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Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus vs. S21 Plus: Should you upgrade?

Galaxy S22 Plus Hero Image
Galaxy S22 Plus Hero Image (Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

Samsung Galaxy S22+

Galaxy S22 Plus Cream Render Full

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Samsung significantly upgraded its cameras over the last generation, packing in more megapixels and increasing the zoom while improving the software and AI. You're getting the latest 4nm processor — though the performance boost will vary depending on where you live — and a much brighter display for using in direct sunlight.

Samsung Galaxy S22+

Upgraded cameras & processor

Upgraded rear, telephoto, and selfie cams
Powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 or Exynos 2200
Much brighter, 1,750-nit display
45W fast charging
WiFi 6E support
Gorilla Glass Victus+ protection
Smaller battery capacity
Only minor CPU improvements
New flat design is polarizing

Samsung Galaxy S21+

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus Render Violet

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The Galaxy S21+ has barely lost a step thanks to the respectable performance of the Snapdragon 888. It measures and weighs almost the same as the S22+ but has extra battery capacity and a curved back design that some will prefer. You just won't be getting the most cutting-edge cameras.

Samsung Galaxy S21+

Larger battery, similar performance

Big 4,800mAh battery
Same display resolution/ refresh rate
CPU benchmarks barely behind S22+
More traditional design
Four years of support left
Falls well short in GPU benchmarks
Camera sensors are two years old
Slightly dimmer display, slower charging

Samsung's middle-child phone of 2022, the Galaxy S22+, is arguably its best, with an attractive design, respectable cameras, blazingly fast performance (especially for gaming), and solid battery life. While it improves on the Galaxy S21+ in a few key areas, current S21+ owners may not want to go through the hassle and expense of trading up to the new device, depending on what you need in your smartphone and where you live. We weighed the Galaxy S22+ vs. S21+ to help you decide if you should upgrade or wait for the next iteration.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus vs. S21 Plus: Minor specs upgrades

When it first shipped, the Galaxy S21+ looked like a downgrade compared to the S20+, losing its curved display and microSD card slot, keeping the same cameras, and downgrading from QHD to FHD. Thankfully, while the Galaxy S22+ doesn't make too many improvements over the S21+, it does at least mostly trend in the opposite direction in its specs.

Galaxy S22+Galaxy S21+
Chipset4nm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 or Exynos 22005nm Snapdragon 888 or Exynos 2100
Display6.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Display
1080x2340
120Hz refresh rate (48-120Hz) with 240Hz touch sampling
Up to 1,750 nits
6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Display
1080x2400
120Hz refresh rate (48-120Hz) with 240Hz touch sampling
Up to 1,300 nits
Memory8GB8GB
Storage128GB or 256GB128GB or 256GB
Rear Cameras50MP, ƒ/1.8, 1.0μm
12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.4μm (120-degree ultra-wide)
10MP, ƒ/2.4, 1.0μm, 3x optical zoom (telephoto)
12MP, ƒ/1.8, 1.8μm
12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.4μm (120-degree ultra-wide)
64MP, ƒ/2.0, 1.4μm, 3x hybrid zoom (telephoto)
Front Camera40MP, ƒ/2.2, 80-degree wide-angle10MP, f/2.2, 80-degree wide-angle
Battery4,500mAh
45W Fast Charging
15W Wireless Charging
4,800mAh
25W Fast Charging
15W Wireless Charging
ConnectivityWiFi 6E (6GHz)
Bluetooth 5.2
5G mmWave and sub6
Ultra wideband
WiFi 6
Bluetooth 5.0
5G mmWave and sub6
Ultra wideband
microSD card slot🚫🚫
3.5mm headphone jack🚫🚫
UpdatesUp to Android 16
Security through 2027
Up to Android 15
Security through 2026
Dimensions75.8 x 157.4 x 7.6 mm
196g / 6.9oz
75.6 x 161.5 x 7.8mm
202g / 7oz
Weight168g172g
ProtectionIP68
Gorilla Glass Victus+
IP68
Gorilla Glass Victus
MaterialsGlass / AluminumGlass / Aluminum
SecurityUltrasonic in-screen fingerprint sensorUltrasonic in-screen fingerprint sensor
ColorsPhantom Black, Phantom White, Green, Pink Gold, Graphite, Sky Blue, Cream, VioletPhantom Black, Phantom Silver, Phantom Violet, Phantom Pink, Phantom Gold, Phantom Red

