Samsung’s struggle to bring the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE to market is well documented. A phone that was supposed to launch somewhere in mid-2021, got launched in early 2022.
While many have pointed out that this is likely to put the Galaxy S21 FE in direct competition with Samsung’s Galaxy S22 phones, there is also the smaller case of the iPhone 13, which was launched a few months back.
Even if Samsung ends up competing with itself, it may have created an attractive alternative to the market leader. Let’s take a look at how the two phones compare, starting with the all-important price point.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs iPhone 13 Price and Availability
The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE hit stores on January 7, 2022, almost a year after the rest of the Galaxy S21 family. It was a bit slow, to say the least.
Prices start at £699 / $699 / AU$999 for the 6GB RAM / 128GB storage model, rising to £749 / $769.99 / AU$1,099 for the 8GB RAM and 256GB storage model.
The iPhone 13 landed several months ago on September 24, 2021. Prices start at $799 / £799 / AU$1,349 for the 128GB model, increasing to $899 / £879 / AU$1,519 for the 256GB and $1099 / £1079 / AU$1,869 for the 256GB model. For 512GB.
We called the Galaxy S21 FE “very expensive” in our review, but it’s still $100/£100 cheaper than the iPhone 13. what gives?
The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE sticks with the Galaxy S21’s core design language, exemplified by the ‘contour cut’ camera module that melts into the side of the device.
Unfortunately, that shared DNA also includes the use of a ‘Glasstic’ body, which makes it look a lot cheaper than the iPhone 13.
The iPhone 13 also takes its flat-edged design from its predecessor, in this case the iPhone 12. It was a much more premium-feeling phone than the Galaxy S21, however, with a flat aluminum frame sandwiched with glass surfaces.
One area where the Galaxy S21 FE looks better than the iPhone 13 is its display notch, which is of the much more minor hole-punch kind. Apple may have reduced the slab-like notch of the iPhone 13 by 20%, but it’s still a bit irritating.
On the other hand, while Apple’s phone lets you securely unlock it with a glance, the Galaxy S21 FE relies on tried-and-tested fingerprint authentication.
Despite the difference in materials used, both phones are IP68-certified, so they’re equally dust- and water-resistant.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is the largest device at 155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9mm. In contrast, the iPhone 13 measures just 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.65mm.
However, at 177g for the Galaxy S21 FE and 174g for the iPhone 13 they’re pretty much the same weight. This reflects the more premium material used in the Apple device.
When it comes to colours, the Galaxy S21 FE comes in White, Graphite (Black), Lavender (Pink), and Olive (Green). The iPhone 13 offers Pink, Blue, Midnight, Starlight and Product Red. Neither range is particularly wide, or is all that eye-catching.
Overall, the design allows for the iPhone 13’s more premium materials and compact form. That said, if you’re not a fan of sharp angles and flat edges, the Galaxy S21 FE’s more curved design may be more to your liking.
Both of these phones have vibrant, bright AMOLED displays, but it is the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE that wins here.
At 6.4 inches, it’s significantly larger than the iPhone 13’s 6.1-inch screen. In contrast, the iPhone 13’s display is sharper, with 460ppi pixel density compared to Samsung’s 401ppi.
But what really wins the Galaxy S21 FE is its 120Hz refresh rate. It feels noticeably less fluid when scrolling through web pages and flicking between home screens, with the iPhone 13 screen stuck at 60Hz.
Our iPhone 13 review called such a feature “nice, rather than inevitable,” but it’s hard to go back after sampling 120Hz.
It’s also worth reiterating that fundamental difference in the display notch approach, as it means that landscape media content is less obstructed on the Galaxy S21 FE.
Don’t get us wrong, both of these screens are excellent. But Samsung’s display mastery is in full display here, offering a better screen for less money.
We called the Galaxy S21 FE’s screen its “strong suit” in our review. Price difference aside, this just might be its only big win over the iPhone 13.
The Galaxy S21 FE has a triple-camera system compared to the dual-camera system of the iPhone 13. The fact that Samsung’s phone has a dedicated telephoto camera represents its only win in the camera department, and it’s relatively minor.
