Galaxy S22 vs. 5 Older Samsung Phones: Is Upgrading Worth It?

The answer is yes if you have a Galaxy S10 or earlier.

Lisa Eadicicco Senior Editor
Lisa Eadicicco is a senior editor for CNET covering mobile devices. She has been writing about technology for almost a decade. Prior to joining CNET, Lisa served as a senior tech correspondent at Insider covering Apple and the broader consumer tech industry. She was also previously a tech columnist for Time Magazine and got her start as a staff writer for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide.
Expertise Apple | Samsung | Google | Smartphones | Smartwatches | Wearables | Fitness trackers
Lisa Eadicicco
10 min read
Samsung Galaxy S22

The Samsung Galaxy S22

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If you're considering purchasing the Galaxy S22, you should know Samsung's latest phone sports a refreshed design and improved camera that's much better at taking photos in the dark. (The Galaxy S22 Ultra's camera can compete with the iPhone 13 and Pixel 6 Pro.) But is that enough to justify an upgrade?

The answer depends on which phone you have. Most people will be fine with hanging onto their Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S20 for a while longer. But if you have a Galaxy S10 or earlier, you'll see a more dramatic difference in camera quality and general performance when upgrading. The more recent your phone is, the longer you'll get access to the latest version of Android and new Samsung software features.

If you're considering upgrading, keep in mind that Samsung also has more affordable options like the Galaxy S21 FE and newly announced Galaxy A53 5G. But if you're already eyeballing the Galaxy S22 and are wondering whether now's the right time to upgrade, check out the comparisons below. And don't forget to consider recycling or trading in your old smartphone if you're not giving it to a friend or family member. Not only is it less wasteful, but many carriers and retailers will offer a heavy discount for exchanging your old phone.

Read moreGalaxy S22 Ultra: Go for the Upgrade, or Stick With Your Older Samsung?

Galaxy S22 vs. Galaxy S21


The Samsung Galaxy S21

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The biggest difference between the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S21 is in their cameras. Samsung upgraded the S22 and S22 Plus with a 50-megapixel sensor and better low light photography. Although the new camera is a noticeable step up from the Galaxy S21's 12-megapixel sensor -- as you can see in my reviews of both new phones -- it's not enough to justify an upgrade just yet. That's especially true since many of the S22's other changes are incremental. 

There are also some other differences to keep in mind aside from the camera, some of which aren't necessarily an improvement. Both the Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus have smaller batteries than the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus, for example. Samsung's new phones also have slightly tinier screens than their predecessors, which can be a pro or a con depending on your preferences. The Galaxy S22 has a 6.1-inch screen compared to the S21's 6.2-inch display, while the S22 Plus has a 6.6-inch screen instead of the S21 Plus' 6.7-inch display. The Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus also have a fresh design made of metal and glass that looks more elegant than the Galaxy S21's look, although that might not matter much if you plan to use a case. 

As is typically the case with new phones, the Galaxy S22 family runs on a newer processor than the Galaxy S21. Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 powers the versions you'll find in the US, while Samsung's Exynos 2200 chip can be found in other select markets. Performance is comparable between the two, so don't expect to see major changes. Instead, the Galaxy S22's new chip is most noticeable in the camera, since it's part of the reason these new phones can take better low-light photos. The Galaxy S22 Plus also has 45-watt fast charging while the Galaxy S21 family only supports 25-watt fast charging, but you'll have to buy the adapter separately.

The bottom line: If you have the Galaxy S21, you don't need to upgrade yet. The camera is better, but many of the S22's other changes are minor. Unless you really want a better camera and can essentially get the Galaxy S22 for free through a trade-in deal, you're better off waiting. The Galaxy S21 should also support software updates for the foreseeable future since it's eligible for four years of updates. 

Galaxy S22 vs. Galaxy S20


The Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

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The Galaxy S20 has a lot in common with the Galaxy S21, which means you can probably hang onto it for a little while longer. Again, the biggest benefits you'll get by upgrading are the improved 50-megapixel main camera, revamped design and newer processor. But of those three characteristics, it's the camera that's going to feel like the biggest difference.

The Galaxy S20's camera is very similar to the Galaxy S21's. Both phones have a 12-megapixel main camera, 12-megapixel ultra wide camera and 64-megapixel telephoto lens. As such, the same advice above generally applies if you own the Galaxy S20. You'll notice a boost in general image quality (color, contrast, detail and low light performance), but overall camera functionality is the same.

The Galaxy S20 also has some benefits that could make it worth hanging onto if it's still in good condition. Like the Galaxy S21, the regular S20 and S20 Plus have slightly larger screens than the Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus. But perhaps more importantly, the Galaxy S20 lineup has a microSD card slot that supports up to 1TB of expandable storage, unlike the Galaxy S22 family. The standard Galaxy S22 also has a smaller battery than the Galaxy S20 (the Plus models have the same battery capacity).

The bottom line: The Galaxy S20 is still relatively new and has many of the same features and functionality as the Galaxy S22, so you don't need to upgrade yet. The camera is once again the biggest change, but that alone isn't enough for most people to upgrade. That said, the Galaxy S20 is nearing the end of its software support cycle since it launched in 2020 and is eligible for three generations of Android OS upgrades. It'll get security updates for four years following its release, but you might want to consider upgrading next year to continue getting the latest Android features. 

