Galaxy S22 vs. Galaxy S21 FE: All the difference you could expect

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The rumored Galaxy S22 is expected to be the Galaxy S21’s successor, while the Galaxy S21 FE, shown above, is a budget version of the S21.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Samsung showed off its newest affordable phone, called the Galaxy S21 FE, ahead of CES 2022, and its 2022 flagship lineup could be on the way soon. (Check out all the exciting new phones we’re waiting on in 2022.) Rumored to be the Galaxy S22, the new line is said to include a collection of upgrades including new colors, camera updates and possible S Pen support.

If you’re a Samsung fan looking to buy a new phone this year, there’s a good reason why you might find yourself deciding between two devices. The Galaxy S22 is expected to be the successor to the Galaxy S21, meaning it’ll be the least expensive model in Samsung’s new Galaxy S family. And the $700 Galaxy S21 FE is a more budget-friendly version of the Galaxy S21. So the S22 is expected to be on the lower end of the premium spectrum when it comes to price — well under $1,000.

Read moreGalaxy S21 FE review: A solid $700 phone that goes head-to-head with the Pixel 6

There’s likely to be a notable cost difference between them, though. The Galaxy S22 will probably be more expensive than the Galaxy S21 FE, and rumors suggest it’ll include a sharper camera and faster processor to justify that difference. Still, the Galaxy S21 FE might still have the edge when it comes to screen size and battery life.

Here’s a closer look at what we’re expecting to see, based on the latest rumors.

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Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S22 (rumored)

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE Samsung Galaxy S22 (rumored)
Display 6.4-inch AMOLED; Full HD Plus resolution (2,340×1,080 pixels); 120Hz 6.06-inch AMOLED; FHD Plus; 120Hz refresh rate
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Qualcomm Snapdragon 898 5G
Camera 12-, 12-, 8-megapixel 50-, 12-, 12-megapixel
Front camera 32-megapixel 10-megapixel
Battery and charging 4,500-mAh (no bundled charger); fast-charging 3,700-mAh capacity; fast-charging
Storage 128GB or 256GB 256GB
Memory 6GB or 8GB RAM 8GB

The Galaxy S22’s screen may be smaller than the Galaxy S21 FE’s

The Galaxy S22 is shaping up to be Samsung’s option for those who prefer a compact phone, like the Galaxy S10E. The Galaxy S22 may have a 6.06-inch screen, according to specifications published by prominent leaker Ice Universe. The Galaxy S21 FE, on the other hand, features a 6.4-inch display. Just like the S21 FE, the Galaxy S22 is expected to have a display refresh rate of up to 120Hz.

If the leaks turn out to be true, the Galaxy S22 will be smaller than the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S20. In comparison, the Galaxy S21 FE falls between the sizes of the Galaxy S21 and the Galaxy S21 Plus.

But the Galaxy S22 could have a higher-resolution main camera

For cameras, the Galaxy S22 is expected to have a 50-megapixel wide lens, a 12-megapixel ultrawide lens and a 12-megapixel telephoto lens. That’s according to Twitter leaker Tron, who has a mixed track record when it comes to reporting on unreleased Samsung products. (He correctly said the Galaxy Z Fold 3 would be slimmer than its predecessor, but he also said the Galaxy Z Flip 3 would cost $1,249 whereas it actually starts at $1,000.) The Dutch website Galaxy Club, which has been posting a lot of leaks that have yet to be confirmed about the Galaxy S22 series, also says the lineup will have a 50-megapixel main sensor and a 12-megapixel wide sensor. In addition, it suggests the phone could have a 10-megapixel front camera.

If these rumors turn out to be true, the Galaxy S22 will have a much sharper main sensor than the Galaxy S21 FE, but a slightly less sharp selfie camera. Samsung’s budget phone has a triple-lens camera. That’s a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera, a 12-megapixel wide camera and an 8-megapixel telephoto camera, as well as a 32-megapixel front-facing camera.

Read moreBest camera phone for 2022


Sarah Tew/CNET

The Galaxy S22 will likely run on a newer and faster processor

Performance appears to be one area where the Galaxy S22 could shine over the Galaxy S21 FE. Samsung’s next major Galaxy S entry will likely run on the newest Qualcomm smartphone processor, called the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1.

Samsung also makes its own line of Exynos processors, but those chips are usually available only in certain areas — not including the US. And that’s a shame, because the next version of Samsung’s Exynos chip sounds like it could potentially bring a big leap forward in graphics performance. Samsung and AMD are collaborating on a future Exynos chip, which will bring high-end gaming features like ray tracing to Samsung phones. But Samsung and AMD haven’t revealed further details about the chip, such as when it’ll launch or which products it’ll be in.

The Galaxy S21 FE, by comparison, runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, the same processor that powers the Galaxy S21. That means the phone’s performance is similar to the Galaxy S21, which will likely be considered a previous-generation product in the not-too-distant future.

But the Galaxy S21 FE is expected to have a bigger battery

Samsung was seemingly focusing on screen size and battery life with its most recent budget phone. The Galaxy S21 FE has a 4,500-mAh battery capacity. The Galaxy S22, on the other hand, is expected to come with only a 3,700-mAh battery, according to leaks from Ice Universe and Galaxy Club. That would make it smaller than the Galaxy S21’s 4,000-mAh battery. But keep in mind that the Galaxy S22 is also rumored to be smaller.

In terms of memory and storage, we’re expecting to see 8GB of RAM and 256GB of space. That’s according to a YouTuber called Super Roader, who claims to be a former employee of Samsung’s wireless division. The amount of RAM we see in the Galaxy S21 FE is similar, with options for either 6GB or 8GB.

The Galaxy S22 will likely be more expensive than the Galaxy S21 FE

We don’t know how much the Galaxy S22 phones will cost, and we haven’t seen any reports or rumors that provide an indication of price. But based on last year’s pricing pattern, the Galaxy S22 would be about $800 if Samsung takes the same approach as it did with the Galaxy S21 lineup.

The Galaxy S21 FE, on the other hand, is priced at $700 for the base model, which has 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The price increases to $770 for the 8GB/256GB version.

Should you buy the Galaxy S22 or the Galaxy S21 FE?

Before a product is actually announced, it’s impossible to know whether you should buy it. Based on the rumors, though, it sounds like the Galaxy S22 will likely be best suited for those who want a more premium device with a sharper camera, faster performance and a more pocket-friendly design. The Galaxy S21 FE is better for those who prioritize screen size and battery life and staying well below the $1,000 threshold.

For more, check out CNET’s Galaxy S21 FE review. You can also take a look at how the Galaxy S21 FE compares with the Galaxy S20 FE and Galaxy S21, as well as all the rumors we’ve heard about the Galaxy S22.

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