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Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S22: Biggest differences we expect

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Galaxy S22
(Image credit: Evan Blass, LetsGoDigital)

If you're contemplating a new Samsung phone, a Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S22 decision is something you'll be interested in. The start of a new year is expected to bring the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE, the long-rumored, oft-delayed lower cost version of Samsung's current flagship device.

Phone shoppers who find the current Galaxy S21 models too pricey may like the sound of that. But before you warm up that index finger to mash the buy button at the first appearance of the Galaxy S21 FE, know that another Samsung device is likely waiting in the wings.

That would be the Samsung Galaxy S22, an upgrade to the company's flagship lineup. All signs point to a trio of S22 phones arriving in February with promised improvements and enhancements from this year's models as Samsung attempts to top our best phones list. 

So Samsung fans face something of a dilemma — grab the Galaxy S21 FE or wait a little bit for the Galaxy S22 instead? We've heard enough rumors about both phones for a quick Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S22 comparison that can give you an idea of which device is better suited for your needs. While the decision will likely come down to how much Samsung opts to charge for both phones, there are some key differences that could sway you one way or the other. 

Because shoppers considering the lower-cost Galaxy S21 FE are unlikely to spring for the more expensive Galaxy S22 Plus and Galaxy S22 Ultra models, we'll confine our comparison to the entry-level Galaxy S22 and its rumored features.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S22: Rumored specs

Galaxy S21 FE (rumored)Galaxy S22 (rumored)
Price$699$799
Screen size6.4 inches6.1 inches
CPUSnapdragon 888Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
Rear cameras12MP main; 12MP ultrawide; 8MP telephoto50MP main; 12MP ultrawide, 12MP telephoto
Battery size4,500 mAh3,800 mAh
ColorsBlack, white, lavender, greenBlack, green, pink gold, white

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S22: Release dates

We were expecting to see the Galaxy S21 FE during the summer, but Samsung's budget flagship reportedly got caught up in supply chain issues that have delayed many tech products. While some have argued that Samsung missed its window to introduce an FE version of the Galaxy S21, the company is reportedly pressing ahead with plans for a January 2022 launch.

That won't leave much time between the Galaxy S21 FE's arrival, and the launch of the Galaxy S22 flagships. Samsung typically rolls out its new Galaxy S phones during the first three months of this year, and 2022 isn't expected to be any different.

Specifically, the Galaxy S22 is expected to launch in February, with several leakers pointing to a Feb. 8 launch date. If that's accurate, it supports the idea of not jumping on whatever phone Samsung shows off in January. After all, if you've waited this long to get a new Samsung phone, what's another month?

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S22: Design and display

If the Galaxy S21 FE follows the course set by the Galaxy S20 FE, it will mimic the design of the main Galaxy S21 flagships, while cutting a few corners here and there to keep costs down. What corners those would be we're not exactly sure — the Galaxy S21 already uses a plastic material for its back. But the bottom line is the S21 FE is going to look a lot like the Galaxy phones that came out this past spring.

Alleged leaked Samsung Galaxy S21 FE marketing materials

Galaxy S21 FE (Image credit: CoinBRS)

From the early renders we've seen of the Galaxy S22, Samsung's not making any changes to the look of its forthcoming flagship. That's apparently not the case with the Galaxy S22 Ultra, which is tipped to look a lot more like the Galaxy Note and feature a p-shaped camera array, but the less expensive S22 models should stick to the design Samsung introduced this year, right down to the contour cut camera that blends into the phone's curved edges.

Samsung Galaxy S22

Galaxy S22 (Image credit: LetsGoDigital)

Another thing that's unlikely to be different between the Galaxy S21 FE vs. the Galaxy S22 is the refresh rate of the display. The Galaxy S20 FE offered a 120Hz display, though you had to toggle between that setting and the standard 60Hz refresh rate. The Galaxy S21 features an adaptive display rate that automatically adjusts; it's unclear if the S21 FE would follow suit or stick with the manual setting as a way to differentiate this less expensive phone.

