As 2022 comes to a close, we look ahead to what smartphones are likely coming at the start of 2023. The next most obvious major phone launch is the Samsung Galaxy S23, coming sometime in late January or early February, if the rumors about the upcoming flagship's launch are to be believed.
Yet, this time last year, we had begun to expect another Samsung smartphone that would debut before the Galaxy S22 arrived in February. The $699 Galaxy S21 FE launched to lukewarm reception in January 2022. It was a phone no one needed considering the $799 Galaxy S22 arrived a month later, and the excellent Galaxy A series followed soon thereafter.
That reception was quite a change from how the Galaxy S20 FE had been received. That phone earned its popularity because of the market at the time of its release. Not only did it show up in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, but Samsung had released the Galaxy S20 series with astronomical price tags — the base model Galaxy S20 started at an eye-watering $999, while the Galaxy S20 Ultra ran $1,399. Utter insanity.
A Fan Edition no longer needed
So a Galaxy S20 FE model with most of the same features for $300 less than the regular S20 was practically a godsend for Samsung fans. The so-called Fan Edition, a callback to the Galaxy Note 7 FE, showed that Samsung had learned its lesson, one it carried through to the Galaxy S21. That lineup started at a much more reasonable $799, a full $200 less than the S20's starting price.
When rumors about the Galaxy S21 FE started swirling last year, I expressed skepticism and disdain. While the Galaxy S20 FE was a revelation in many respects, the Galaxy S21 FE would come out in a different world — one where Samsung had figured out its mistake while simultaneously beefing up its midrange Galaxy A lineup.
For example, the Galaxy A71 was effectively a slight step down from the Galaxy S21. It never launched in the U.S. since Samsung wanted to encourage Galaxy S20 FE sales. But the Galaxy A51 was a great mid-range device, which Samsung followed up with the even better Galaxy A52. (This phone gave the current Android mid-range king at the time, the Pixel 5a, a serious run for its money.)
All these improvements to the midrange Galaxy A phones meant the Galaxy S21 FE had no room to flourish, not when you could get the Galaxy S22 for just $100 more. That extra $100 bought you a slew of better features like a faster processor, stronger cameras, and serious display improvements. The Galaxy S21 FE paled in comparison.
Let's hope the Galaxy S22 FE is dead
Fast forwarding to now, we've heard nothing substantial about a so-called Galaxy S22 FE. Samsung phones often leak copiously, especially close to launch. The fact that we don't have any concrete evidence that Samsung is even testing a Galaxy S22 FE is rather telling.
Good riddance, I say. We don't need a Galaxy S22 FE. The Galaxy S22 is already a great deal at $799, even better if you find a good sale on it. I don't expect Samsung to change its pricing structure next year since Apple kept its same one for the iPhone 14. That means the Galaxy S23 will likely start at $799.
Samsung's hubris with the Galaxy S21 FE is not lost on me, but I think the company has learned yet another lesson. People didn't like the Galaxy S20 FE just because it was cheap. They liked it because it was evidence that Samsung had admitted fault with the Galaxy S20's pricing.
The tone-deaf Galaxy S21 FE showed that Samsung paid attention to the wrong thing when looking at the Galaxy S20 FE's success. And it appears to have paid off as well as I thought (without having access to Samsung's sales figures).
Galaxy S22 FE outlook
I'm all for smartphone buyers having great choices to find the best bang for their buck. It's why I love the Pixel 6a and Pixel 7 as much as I do, two extremely affordable phones that offer some of the best Android experiences you can get today.
And I expect next year's Galaxy A phones to continue to impress given how strongly the Galaxy A53 performed this year. With the rumored improvements to the Galaxy S23 series, Samsung is set to have a compelling and streamlined product portfolio for the 2023. A Galaxy S22 FE would just introduce clutter and potentially confuse customers. (After all, the "FE" moniker doesn't mean anything to the average consumer.)
I'm glad that there seems to be no indication that a Galaxy S22 FE is on the horizon. Choice is a wonderful thing, but too many choices leads to paralysis. Samsung would do well to keep its smartphone offerings slimmed down, letting each device shine on its own without too much clutter — and clutter is the only thing the Galaxy S22 FE would add to the mix.