Galaxy S22 vs. Galaxy S10


The Samsung Galaxy S10

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The Galaxy S10 is more than three years old, which puts it in an awkward position. It still has modern features like a multi-lens camera and a borderless screen, but it's also old enough to make upgrading a sensible option. While you'll appreciate the Galaxy S22's improved camera, smoother screen and fresh design, the real reason to upgrade is to future-proof your device. The standard Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus don't support 5G (not to be confused with the Galaxy S10 5G, which is a separate phone). And these phones likely won't get new software features in the near future.

Given the three-year gap between the Galaxy S10's launch and the Galaxy S22's debut, there are a fair amount of differences between the two devices. Aside from running on a processor that's now about three years old, the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus are missing the Galaxy S22's camera enhancements. Not only does the Galaxy S10's main lens have a 12-megapixel sensor compared to the S22's 50-megapixels, but its camera can only zoom in 10 times digitally and two times optically. The Galaxy S22, on the other hand, has a 30x digital zoom and 3x optical zoom. And of course, you won't get the Galaxy S22's improved nighttime photography on an older phone like the S10 since it runs on an aging processor. There's also no support for 8K video recording on the Galaxy S10.

The Galaxy S22 and S10 both have a 6.1-inch screen, but the S22's dimensions are physically smaller since its screen takes up a larger portion of the phone's front. Upgrading to the Galaxy S22 Plus from the Galaxy S10 Plus will get you a larger 6.6-inch display compared to the S10 Plus' 6.4-inch display. But the S22 Plus's dimensions are very similar to the S10 Plus', so you won't have to worry about adjusting to a larger size phone. While display quality is similar, the Galaxy S10 lineup doesn't support the ability to increase its refresh rate up to 120Hz for smoother scrolling like the Galaxy S22. 

Both phones also have smaller batteries than the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22 Plus, although that makes sense considering Samsung's older phones have simpler features that might not consume as much power. 

But there is one benefit they have that the S22 lineup lacks: expandable storage. The Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus each have a microSD card slot that supports up to 512GB of extra space, while the Galaxy S22 lineup must rely on its built-in storage. The Galaxy S10 also has a headphone jack unlike Samsung's newer phones. 

The bottom line: If your budget allows, it's worth upgrading from the Galaxy S10 to the Galaxy S22. The camera, performance and battery life improvements are likely to feel significant since the S10 is now three years old. But most importantly, the Galaxy S10 is reaching the end of Samsung's promise to support three generations of Android since it launched with Android 9. While it should still receive security-related updates through 2023 according to Samsung's four-year pledge, you might find yourself missing out on new Android features soon enough. That combined with a lack of 5G and the other camera improvements you'd get with the S22 make a strong case for upgrading.

Galaxy S22 vs. Galaxy S9


The Samsung Galaxy S9

Galaxy S9 owners have a lot to gain from upgrading. The four-year-old phone lacks modern features like a multilens camera (although the Plus model has two rear cameras), 5G and an in-screen fingerprint reader. But as is the case with the Galaxy S10, one of the biggest reasons to upgrade is to ensure your phone keeps getting new Android features for years to come.

One of the first differences you might notice when upgrading from the S9 to the S22 is the latter's larger screen. Samsung's regular Galaxy S9 only has a 5.8-inch screen, while the Galaxy S22 has a 6.1-inch screen. The case is the same for the Galaxy S9 Plus, which has a 6.2-inch display compared to the Galaxy S22 Plus' 6.6-inch screen. Neither of Samsung's older phones support higher refresh rates for smoother scrolling either.

Samsung has made a lot of progress in its camera technology over the last four years, too. The standard Galaxy S9 only has one 12-megapixel camera, while the Plus model has both a 12-megapixel standard camera and a 12-megapixel telephoto lens. The Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus, on the other hand, each have three lenses for capturing wide, zoomed-in and ultrawide-angle shots. The Galaxy S9 can only zoom up to 8x digitally, while the Galaxy S22 can zoom up to 3x optically and 30x digitally. 

In other words, the camera changes go beyond incremental updates. The Galaxy S22 has a more versatile camera with shooting modes that you simply can't get on the Galaxy S9 thanks to the S22's additional lenses. That's along with the upgrades Samsung made to improve overall image quality with the Galaxy S22, like its 50-megapixel sensor that captures richer detail and contrast and its ability to take better photos in the dark.

Other perks you'll get with the Galaxy S22 include twice the storage at the base level, an in-screen fingerprint scanner instead of the S9's rear-mounted sensor and a much newer and faster processor. Since Samsung's three-year software update policy doesn't cover the Galaxy S9, you'll also be missing out on the latest Android features. (The Galaxy S9 is still eligible for quarterly security updates according to Samsung's website). But keep in mind that you'll have to say goodbye to expandable storage and the headphone jack when upgrading. 

