To kick off the year, Samsung and OnePlus revealed the first phones of 2022 at CES in Las Vegas. We also expect the typical annual updates from Samsung, Apple, Google, and others in 2022. However, we will not see any more unique LG phones now that it is out of the smartphone market.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is available to purchase starting tomorrow, with the OnePlus 10 Pro first launching in China and a broader release not yet announced. Next up is likely the Galaxy S22 series, followed by rumors of a Pixel 6a possibly appearing in the next couple of months. Samsung will likely reveal a Z Flip 4 and Z Fold 4 later in the year, along with Apple's iPhone 14 and Google's Pixel 7 series.
No matter when they may launch, we can expect to see the following phones in 2022. There also remain rumors of a foldable Google Pixel, as well as several flagship phones from Chinese manufacturers (Huawei, Xiaomi, Honor, and Oppo).
Samsung's more affordable Fan Edition
Galaxy S21 FE
The Galaxy S21 FE was just announced the first week of January at CES in Las Vegas. It was designed to bring most of the flagship features from the S21 series to a less premium package at a more affordable price. The S21 Plus has similar specifications and a price of $999.99. The S21 FE 5G starts at $699.99 so it is more affordable at first glance.
A Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor powers the S21 FE 5G with a lovely display, Android 12, 6/8GB or RAM, 128/256GB of internal storage, three rear cameras, a 32MP front-facing camera, and a large 4,500 mAh battery. It is a very capable phone, but there is also stiff competition from the likes of Google, TCL, and Motorola in the mid-range market segment so even $699.99 may be too high of a price, but let's see how things shake out.
Stay tuned to ZDNet as we continue testing the new phone as we work on our full review going live in January 2022.
OnePlus' next flagship
OnePlus 10 Pro 5G
OnePlus released the 9 Pro last year as its first phone with its Hasselblad camera partnership. At that time, the partnership was primarily focused on the camera software with no Hasselblad influence in the hardware. It was a fantastic smartphone in 2021 and offered an experience similar to the Galaxy S21, but without all of the Samsung bloatware and UI tweaks.
At CES 2022, OnePlus revealed the OnePlus 10 Pro 5G with an initial launch scheduled for the Chinese market. Timing and pricing for a North American release have not yet been revealed but will be later in 2022.
The OnePlus 10 Pro will have a second-generation Hasselblad camera app for the device with an improved Pro mode, 150-degree ultra-wide camera, and more. It will sport the newest Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, with 12GB of RAM and up to 256GB of internal storage. A 6.7-inch 120Hz display will be present with OxygenOS 12 based on Android 12.
Fast charging is a staple of OnePlus and this new model will support 80W fast charging where its 5,000 mAh battery can be charged from 1-100% in just 32 minutes. It will also be available in Volcanic Black and Emerald Forest.
Samsung's latest flagships
Galaxy S22 Series
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra was arguably one of the best phones of 2021 and remains one of the best smartphones available today. No other phone matches its telephoto capabilities and Samsung is likely to continue improving with upgrades with internal specifications that power the experiences.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra supports the S Pen and future S series phones are likely to continue that trend as the Note series gets left behind. The S22 Ultra may even sport a silo for the S Pen, essentially serving as the new Note.
In 2021, Samsung launched the S21 series at a price $200 less than the starting price of the S20 series from 2020. It would be great to see that trend continue as it gets harder to improve on today's smartphones other than with minor upgrades to the processors and cameras.
Apple's affordable iPhone
Apple iPhone SE (2022 edition)
A couple of years ago Apple released its second-generation Apple iPhone SE and this phone seems to be on a less frequent two-year upgrade cycle. The iPhone SE is Apple's most affordable option and a great way to get people into the Apple ecosystem with a smaller version that uses older technology.
The Apple iPhone SE (2020) model started at just $399 and with an Apple Watch SE a person can enjoy the fruits of the Apple ecosystem for an affordable price. Rumors indicate the 2022 version of the iPhone SE may support 5G, have the iPhone 13 processor, and possibly support Face ID. Apple also now has the iPhone 13 Mini in the lineup so the iPhone SE may not have all of the latest features to keep price and feature differentiation between it and the mini version.
Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Galaxy Z Fold 4
Samsung is the leader in foldable phone tech and hit it out of the ballpark with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 last year. S Pen support, IPx8 water resistance, and more made it the perfect productivity device. The cameras were the same as the Z Fold 2 so we expect significant improvements in the cameras in the Z Fold 4. S Pen support for the outside cover display would also be a welcome addition.
While the Z Fold 3 is my daily driver and a fantastic phone, the star of the foldable show in 2021 was clearly the Z Flip 3. Samsung significantly improved the cover display and hardware while adding water resistance. In addition, a launch price of just under $1,000 saw people jump at the chance to own the Z Flip 3. Continued hardware tweaks and possibly a slightly lower price should see heavy adoption of the Z Flip 4 in 2022.
Samsung is clearly the leader in foldable and continues to set the bar for any manufacturers considering foldables in 2022.
Pixel 6a and Pixel 7
Google released its Pixel 6 and 6 Pro phones in late 2021 with its own Tensor processor and advanced imaging algorithms. The phones were competitively priced, but Google continues to respond to some issues with cellular radios and updates.
Rumors indicate that Google will follow up its Pixel 5a with the 6a that is modeled after the Pixel 6 new form factor and cylon-esque back camera bar. If it is released, the 6a will likely have a mid-range processor with fewer premium materials and a price in the sub-$500 range.
It's too early for much speculation on the Pixel 7 running Android 13, but Google will most likely stick with its own Tensor processor and other Android optimized experiences.
iPhone 14 series
Apple released four new phones, with its iPhone 13 series in September 2021. Thankfully, the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max had the same incredible camera systems with the display and battery size being the only differences between these premium iPhones. The iPhone 13 and 13 mini were also released in 2021.
In typical Apple fashion, we will see the iPhone 14 series appear at the end of the summer with current rumors indicating a possible change to the front-facing camera and large block of sensors that has always taken away some of the viewable display areas on the iPhone. A possible hole-punch design, similar to Samsung's approach to the front-facing camera, is possible.
The processor will be the Apple A16 Bionic with hopefully a similarly long battery life that we see with the iPhone 13. It is also possible that Apple will finally make the move to USB-C for charging the iPhone, but I think it is still too early for Apple to shift to a fully wireless charging solution.