Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. S21: The Biggest Differences to Note
We'll help you decide between the Samsung Galaxy S21 and the brand-new Galaxy S22.
Alexandra GarrettAssociate Editor
Alexandra is an associate editor on CNET's Performance Optimization team. She graduated from Marymount Manhattan College in New York City, and interned with CNET's Tech and News teams while in school. Prior to joining CNET full time, Alexandra was a breaking news fellow at Newsweek, where she covered current events and politics.
Samsung's new Galaxy S22 arrived earlier this month at the company's February Unpacked event. You may be wondering how it's different from the Galaxy S21 that impressed us with solid all-around performance when it was released last year. Like 2021's Galaxy S series, the Galaxy S22 series features three phones -- the Galaxy S22, the S22 Plus and S22 Ultra -- and offers a bevy of upgrades.
Samsung kept prices fairly consistent with last year's flagship phones. In 2021, the South Korean electronics giant slashed the price of its Galaxy S21 handset by $200 compared with the previous year's flagship, the Galaxy S20. For 128GB of storage, the Galaxy S21 ranged in price from $800 to $1,380, depending on the model.
For the Galaxy S22 series, the base Galaxy S22 starts at $800 again, the S22 Plus starts at $1,000 and the S22 Ultra costs $1,200 for 128GB of storage, going up to $1,600 for 1 terabyte of storage. (In the UK, the Galaxy S22 starts at £769, the S22 Plus starts at £949 and the S22 Ultra starts at £1,149, going up to £1,499. In Australia, the S22 starts at AU$1,249, the S22 Plus at AU$1,549 and the S22 Ultra at AU$1,849.)
Design: Galaxy S22 gets a new glass and metal design with a smaller display
The Galaxy S22 has a fresh new look that feels more premium and polished. All three new phones have a glass and metal frame that feels like an upgrade over last year's Galaxy S21. The regular S22 and S22 Plus have a rounded shape with metallic edges, while the Galaxy S22 Ultra looks like a Galaxy Note clone. Samsung's high-end Galaxy S22 Ultra also comes with a slot for storing the S Pen -- a first for a Galaxy S device.
The standard Galaxy S22's display is also slightly smaller than the S21. Samsung's newest flagship line comes in three sizes: 6.1 inches, 6.6 inches and 6.8 inches. In comparison, the standard Galaxy S21 is 6.2 inches, the S21 Plus is 6.7 inches and the S21 Ultra is 6.8 inches.
The Galaxy S22 (146x70.6x7.6mm) is also a little bit thinner than the S21. The shrinkage of the Galaxy S22 is abnormal when you look at Samsung's previous phone models. The tech giant's S series has been steadily growing in size over time from the Galaxy S10 (150x70x7.8mm) to the Galaxy S20 (152x69x7.9mm) and then the Galaxy S21 (152x71x7.9mm).
Colors: The Galaxy S22 comes in new colors that the S21 didn't offer
The Galaxy S21 came in six colors. This included black, silver, gray and white, as well as a chromelike purple and pink. Samsung added new color options for the Galaxy S22 line: The base Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus comes in black, white, pink gold (one color) and green, while the Galaxy S22 Ultra comes in black, white, green and burgundy.
Watch this: Samsung Galaxy S22 first look: Hands-on with all 3 new phones
Camera: The difference between the Galaxy S22 and S21
The Galaxy S22 Ultra and S21 Ultra's camera specs look quite similar on paper. Both have a quadruple-lens main camera with a 108-megapixel main sensor, a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera and two 10-megapixel telephoto lenses. The high-end models of Samsung's recent flagship phones also both sport a 40-megapixel selfie camera. The field of view on the wide and telephoto lenses, however, is a little bit wider on the Galaxy S22 Ultra than the S21 Ultra.
Despite these seeming fairly similar, Samsung promises there are other camera upgrades that should make the new phones better at taking pictures at night and framing multiple subjects at once.
For the Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus, both phones have a 50-megapixel wide, 12-megapixel ultrawide and 10-megapixel telephoto camera. The regular and plus models of both the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S20 featured a 12-megapixel main camera, a 12-megapixel ultrawide and a 64-megapixel telephoto camera, in comparison.
Prior to the Galaxy S22 lineup's big reveal, rumors suggested the S22 Ultra could come with a 200-megapixel main camera. This would have been the highest pixel count available for a Samsung phone. Samsung Exynos, the electronic company's division for chipmaking, even flaunted a 200-megapixel phone camera in a March 2021 teaser tweet. This wasn't the case. But maybe bigger camera updates could be coming to Samsung's Galaxy S family in the future.
Processor: The Galaxy S22 comes with a new and improved chip
The Galaxy S22 got a processing boost compared with the Galaxy S21 line. The newest addition to Samsung's Galaxy S family runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor. The Galaxy S21, by comparison, runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, the same processor that powers the Galaxy S21 FE.
Qualcomm confirmed in December that the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is built by Samsung Foundry using its latest 4-nanometer process. Samsung also makes its own line of Exynos processors, but those chips are usually available only in certain areas -- not including the US.
Watch this: Samsung's Unpacked event in 11 minutes
Charging: Galaxy S22 Plus and Ultra support 45-watt charging, offering faster power-up times
Samsung upgraded the Galaxy S22 Plus and S22 Ultra with up to 45-watt wired charging support. This means the higher-end S22 models offer faster charging times over the standard S22, as well the Galaxy S21 lineup.
In terms of battery capacity, the standard Galaxy S21 has a larger 4,000-mAh battery. The standard Galaxy S22 has a battery capacity of 3,700 mAh, in comparison. But keep in mind that the Galaxy S22 is also smaller than the Galaxy S21.