Samsung is just a couple weeks away from releasing its next phones, with a Samsung Galaxy Unpacked event slated for February 9 and the new Galaxy S22 flagships expected to headline the event. And if the latest rumors about the Galaxy S22's pricing prove accurate, a big winner could emerge from that phone launch — the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE.
You may remember the FE since it arrived just this month to generally positive if not exactly glowing reviews. The Galaxy S21 FE delivers most of the features you'd expect from a Samsung flagship but at a lower price than the rest of the S21 lineup, making it a viable option for people demanding premium features but shrinking away from sky-high prices.
The problem with the Galaxy S21 FE is that while it's cheaper than the debut price for the standard Galaxy S21, it's not that much cheaper. At $699, the Galaxy S21 FE only costs $100 less than the S21 did when it arrived a year ago. That's a far cry from the $300 price disparity between the Galaxy S20 FE and Galaxy S20, though that was before Samsung lowered flagship prices with the S21 launch.
If you were hoping to see a larger gap between the FE and one of Samsung's flagships, the phone maker may be ready to grant your wish, though probably not in the way you'd like. A rumor surrounding Samsung's upcoming flagships hints at price hikes across the board for the Galaxy S22 lineup. Under this scenario, the Galaxy S22 would start at $899, widening the gap with the Galaxy S21 FE's cost.
To be sure, that's just one rumor involving the price of the Galaxy S22. Other rumors we've heard in the buildup to Samsung's February phone release have suggested no change in pricing, at least for the entry-level models. In the end, the Galaxy S22 might end up debuting at the same $799 price that the S21 did.
Still, let's assume for a moment that the Galaxy S22 prices will go up when those phones arrive in February. Suddenly, the Galaxy S21 FE seems like a much more compelling buy.
Opting for a cheaper phone always requires some trade-offs, and what you'd need to give up should you pick the Galaxy S21 FE over the Galaxy S22 won't be entirely clear until Samsung officially reveals the new flagship. Still, there are enough rumors out there to where we can put together a fairly complete Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S22 comparison to get a sense of the major differences.
The Galaxy S22 figures to have a newer chipset than the S21 FE — either a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 or Exynos 2200 compared to an older-if-still-powerful Snapdragon 888. The Galaxy S22 also figures to have a display with an adaptive refresh rate that adjusts based on your on-screen activity. With the Galaxy S21 FE, you can enjoy a 120Hz refresh rate, but to switch back to the slower 60Hz mode, you've got to manually adjust your screen settings.
The Galaxy S21 FE figures to have a bigger screen and a bigger battery than the Galaxy S22. (Not that the latter helped the Galaxy S21 FE perform well on our battery test.) And both phones will have Android 12 at launch.
But cameras could be the deciding factor as to which Samsung phone is more appealing. The Galaxy S21 FE's cameras already take a step back from what the Galaxy S21 offered, with a less powerful telephoto lens. According to rumors, the Galaxy S22 is in line to get a much sharper 50MP main camera and a telephoto lens with an optical zoom. Both would be big improvements over what the Galaxy S21 FE has to offer.
None of this is to say that the Galaxy S21 FE is a flawed phone. It delivers solid value for its price. The question, though, is how much more will the Galaxy S22 have to offer and will the feature differences justify the price differences between the two Samsung phones? (Whatever that price difference ultimately turns out to be.)
There are some people who are always going to want to get the latest phone, under the theory that newer is usually better. For those folks, a debate over the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S21 FE is going to be over before it starts. But for more price-sensitive shoppers, a lot is going to hinge on just how much Samsung charges for its new phones. Should that $100 price hike rumor pan out, the Galaxy S21 FE could win the debate about which Samsung phone to get, even if it's by default.