Samsung Galaxy S21 FE could take place of Galaxy Note 21 — here’s why

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE render
(Image credit: 4RMD)

It's increasingly likely that Samsung won't offer a new Galaxy Note model this year, since the company has hinted as much. What's less clear is which phone replaces the shelved Galaxy Note 21 as Samsung's marquee phone announcement for the second half of 2021.

A prominent leaker thinks he has the answer to that question. And it's probably not the phone you think.

Leaker Evan Blass tweeted today (June 3) that the Galaxy S21 FE was going to be positioned as the follow-up to last year's Galaxy Note 20 models. The S21 FE, you may recall, is the rumored budget version of Samsung's Galaxy S21 flagship that came out earlier this year.

There's certainly plenty of interest in the Galaxy S21 FE, as it promises to deliver a lot of the same features as the Galaxy S21 models, but at a lower price. But as feature-packed as the S21 FE is rumored to be — it'll run on the same Snapdragon 888 chipset as the other S21 phones and likely feature the same adaptive 120Hz display — it doesn't feel like a natural progression from the Note lineup.

The Galaxy Note models are traditionally Samsung's largest and most feature-packed phones. Screen size is less of a concern these days, as more of Samsung's flagship phone boast larger displays. But the dueling feature set could be interesting in that past Galaxy Note releases have always included an S Pen; other Samsung phones have not.

That started to change this spring, when Samsung added S Pen support to the Galaxy S21 Ultra. But the stylus was sold separately and the S21 Ultra is Samsung's most expensive S21 model, with a starting price of $1,199. The Galaxy S21 FE is expected to cost around half of that, and there's been no indication that Samsung is including S Pen support with the lower-cost phone.

Still, Samsung could have plenty of motivation for highlighting the Galaxy S21 FE when it comes out later this year. A subsequent Blass tweet shows first-half sales for the S21 series, and it's not a pretty picture for Samsung. According to Blass' numbers, the newer Samsung phones tallied 70% of the sales recorded by the Galaxy S10 released two years ago. If that figure's accurate, the pressure would certainly be on Samsung to deliver a top-selling device in the second half of 2021, S Pen support or no.

That's what makes the Galaxy S21 FE an appealing candidate. By all accounts, the Galaxy S20 FE performed well last year, as it duplicated many of the Galaxy S20's features, but at a $300 discount from the S20's original price. There likely won't be that much of a price drop between the S21 FE and the S21, but only because Samsung dropped the launch price of that latter phone to $799.

Galaxy Z Fold 3 render

(Image credit: Ben Geskin/@BenGeskin)

Of course, the Galaxy S21 FE isn't the only phone in Samsung's plans for the second half of the year. The phone maker is also rumored to be at work on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3, updated versions of its two foldable phones. The Galaxy Z Fold 3, in particular, could be of interest to Galaxy Note fans, given that one of the chief rumors surrounding that phone is that it will gain S Pen support as well.

Rumors suggest a Samsung Unpacked event in August where all three phones — the Galaxy S21 FE and the two foldable devices — make their debut. That gives Samsung a multi-pronged approach for replacing the Galaxy Note series, with the S21 FE as the more affordable option, and the Galaxy Z Fold 3 as the premium model for productivity-minded users.

We'll have to see how the second half of the year shapes up for Samsung, but it sounds like the phone maker's plans are coming into focus.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.