Samsung's $699 Galaxy S21 FE 5G blurs the line between mid-range and flagship phones

Humza

Posts: 999   +169
Staff member
Editor's take: Samsung’s fan-focused version of the Galaxy S-series flagship gives it another excuse to launch into an already saturated market of the company’s own making. Nevertheless, the 10 million S20 FE units that it sold in just over a year since the phone's Q4 2020 release means the strategy is working, and we can expect this variant to be continued for the foreseeable future.

Samsung’s second attempt at tinkering with the latest Galaxy S-series model has taken a couple of extra months this time around, launching at the start of 2022 when rumors on the upcoming S22 Ultra have already started surfacing. This fan-focused variant of the regular S21 packs nearly identical specs and design but wraps them under new color finishes at a lower $699 starting price tag.

With a slightly larger overall profile, the S21 FE 5G comes with a bigger 6.4-inch AMOLED display (vs. 6.2-inch on the S21) with an identical 2,400 x 1,080 resolution and 120Hz refresh rate. It’s powered by the same SD 888 5G chip, albeit paired with 6GB/128GB of RAM (vs. the S21’s 8GB/128GB combo) on the base model.

Another slight downgrade is the Fan Edition’s 8MP telephoto lens in its triple-camera array, which replaces the 64MP sensor of the regular S21. The front camera, however, has been bumped up to a 32MP unit from 10MP.

What Samsung fans are more likely to notice, though, is the lack of microSD expansion. Samsung dropped this feature altogether with the S21 series, but a fan-focused version should have ideally brought it back. Nevertheless, the S21 FE’s bigger 4,500mAh battery, Android 12 with One UI 4 out of the box, and same refined design as the standard flagship are certainly plus points.

Other carried-over features include NFC, IP68 protection and an optical fingerprint scanner. Samsung is launching the S21 FE 5G on January 11 in Olive, Lavender, White and Graphite color finishes.

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QuantumPhysics

Posts: 6,297   +7,227
I can only really denote Android flagships from Android mid-range phones by the cost.

$200-$300 to me is mid-range.

Anything higher than $300 is a flagship.

I think Samsung/Android makers have reached a point of diminishing returns. The cameras are already so good compared to the degradation the photos and videos will take on social media that improving them beyond 12MP doesn't really matter. 4K 60fps video is the standard - and will be degraded to 720p on most social media sharing.

Bigger batteries and better connectivity is really the only way to go until newer, more sophisticated technology comes to market.

Back in 2018, I bought a Stylo and a Samsung J6 as gifts. I was very impressed by the feature set at that time. However, I still prefer the stronger build and long-term support on Apple. The XS Max and the 12 Pro Max were solid, long-lasting devices. Now, thankfully, we have 1TB options for the internal storage - which should suffice for years.
 

madboyv1

Posts: 1,767   +668
If the storage is that low (128GB/256GB), it really needs an SD card. I can go through that storage in a few months
When I got my S20FE (also 128GB storage) I was not aware about the lack of an microSD slot until after it came home with me... if it was not for the fact that I got it for $350 (and not the $750 for the 5G Verizon version) I would have returned the phone for a proper S20. The phone itself works great and I actually really like that it is not an all glass encasement, but knowing what I know now unless future Galaxy FE phones have at least 256GB, I probably won't get another one.
 

Theinsanegamer

Posts: 3,327   +5,530
Since when is $700 "mid range"? That is squarely in flagship territory. It's also a rediculous price for asomethign without a SD card slot and a sealed battery.

It's obvious why they do this, trying to push you to cloud storage that they can charge you good money for. They shoudl be offering 512/1TB options if there is no SD card, this is the one thing apple gets mostly right (getting it right completely would involve having a SD card slot).
 

Humza

Posts: 999   +169
Staff member
When I got my S20FE (also 128GB storage) I was not aware about the lack of an microSD slot until after it came home with me... if it was not for the fact that I got it for $350 (and not the $750 for the 5G Verizon version) I would have returned the phone for a proper S20. The phone itself works great and I actually really like that it is not an all glass encasement, but knowing what I know now unless future Galaxy FE phones have at least 256GB, I probably won't get another one.
S20 FE doesn't have a dedicated slot, but you can put a microSD card (up to 1TB) in the sim tray, right? That still puts it ahead of the S21 FE, which doesn't have any support at all
 

Theinsanegamer

Posts: 3,327   +5,530
S20 FE doesn't have a dedicated slot, but you can put a microSD card (up to 1TB) in the sim tray, right? That still puts it ahead of the S21 FE, which doesn't have any support at all
Yes S20 FE has it on the opposite side of the sim tray.

What even is the last phone with a dedicated SD card slot? Last one I remember is my droid 2 from...2008?
 

madboyv1

Posts: 1,767   +668
Wow, When I called Verizon and then Samsung Care to confirm back in 2020, they flat out told me no and I left it at that... I have been entirely bamboozled!

I checked my sim slot and there indeed is an indent that says mSD on it, and I didn't notice it before, I thought it was just a backplate to keep the sim card in a specific place. :eek: Thank you @Humza and @Theinsanegamer for making me look again, now I have to either find my old mSD card, or just buy a new one and give it a go.

My opinion of the S20FE has gone up three places this day, and it makes it even more disappointing of the fact that the 21FE won't have one, much like it's other S21 cousins or the yet to be released S22 phones. If anything, this back to back layout is great, taking less space than side by side or a separate slot entirely.
 

nismo91

Posts: 1,204   +242
128gb is seriously lacking these days. let's take a trip down memory lane in Q4 2019 where you can purchase a real flagship S10+ 6/128GB for 699. if you're the savvy type you can also save $100 and get regular S10 or even smaller S10e which is nice.

2 years have passed and for the same money you get..... same 6/128gb configuration, but this time it's not a real flagship, nor it has a microsd slot. I mean microsd may sound like the past, but it a cheap and easy way to bump your storage. you just need 40 bucks for 256gb of storage.

samsung today: no 3.5mm jack, no microsd slot, no charger - all at higher asking price... sounds familiar?