Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. Galaxy S21: The biggest differences

galaxy s22 vs galaxy s21
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The Samsung Galaxy S22 has been out for nearly a year, at the time of writing, and it features on our best phones list. But if you have its predecessor or an older Galaxy phone and are considering an upgrade, then pondering the Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. Galaxy S21 is worth your time. 

That's because the Galaxy S22 isn't hugely different from the Galaxy S21, particularly on the surface. But there are some improvements, not least of all a specs bump to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor.

So with that in mind read on to see how the Galaxy S22 differs from the Galaxy S21, and it the newer phone is worth you consideration. 

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. Galaxy S21 cheat sheet

  • The Galaxy S22 has the more powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip, compared to the Snapdragon 888 in the Galaxy S21. 
  • The Galaxy S22 now has a brighter display
  • Both phones have 8GB of RAM, 128GB of base storage that's not upgradable via ant microSD card. 
  • The Galaxy S22 has a similar triple rear camera array to the Galaxy S21 but with improved sensors and thus better night photo and video quality, and a 3x optical zoom for the telephoto camera.  
  • The Galaxy S22 is a little more compact than the Galaxy S21. 
  • The Galaxy S22 comes in white, black, green, and pink gold color options. 

Specs: Galaxy S22 has the more powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Galaxy S22 PlusGalaxy S22Galaxy S21 PlusGalaxy S21
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
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

Price: Galaxy S22 starts at the same price as the Galaxy S21

galaxy s22 with galaxy watch 4

(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung kept the prices the same as the Galaxy S21 at launch. Available now, the Galaxy S22 starts at $799/£769/AU$1,249. 

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. 

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

It's worth noting that the Galaxy S21 has broadly been discontinued, but refurbished models are available if you shop around or use Samsung's Re-Newed store. 

Design: Galaxy S22 gets a more compact body

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 Galaxy 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.

Display: Galaxy S22 has a smaller but brighter display than the Galaxy S21

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.

Cameras: Galaxy S22 gets new sensors and better low-light photography

It looks like cameras will be the area where the Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. Galaxy S21 distinctions are the sharpest. 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 (see how the Galaxy S22's low-light photography compares to the iPhone 13 below).

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.

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.) 

Software: Galaxy S22 gets longer update support 

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: Verdict

galaxy s22 plus and galaxy s22

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Given the Samsung Galaxy S22 is an iterative upgrade over the Galaxy S21, if you have the latter phone then you'll not really need to rush out and upgrade. And with the Samsung Galaxy S23 on the horizon, you may be better off waiting for that phone to arrive. 

If you need a new phone in the here and now, and you want one of the best Android phones, then the Galaxy S22 is definitely a phone to consider. Alongside likes of the Google Pixel 7, it's a great phone that's nether too big or too small, and it's packed full of features. Plus if you shop around you could find it at an attractive price now that it's been some time since it launched. 

Jordan Palmer
Phones Editor

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over six 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.