The two affordable Android flagships
Who said new flagship smartphones must cost $1,000? Samsung and Google each released flagship phone series within the past 10 months that offer a base model starting at as low as $599. And while both the Samsung Galaxy S22 and Google Pixel 6 aren’t as feature-packed as their more premium siblings, they are still flagship phones in the most conventional sense because they bring the most up-to-date processing power, latest software features , and really good displays and main cameras to boot.
And while Google’s $599 pricing for the Pixel 6 was a significantly better deal than the $799 launch price of the Galaxy S22 a few months ago, Samsung’s device has since seen a price cut to $699, so only a single Benjamin separates these two devices. Spoiler alert: both phones are great, but each has its strengths and weaknesses. We’ll go over them here so hopefully, your purchase decision will be easier.
The entry level series in Samsung’s 2022 flagship line, the S22 may not be ultra or even a plus, but it still brings a brilliant screen, top-end SoC, and strong camera performance across the board.
The Google Pixel 6 is in many ways a much better value than the Google Pixel 6 Pro because it brings the same SoC and main camera as the Pro model, while running on the same software too.
Navigate this article:
Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Google Pixel 6: Specifications
|Specifications||Samsung Galaxy S22||Google Pixel 6|
|Dimensions & Weight||
|RAM & Storage|
|Battery & Charging||
|Security||Ultrasonic in-display fingerprint scanner||Optical in-display fingerprint scanner|
|audio||stereo speakers||stereo speakers|
|Software||OneUI 4.3 over Android 12||Android 12|
|Other Features||Dual physical SIM||Single SIM|
Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Google Pixel 6: Design and Hardware
Both the Galaxy S22 and Pixel 6 can be considered small phones by 2022 standards, but the former is definitely more petite thanks to its 146 x 70.6 x 7.6 mm dimensions and overall weight of just 168g. The Pixel 6 is a bit taller, wider, and thicker (158.6 x 74.8 x 8.9 mm). But truth be told, because the Pixel 6 has a more rounded design, it doesn’t feel noticeably bigger in the hand (at least not in my adult male hands). It’s actually the Pixel 6’s increased heft (207g) that feels noticeable compared to the compact S22.
The differing dimensions result in different screen sizes, of course: the Galaxy S22 offers a 6.1-inch OLED screen to the Pixel 6’s 6.4-inch OLED panel. While Google’s screen is bigger, Samsung’s screen is flat out superior in every other way: Samsung’s OLED panel gets noticeably brighter (up to 1,300 nits), and packs more pixels per inch (this doesn’t really matter much in real-world use, to be honest), and has a higher refresh rate of 120Hz compared to the Pixel 6’s 90Hz (this does matter in real-world usage).
I want to make it clear: the Pixel 6’s screen is good! But Samsung’s critically acclaimed “Super AMOLED” panel technology is great.
The construction of both phones is very good, but the Galaxy S22 feels a bit more sturdy and hefty because it uses an iPhone 12/13-like flat boxy design which means when you hold the phone, you feel the aluminum sides more than the Pixel 6, whose curvy front and back means there’s less aluminum railing to hold onto. Google also applied this soft frosted coating to the Pixel 6’s glass back which makes it feel less like glass and almost plasticky. I prefer the in-hand feel of the curvy Pixel 6, but the Galaxy S22 feels like it’s better built to survive a drop.
Visually striking camera modules take up major chunks of each device’s backside — the Galaxy S22 has an island with one side blending into the aluminum chassis, while the Pixel 6 has a large visor that sticks out quite a bit from the back and stretches the width of the phone.
The Galaxy S22’s camera system consists of a 50MP, f/1.8 main camera, 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide, and a 10MP f/2.4 3x telephoto zoom lens, as well as a 10MP f/2.2 front-facing camera around the front . The Pixel 6, meanwhile, sports a 50MP f/1.9 main camera and a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide on its main module. On the front is an 8MP f/2.0 selfie camera.
Going strictly by hardware, the Galaxy S22 has superior camera hardware, in particular a dedicated 3x zoom lens that’s pretty good. The Pixel’s lack of a zoom lens means any type of zoom is a digital crop of a normal photo. But Google has a major trick up its sleeve — on-device computational photography courtesy of Tensor, an SoC custom-built by Google to run in the Pixel. Tensor is designed for machine learning tasks, so any type of camera shots that require some software trickery, like night mode photos to bokeh shots will appear a bit better in the Pixel 6. But the Galaxy S22’s superior hardware can’t be denied, as Samsung’s shots zoom shots are significantly better and ultra-wide photos a bit sharper too. For video performance we’d have to give an edge to the Galaxy S22 too, whose videos are less noisy at night, and with slightly better stabilization.
