Between the Galaxy S22, S21, S21 FE, and the S20 FE, Samsung has four exciting options on offer. The Galaxy S22 is obviously the latest from Samsung, and it features the latest hardware, 50MP camera at the back, and runs Android 12 out of the box.
Of course, last year's Galaxy S21 is no slouch either, and the phone is a noteworthy option in 2022. Then there's the S21 FE, which has identical hardware as the S21, same great cameras, 120Hz AMOLED screen, and all the extras, but for a lot less money. And with Samsung continuing to sell the S20 FE, you have a value-focused phone that continues to hold its own.
So if you're in the market for a new phone and can't make up your mind as to which device to pick up, here's what you need to know.
Galaxy S22 vs. S21 vs. S21 FE vs. S20 FE: Specs
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I'll go into a little more detail around what each phone has to offer further below, but first, let's look at what you're getting from a hardware point of view. All four phones have a few consistent features: 120Hz AMOLED screens, IP68 dust and water resistance, wireless charging with reverse wireless charging, stereo sound, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of base storage, and 5G connectivity.
Here's a high-level rundown of the hardware:
|Category||Galaxy S22||Galaxy S21||Galaxy S21 FE||Galaxy S20 FE|
|Operating System||Android 12||Android 12||Android 12||Android 12|
|Row 1 - Cell 0||One UI 4||One UI 4||One UI 4||One UI 4|
|Display||6.1-inch 120Hz AMOLED||6.2-inch 120Hz AMOLED||6.4-inch 120Hz AMOLED||6.5-inch 120Hz AMOLED|
|Row 3 - Cell 0||2340x1080 (20:9)||2400x1080 (20:9)||2400x1080 (20:9)||2400x1080 (20:9)|
|Row 4 - Cell 0||HDR10+||HDR10+||HDR10+||HDR10+|
|Row 5 - Cell 0||Gorilla Glass Victus+||Gorilla Glass Victus||Gorilla Glass Victus||Gorilla Glass 5|
|Chipset||Snapdragon 8 Gen 1||Snapdragon 888||Snapdragon 888||Snapdragon 865|
|Row 7 - Cell 0||1 x 2.8GHz Cortex X2||1 x 2.84GHz Cortex X1||1 x 2.84GHz Cortex X1||1 x 2.84GHz A77|
|Row 8 - Cell 0||3 x 2.50GHz Cortex A710||3 x 2.42GHz Cortex A78||3 x 2.42GHz Cortex A78||3 x 2.42GHz A77|
|Row 9 - Cell 0||4 x 1.80GHz Cortex A510||4 x 1.80GHz Cortex A55||4 x 1.80GHz Cortex A55||4 x 1.80GHz A55|
|Row 10 - Cell 0||4nm||5nm||5nm||7nm|
|Storage||128GB/256GB UFS3.1||128GB/256GB UFS3.1||128GB/256GB UFS3.1||128GB/256GB UFS3.1|
|MicroSD slot||❌||❌||❌||Yes (Up to 1TB)|
|Rear camera 1||50MP f/1.8||12MP f/1.8||12MP f/1.8||12MP f/1.8|
|Row 15 - Cell 0||1.0um, OIS||1.8um, OIS||1.8um, OIS||1.8um, OIS|
|Row 16 - Cell 0||8K at 24fps||8K at 24fps||4K at 60fps||4K at 60fps|
|Rear camera 2||12MP, f/2.2||12MP, f/2.2||12MP, f/2.2||12MP, f/2.2|
|Row 18 - Cell 0||1.0um, 120-degree wide-angle||1.4um, 120-degree wide-angle||1.12um, 123-degree wide-angle||1.12um, 123-degree wide-angle|
|Rear camera 3||10MP, f/2.4||64MP, f/2.0||8MP, f/2.4||8MP, f/2.4|
|Row 20 - Cell 0||1um, OIS, telephoto||0.8um, OIS, telephoto||1um, OIS, telephoto||1um, OIS, telephoto|
|Row 21 - Cell 0||3x optical zoom||3x optical zoom||3x optical zoom||3x optical zoom|
|Front camera||10MP, f/2.2||10MP, f/2.2||32MP, f/2.2||32MP, f/2.2|
|Row 23 - Cell 0||1.22um, autofocus||1.22um, autofocus||0.8um, autofocus||0.8um, autofocus|
|Row 24 - Cell 0||4K at 60fps||4K at 60fps||4K at 60fps||4K at 60fps|
|Connectivity||5G Sub-6/mmWave, SA and NSA||5G Sub-6/mmWave, SA and NSA||5G Sub-6, SA and NSA||5G Sub-6, SA and NSA|
|Row 26 - Cell 0||Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2||Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0||Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0||Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0|
|Row 27 - Cell 0||NFC, A-GPS||NFC, A-GPS||NFC, A-GPS||NFC, A-GPS|
|Row 29 - Cell 0||Stereo speakers||Stereo speakers||Stereo speakers||Stereo speakers|
|Row 31 - Cell 0||Non-removable||Non-removable||Non-removable||Non-removable|
|Charging||USB-C PD 3.0||USB-C PD 3.0||USB-C PD 3.0||USB-C PD 3.0|
|Row 33 - Cell 0||25W fast charging||25W fast charging||25W fast charging||25W fast charging|
|Row 34 - Cell 0||15W wireless charging||15W wireless charging||15W wireless charging||15W wireless charging|
|Security||In-display fingerprint (ultrasonic)||In-display fingerprint (ultrasonic)||In-display fingerprint (optical)||In-display fingerprint (optical)|
|Dimensions||146 x 70.6 x 7.6 mm||151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9mm||155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9mm||159.8 x 74.5 x 8.4mm|
|Row 38 - Cell 0||167g||172g||177g||190g|
|Colors||Black, White, Green, Pink Gold, Sky Blue, Violet, Cream||Phantom Gray, Phantom White, Phantom Violet, Phantom Pink||White, Olive, Lavender||Cloud Mint, Cloud Lavender, Cloud Red, Cloud Orange, Cloud Navy, Cloud White|
Galaxy S22: The compact option
The Galaxy S22 stands out for a few reasons. First up, it has the latest internal hardware in the form of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, and Samsung is rolling out this version in more global markets in lieu of the Exynos 2200 model.
