Samsung Galaxy S22, S22+ and S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy S21, S21+ and S21 Ultra
Samsung has unpacked its Galaxy S series phones for 2022, spruiking the usual crop of improvements and new features. So are they worth the upgrade from last year’s models? New Atlas compares the specs and features of the Galaxy S22, S22+ and S22 Ultra with the Galaxy S21, S21+ and S21 Ultra.
Strangely, this year’s models have actually shrunk slightly. Compared to their respective last-gen phones, the S22 is 5 mm shorter, the S22+ has lost 4 mm in height, and the S22 Ultra 2 mm, while they’ve mostly lost fractions of a millimeter in width and thickness too.
Weight-wise, they’ve also shed some grams, although again the difference is very minor. There’s also a gram or two weight difference in each model, based on which 5G technology the handset comes equipped with, mmWave or sub6.
These changes might be hard to spot unless you’re holding them side by side, however.
Samsung continues with the “Phantom” naming convention for its colors – or at least some of them. This year’s models are available in Phantom Black or Phantom White, as well as the more innocuous green or pink gold for the S22 and S22+, or burgundy for the S22 Ultra.
That’s quite a limited palette compared to last year, which also boasted Phantoms Violet, Gray, Pink, Silver, Gold, Red, Navy, Brown and Titanium.
The Galaxy S22 series has much the same build as the previous generation, with glass front and back, ringed in aluminum – although the plastic parts of the S21 have ben dropped. Samsung brags that the new phones can survive drops and resist scratches better than the old ones, thanks to the use of Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus+ (the S21 models had just plain Victus) and what the company (or at least the marketing team) calls an Armor Aluminum frame.
All six phones have a water resistance rating of IP68, meaning they should be able to shake off a splash of water or survive a dunk to a depth of 1.5 m (3.3 ft) for up to 30 minutes.
In step with the smaller phone sizes, the Galaxy S22 and S22+ have slightly smaller displays than their previous models. The Ultra model, however, stays the same.
These phones have very high screen-to-body ratios, with basically bezel-less sides and only a pinhole in the top of the display to house the camera lens.
All six phones have AMOLED displays, which should provide brighter colors and deeper blacks than the all-but-defunct IPS LCD.
Samsung’s S Pen works on the Ultra models of each line, but there’s a key difference. The S21 Ultra was compatible with the stylus, but didn’t include one in the box. The S22 Ultra not only comes with one, but has a little slot to store it inside the phone itself.
Slightly smaller displays also means slightly lower resolution – the S22 and S22+ have shed 60 pixels in the vertical axis, but that’s so tiny as to be unnoticeable to the eye. The S22 Ultra, meanwhile, has fewer vertical pixels but more horizontally, in line with the slight change in the dimensions of the phone.
Thankfully, all three S22 models keep their HDR10+ display and 120 Hz refresh rates.
The Galaxy S22 line runs on Qualcomm’s latest chipset, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. These are the first phones on the market to be made using the 4-nanometer process, and Qualcomm says they enable faster 5G and Wi-Fi connections, as well as more powerful AI and advanced camera modes.
This is backed up by 8 GB of RAM, and the option of 12 GB for the S22 Ultra. Interestingly, the S21 Ultra’s option of 16 GB is off the table.
On the front, little has changed between generations – the Galaxy S22 and S22+ are still rocking a 10-megapixel selfie camera, with an aperture of f/2.2. The S22 Ultra boosts that to 40 MP, just like the S21 Ultra did.
Around the back is where the real business happens, and the S22 and S22+ have had a bit of a shake-up with their main cameras. Both are still triple systems, comprising a wide, ultra-wide and telephoto lens, but the wide angle lens is now the beefiest of the bunch at 50 MP, up from 12. In turn, the telephoto lens has dropped from 64 MP to 10.
The new models have a 3x optical zoom (no more of this hybrid optical system) and 30x digital. They also have an image sensor that’s 23 percent bigger than that in the S21 and S21+, allowing for better low-light photography.
Numbers wise, the camera array in the S22 Ultra looks the same as the S21 Ultra, but it’s also had a major upgrade to its image sensor, which Samsung says is the biggest in any Galaxy yet. It can zoom in up to 10x with its dual optical system, or 100x digitally.
