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Phones were back at CES 2022 - Here’s what mattered and what’s next

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
(Image credit: Samsung)

It’s been the better part of a decade since CES was a highly relevant launch event for phones, but CES 2022 turned the clock back a bit with a pair of high-profile announcements and a few others that grabbed our attention.

The Galaxy S21 FE was certainly the highlight from a big brand name standpoint, but OnePlus managed to chime in as well and new budget options from Nokia and TCL point to an amazing year for those that don’t want to spend up for flagship phones.

Here’s a look at some of the most intriguing phones announced at CES 2022 and a brief look at what’s coming next.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 

Arguably the biggest phone announcement of CES 2022 was the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE, the follow-up to one of our favorite phones of 2020 and 2021, the Galaxy S20 FE. The phone follows a very similar formula to its successful predecessor representing a slightly scaled-back version of the Galaxy S21 at a more accessible $699 price point. 

Our full review of the Galaxy S21 FE will be coming soon. Early impressions seem positive, however, the phone market is drastically different from early October 2020 when the Galaxy S20 FE launched. Competition in this upper-mid tier flagship range was virtually non-existent at the time. Increased competition from Google, Apple and even OnePlus have changed that. The Pixel 6 at $599 doesn’t have Samsung’s brand cache, but it’s a remarkable device at that price point and Google’s thrown considerable advertising behind it. On top of that, Samsung’s own prices came down. While the Galaxy S20 FE was $300 less than the Galaxy S20, the Galaxy S21 FE is a mere $100 less than the Galaxy S21. 

Naturally, we are already seeing enticing Galaxy S21 FE deals that bring the price down further, but we were really expecting them to be more competitive with the retail price. The final complication for the Galaxy S21 FE is that it was delayed a few months and is only arriving perhaps a month or at most two ahead of the Galaxy S22.

The Galaxy S21 FE may still prove a compelling device with its Snapdragon 888 processor, triple camera array and excellent software support, but it’s going to be an uphill battle for it to repeat the success of the Galaxy S20 FE.

OnePlus 10 Pro

(Image credit: OnePlus)

OnePlus 10 Pro 

The OnePlus 10 Pro would be the biggest phone announcement of CES 2022, but I’m forced to put an asterisk on this one as it is only launching in China at present and OnePlus is still withholding quite a few details regarding the hardware.

In its announcement at CES 2022, OnePlus showed off some new images of the OnePlus 10 Pro that matched up with the previously leaked render. The phone is largely identical to the OnePlus 9 Pro with the exception of the rear camera array which now wraps around to the edge of the phone. It’s very similar to Samsung’s current Contour Cut camera housing design. Overall, it’s definitely an improvement over last year’s bland design, but loses some points for being derivative. 

OnePlus confirmed that the phone features a trio of cameras on the back, a 48MP wide-angle, 50MP ultra-wide and an 8MP telephoto. No further details were offered on them however, which leaves open a wide range of possibilities. 

The phone will naturally be running the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor and features a new adaptive 120Hz AMOLED display. Endurance shouldn’t be an issue with a 5,000mAh battery. And OnePlus continues to dominate the mainstream phone charging realm with 80W wired and 50W wireless charging. 

The OnePlus 10 Pro is the most interesting phone announced at CES 2022, but missing information like pricing, RAM, full camera details and when we can expect the phone to arrive globally make it difficult to get too excited just yet.

Nokia G400

(Image credit: HMD)

Nokia G400 

Nokia? Yes, that’s right, Nokia is still around and while the mighty have certainly fallen, the company behind the modern Nokia brand is still putting out solid devices in the budget realm and the Nokia G400 really caught our eye at CES 2022.

Starting at just $239 it offers 5G, a 6.6-inch 120Hz display, a 48MP primary camera, a 5,000 mAh battery, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Those specs sound like they belong on a phone that costs $600 or more.

Before I have you hunting for the pre-order button assuming this is a pricing mistake by Nokia, there are some trade-offs to get to that price point. The biggest is the Snapdragon 480 processor, we haven’t had a chance to test it out yet, but it’s a safe bet that you won’t be gaming on this phone. The rest of the triple camera array on the rear of the phone isn’t too impressive either with a 5MP ultra-wide and a typically useless 2MP macro lens. 

The phone will launch with Android 12, which is good because while HMD Global promises two years of updates for its phones, it hasn’t been the fastest to get those updates out.

The Nokia G400 isn’t going to be stealing market share away from Samsung anytime soon, but it’s amazing that this is the caliber of phone that you can get for under $250 today.

TCL 30 V 5G

(Image credit: TCL)

TCL 30 V 5G 

While it is still battling for mainstream name recognition in the phone realm, TCL continues to impress with its mid-range and budget offerings. The higher-end 30-series phones aren’t here yet, but the TCL 30 V 5G is an intriguing budget phone arriving on Verizon in the coming weeks. 

TCL didn’t have pricing available yet, but if it stays below $400 it is going to be notable as it features both Verizon’s nationwide 5G and its ultra-wideband mmWave 5G, the latter of which is set to expand greatly this year. 

The 50MP primary wide-angle lens paired with a 5MP ultra-wide and 2MP macro doesn’t sound like a collection that is going to blow anyone away, but TCL made some strides with its camera software last year that gives me hope for that large megapixel primary.

The Snapdragon 480 powering it is probably the biggest concern, but the solid FHD+ resolution for the typically outstanding TCL displays and the premium-looking design all seem like a winner for Verizon customers in the market for a future-proofed budget phone.

Renders of alleged Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra design

(Image credit: @OnLeaks/@Digit.in)

What’s coming next? 

MWC 2022 is scheduled to start on February 28. And while it’s still up in the air whether the in-person event will happen as planned, that won’t stop or slow the phone announcements that are expected at or around MWC.

Samsung hasn’t made any official announcements yet, but based on rumors and past years, the Galaxy S22 launch event should happen sometime head of MWC. Given the recent announcement of the Galaxy S21 FE, it seems likely that Samsung will hold off until February, which would line up with the February 8 Unpacked event prediction from Jon Prosser. While the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22 Plus appear to be somewhat marginal updates, the Galaxy S22 Ultra may be the phone that Galaxy Note fans have been waiting for as it could be redesigned to integrate the S Pen. 

The OnePlus 10 Pro should be the next major device to launch globally after the Galaxy S22, again we have the final design and some of the final specs now. However, pricing is a significant piece of the puzzle for this phone. Given that it will be available in China starting next week it is difficult to project this one, but most expect it in March.

Things get a bit murkier from there, but the iPhone SE 2022 is probably the highest-profile phone that may arrive this spring. The long-awaited update to the iPhone SE (2020) is projected to bring 5G and an A14 Bionic processor to the phone while sticking to the same 4.7-inch display size and its $399 price point. With Apple rumored to be killing the mini line with the iPhone 14, the new iPhone SE will have an even more important role from both a price and size perspective. 

Sean Riley

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.