In many ways, Samsung stayed consistent with the Galaxy S22+. Both Plus phones have the top SoC of their respective years, backed by the same 8GB of RAM, and both share the same display quality and refresh rates, water resistance, and ultrasonic fingerprint sensors. But despite these similarities, both diverge in terms of design, performance, camera quality, and battery life.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus vs. S21 Plus Incremental performance upgrade

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus Review

Source: Michael Hicks / Android CentralPictured: The Galaxy S22+ (Image credit: Source: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

Buying the Galaxy S22+ upgrades you from the Snapdragon 888 to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 — or from the Exynos 2100 to the 2200 in most international markets. Since we received the North American variant in both cases, we can provide better information on how the Snapdragons shape up against one another.

First, Qualcomm's marketing claims that you get a 20% CPU performance boost and 30% efficiency optimization over the 888. As for the new GPU, you apparently get a 30% upgrade in performance and 25% in efficiency. You also get a superior NPU for AI performance, plus faster camera processing. But how does this translate into real-world performance?

The Galaxy S22+ barely beats the S21+ in CPU performance but trounces it in GPU performance.

Having tested the S22+, we can say that it performs most tasks in a snap and lives up to its flagship potential. In terms of benchmarks like Geekbench, however, it barely beats the S21+ (1214/3361 vs. 1116/3300 in single-core/multicore performance). That's not a knock against the S22+, but it shows how well the 2021 flagship SoC has continued to hold up.

Where the S22+ shines over last year's model is in GPU benchmarks, hitting 9762 and 58FPS in 3DMark WildLife Original where the S21+ hit 5650 and 34FPS. In all other GPU stress-tests we ran, the S22+'s Adreno 660 seemed to outperform Qualcomm's estimates by a large margin.

While you generally shouldn't put too much stock in benchmark tests, it did hold up in real-world tests. The S22+ easily handled the most graphically demanding Android games like Genshin Impact. We did notice some thermal overheating issues while playing some titles, but not at a level where you should be concerned.

How much does this GPU boost matter? For those mostly playing casual Android games, not much. This mainly targets those who want a proper gaming phone for competitive battle royales like Fortnite.

As for the Exynos 2200, initial benchmarks have shown it falling well short of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. Without having the chance to test the international model for ourselves, we can't say anything definitive; but owners of the S21+ with Exynos 2100 may not get the same boost in performance we'd imagined.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus vs. S21 Plus A new design

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus

Source: Android CentralPictured: The Galaxy S21+ (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

Looking directly at both phones, they look and feel very similar with 6.7-inch flat panels, near-identical widths and weights, ultra-thin bezels, and a selfie-cam cutout. Both also have the same camera housing design. And given both have glass backs, you'll want to buy an S22+ case or S21+ case to go with them.

With all that in mind, Samsung did make a significant design change between generations. In the photo above, you can see that the S21+ has traditional rounded edges with a natural curve, making it slightly easier to hold and offsetting its slightly thicker design. Compared to that, the Galaxy S22+ has a more machine-like design that mimics the iPhone 13, with completely flat edges that give its back a more uniform appearance.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus Back Green

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android CentralPictured: The Galaxy S22+ (Image credit: Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

This mostly comes down to preference, but what matters more is that both designs cater to people with larger hands, just on the edge of comfort for one-handed use.

Perhaps the only significant difference is that Samsung upped the S22+ display's brightness maximum to 1,750 nits, ensuring you can use it in direct sunlight without losing sight of what's on your display. The S21+ hits a 1,300-nit maximum, which still beats most phones by a huge margin but isn't quite the outdoor champion some people will be looking for.