As mentioned, the Google Pixel 6 runs on Google’s own custom Tensor chip; the Galaxy S22, meanwhile, runs on either Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 or Exynos 2200 depending on the region. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is powerful silicon that’s a bit better than Tensor at basic smartphone things like launching apps in a timely manner or pushing graphics-intensive apps. But Tensor is a smarter chip, offering the best voice dictation. We’ll talk a bit more about this later in the performance section. The Exynos 2200 chip, however, is not as strong a performer, as XDA’s Adam Conway found in his Galaxy S22 Exynos testing.
If your region’s Galaxy S22 runs on a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, then know that the silicon performance is neck-and-neck with the Pixel 6, but if your Samsung region uses an Exynos chip, then the Tensor is a better performer.
The Galaxy S22 packs a 3,700 mAh cell to the Pixel 6’s 4,614 mAh battery and it’s a clear win for the Pixel 6. The Galaxy S22 is a phone that won’t be able to last a full day for most people, while the Pixel 6 will. Neither phone comes with a charger, but the Pixel 6 is capable of charging a bit faster at 30W than the S22’s 25W.
Both phones offer stereo speakers, IP68 water- and dust-resistance ratings, excellent haptics, Gorilla Glass Victus protection for the display, and 5G support for most bands. For those who care — no headphone jack for either phone too.
Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Google Pixel 6: Software and Performance
Both phones run Android 12, but obviously, with the Pixel being Google’s own baby, the Pixel 6’s Android 12 is the true version. And while the Pixel 6’s software brings lots of wonderful touches like a customizable color scheme, lively animations, and awesome machine learning tricks like the ability to passively identify a song playing near you, Samsung’s take on Android can just do more. For one, the Pixel 6 can only multi-task in split-screen mode, with two apps opened in a grid. Samsung’s OneUI brand of Android offers that same split-screen method plus the ability to open apps in a floating window.
OneUI also features things like Secure Folder, which allows the user to set up a sub-section of their phones to hide apps and photos, as well as Samsung DeX — the ability to run a Windows-like UI to an external monitor. The Pixel has no such features.
But the Pixel has the aforementioned best-in-class voice dictation. The Pixel 6’s voice dictation is so good, in fact, that it allows me to peck away at my phone screen less often. When I’m using a Pixel 6, I often will just use voice dictation to type text messages. No other phone’s voice dictation works well enough for me to even bother trying this.
In terms of day-to-day performance, both phones are fine (remember, I tested the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 model), and unless you’re a heavy user who needs to play Genshin Impact nonstop or render multi-track 4K/60 videos, neither phone will disappoint you. The biggest complaint I have in terms of performance for each phone is the sub-par battery life for the Galaxy S22 and the slow in-display fingerprint reader for the Pixel 6.
Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Google Pixel 6: Which phone is for you?
So, if you’re keeping score at home, the Galaxy S22 has a better display, slightly better overall camera performance, and software that’s more suitable for productivity. The Google Pixel 6, meanwhile, has a much better battery life, a “smarter” camera in specific scenarios that require heavy software processing, and the best voice dictation in the industry.
Processing power depends on region: if we’re comparing the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 version of the S22 to the Pixel 6, then I’d call it a tie; if it’s the Exynos variant, then the Pixel 6 picks up a win here too.
Before the Galaxy S22’s price drop, I would have given an easy recommendation of the Pixel 6 over Samsung’s phone, because $200 is a big gap between two strong devices quite close in performance and target audience. But now that there’s only a $100 gap between the two, then it’s closer — plus Samsung often has deals for its phones, including this one. Anyone who intends to do work on their phone (even if it’s something as simple as reading and e-signing some contracts or make edits in Google Docs) would find the Galaxy S22 a bit more capable due to its ability to connect to open apps in a floating window or output a desktop-like UI to an external display. But the Google Pixel 6 is a more “fun” and “personal” phone in my opinion. I adore the whimsical UI, the smoother animations, and little touches like being able to erase unwanted background objects from photos directly within Google’s Photo app (a feature only available for the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro). The longer battery life and uncanny voice dictation also makes my experiences a bit more enjoyable. This is a close one, but I’d give a slight win to the Pixel 6.