24 fpsUp to 8K 24 fpsUp to 8K 24 fpsUp to 8K 24 fps
Battery4,500 mAh3,700 mAh4,800 mAh4,000 mAh
Charging45W wired, 15W wireless25W wired, 15W wireless25W wired, 15W wireless25W wired, 15W wireless
Size3 x 6.2 x 0.3 inches2.8 x 5.7 x 0.3 inches2.98 x 6.36 x 0.31 in2.80 x 5.97 x 0.31 i
Weight6.9 ounces5.9 ounces7.05 ounces5.96 ounces

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. Galaxy S21: Price and availability

galaxy s22 with galaxy watch 4

(Image credit: Samsung)

Fortunately, Samsung kept the prices the same this year. Available now, the Galaxy S22 starts at $799 just like the Galaxy S21. 

And like with the Galaxy S21 series last year, the Galaxy S22 family is available from Samsung, as well as most electronics retailers and cell phone carriers. Getting your hands on a Galaxy S22 is insanely easy.

The Galaxy S22 come in black, white, green, and Pink Gold color options, with Graphite, Cream, Sky Blue and Violet available as online-only options. 

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. Galaxy S21: Design

Right off the bat, you’ll notice several similarities between the look of the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S21. Both have the contour design that blends the camera module seamlessly into the side of the phone. It’s a clean look and we’re glad to see Samsung bring it back for 2022. If anything, the design feels more refined this time around.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The S22 isn’t as tall as the S21, as Samsung has knocked 0.3 inches off the height of the new phone to accommodate a smaller screen. (More on that in a moment.) As a result, any Galaxy S21 case you have is unlikely to fit Samsung’s new phone. The new Plus is meanwhile 0.1 inches shorter than the S21 Plus.

The new Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22 come in black, white, green, and pink gold. Gone is the lavender purple from the Galaxy S21, which was quite pretty. But the new green more than makes up for it.

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. Galaxy S21: Display

Although the new phones look similar to last year’s, the display sizes differ slightly. The Galaxy S22 has a 6.1-inch Dynamic AMOLED screen versus the Galaxy S21’s 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED. The Galaxy S22 Plus sports a 6.6-inch AMOLED panel, which is smaller than the 6.7-inch screen on the Galaxy S21 Plus.

two women using a galaxy s22

(Image credit: Samsung)

While the resolutions have remained largely the same (FHD+), Samsung has improved the refresh rate capabilities for its new phones. The Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus could crank up their refresh rate to 120Hz, but could only drop down to 48Hz. That didn’t help battery life much, since both S21 models performed noticeably worse with their adaptive refresh rate modes active.

galaxy s21 plus vs iphone 12 pro

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

We’re not sure why Samsung shrunk the displays for the S22 models, though 0.1 inches is hardly much to get upset about. The most exciting thing is the wider range for the adaptive refresh rate mode. A 10Hz to 120Hz range is a good spread and should help the overall experience feel smoother on the Galaxy S22.

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. Galaxy S21: Cameras

It looks like cameras will be the area where the Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. Galaxy S21 distinctions are the sharpets. Both phones feature a triple lens array, yes, but that’s about where the similarities end. 

The Galaxy S22’s main sensor is a 50MP (f/1.8) wide angle lens, whereas the S21 used a 12MP (f/1.8) main camera. For ultrawides, the S22 and S21 seem to share the same setup: a 12MP (f/2.2) sensor.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

For telephoto, the phones once again diverge. On the newer phone, you get a 10MP (f/2.4) shooter with a full 3x optical zoom, while the S21 sports a 64MP hybrid 3x (f/2.0) sensor. Don’t get lost in the megapixel count, however, since the S22 has a larger sensor to allow for more light. And around front, the Galaxy S22 has a 10MP (f/2.2) front-facing camera, just like the Galaxy S21’s 10MP (f/2.2).

In terms of software, the Galaxy S22 has more in common with the Galaxy S21. Samsung is going all-in on computational photography, including upgrades to the portrait and night modes. It’s very likely that the Galaxy S21 will get these same features down the line via a software update, once the S22 has had some time to shine on its own.

galaxy s22 family face down

(Image credit: Samsung)

Other S21 features return to the S22, like Zoom Lock and Director Mode. Arguably, photos from the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S21 will look similar enough to most people, though the newer phone ought to surge ahead with night and portrait mode performance. In the latter’s case, Samsung has mentioned a stereo depth map, meaning that the bokeh effect will be smarter and account for more human-like aspects, like hair. Pet portraits ought to improve, as well.

The Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S21 will share the same max digital zoom at 30x. With Zoom Lock, the phones can intelligently stabilize your zoomed-in image in the viewfinder, helping to land a better shot. But unless Samsung has improved the algorithm that cleans up the final image, we’re not sure that a 30x image will look all that good. Samsung could take a page out of Google’s Super Res Zoom book (which turns to software to drastically improve digitally zoomed images).

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. Galaxy S21: Performance and battery life

As with any new generation of device, the Galaxy S22 will obviously sport some stronger performance thanks to the latest chip from Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. In some international markets, the Galaxy S22 is expected to feature Samsung’s own Exynos 2200 chip.

galaxy s22 plus review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The new system-on-chip isn’t a huge leap over the Snapdragon 888, the processor that the Galaxy S21 uses. In certain benchmarks, the performance boost is marginal at best. And that means Qualcomm still hasn’t caught up to Apple’s own A15 Bionic chip (the one in the iPhone 13 and what we expect to see in the upcoming budget-friendly iPhone SE 3). The official jury is still out on the Galaxy S22’s benchmarks, but we’ll have those in the coming days.

Benchmarks only tell one story, and we expect that most people will hardly notice a difference in performance between the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S21. That’s how single-generation CPU leaps work. If you’re coming from Galaxy S20, S10, or an even older phone, that’s when you’ll notice a boost.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

For batteries, the Galaxy S22 features a 3,700 mAh power pack, compared to the Galaxy S21’s larger 4,000 mAh battery. The Galaxy S22 Plus is powered by a 4,500 mAh battery, which is smaller than the Galaxy S21 Plus’ 4,800 mAh. 

These smaller batteries give us pause, considering that the non-Ultra Galaxy S21 models weren’t exactly stellar in terms of battery life. In fact, the regular Galaxy S21 in its adaptive refresh rate mode was downright awful in the Tom’s Guide battery life test.

galaxy s22 plus and galaxy s22 standing by each other

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

We hope Samsung has made some improvements here, but we’re still left wondering why Samsung would choose to use smaller batteries in the S22 and S22 Plus. (The Galaxy S22 Ultra has the same 5,000 mAh power pack as the Galaxy S21 Ultra.) 

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. Galaxy S21: Software

The good news here is that the software experience between the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S21 ought to be the same, at least for the most part. That’s because the S21 already has Android 12 and One UI 4 — the S22 will launch with the same Android version and One UI 4.1.

galaxy s22 plus and galaxy s22

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Obviously, when we reviewed the Galaxy S21 series, we analyzed an older software version. But based on our experience with One UI 4, the Galaxy S22 will certainly have a lot to say when it comes to Android. That’s because Android 12 introduced a host of new customization and privacy features, all of which Samsung has seemingly adopted and tweaked.

One area where the Galaxy S22 will stand ahead is in its support lifespan. That’s because it’s a newer device. Samsung has a 3 year/4 year standard update policy for all of its phones. But according to the press release we received, Samsung is bumping up that schedule to four years of Android updates. Samsung also says this policy will apply retroactively to the Galaxy S21.

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. Galaxy S21: Outlook

As you can see, the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S21 share a lot similarities. From familiar designs to analogous software experiences, the new Galaxy S model don’t stand out too much from their predecessors — the Galaxy S22 Ultra is another story. 

galaxy s22 plus and galaxy s22

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

If you’re rocking a Galaxy S21 or Galaxy S21 Plus, you likely won’t need to rush out to buy a Galaxy S22. You’ll hardly notice the difference in performance, and we have yet to see how the cameras compare. Odds are, you’ll get similar versions of the new camera software features later, too.

But if you’re coming from something older, like the Galaxy S20, then this upgrade might be worth it (though our review will have the final say). You’ll get a newer device with a better screen (and refresh rate) and longer support. The performance jump will depend on what phone you’re coming from. Be sure to check out our best Galaxy S22 deals page before you make your purchase, just to ensure you get the best offer possible.

Jordan Palmer
Jordan Palmer

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over five years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets. Outside of work, you can find him poring over open-source software and his studies.