The S22 also has the distinction of being the only phone on this list that has a glass back — the other three models feature a polycarbonate back. You get a layer of Corning's latest Gorilla Glass Victus+ at the front and back, and the aluminum chassis has been strengthened to withstand tumbles.
With a 6.1-inch screen, the S22 is the smallest option in this list, so if you want a compact device, this is the one to get. With a height of just 146mm and coming in at 167g, the S22 is shorter, narrower, and thinner than last year's S21. Samsung managed to do this in spite of the phone offering a glass back by slotting in a smaller 3700mAh battery — the S21 has a 4000mAh unit.
You still get a sublime 120Hz AMOLED panel that goes up to 1300 nits for HDR videos, and it's safe to say that this is one of the best screens you'll find on any phone today. The cameras have also been overhauled, with a new 50MP lens delivering stunning photos. The wide-angle lens is the same as the S21, but a new 10MP zoom lens goes up to 3x optical zoom.
The main differentiator for the Galaxy S22 is the size; it has newer cameras and updated hardware, but the smaller form factor makes it a great overall choice.
Galaxy S21 FE: The value king
The Galaxy S21 FE is easily one of the best Android phones you'll find today, and a lot of that has to do with the value on offer. The phone shares a lot of similarities with the S21, including the same 120Hz AMOLED panel, 12MP primary camera at the back, Gorilla Glass Victus, IP68 and wireless charging with 25W wired charging, and stereo sound.
But the fact that it manages to undercut the S21 while retaining its best features makes it a phenomenal option. The best part is that the S21 FE comes with Android 12 out of the box, and it will get the same four Android OS updates as the S22 and S21, so it will get the Android 16 update down the line.
The phone launched at $700, but Samsung already discounted it to $600 once, and we should see the pricing stabilize around that figure once the S22 is on shelves for a few weeks. At $600, there's no question that the S21 FE is the best option on this list.
Galaxy S21: Good if you can find it on sale
The Galaxy S21 continues to be a great phone in 2022, but it is too similar to the S21 FE. The only area where there's a considerable difference is the cameras, with the S21 offering higher-quality sensors and the ability to take better images in just about any lighting scenario.
The downside to the S21 is that it isn't discounted at the moment. Furthermore, with the phone launching with Android 11 out of the box, it won't be updated past Android 15. It makes sense to pick up the S21 FE if you can find it at around the $550 to $600 figure, but anything more than that, you're better off with the S21 FE or the S22.
Galaxy S20 FE: More for less
Like the Galaxy S21, the S20 FE has aged very well, and there's nothing wrong with the phone itself. But with the S21 FE now widely available, you should look at this phone only if you can get it at a substantial discount — under $450 would be my recommendation.
The S20 FE and the S21 FE are nearly identical, with the latter using the same camera hardware and much of the same innards. The differences are minute; you get the newer Snapdragon 888 on the S21 FE, Gorilla Glass Victus (versus GG5), and a slightly smaller 6.4-inch panel. In fact, the S20 FE has a little more to offer as it includes the MicroSD card slot — the only one on this list to do so.
The reason why I'm not recommending the S20 FE to enthusiasts has to do with software updates. It has already picked up two platform updates — having launched with Android 10 out of the box — and it misses out on the four guaranteed updates, so you'll only get the Android 13 build later this year.
If that isn't as big a consideration, you can save a decent amount of cash by picking up the S20 FE. If not, the S21 FE is the ideal alternative.
Which should you buy?
Honestly, I'd just go with the S21 FE. I've used the phone as my daily driver for a month and a half now, and it has been phenomenal. I like the lightweight design, the matte texture at the back makes it easy to hold the phone, and the screen is sublime. I haven't run into any lag while gaming and the cameras take outstanding photos. The phone has an IP68 rating and 15W wireless charging as well, and it runs Android 12 out of the box and will get the same four Android OS updates as the Galaxy S22.
The Galaxy S22 costs $200 more than the S21 FE (at the time of writing), and you get new camera modules, slightly faster hardware, and a brighter AMOLED panel. The main differentiator for the S22 is the size; if you want a small Android phone in 2022, this is the best choice by far. But if you want to maximize value, the S21 FE is my recommendation.
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Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.