Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. S21

Samsung Galaxy S22 Vs S21 Back
Samsung Galaxy S22 Vs S21 Back (Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

Samsung Galaxy S22

Galaxy S22 Violet Render Full

Samsung decided to make the Galaxy S22 more compact, which will appeal to fans of smaller phones, while the glass back and new colors made it more attractive but also more fragile. It received some new camera upgrades as well, with better resolution and zoom. But — the smaller battery may drive away shoppers who need something more long-lasting.

Samsung Galaxy S22

New processor, smaller battery

New 4nm chipset
One extra OS upgrade to Android 16
Increased MP for main & selfie cams
3X zoom for telephoto lens
Glass back
More color options
Smaller battery
Smaller display
Not many new features or specs

Samsung Galaxy S21

Samsung Galaxy S21 Render

With an extra 0.1-inch of display space, 300mAh of battery, the still-impressive Snapdragon 888, and planned upgrades through Android 15, the Samsung Galaxy S21 has barely lost a step in Samsung's new lineup. Its cameras use 2020 tech that's functional but not "flagship" quality in 2022, but its "glasstic" design makes the phone more durable if you prefer going caseless.

Samsung Galaxy S21

Not too far behind in specs

Larger display
Larger battery
Snapdragon 888 still fast
Often available on sale
Four years of security updates left
You may prefer plastic to glass
Only 12MP main shooter
Only 1.1X optical zoom (telephoto)
Last-gen Gorilla Glass for display

Samsung took a "don't rock the boat" approach with the Galaxy S22. It adds a new Snapdragon or Exynos processor and some fresh camera tech but lacks some of the upgraded features that the S22+ and S22 Ultra received. If you own the Galaxy S21, you should scrutinize whether the incremental S22 upgrades are really worth buying a new phone so quickly. If you're deciding between buying a discounted S21 or the S22, however, we would gently push you toward the newer model.

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. S21 Specs breakdown

Before we dive into the differences between the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S21, let's break down how Samsung's new Galaxy S phone didn't change from last year.

Both phones have an $800 list price that nets you 8GB of memory and 128GB of storage, with a $50 upcharge for 256GB and no microSD card slot. Each phone maxes out at 25W wired charging — whereas the Galaxy S22+ and Ultra jump to 45W — and 15W wireless charging. Both stick to Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, whereas the Plus improved to Wi-Fi 6E. And neither offers ultra-wideband, which the S22+ added.

Plus, both phones offer FHD+ resolution with 120Hz refresh rates and up to 1300 nits of brightness. Again, unfortunately, Samsung reserved its new 1750-nit "VisionBooster" upgrade for the Galaxy S22 Plus. That phone received a lot more TLC from Samsung in 2022, while the S22 treads water in more areas.

Still, that doesn't mean the Galaxy S22 completely stood pat. Our specs table breaks down all the areas where the two phones differ.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Galaxy S22Galaxy S21
Chipset4nm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 or Exynos 22005nm Snapdragon 888 or Exynos 2100
Display6.1-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Display
120Hz refresh rate (48-120Hz) with 240Hz touch sampling
6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Display
120Hz refresh rate (48-120Hz) with 240Hz touch sampling
Storage128GB or 256GB128GB or 256GB
Rear Camera50MP, 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
25W Fast Charging
15W Wireless Charging
25W Fast Charging
15W Wireless Charging
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6
sub-6 and mmWave
Wi-Fi 6
sub-6 and mmWave
microSD card slot🚫🚫
3.5mm headphone jack🚫🚫
UpdatesUp to Android 16
Security through 2027
Up to Android 15
Security through 2026
Dimensions70.6 x 146 x 7.6 mm71.2 x 151.7 x 7.9 mm
Gorilla Glass Victus+
Gorilla Glass Victus
SecurityUltrasonic in-screen fingerprint sensorUltrasonic in-screen fingerprint sensor
ColorsPhantom Black, Phantom White, Green, Pink Gold, Graphite, Sky Blue, Cream, VioletPhantom Gray, Phantom White, Phantom Violet, Phantom Pink

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. S21 Performance upgrades

Samsung Galaxy S22 Vs S21 Display

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

The most obvious difference is with the new 4nm chipset: the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in North America and China or the Exynos 2200 internationally.

According to Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 beats the S21's Snapdragon 888 by 20% in CPU performance, 30% in CPU efficiency, 30% in GPU performance, and 25% in GPU efficiency. It also supports faster AI, better imaging, and improved 5G compatibility. As for the new Exynos 2200, it uses AMD's RDNA 2-based GPU with hardware-accelerated ray tracing, variable-rate shading, and "console-quality" immersive visuals — plus the same Cortex X2 cores found in the latest Snapdragon. And a new "dual-core NPU" allegedly will augment mobile imaging performance.

In practice, our parent company's Future Labs benchmarked the Snapdragon-backed S22 and found only minor CPU improvements for Geekbench 5 over the S21 (1222/3341 vs. 1048/3302). But S22 GPU scores seem to greatly outdistance the S21, which promises good things for the gamers out there.

How much do these benchmarks actually matter? One could argue that S21 owners shouldn't worry too much about falling behind if they don't upgrade. The Snapdragon 888 remains a supremely fast device that powers most of the best Android phones of 2021, and a new calendar year hasn't suddenly made them obsolete. Still, the S22 has intangible improvements like faster AI processing and a universal modem, and mobile gamers specifically may find the upgrades like ray tracing appealing enough to switch.