The only other significant difference is that the Galaxy S22+ uses Gorilla Glass Victus+, while the S21+ uses the Victus glass released in 2020. Gorilla has yet to explain what the difference in toughness is between the two standards, but Samsung says "the screen and back panel can better survive drops and offer tough scratch resistance," so we can hope both the back and the display will be more durable.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus vs. S21 Plus Long-overdue camera upgrades

The Galaxy S21+ uses the same camera sensors found in the S20 series without the megapixel power or zoom capabilities found in most 2021 flagships. Samsung's solid camera software makes up for this somewhat. You can see a decent level of detail in these Galaxy S21 camera samples below, even if the zoomed-in shots aren't particularly great.

Comparing the Galaxy S22+ vs. S21+ camera quality, the main sensor jumps from 12MP to 50MP, the telephoto lens from 3X hybrid zoom to 3X optical zoom, and the selfie camera from 10MP to 40MP. The main 50MP sensor is capable of capturing much more detail, even if it can't quite zoom like the flagship Galaxy S22 Ultra cameras do, and the color fidelity impressed us.

Overall, the Galaxy S22+ will offer you better portrait shots and capture slightly more detail than before, but we wouldn't necessarily say this is a photographer's phone. You're getting an upgrade, but we wouldn't consider the S21 cameras so terrible that you should upgrade for this reason alone.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus vs. S21 Plus Battery life balance

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus Review

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

Both the Galaxy S22 and S22+ downgraded their battery lives from the S21 lineup. But whereas the S22 dropped to a dangerously low 3,700mAh, the S22+ fell to 4,500mAh, a still-appropriate size for any smartphone in 2022. And given the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 improved its battery efficiency, we hoped that the new phone wouldn't fall too far behind.

The Galaxy S22+ proves efficiency trumps battery capacity.

In our battery stress tests, the Galaxy S22+ lasted nearly 10 and a half hours at 60Hz and up to 9 hours and 46 minutes on adaptive refresh rate settings. For comparison, the S21+ lasted up to 9 hours and 53 minutes at 60Hz and 9 hours and 41 minutes on adaptive. Despite the smaller capacity, improved efficiency ensured the S22+ still beats its predecessor.

In real-world use, we found the Galaxy S22+ to be a marathoner of a phone, easily handling anywhere from 5-8 hours of active screen time — including gaming, streaming, photography, and other demanding tasks — across 12-15 total hours in 120Hz mode, and still retaining about 25-30% battery capacity by bedtime. It proves efficiency trumps battery capacity.

Compared to that, the Galaxy S21+ has more capacity but worse efficiency with its chipset, so it's likely to keep up with the newer model rather than surpass it. Plus, because it has 25W charging capacity versus the newer model's 45W capacity, it'll take more time to refuel it to 100% than the S22+.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus vs. S21 Plus Which should you buy, and should you upgrade?

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus Review

Source: Michael Hicks / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

If you're buying a new phone and considering which Plus-sized phone to buy, it's hard to argue against the newer model unless you find a refurbished S21+ at a significant discount. Thanks to its improved GPU performance, CPU efficiency for battery life, camera sensor quality, charging speed, and extra year of software support, the Galaxy S22+ is more future-proofed than its predecessor. And right now, you're liable to find some Galaxy S22+ carrier deals that have long-since expired for the S21+.

The Galaxy S21+ loses to the S22+ but isn't obsolete just yet.

But if you own the S21+ and are deciding whether or not to upgrade? That's a trickier decision. Samsung's 2021 phones didn't suddenly become obsolete in the new calendar year. In fact, they still numbered among the best Android phones up until the arrival of their successors. The Galaxy S21+ still has speedy performance, recently received an extra year of software support, has the same quality of display as before complete with 120Hz refresh rate, and features a design that many will prefer over Samsung's new flattened build.

If you decide to wait for the Galaxy S23+ to arrive, you might find a more significant jump in performance that'll get you on board. Or you can wait until later in the year, when Samsung likely will offer better trade-in deals on the S22+ that'll let you snag one for nearly free. Your S21+ will more than hold out until then.

But if you do decide to upgrade, all of the small-but-significant upgrades with your new phone should ensure that you won't regret your choice.