The Galaxy S20 FE stood out as one of the best smartphones of 2020. Is the Galaxy S21 FE a worthy successor? Let’s take a closer look.
The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE was one of the best smartphones when it launched — but how does it compare to its recent successor, the Galaxy S21 FE? For all the trials and tribulations that came with 2020, the year saw the release of some truly excellent gadgets. The Galaxy Z Fold 2 was a huge leap forward for folding phones, the Pixel 4a delivered a ton of value for not much money, and the iPhone 12 introduced a gorgeous new design for Apple’s smartphone lineup.
Above all of that, the S20 FE somehow managed to stand out as the most interesting phone of the year. It launched about six months after the regular Galaxy S20, shaved $200 off its retail price, and kept almost all the same specs/features. The result was a package that was virtually impossible to argue with — and one of the best smartphones money could buy. Fast forward to early 2022, and the Galaxy S21 FE is finally here. The latest ‘Fan Edition’ phone has the same $699 price as its predecessor, a refreshed design, and modernized specs. While it’s a solid overall package, it’s also not something S20 FE owners need to rush out and upgrade to this very second.
From the front, the S21 FE and S20 FE are almost indistinguishable. The former has a 6.4-inch display, the latter has a slightly larger 6.5-inch one, and both have a centered hole-punch cutout at the top. The specs for the displays are also very similar — with the phones both using AMOLED panels, 120Hz refresh rates, and Full HD+ resolutions (2340 x 1080 on the S21 FE, and 2400 x 1080 on the S20 FE). Both phones also have aluminum frames with plastic backs, though the aesthetics are different. The Galaxy S21 FE has Samsung’s ‘contour-cut’ camera bump that flows right into the frame — making it more elegant than the traditional camera bump on the S20 FE. The S20 FE has the better color options, coming in red, orange, lavender, mint, navy, and white. Comparatively, the S21 FE only comes in olive, lavender, white, and graphite (aka black).
The S21 FE Is A Small Upgrade Over The S20 FE
Powering the Galaxy S21 FE is Qualcomm’s more recent Snapdragon 888 processor. It’s the successor to the Snapdragon 865 in the Galaxy S20 FE, but it’s a generation old at the time of the S21 FE’s release (since being replaced by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1). Outside of the newer chipset, other specs between the S21 FE and S20 FE are shockingly similar. The phones share a choice between 6 or 8GB of RAM, 128 or 256GB of storage, and a 4,500 mAh battery. Charging options are identical, too. The S21 FE and S20 FE support 25W wired charging, 15W wireless charging, and reverse wireless charging.
Those similarities continue on the camera front. The S21 FE and S20 FE share a 12MP primary camera, a 12MP ultra-wide camera with a 123 ̊ FoV, an 8MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom. The selfie camera is the same, too, being a 32MP sensor on both phones. Other shared specs include an IP68 dust/water resistance rating, dual stereo speakers, and an optical in-screen fingerprint sensor.
At the end of the day, the Galaxy S21 FE really has just three advantages over the S20 FE. Along with the newer Snapdragon 888 processor, it has support for both sub-6 and mmWave 5G (the S20 FE is limited to sub-6). It also ships with Android 12 out of the box and is guaranteed to get software updates for 15 months longer than the S20 FE. That said, the S21 FE lacks support for expandable storage and MST transactions with Samsung Pay — two things the Galaxy S20 FE is capable of. To answer the question in the title of the article: No, most people don’t need to upgrade to the S21 FE from the S20 FE. The newer chipset and longer software support are nice, but it’s largely the same phone as the one it’s replacing. Unless you have $700 burning a hole in your pocket and are looking for a reason to spend it, you’re totally fine holding onto the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE for a while longer.
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