The new phones have most of the photo modes of the old ones, with a few new ones thrown in. All six phones can snap photos with high dynamic range (HDR), stitch together panoramas, and overlay animated objects and characters on the real world with augmented reality (AR).
Portrait mode allows users to adjust the level of blur in the background, to make the subject pop.
Scene Optimizer detects what’s in frame – such as people, sunsets, beaches, flowers, food, faces, animals, etc – and automatically adjusts the settings to capture that subject best.
Single Take captures a range of different types of images at once, including video, stills, and loops, allowing users to pick whatever best captured the moment.
All six phones have a version of a night mode, allowing the cameras to shoot in low light conditions. For the S22 series, Samsung has given it the name of “Nightography,” which is essentially the same thing but takes advantage of the larger image sensors.
One new mode on the S22 line is called Detail Enhancer, which apparently uses AI to capture more detail in the shot.
The S22 series also has a new feature called Adaptive Pixel, which automatically shoots in the highest resolution mode when the lighting is good, and switches to a lower resolution but higher sensitivity when the light dims. The phones can even shoot in both modes at once, combining the results into one image that’s high resolution and brightly lit.
In terms of shooting video, the S22 series has much the same capabilities of the S21 line, but you’ll see some boosts based on the tech described above.
All six phones can shoot in ultra high definition, up to 8K – although, unless you’ve already forked out several thousand dollars for an 8K TV, you probably won’t have any way to appreciate it. On a more practical note, they can also shoot in 4K at 60 frames per second, 1080p Full HD and 720p HD.
The Galaxies can also shoot in slow motion – 240 fps at Full HD resolution, or a super slo-mo mode at 960 fps with a resolution of 720p. Inversely, the phones can all shoot timelapses at 4K resolution.
All of these videos can be smoothed out using optical and electronic image stabilization (OIS/EIS), and with excellent contrast in the form of HDR10+.
The new generation of Galaxies has the same biometrics as the last gen – they can be unlocked with a face scan from the selfie cam or a tap of a fingerprint on the ultrasonic sensor, embedded under the screen.
All six phones have the option of either 128 or 256 GB of built-in storage. Both Ultra models have an extra option for 512 GB, while the S22 Ultra adds a new tier for a massive 1 TB.
Whichever you pick, make sure it’s enough for what you’ll need – Samsung has nixed the once-ubiquitous MicroSD card slot, so you can’t expand your storage after the fact.
Strangely enough, the Galaxy S22 series has smaller battery capacities than the S21 series – the S22 and S22+ have dropped 300 mAh from their respective predecessors. The S22 Ultra stays unchanged on 5,000 mAh.
It’s worth noting, however, that these differences are pretty negligible and likely won’t be reflected in battery life. That vital figure is influenced by many factors – the new phones, for instance, could wring better battery life out of all kinds of optimization tweaks made to the hardware and software.
All six Galaxies have fast charging built-in, and the option for “super” fast charging with chargers up to 25 W for the basic models, or 45 W for the plus and Ultra models.
They also all have the option for wireless charging, and Fast Wireless Charging 2.0 at 15 W, both of which require separate chargers. And using a feature called Wireless PowerShare, users can even charge other phones or accessories by placing them on top of the phone.
All of these phones have 5G capability, which should grant you faster cellular internet speeds if your network supports it.
Samsung has simplified the ports on its Galaxy S series phones to just a USB-C port across the board. That’s for either chargers or earbuds, although for both of those functions you could go wireless.
The S22 series comes with the latest version of Google’s operating system, Android 12, pre-installed. The S21 series is running Android 11 out of the box, but an update won’t be far off.
The Galaxy S21 series released in January 2021, while the S22 line was a little behind schedule and came out in late February 2022.
The Galaxy S22 series has the same pricing tiers as the previous phones, starting at US$799 for the 128-GB model S22, and running all the way up to $1,599 for the 1-TB Galaxy S22 Ultra.
On official channels, the S21 series hasn’t had a price drop yet, but if you shop around you could probably pick them up cheaper now that the new models are out.
Check out our other phone comparisons.