Samsung also announced the Galaxy S22 will receive four OS updates to Android 16 but retroactively added a year of extra support to the Galaxy S21 as well. So that'll last through Android 15 and get security updates through 2026, giving it more than enough support to last.

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. S21 Dueling designs

Samsung Galaxy S22 Vs S21 Back

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

Samsung emulated the Galaxy S20 FE when it launched the S21, redesigning its entry-level flagship as a "glasstic" phone that prioritized low cost and durability over the premium glass look of most Galaxy S phones. It also had a flat display, which many prefer to a more expensive curved display since it prevents accidental touches. But the phone back had the traditional smooth, rounded edges you see in most Android phones.

With the Galaxy S22, Samsung actually emulated the iPhone 13 design in many ways. While retaining the flat display, the S22 also has a flat back and edges, giving it a more mechanical look and feel. Samsung also slightly shrunk its S21 while adding a glass back, making it slightly lighter and easier to hold, but also more susceptible to shattering if you drop it. You're definitely going to want one of the best Galaxy S22 cases if you buy the newer phone.

Plastic beats glass for durability, so hypothetically, the Galaxy S21 will have better longevity than the S22 if you treat your phones roughly. On the other hand, it uses Gorilla Glass Victus for its display, whereas the S22 adds Gorilla Glass Victus+. Gorilla hasn't really marketed this new upgrade, but Samsung promises that "the screen and back panel can better survive drops and offer tough scratch resistance," so the new display is more likely to avoid wear and tear over time.

Ultimately, it's a judgment call whether you like the look of glass enough to justify the risk of damage, or whether you prefer the traditional curved look of the S21 over the flatter, simpler look of the S22.

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. S21 Camera upgrades

Samsung Galaxy S22 Vs S21 Cameras

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

When the Galaxy S21 launched, we criticized Samsung for using the same camera sensors found on the Galaxy S20 series; Samsung relied solely on software improvements to make the photo quality better, with mixed results. With the Galaxy S22, you'll receive upgrades to the main camera (50MP vs. 12MP), telephoto lens (3X optical zoom vs. 1.1X optical zoom), and front camera (40MP vs. 10MP), while the 12MP ultra-wide sensor remains the same for both.

While Samsung has yet to send us the Galaxy S22, the Galaxy S22 Plus has the same camera sensors, so we were able to test them thoroughly. Overall, we were impressed with the improvements. You can see increased detail in shots of buildings or foliage, color fidelity looks great in sunny conditions, and close-ups using portrait mode particularly impressed us.

While not at the level of proper "flagship" cameras on the Galaxy S22 Ultra or Pixel 6 Pro, these sensors offer enough of a step up from the S21 that you'll no longer feel like you're using last-gen hardware.

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. S21 Battery backsliding

Samsung Galaxy S22 Vs S21 Side Bottom

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

While most people can live with losing 0.1 inches of display space, the more significant downgrade stems from Samsung's odd decision to put a 3,700mAh battery in the Galaxy S22, instead of the 4,000mAh battery found in the S21. Perhaps Samsung bet on the new 4nm chipsets' improved efficiency to keep the battery life the same as last year.

The jury's still out on the effect of this. On the one hand, Future Labs stress-tested the S22 battery and found it actually lasted over an hour longer than the S21 under the same conditions. On the other hand, those few outlets who did receive the S22 early report the opposite for real-world use, claiming it lasts an hour less than older Galaxy phones and barely makes it through the day. Former Android Central writer Daniel Bader, for instance, tweeted that the phone can barely handle 4.5 hours of screen time.

We should receive the Galaxy S22 soon and will be able to find a proper result for ourselves. But if you're concerned because you're often away from a charger all day, you may want to avoid a pre-order until we know more.

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. S21 Which should you buy?

Samsung Galaxy S22 Vs S21 Hold

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

Purely in terms of specs, the Galaxy S22 beats the Galaxy S21, but not by a huge margin. The 2021 phone will likely run out of new stock soon, so now's the time to snag one if you spot it at a low price and don't care about the upgrades. But you'll also find S22 carrier deals that let you buy one for $200 or less, with especially good deals if you have a recent phone like the S21 to trade in.

But should you? You're getting a new chipset, better cameras, and an extra year of support for close to "free." But you'll also have to commit to another couple of years on an expensive phone plan in exchange.

Most likely your better option is to buy directly from Samsung. Trading in the Galaxy S21, along with a $100 rebate, makes the 256GB S22 cost just over $400 with no carrier commitments. But even if that's a great deal, the differences between the two phones may not fully justify even that cost. It depends on how much that GPU boost, improved camera quality, and more premium look appeals to you.

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, VR/AR and fitness

Michael is Android Central's resident expert on fitness tech and wearables, with an enthusiast's love of VR tech on the side. After years freelancing for Techradar, Wareable, Windows Central, Digital Trends, and other sites on a variety of tech topics, AC has given him the chance to really dive into the topics he's passionate about. He's also a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves D&D, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings.

For wearables, Michael has tested dozens of smartwatches from Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Apple, COROS, Polar, Amazfit, and other brands, and will always focus on recommending the best product over the best brand. He's also completed marathons like NYC, SF, Marine Corps, Big Sur, and California International — though he's still trying to break that 4-hour barrier.