After many troubles and delays, Samsung finally made the Galaxy S21 FE official. On its surface, it's a pretty good phone for $699, but no handset exists in a vacuum. I've been saying for months — since September, in fact — that Samsung should have just canned this one and saved all the fanfare for the Galaxy S22.
When we have excellent phones that offer flagship experiences, like the spectacular Pixel 6, for less than the Galaxy S21 FE, I fail to see a reason why this device should have come to market. Sure, it offers a lot of high-end features for its $699 price point, and that means a lot to a certain segment of smartphone buyers.
But then there's the regular Galaxy S21, which can often be found for less than the S21 FE, depending the available deals. The existence of the new member of the S21 also further muddles the line between Samsung's different offerings, like the Galaxy A52.
Samsung won a lot of good will with the Galaxy S20 FE in 2020. Back then, the Galaxy S20 series was ludicrously expensive and the FE offered most of the same features for $699. We called it a value triumph and it certainly was. But in 2021, Samsung knocked $200 off the Galaxy S21 prices, with the base model starting at $799.
At that, the Galaxy S21 FE lost any reason to exist. I thought any cost-saving measures would hamper the experience to a small degree, and while there's nothing wrong with the phone, you certainly get a better device with the Galaxy S21 for $100 more. A higher resolution telephoto lens and an adaptive display refresh rate on the regular S21 stand out immediately.
My colleague Philip Michaels is handling the Galaxy S21 FE review, but from what I've gathered, you'd be better off either going with the $599 Pixel 6, saving up for (or finding a good deal on) the Galaxy S21, or waiting for the Galaxy S22. The latter is rumored to launch in a month and you can bet there will be good deals on it, both from Samsung and carriers.
Six months ago, the Galaxy S21 FE might have made more sense, but at the start of 2022? This phone shouldn't exist and I think Samsung was foolish to go ahead with it. Not only is it too little too late, but now the Korean phone maker runs the risk of eating into either the S21 FE's or Galaxy S22's sales. In a perfect world, both devices could exist, but now the S21 FE seems like it's just in the way.