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Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. Google Pixel 6: Which Android Flagship Should You Buy?

Samsung and Google make the finest flagship Android phones on the US market. But which one is right for you? We help you decide.

By Steven Winkelman

Samsung announced a trio of Galaxy S22 phones at its February Unpacked event, including the Galaxy S22 ($799), the Galaxy S22+ ($999), and the Galaxy S22 Ultra ($1,199). These handsets are likely to become some of the most popular Android phones in the US, though Google’s existing Pixel 6 ($599) and Pixel 6 Pro ($899) remain competitive alternatives worth considering. Which Android flagship is right for you? Let’s compare the specs to find out.

Now, we’re primarily talking about the Galaxy S22 and the Galaxy S22+ here, as the Galaxy S22 Ultra is significantly more expensive than either Pixel and thus less directly comparable. If you want Samsung’s S Pen stylus, however, it’s the Galaxy to get. For more on this, check out our in-depth comparison of all three Galaxy S22 models.

Design and Durability

Samsung plays it safe with the look and feel of the Samsung Galaxy S22 and S22+, with both phones featuring a “glass sandwich” design—the screens are free of bezel, the glass backs have protruding camera modules, and an aluminum frames fuses the two sections together. Both phones are available in black, green, pink, or white.

The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro stand out more, with two-tone back panels and distinctive horizontal camera bars. The Pixel 6 is available in black, green, or pink, while the Pixel 6 Pro comes in black, gray, or yellow.

All of Samsung’s and Google’s flagships have an IP68 rating, meaning they’re effectively dustproof and can withstand being submerged in up to 4.9 feet of fresh water for half an hour. The Galaxy S22 and S22+ sport the latest Gorilla Glass Victus+ glass for protection against drops and dings, while the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro employ the slightly less durable Gorilla Glass Victus. Currently the only information about Victus+ glass comes from Samsung’s claims about the phones; Corning still promotes Victus as its strongest Gorilla Glass, so all of these phones should be pretty evenly matched up in terms of durability.

Pixel 6 (Photo: Steven Winkelman)

The Galaxy S22 is the shortest and lightest phone of the bunch at 5.7 inches and 5.3 ounces. The 6.1-inch, 6.9-ounce Galaxy S22+ and the 6.2-inch, 7.3-ounce Pixel 6 are fairly similar in terms of height and weight. The 6.5-inch Pixel 6 Pro is quite a bit taller than the rest, but at 7.4 ounces it weighs only a hair more than the Pixel 6. All of the phones are around the same thickness.

Aside from the difference in color options, the biggest deciding factor here might be how large of a phone you want. The S22 is significantly smaller than the Pixel 6, and therefore a much better option if want a phone that can be easily used in one hand.

Hardware, Connectivity, and Battery

All four phones should be able to power through any task you throw their way, but they rely on very different internal components, as Google’s Tensor processor approaches computing tasks much differently than the Qualcomm chip in the Samsung phones.

The Samsung Galaxy S22 and S22+ use a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip with 8GB of RAM. In the US, Samsung offers 128GB and 256GB storage variants. Neither has a microSD card slot for extra storage.

The Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro feature Google’s Tensor processor and 8GB of RAM. As with the Galaxy S22 models, Google offers 128GB and 256GB storage variants and no external storage options.

Left to right: S22+, S22, S22 (Photo: Alex Humphreys)

All of the phones support Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth, as well as offer 5G connectivity. The Samsung handsets likely have a connectivity advantage in low-signal environments based on our initial tests (the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Mobile platform uses a new X65 modem-RF system), but we will continue to evaluate their performance.

The Galaxy S22 has a 3,700mAh battery and supports 25W charging, while the Galaxy S22+ features a 4,500mAh battery and faster 45W charging. Both support 15W wireless charging and Wireless PowerShare for charging other Qi-compatible devices.

A 4,614mAh battery powers the Google Pixel 6, while the Pixel 6 Pro packs a 5,003mAh cell. Maximum charging speeds are respectively 21W and 23W, and both support wireless charging and wireless Battery Share.

We can’t pick a clear winner here until we’ve had a chance to fully test the S22 phones. Early benchmarks indicate that the Galaxy models outperform the Pixels, but because the Tensor chip uses different architecture, those results may not indicate much of a real-world difference. In any case, if you need a phone that charges quickly, the 45W wired charging on the Galaxy S22+ stands out.

