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Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Galaxy S21: Biggest rumored differences

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

With no OnePlus 9T coming, and with the iPhone 13 and Pixel 6 available to buy, the next big smartphone launch will likely be the Samsung Galaxy S22 family (unless the MIA Galaxy S21 FE finally shows up.)

It would be very surprising if the Samsung Galaxy S22 weren’t immediately installed towards the top of our list of the best smartphones, but how exactly will it differ from the Galaxy S21 handsets you can buy now for a rapidly decreasing price? Will it be worth the upgrade?

Here are the biggest differences we’re anticipating between the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S22 and the readily available Galaxy S21.  

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Galaxy S21: Design 

A render of the rumored Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus on a white background

(Image credit: OnLeaks / 91mobiles)

If you own the Samsung Galaxy S21, and a bold new look is important to you, then you may want to give the S22 a miss. Renders from the usually reliable leaker OnLeaks show a device that’s practically indistinguishable from the current models — at least for the basic Galaxy S22 and S22 Pro (apparently renamed from the Plus model for 2022.)

The one exception to this is said to be the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, which looks set to be the Galaxy Note 22 in all but name, with a large 6.8-inch display, a stylish curvy design and space for an S Pen to dock. That’s significant: while the S Pen was supported on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, there wasn’t any room to place and charge it when not in use (unless you bought a specially designed case).

Incidentally, that rumored 6.8-inch size is practically identical to the S21 Ultra, but the other two models are going to take up less pocket space, apparently. While the S21 and S21 Plus had 6.2- and 6.7-inch screens, the S22 and S22 Pro will reportedly boast 6.06- and 6.55-inch panels.  

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Galaxy S21: Performance 

Smaller screen sizes mean less of a footprint for battery, and Ultra aside, the S22 family’s battery capacity is reportedly set to suffer as a result. The regular and Pro models are set to lose around 200mAh on their 2021 equivalents, though this may not be noticeable in day-to-day use, as smaller screens also drain less battery.

Another big factor on stamina is chip efficiency, and that’s one of the known unknowns about the Samsung Galaxy S22. What is guaranteed, however, is that the new phone will be faster in every respect, whether or not you end up with the rumored Qualcomm Snapdragon 895 model or the version that's said to be sporting Samsung’s Exynos 2200 chipset. 

Unusually, however, it may be the latter which is the desirable one this time around, thanks to Samsung’s partnership with AMD, which could lead to phenomenal mobile gaming performance, and maybe even space for ray tracing. A tweet from the leaker Ice Universe certainly shows promise in that regard:

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Whether you get that Exynos chip or the Qualcomm version will depend on where you live, and leaker @FrontTron claims that “most markets” will get the latter thanks to a “low yield” of the new Exynos chip.

The Galaxy S21’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor is no slouch, of course, and can easily handle anything you care to throw at it. So for most people, the speed difference could be purely theoretical, unless app makers move fast to take advantage of the new Exynos chip — unlikely in most cases, if the whole “low yield” thing proves to be correct.

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Galaxy S21: Cameras 

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra renders

(Image credit: LetsGoDigital / Giuseppe Spinelli)

The camera array appears to be one area where Samsung is planning big, sweeping changes from the S21 — possibly via a partnership with Olympus. 

While the 108MP, f/1.8 lens from the S21 Ultra is expected to be maintained for the S22 Ultra, that phone is tipped to have a different design for the rear cameras which would see them appear in either a 'P' shape or possibly a 'waterdrop' formation as pictured in the above renders.

The regular and Pro models, meanwhile, are tipped to see a decent set of upgrades. A 50MP upgrade to the main lens is expected, featuring alongside 12MP ultrawide and telephoto cameras. That telephoto lens could be a 3x optical number — a big upgrade on the 3x hybrid model in the S21. But even non-zoomed photos should be better, with Samsung tipped to include a RGBW sensor, which could tackle a weak spot in the company’s cameras: better colors in high-contrast scenes.  

There’s also talk of the ability to shoot 8K video at 60fps — an upgrade on the current 24fps cap currently in place on the S21. With so few 8K TVs around, that’s unlikely to be on many people’s list of need-to-have features, but it’s nice all the same.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs Galaxy S21 Ultra

Rumors around the Galaxy S22 Ultra suggest that it'll be more Galaxy Note-like than ever before. From a built-in S Pen to a familiar design, the new Ultra model looks like a step away from the Galaxy S21 Ultra. 

Leaked photos have shown a Galaxy S22 Ultra that looks very different, even down to the cameras. Instead of a single module like on the S21 Ultra, each lens looks to sit on its own flush against the back of the phone.

We need to see the Galaxy S22 Ultra for ourselves before leveling any judgements. That said, we expect great things from it.

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Galaxy S21: Outlook 

All of these are rumors, of course, but assuming they’re accurate, the Samsung Galaxy S22 looks like it will be a solid upgrade on the S21 — especially the S22 Ultra, which should scratch the itch of those Galaxy Note fans dismayed at its non-show in 2021.  

Of course, these upgrades will come with a steep MSRP, and with Samsung flagships depreciating in value quite quickly, they may not be substantial enough to warrant purchasing over the still very good S21. We’ll have a better idea once we’ve got the phone in our hands, and can put it through its paces. 

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.