As before the Galaxy S21 FE is tipped to have a bigger screen than the entry-level Galaxy S flagship, with rumors suggesting a 6.4-inch display on the upcoming phone. The Galaxy S22 could actually feature a slightly smaller display than its 6.2-inch predecessor, with some rumors pointing to a 6.1-inch screen on the new flagship.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S22: Cameras

Here's an area where you'll likely notice a difference between the Galaxy S1 FE and the Galaxy S22. Our Galaxy S20 FE vs. Galaxy S20 comparison found that Samsung scaled back on the camera specs for its less expensive phone, turning to lenses with lower megapixel counts. We'd expect that to continue with the Galaxy S21 FE, which is tipped to feature a 12MP main camera along with 12MP ultrawide and 8MP telephoto lenses. That telephoto lens is decidedly less powerful than the one on the Galaxy S21.

And the Galaxy S21 FE's reported camera setup could fall even further behind what Samsung has planned for the Galaxy S22. Supposedly, that upcoming flagship is getting a much more powerful main camera with a 50MP sensor. The telephoto lens is also supposed to get an upgrade from a hybrid zoom to an optical one. And the S22 may be able to support 8K video capture at 60 frames per second, something we very much doubt the Galaxy S21 FE will be able to handle.

Renders allegedly of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus phone, on a white background

Galaxy S22 (Image credit: OnLeaks/91Mobiles.com)

It's also worth noting that while the Galaxy S21 FE is likely to support all the software-powered photo features Samsung includes in the Galaxy S21 lineup, the S22 is likely to get new capabilities that are exclusive to the new flagships. People who want the best camera phone should clearly hold out for the Galaxy S22.

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

The Galaxy S21 family is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 888 system-on-chip, and you'd expect the Galaxy S21 FE to follow suit. That's good news since Qualcomm's chip powers some of the best-performing Android phones to have come out in 2021. We'd expect comparable performance from the Galaxy S21 FE, especially if rumors that the new phone will feature 8GB of RAM prove true.

The Galaxy S22 is likely to feature a little more horsepower under the hood with the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset just introduced by Qualcomm. While nothing's official, the Galaxy S phones released in the U.S. are typically powered by Qualcomm's latest silicon and the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is just now starting to appear in Android phones.

Snapdragon 8 Gen 1

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

Early Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 benchmarks don't show a massive performance jump over the Snapdragon 888, so it could well be that the Galaxy S21 FE is able to keep up with the Galaxy S22. However, the new Snapdragon chipset does boast advances in camera support, artificial intelligence and gaming that Samsung's upcoming flagship will be able to leverage.

The Galaxy S21 FE is rumored to have a bigger battery than the power pack in the Galaxy S22. But the latter phone has a more efficient processor and could last longer the FE.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S22: Price

Really, any Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S22 debate is going to depend heavily on price. We need the answers to two basic questions: 1) Just how much cheaper will the Galaxy S21 FE be from the Galaxy S21? and 2) Is the Galaxy S22 going to keep the S21's low starting price?

The answer to the first question is complicated somewhat by Samsung's decision to cut the starting price on its other Galaxy S21 models by $200. That means if the Galaxy S21 FE costs the same $699 as the S20 FE before it, that's only a $100 difference from the S21's starting price. The price gap between the S20 FE and S20 was a more noticeable $300 because the S20 had a loftier price tag. Although, a new leak suggests that the S21 FE might be more expensive than anticipated. 

An unofficial render of four Samsung Galaxy S21 FE devices in the four available colors: black, light green, light purple and grey

Galaxy S21 FE (Image credit: Snoreyn/LetsGoDigital)

Samsung could get more aggressive with the pricing on the Galaxy S21 FE. But price the phone any lower, and it winds up costing the same as Samsung's midrange Galaxy A models. Samsung will likely be loathe to eat into that part of its phone business.

Another option is that the Galaxy S22 winds up costing more than the S21 — a possibility that one leaker has raised. Should Samsung decide the improvements on the Galaxy S22 merit a bigger price tag than $799, the Galaxy S21 FE at $699 would be a more compelling value.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S22: Outlook

Even before either phone gets its official announcement, it's a safe bet that the Galaxy S22 will offer more features and capabilities than the Galaxy S21 FE. But what matters is how much more — and what the difference in price between the two phones will be.

Depending on the S21 FE features that Samsung settles on, that phone could still be a compelling bargain buy for some users, much in the way that the Galaxy S20 FE was. Otherwise, waiting to see what surprises the Galaxy S22 delivers is probably the best call for most people.

Philip Michaels
Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom's Guide. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics and old movies. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.