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Samsung Galaxy S23 vs S22: Which model should you buy?

Samsung's Galaxy S23 series has arrived, but you shouldn't count out last year's S22 just yet. Here are the key differences between the two generations of Galaxy phones.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
Reviewed by Min Shin
The Samsung Galaxy S23 next to the Samsung Galaxy S22.
June Wan/ZDNET

It's February, which means smartphone season is in full swing. Today, Samsung took the wraps off its latest batch of 2023 handsets, aptly named "Galaxy S23". 

With it comes three models with across-the-board improvements, like new camera sensors for day and low-light photography, larger batteries, and even a tailor-made Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 'for Galaxy' mobile platform.

Also: Everything Samsung just announced at Unpacked 2023

And while rumors leading up to Unpacked suggested a potential price bump with the new S23 models, Samsung is sticking to its $799, $999, and $1,199 price tiers, just like last year's S22 series.

So, if you're in the market for a new handset, it seems like a no-brainer to fork up the cash for the latest and greatest, right? Not exactly. In fact, as I'm typing this up, I'm seeing discounts and promotions aplenty on the year-old but just as capable Galaxy S22 devices. For the undecided, I've listed the key reasons to buy one model over the other below.


Samsung Galaxy S23 series

Samsung Galaxy S22 series


6.1-inch, 6.6-inch, 6.8-inch AMOLED with 120Hz (LTPO)

6.1-inch, 6.6-inch, 6.8-inch AMOLED with 120Hz (LTPO)


Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy 

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1

RAM/Storage8GB/12GB with 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB 8GB/12GB with 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Battery3,700, 4,700, 5,000mAh3,500, 4,500, 5,000mAh
Camera200MP wide (Ultra only), 50MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide, 10MP telephoto, 12MP front108MP wide (Ultra only), 50MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide, 10MP telephoto, 10MP telephoto, 10MP front
Connectivity5G (sub-6 GHz and mmWave)5G (sub-6 GHz and mmWave)


Phantom Black, Cream, Green, Lavender

Phantom Black, Phantom White, Burgundy, Green

IP rating

IP68 water and dust resistance

IP68 water and dust resistance

PriceStarting at $799
Starting at $615

You should buy the Samsung Galaxy S23 if...

Holding up the Samsung Galaxy S23, S23+, and S23 Ultra in green.
June Wan/ZDNET

1. You want the most future-proof Galaxy phone

There are several notable improvements to this year's models that genuinely make them worth the splurge if you want a device that will last you for years down the road. For one, the S23 series is among the first to feature Corning's Gorilla Glass Victus 2 displays, giving the phones enough durability to sustain drops of up to one meter on concrete and up to two meters on asphalt surfaces. Let that sink in. The display edges on the S23 Ultra are also less curvy this year, reducing the risk of cracking when bumped from the side.

Then there's Samsung's Android-leading software update policy, which carries over from last year. With the Galaxy S23 series, you can expect a year more of major operating system upgrades and security patches compared to the S22 series, giving you access to the latest Android features for a longer time. All of this is powered by Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chipset that's optimized for greater performance and efficiency, exclusive to the S23 series.

2. You're a photography enthusiast, selfies included

Samsung put most of its focus this year on the S23's cameras, including the first-ever 200MP Isocell image sensor featured in the flagship Ultra model. You're probably not the first (or last) to wonder why that many megapixels are necessary, so here's Samsung's justification: With a 200MP camera, you'll be able to capture significantly more detail and colors than the typical smartphone shooter, especially at night when the higher pixel count helps to rack focus. 

Also: How (and why) to clear the cache on your Android

Features like Night Portrait, which allows you to capture subjects with a dreamy bokeh, are also present in the S23 series, but not the S22. It certainly helps that the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chip comes with a few AI optimizations itself, helping the S23 better define what you capture and how to best portray the image or video.

And for selfie lovers, the standard and Plus variants of the S23 come with an improved 12MP front-facing camera, up from the last year's 10MP sensor. In practice, you're looking at sharper and clearer selfies and can now record Super HDR video at up to 60 frames per second.

3. You're due for an upgrade

This last reason may sound like a cop-out answer because, well, the newest Samsung phone will obviously be the best option if you're due for an upgrade, right? Well, I say that you should buy the S23 if you're in time for an upgrade because carriers and retailers alike will have more aggressive offers to upsell the S23 than last year's S22.

Take last year as an example, carriers were basically offering the highest-end model of the S22 lineup for free, as long as you were under a qualifying data and installment plan and traded in an older phone. Stores like AT&T even opened up their trade-in discounts to cracked devices, giving cheaper phones a valuation of $500 and more. I expect all of that to happen again with this year's S23 models, including the free storage upgrades to spice things up.

You should buy the Samsung Galaxy S22 if...

June Wan/ZDNET

1. A great phone for nearly half off sounds good to you

Retailers have officially filed the S22 series under the clearance aisle, which means you can easily snag a standard, Plus, or Ultra model for significantly less than the original market prices. I'm seeing an S22 for nearly half off as we speak. As is often the case, buying an older model generally means that it won't be in new condition. 

Also: How to trade in your old devices for Amazon gift cards

That's why refurbishing programs like Amazon Renewed come in handy, offering you devices like the S22 in close to pristine condition for hundreds of dollars less. If you don't mind a scuff or two -- sometimes none at all -- then buying an S22 right now makes more financial sense. You're helping the planet, too.

2. You can settle for second best

Hear me out: The best phone on the market may not always be the best phone for you. For example, the new Galaxy S23 Ultra is, on paper, a step up compared to last year's S22 Ultra. But in the grand scheme of things, and taking your mobile use cases into consideration, you'll very likely be just as satisfied with the older model as the new one. In fact, I'd argue that the S22 Ultra offers a good 80% of what the S23 Ultra does, making it one of the better-value smartphones on the market to date.

Alternatives to consider

Open to other smartphone prospects? Consider these ZDNET-recommended devices:

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