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Samsung Galaxy S21 FE tipped to debut with Android 12 — why that’s a big deal

Unofficial renders of the front and back of the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE, showing all four rumored color options (Black, White, Lavender and green)
(Image credit: Roland Quandt/WinFuture)

It seems that the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE’s troubled development process — which encompassed two rumored cancellations and a whole lot of delays — may have a positive side effect should the phone arrives as expected in January.

SamMobile claims to have got hold of the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE’s firmware, and the upcoming device runs Samsung’s new One UI 4.0 built on Android 12. That means that out of the box the software experience will be the same as the original Samsung Galaxy S21, which started receiving the Android 12 and One UI 4.0 update back in November

Obviously having immediate access to Android 12 is a positive in its own right, given it brings along useful features like the new Privacy Dashboard as well as the Material You design language (albeit slightly toned down by One UI.) 

But there’s another perk with the Galaxy S21 FE running Android 12: it could mean the phone gets Android 13, 14 and 15, too. 

When the Galaxy Note 20 launched back in August 2020, Samsung pledged that select phones would receive a guaranteed three generations of Android updates. While the word “select” is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that sentence, the phrase “upcoming S series devices” was explicitly included in the list of handsets covered.

That’s also probably good news for owners of handsets from the existing Samsung Galaxy S21 family. Although the S21 has already received one of its promised three OS updates, it’s hard to believe Samsung would cut it off at Android 14 if the S21 FE is getting the next generation. After all, the phones are rumored to use largely the same hardware, right down to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset — if the S21 FE can run it, then so can the S21.

The Galaxy S21 FE is expected to launch in January, just a month ahead of the Galaxy S22. That would worry me if I were a Samsung executive. Like the Galaxy S20 FE before it, the S21 FE is thought to be a less expensive version of the S21 flagship that sacrifices some of that phone's higher-end features for its lower price. Even though one rumor suggests a much higher price than fans had been hoping for. Alleged specs for the phone have now leaked for the Galaxy S21 FE and we've also pulled together a list of the 5 biggest upgrades we expect on the Galaxy S21 FE, if you want to know more about it.

While it’s tempting to wonder whether the S21 FE will slip again, all the signs point to this release date being met this time. Earlier this week, official cases appeared on a British retailer site, and the phone also appeared on Samsung’s UAE site before hurriedly being taken down again. 

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.