Both systems are led by a 12MP wide sensor, and both also give you 12MP ultra-wide. Samsung tops this with an 8MP telephoto, which offers the ability to shoot 1.1x optical and 3x hybrid zoom shots. The iPhone 13 has to be cropped for its zoomed shots.
In terms of general image quality, however, the iPhone 13 wipes the floor with the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE.
While the Samsung actually captures larger pixels than the iPhone 13 (1.8μm vs 1.7μm), the iPhone has a much wider aperture (f/1.6 vs f/1.8).
But the real hardware advantage for Apple here lies in its Sensor Shift OIS technology, which was brought over from the iPhone 12 Pro Max. This stabilization system is more advanced than the Galaxy S21 FE’s regular OIS, and with Apple’s improved algorithms, it can capture much better Night Mode shots.
Plus, Apple’s image processing results in more balanced shots with more natural lighting. Regarding Samsung’s approach, our reviewer said that “it’s clear the brand’s visual optimization software has never heard of oversaturation”.
The Galaxy S21 FE’s shots are bright and clear, not to mention particularly social media-ready, but the iPhone 13’s shots are just more nuanced and ‘as seen’.
Both the phones do an admirable job of evening out their tone in each camera module. This means your shots will look roughly the same, whether shooting at wide or ultra-wide (or telephoto in Samsung’s case).
There are a lot of camera features to explore with both the camera systems. The iPhone 13 gives you photographic style, which lets you radically change the tone of your shots without that fake filter look. If you want, you can also give them the look of Samsung.
Samsung gives you a single take, which captures brief snippets of five to 15 seconds and then extracts the best still and video footage from it. Meanwhile, dual recording allows you to record video on the rear and front cameras at the same time.
Glasses & Display
Apple has dominated its Android rivals on the performance front for years, so it’s no surprise to learn that the iPhone 13 outpaces the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE for pure power.
When it launched the iPhone 13, Apple claimed that its six-core A15 Bionic processor was 50% faster than the Android competition. While the Galaxy S21 FE wasn’t around at the time, it was most certainly powered by the Snapdragon 888.
In our own CPU and GPU benchmarking tests, Apple’s A15 Bionic beats the Snapdragon 888 by a healthy margin.
Not that it really matters much in practical terms, with both phones feeling as crisp and sharp in the hand as you might expect. High-end games run fluidly at the highest settings in both cases, and general navigation is a pleasure.
In fact, the Galaxy S21 FE may feel the faster of the two given its 120Hz display, even if its processor is more limited.
If you’ve discovered a sense of disappointment with the Galaxy S21 FE’s performance, it has nothing to do with the actual experience of using it. Rather, it’s because the Snapdragon 888 is the chip of tomorrow, with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 now rolling out to high-end Android phones.
In contrast, the iPhone 13 will remain one of Apple’s fastest performers — and one of the fastest phones on the market — deep into 2022. Given the iPhone 13’s large headroom, as well as Apple’s legendary legacy support, it’s likely to feel fast. Tall.
When it comes to storage, both phones start at 128GB and double up to 256GB. But the iPhone 13 also comes in a 512GB variant – although as already said, you’ll have to pay a lot for the privilege.
These are two 5G-ready phones, so they’re ready for the fastest mobile data speeds available in your area.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE gives you a 4,500mAh battery, while the iPhone 13 is shown to pack in a 3,240mAh cell.
However, due to the inherent differences between iOS and Android, as well as Apple’s tight grip on both software and hardware, such direct capability comparisons are pretty much meaningless.
In short, Apple can draw more stamina from its phones than Samsung, which allows it to use the smaller battery. In fact, the battery life of the iPhone 13 is much better than that of the Galaxy S21 FE.
With the iPhone 13, we found we’d usually have 20% left with at the end of an intense day of use. On the other hand, with the Galaxy S21 FE, our reviewer found that “heavy usage ensured that we had to charge early in the evening to keep the mobile running till the next morning”.
No phone is close to best-in-class when it comes to recharging. The iPhone 13 supports 20W, while the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE supports 25W charging.
Given that the likes of OnePlus, Oppo and Xiaomi often fit their phones in…