iPhone 12 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 FE: Which of these cut-price flagships wins?

    iPhone 12 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 FE: If you have less than Rs. 60,000 to spend on one of these, which one should you pick?
    By AMRITANSHU MUKHERJEE
    | Updated on Jan 20 2022, 07:54 PM IST
    iPhone 12 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 FE: Both phones are currently selling for less than  <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>60,000.
    iPhone 12 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 FE: Both phones are currently selling for less than 60,000. (HT Tech)
    iPhone 12 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 FE: Both phones are currently selling for less than  <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>60,000.
    iPhone 12 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 FE: Both phones are currently selling for less than 60,000. (HT Tech)

    Ever since the iPhone 13 hit the shelves, the iPhone 12 ended up as the best value iPhone, as well as one of the most solid smartphones around Rs. 60,000. Carrying an almost identical design to the iPhone 13, and still having enough performance to run almost anything you can throw at it right now flawlessly. It has even got good cameras and a decent battery life. Hence, for less than 60,000, this seems to be a perfect phone for everyone, right?

    Samsung does not agree and for those who don’t want to be a part of Apple’s walled garden, it comes up with the Galaxy S21 FE. Starting at 54,999, the Galaxy S21 FE takes mega cues from last year’s flagship Galaxy S21. We reviewed it recently and were left fairly impressed. It has got a great display, nice cameras, strong performance and decent battery life. Sounds almost the same as the iPhone 12, doesn’t it?

    Hence, if you are neutral to both Android and iOS platforms, what do you do? Which one you choose? We help you find out.

    iPhone 12 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 FE

    Design & Build

    Apple and Samsung have different ideas about designing a cut-price flagship phone. The iPhone 12 was Apple’s top offering for 2020-2021 and hence, had absolutely the best build quality Apple could throw at it. Hence, even in 2022, the iPhone 12 holds it supremacy with a fantastic glass-metal body. The bold boxy design is unique and is an attention magnet. That said, the iPhone 12 was the last outing for Apple’s bulbous display notch and even to this day, it looks ugly.

    Apple iPhone 12
    Apple iPhone 12 (Robin Sinha/HT Tech)
    Apple iPhone 12
    Apple iPhone 12 (Robin Sinha/HT Tech)

    On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE was conceived as a cut-price flagship right from the get go. And hence, the cost cutting is evident in its design. While it resembles the Galaxy S21, it ditches its intricate attention to detail and goes for a rather simple design. The rear is made up of plastic instead of glass and Samsung’s overall choice of colours is limited. That said, the phone is more comfortable to use and at the front, it wears lesser bezels and a tiny camera cutout instead of a bulbous and intrusive notch.

    Display

    No competition here! The Galaxy S21 FE is the clear winner, with a far superior 6.4-inch FHD+ AMOLED display having a refresh rate of 120Hz. That’s not to say the iPhone 12’s display is sub-par – you still get a bright and sharp OLED display that supports Dolby Atmos content. The 60Hz refresh rate is a let-down though. 

    Performance

    Both the iPhone 12 and the Galaxy S21 FE rely on last generation chipsets from respective manufacturers. The iPhone 12 is still among the fastest smartphones you can buy despite using the Apple A14 Bionic from 2020. Samsung, meanwhile, uses the Exynos 2100 to power the Galaxy S21 FE, which is still second fastest chip Samsung makes for mobile phones. 

    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (Amritanshu / HT Tech)
    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (Amritanshu / HT Tech)

    Obviously, the Android vs iOS debate comes up here, and it is only a matter of personal preference. Whichever one you choose, both are fast, capable, and easy to use. Samsung’s One UI 4 is the most polished and feature-rich iteration of Android we have seen so far, whereas iOS 15 in its current avatar is stable, secure and offers a reliable experience. Note that Apple is likely to offer five more years of OS updates and support, whereas Samsung will limit it to three years of OS updates and four years of security patches. 

    Security measures

    The iPhone 12 uses Apple’s Face ID system for biometric verification purposes to unlock itself. Samsung relies on an optical in-display fingerprint scanner for the same. Even though stats suggest the facial recognition to be safer, both are secure and provide for fast ways to unlock. 

    Cameras

    Both the iPhone 12 and Galaxy S21 FE have proven themselves to be hold extremely capable cameras. However, it is the Galaxy S21 FE that offers more versatility with an extra telephoto camera offering 3X optical magnification alongside the 12MP main and 12MP ultra-wide cameras. The iPhone 12 has to make do with a 12MP main and a 12MP ultra-wide camera.

    Apple iPhone 12
    Apple iPhone 12 (Apple)
    Apple iPhone 12
    Apple iPhone 12 (Apple)

    When it comes to the front camera, the iPhone 12 has a slight edge with its 12MP TrueDepth camera system that uses the IR sensors to get better subject cutouts in portrait mode. The Galaxy S21 FE’s 32MP camera is slouch but it falls a tad behind the iPhone 12’s overall camera performance.

    Battery

    Based on our reviews of the iPhone 12 and Galaxy S21 FE, we arrived at the conclusion that both phones feature a single-day battery life. The Samsung S21 FE supports a faster 25W charging standard but its bigger 4500mAh battery takes almost the same time to fill up as the iPhone 12’s battery via Apple’s 20W charger. Both of them support 15W wireless charging but it is the Samsung phone that can do reverse wireless charging.

    Conclusion

    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (Amritanshu / HT Tech)
    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (Amritanshu / HT Tech)

    So, iPhone 12 or the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE? As someone who has reviewed both of these, they are impressive in their own ways. The Galaxy S21 FE excels with a brilliant display, a versatile camera setup, and a feature-rich user experience. The iPhone 12, on the other hand, has striking design, reliable cameras, decent battery life, and reliable software support. 

    That said, it comes down to the Android vs iOS thing – if you have stuck with Android phones in the past, going for the Samsung S21 FE makes more sense. iPhone loyalists should opt for the iPhone 12 in a similar way. 

    That said, if you don’t have a OS preference, here’s our recommendation:

    • Buy the iPhone 12 if you seek longevity, a secure ecosystem, reliable cameras and effortless performance.
    • Buy the Galaxy S21 FE if you prioritise display quality, great cameras, and a feature-rich Android experience.

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    First Published Date: 20 Jan, 04:57 PM IST
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