The long-anticipated Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is finally here and it has some big shoes to fill, its predecessor being more than well-received by the Android community. The new phone brings key improvements, but several delays mean it may not be arriving at the best possible time and may struggle to replicate the success of its predecessor.
From killing the flagships to joining them
The idea behind the original “Fan Edition” was to offer a premium set of features and powerful hardware at a lower price point. And although the launch price of the Galaxy S20 FE wasn’t exactly low, it did come down to very reasonable levels, especially the 4G variant.
The new model only comes in 5G flavor, which means that your pushed to spending more even if you don’t value the NR connectivity particularly highly.
We are not saying the Galaxy S21 FE isn’t worthy of its price. After all it has an LTPO high refresh rate OLED display (no granular refresh rate control like the other flagship Samsungs, though), flagship Snapdragon 888 SoC, fast charging, stereo speakers and a well balanced set of cameras including a proper 3x telephoto one. That last bit is often neglected in affordable flagships.
This means the Galaxy S21 FE is positioned more as another flagship and a proper member of the S21 lineup than an undercutting alternative.
The Galaxy S21 FE is in no man’s land
However the Galaxy S21 FE is being released in January of the next year instead of September as its predecessor, which puts it way too close to the launch of the Galaxy S22 series. This means it will face comparisons with the vanilla Galaxy S22 more than the Galaxy S21.
The vanilla Galaxy S21 is a smaller flagship currently available for €120 less than the Fan Edition while the S21+ matches the S21 FE’s price. So unless the upcoming Galaxy S22 costs considerably more than the Fan Edition, it would be quite confusing for someone looking into Samsung’s available flagship offerings.
Sure, there are a couple of advantages the S21 FE has over its siblings. For instance, the Snapdragon 888 version is more widely available so it’s a really nice alternative to anyone looking for a Snapdragon-powered Samsung device. In case you don’t like the Exynos for some reason.
Also, the 3x optical zoom may very well prove to be a better alternative to the S21’s digital zoom, which is not ideal in some cases.
Additionally, Samsung promises significant improvement in photo processing, especially at night, and some neat post-processing tricks such as the object removal tool.
But are those really enough to tip the scales so you won’t get the actual flagships from last year or wait for the upcoming Galaxy S22?
Some fan-favorite features are left out
Despite the price going up, Samsung still uses a plastic back for the smartphone. Sure, the front is protected by Corning’s latest and greatest Gorilla Glass Victus sheet, and you get proper water and dust protection at the €750 price point you’d be forgiven for expecting a glass back. A lesson the Galaxy S21 and S21+ had to learn the hard way.
More importantly, though, the missing microSD card slot will surely disappoint some potential buyers. After all, the Galaxy S20 FE was one of the few remaining smartphones with top notch chipset and a microSD slots and fans liked that.
There might still be hope
While not having the unique positioning and much better timing of its predecessor the Galaxy S21 FE might still be a great smartphone for a lot of people. After all, €750 may not be cheap, but it’s not up there with the most expensive flagships either.
And we know better than to judge a smartphone by the numbers on its specs sheet along – the overall user experience and package is what matters. If Samsung managed to truly optimize its camera or battery life better than the Galaxy S21 in the time it had since their launch, the S21 FE may actually end up a winner even if it isn’t able to match the sales numbers of its predecessor.
So stay tuned for our full review to find out more about the handset’s battery life, camera performance and new software features.