The bottom line: If you have the Galaxy S9, it's time to upgrade. The Galaxy S9 is four years old, which means it's probably starting to feel slow if you purchased it at launch, and it won't support new versions of Android. It's also missing a lot of features that have become standard, even on today's less expensive phones, like an ultrawide camera lens, 5G and an in-screen fingerprint reader. 

Galaxy S22 vs. Galaxy S8


The Samsung Galaxy S8

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The Galaxy S8 has a lot in common with the Galaxy S9, so the same general advice applies. By upgrading to the Galaxy S22, you'll get 5G support, a much better camera with three lenses instead of one, a larger screen with a higher refresh rate and other benefits that make it well worth the upgrade. And once again, software support is one of the biggest reasons to consider purchasing Samsung's new phone.

The Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus' screens are noticeably larger than the 5.8-inch Galaxy S8 and 6.2-inch S8 Plus. Older phones like the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S9 also have Samsung's previous design, which places the camera above the display. Samsung moved to a hole-punch-like cutout for the camera with the Galaxy S10 generation and later, making it possible for Samsung to extend the size of the screen without making the device larger. 

You can also expect a big boost in camera performance and quality, considering the Galaxy S8 only has a single 12-megapixel rear camera. That means you'll get dedicated lenses for capturing ultrawide-angle shots and better zoomed-in photos by moving up to the Galaxy S22. Other than adding more flexibility in terms of shooting modes, the Galaxy S22 has a new 50-megapixel sensor that should deliver drastically better detail, color, contrast and low-light performance compared to the Galaxy S8.

You'll also get twice the Galaxy S8's storage capacity at the base level with the Galaxy S22, a much newer processor and an in-screen fingerprint sensor. But that all comes at the cost of the headphone jack and expandable storage, which for most people will be a worthwhile trade-off. 

Upgrading to the Galaxy S22 also guarantees that you'll get the latest version of Android and Samsung's own software features for years to come. 

The bottom line: The Galaxy S8 is now five years old, meaning it's time for an upgrade. Not only will upgrading to the Galaxy S22 bring core updates like 5G connectivity and compatibility with the latest Android software, but you'll get meaningfully faster performance and a much better camera. 

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. Older Samsung Phones

Galaxy S22Galaxy S21Galaxy S20Galaxy S10Galaxy S9Galaxy S8
Display size, resolution 6.1-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2x; FHD+ (1,080x2,340); 120Hz6.2-inch Flat FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2x, 2,400x1,080 pixels6.2-inch Quad HD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X; (3,200 x 1440)6.1-inch Quad HD+ Dynamic AMOLED; 3,040x1,440-pixels5.8-inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED; 2,960x1,440 pixels5.8-inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED; 2,960x1,440
Pixel density 425 pixels per inch421 ppi563 ppi550 ppi570 ppi570 ppi
Dimensions (Millimeters) 70.6 x 146 x 7.6 mm71.2 x 151.7 x 7.9mm151.7 x 69.1 x 7.9mm149.9 x 70.4 x 7.8mm147.7 x 68.7 x 8.5mm148.9 x 68.1 x 8mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 167g (168g for mmWave model)6.03 oz.; 171g5.75 oz.; 163g5.53 oz.; 157g5.75 oz.; 163g5.47 oz.; 155g
Mobile software (at launch) Android 12Android 11Android 10Android 9Android 8Android 7
Camera 50MP (wide), 12MP (ultrawide), 10MP (telephoto)64MP (telephoto), 12MP (wide), 12MP (ultrawide)12MP (wide), 64MP (telephoto), 12MP (ultrawide)12MP (wide), 16MP (ultrawide), 12MP (telephoto)12MP12MP
Front-facing camera 10-megapixel 10-megapixel10-megapixel10-megapixel8-megapixel8-megapixel
Video capture 8K 8K8K4K4K4K
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 gen 1Qualcomm Snapdragon 888Qualcomm Snapdragon 865Qualcomm Snapdragon 855Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
RAM/Storage 8GB RAM + 128GB 8GB RAM + 256GB 8GB RAM + 128GB; 8GB RAM + 256GB12GB RAM + 128GB8GB RAM + 128GB; 8GB RAM + 512GB4GB RAM + 64GB4GB RAM + 64GB
Expandable storage NoneNoneUp to 1TBUp to 512GBUp to 512GBUp to 512GB
Battery/Charger 3,700 mAh 4,000 mAh4,000 mAh3,400 mAh3,000 mAh3,000 mAh
Fingerprint sensor In-displayIn-screenIn-screenIn-screen BackBack
Headphone jack No NoNoYesYesYes
Special features 5G (mmw/Sub6), 120Hz display, IP68 rating, 25W wired charging, Wireless PowerShareIP68 rating, 5G (mmw/Sub6), 25W wired charging, Wireless PowerShare, 120Hz display5G (mmw/Sub6); 120Hz refresh rate; Wireless PowerShare; water resistant (IP68)Wireless PowerShare; hole-punch screen notch; water resistant (IP68); Fast Wireless Charging 2.0Dual-aperture camera, water-resistant (IP68); super slo-mo video; wireless charging; iris scanningDual-aperture camera, water-resistant (IP68); wireless charging; iris scanning