Screens and Fingerprint Sensors

Samsung consistently outfits its Galaxy S phones with vibrant, top-notch AMOLED screens, while Google has a pretty mixed history when it comes to Pixel displays. Thankfully, the Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro don’t falter, and stand competitively against the S22 and S22+ in terms of screen quality.

The Galaxy S22 sports a 6.1-inch screen, while the S22+ measures 6.6 inches. Both have a 2,340-by-1,080-pixel resolution (422ppi for S22 and 390ppi for S22+) and a 48–120Hz variable refresh rate. The Google Pixel 6 uses a 6.4-inch, 2,400-by-1,080-pixel OLED display (411ppi) with a 90Hz refresh rate. The 6.7-inch, 3,120-by-1,440-pixel LTPO OLED display (512ppi) on the Pixel 6 Pro has a 10–120Hz variable refresh rate.

Pixel 6 Pro (Photo: Steven Winkelman)

If you’re after the phone the highest pixel density, the Pixel 6 Pro is the best of the bunch, though the difference in sharpness likely won’t be a huge factor in real-world use.

All of the phones use in-screen fingerprint sensors, but Samsung employs an ultrasonic sensor while Google uses an optical sensor. Both of these are less reliable than a traditional sensor placed separately from the screen, but Samsung’s ultrasonic sensors tend to be the best for in-display touch unlocking.

Cameras and Imaging Features

Google and Samsung have historically approached smartphone imaging differently, with Samsung focusing on the latest multi-lens and sensor tech and Google refining its computational photography capabilities to get high-quality shots from a single lens.

Both the Galaxy S22 and S22+ feature triple-lens rear camera stacks with a 50MP, f/1.8 primary sensor, a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide sensor with a 120-degree field of view, and a 10MP f/2.4 telephoto with 3x optical zoom. The primary and ultra-wide lenses incorporate dual-pixel autofocus, and all three have optical image stabilization (OIS). The front-facing f/2.2 camera clocks in at 10MP.

Samsung offers 100x Space Zoom, an improved low-light mode, and AI Stereo Depth Mapping for portraits.

Galaxy S22 (Photo: Sascha Segan)

The Pixel 6’s rear camera stack uses a 50MP f/1.85 primary lens with dual-phase detection autofocus (PDAF) and a 12MP ultra-wide sensor with an f/2.2 aperture and OIS. The Pixel 6 Pro gains an additional 48MP f/3.5 telephoto sensor with both OIS and PDAF. The Pixel 6 sports an 8MP selfie camera, while the Pixel 6 Pro’s is 11MP, and both have laser detection autofocus (LDAF).

On both Pixel models, you get a Magic Eraser mode that removes unwanted background details, a long exposure mode, and a feature called Real Tone that uses machine learning to more accurately reflect skin tones in the BIPOC community.

Based on specs alone, the S22’s telephoto lens gives it an advantage over the Pixel 6, which offers just standard and ultra-wide lenses. But we’ll have see how the S22’s cameras fare in real-world tests before we can make a recommendation in this category.

Software and Upgrade Policies

All of the phones mentioned here ship with Android 12, but the Pixel phones use stock Android while the Galaxy S22 and S22+ have Samsung’s custom One UI interface that adds branded productivity apps, improved compatibility with Microsoft apps, and a DeX productivity mode. Carriers are also likely to preinstall a fair share of bloatware on Samsung phones.

Pixel 6 Pro (Photo: Steven Winkelman)

Google’s custom overlay adds special camera tweaks and other Pixel—first features like UWB for file sharing, Quick Tap to Snap, Now Playing Search, and Live Translate offline. Feature Drop, another part of the Pixels’ custom skin, is another software advantage. And you don’t need to worry about bloatware, because Google doesn’t participate in carrier preinstall programs.

Samsung and Google offer the best software upgrade and security patch policies out of all Android phone manufacturers. Both commit to at least three of OS and security updates, and Samsung adds an additional year of periodic security updates on top of that. Pixel owners get automatic day-one software upgrades for new versions of Android, while Galaxy S22 and S22+ owners will have to wait for Samsung or their carrier to send OTA upgrades.

The Best Android Flagship

Without having fully tested the Galaxy S22 and S22+, we can’t yet declare a winner, but competition with the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro looks pretty close when it comes to specs. Check back soon for our reviews of the new Galaxy phones, as well as our pick for the best 2022 Android flagship so far.

Originally published at https://www.pcmag.com.

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