Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Samsung Galaxy S21: revolutionary upgrade or spec bump meh?

There are lots of improvements in Samsung's brand new smartphone. But are they enough to justify the price tag?

Samsung Galaxy S22
(Image credit: Samsung)

The Samsung Galaxy S21 is one of the best phones you can buy right now, and the new year means there's a brand new version: the Samsung Galaxy S22. There are some important differences between the two devices, but some surprisingly similar specifications too.

Does the new Samsung Galaxy S22 deliver enough improvements to make it a must-have upgrade? Let's find out.

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Samsung Galaxy S21: design and display

The Galaxy S21 looks very similar to its predecessors, but the rear camera bump has been made more obvious in a nice piece of design and you can get it the S21 in violet, grey, white or pink. The selfie camera in the front is in a hole-punch design that keeps its size to a minimum. The display here is a 6.2-inch flat FHD Dynamic AMOLED 2X delivering 2,400 x 1,080 with HDR10+ certification and a 120Hz refresh rate.

The S22 isn’t hugely different-looking in the flesh. It has a 6.1” FHD+ display with 10 to 120Hz refresh rate and a 240Hz sampling rate in Game Mode, and there’s blue light control to make your eyes feel less tired at night.

Samsung Galaxy S22

(Image credit: Future)

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Samsung Galaxy S21: processor and storage

As ever you get a Samsung or a Snapdragon processor depending on where you live. In the S21 that means a Snapdragon 888 or an Exynos 2100. Each processor comes with 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM and either 128GB or 256GB of storage.

As expected the Galaxy S22 has the newer versions of each processor: the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 or the Exynos 2200 depending on territory. As with the S21 there’s 8GB of RAM and 128 or 256GB of storage.

Samsung Galaxy S22

(Image credit: Future)

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Samsung Galaxy S21: cameras

The S21’s selfie shooter is a 10MP affair with dual pixel autofocus and an f/2.2 aperture. The three cameras on the back are a 12MP ultrawide with f/2.2, a 12MP wide-angle with f/1.8 and a 64MP telephoto with f/2.0. Optical zoom is 3x and digital goes up to 30x. For video the cameras can shoot at up to 8K resolution at 24fps or 4K at 60fps. Slow motion is 240fps in full HD and 960fps at 720p.

The cameras in the S22 are slightly different. Once again there’s a 12MP ultrawide with f/2.2, but the wide camera this time is 50MP instead of 12MP and has f/1.8. The telephoto camera is 10MP with f/2.4, and the front camera is 10MP with f/2.2. The main differences here aren’t in the hardware but in the processing, with significantly improved artificial intelligence to deliver better pictures despite the relatively similar hardware.

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Samsung Galaxy S21: battery and charging

As with the Galaxy S20 the battery here is a little smaller than you might expect at 4,000mAh; more powerful models in the range get bigger batteries. It supports fast charging 2.0, USB PD 3.0 and Wireless PowerShare.

The S22’s battery is smaller still at 3,700mAh, although we’d expect the more efficient processor and variable refresh rate display to deliver similar or better battery life. The S22 supports 25W wired and 15W wireless along with Wireless PowerShare.

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Samsung Galaxy S21: software

The Galaxy S21 shipped with Android 11 and is upgradeable to Android 12; the Galaxy S22 has Android 12.1. As always Samsung has popped its One UI on top. This is version 4.1.

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Samsung Galaxy S21: price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy S21 started at $799 / £769 / AU$1,249 at launch.

And the Samsung Galaxy S22 also starts at $799 / £769 / AU$1,249.

Samsung Galaxy S22

(Image credit: Future)

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Samsung Galaxy S21: early verdict

Unless you really want to have the very latest technology there's no real need to upgrade every year, but if you weren't a fan of the very latest technology you wouldn't be reading this. Is there enough in the S22 to make it a must-upgrade? The short answer is: maybe. It's got a faster processor with better graphics performance, which is always nice, and the AI improvements in the cameras are nice too. But there's nothing here that makes us want to run to the Samsung store with our credit cards aloft. The S22 is a very, very good phone, but so is the S21.

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).