Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Galaxy S20 FE: Does reality trump ambition?

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE versus Galaxy S21 Ultra

Recognition: Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Galaxy S20 FE: Does reality trump ambition? 2

Opinion from

Robert Triggs

In the past six months, Samsung has released more flagship smartphones to a wider range of customers than ever before. For the more price-conscious consumer there is the Galaxy S20 FE, which was launched at the end of September 2020 with great success. This more value-oriented pricing strategy was also reflected in the Samsung launch in 2021. The standard model of the Galaxy S21 costs $ 200 less than the 2020 Galaxy S20. Samsung has made some of its newest products quite affordable and has finally embraced the appeal of cheaper flagship phones from Chinese brands.

Then there is the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. A whopping $ 1,199 tech giant with the latest and greatest from Samsung – at a staggering price. Here, too, Samsung has reduced the price of its S21 Ultra to the same price as last year.

Continue reading: Samsung Galaxy S21 Buying Guide – Everything You Need To Know

We don’t know if Samsung’s turn to lower prices is a timely response to the economic impact of COVID-19 or a more concerted effort to rejuvenate declining flagship sales. According to Statista, Samsung’s average quarterly market share has dropped from 21.8% in 2017 to 20.6% in 2020. Over the same period, Oppo and Xiaomi have become increasingly stronger market forces. Not to mention Samsung’s ongoing rivalry with Apple. There has never been a more pressing time for Samsung to make its pricing more attractive.

Samsung is in the process of balancing its desire to broaden the technological framework against the fact that value for money is the largest part of revenue growth in the wireless industry. As a result, there are two different phones available for two very different consumers. But will the reality really outperform ambition in 2021?

Our judgments:

Two phones for two very different customers

After you’ve had some good hands-on time with the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE and Galaxy S21 Ultra, as well as the S21 Plus model, there is not much to choose between these everyday phones. Sending messages, surfing the web, checking emails, and taking a quick picture all work and feel the same whether you’re spending $ 699 or $ 1,199.

Importantly, the S20 FE has the same integration with Samsung’s SmartThings and Dex support (if you’ve shopped into Samsung’s broader ecosystem), wireless charging, IP68 protection, and 5G network support. This corresponds to the more expensive siblings. It’s already running Android 11. Put simply, the S20 Fan Edition is a full-fledged Galaxy S experience, just cheaper. There’s a reason it won our Editor’s Choice Award for Smartphone of 2020.

The tradeoff with generally lower prices is that not much has changed between the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S21. In fact, some downgrades have been made to the newer models to bring the price down, e.g. B. the omission of a microSD card slot and the vanilla model a plastic rear structure. The Galaxy S21 Ultra is the only choice if you’re looking for something from Samsung that really feels new. This is another sign of Samsung’s shift in strategy. The Galaxy S core hardware offering is now large enough to take a break. At least for a generation.

Samsung Galaxy S20 UltraSamsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
display6.5 inch Dynamic AMOLED
Flat FHD +
2,400 x 1,080 at 407 ppi
Adaptive refresh rate of 120 Hz
HDR10 + certified
6.8 inch Dynamic AMOLED
Curved WQHD +
3,200 x 1,440 at 515 ppi
Adaptive refresh rate of 120 Hz
HDR10 + certified
processorQualcomm Snapdragon 865 (5G) or Samsung Exynos 990 (4G)Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or Samsung Exynos 2100
R.A.M.6 GB12 or 16 GB
camp128 or 256 GB128, 256 or 512 GB
MicroSDYes, up to 1 TBNo
battery4,500 mAh
Fast wired and wireless charging
Fast wired and wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging
– Wide angle: 12 MP, 1 / 1.76 “, ƒ / 1.8, 1.8 µm
– Tele: 8 MP, ƒ / 2.4, 1.0 µm
– Ultra wide: 12 MP, ƒ / 2.2, 1.12 µm

Hybrid optical / digital zoom at 3x
“Space Zoom” at 30x

– 32MP sensor, ƒ / 2.2, 0.8 µm

– Wide angle: 108 MP, ƒ / 1.8, 0.8 µm with OIS and phase detection AF
– Tele: 10 MP, ƒ / 2.4, 1.22 µm with OIS, dual-pixel AF and 3x optical zoom
– Tele: 10 MP, ƒ / 4.9, 1.22 µm with OIS, dual-pixel AF and 10x optical zoom
– Ultra wide: 12 MP, ƒ / 2.2, 1.4 µm with dual-pixel AF and 120-degree FoV
– Laser AF sensor

10x optical zoom
100x “Space Zoom”

– 40 MP, ƒ / 2.2, 0.7 µm, with phase-detection AF

Connectivity4G option only
4G / 5G support (below 6 GHz and mmWave)
4G / 5G support (below 6 GHz and mmWave)
S pen supportNoYes
operating systemA user interface 3.1
Android 11 (upgrade)
A user interface 3.1
Android 11
Water resistanceIP68IP68
safetyUltrasonic fingerprint sensor, face unlockUltrasonic fingerprint sensor, face unlock
colourCloud Navy, Cloud Red, Cloud Lavender, Cloud Mint, Cloud White, Cloud Orange128 GB in Phantom Silver and Phantom Black
256 and 512 GB in phantom black
Future colors: Phantom Titanium, Phantom Navy and Phantom Brown
Dimensions and weight74.5 x 159.8 x 8.4 mm
190 g
75.6 x 165.1 x 8.9 mm
229 g

With the exception of the S21 Ultra model, not much has changed from the S20 to the S21.

Cutting-edge performance, time-of-flight cameras, and fancy curved displays are a lovely luxury, but they’re just the right kind of corners that can be cut without consumers noticing too much. While the “average consumer” may not really exist (we all have our own needs and wants from a phone), even the eagle-eyed of us struggle to get a 5 fps boost for our games or the subtle pixel size differences in the Camera quality with next generation hardware. Flagship hardware is already great for most use cases, so price and aesthetic design have become more important. It is no coincidence that the choice of colors has become more diverse in recent years.

With the Galaxy S20 FE, Samsung has reduced the fundamental Galaxy S experience to just $ 699. An impressive feat that makes it harder and harder to justify $ 500 more for the S21 Ultra’s ever-improving features. 80% of the experience for almost half the price is a value proposition that appeals to the common sense of most consumers.

Continue reading: The prices for the Galaxy S21 make this Samsung the most comprehensive offering in years

Value versus ambition that is ahead?

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra versus Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 2

Recognition: Adam Molina / Android Authority

That’s not to say the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra isn’t a great smartphone. It certainly has its fans, me included, and there is a small but healthy market of ultra-avid phone buyers out there. Particularly picky photographers, S Pen enthusiasts, app power users and the most demanding gamers will definitely benefit from the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

In the past few years, ultra-premium phones, not just from Samsung, have faded into the background as technological showcases that most will view from afar. They are no longer a must-have for a generation, and while they often make up a high percentage of enthusiast sales at start-up, the cheaper options tend to be the real sales drivers.

So should Samsung ditch phones like the Galaxy S21 Ultra in favor of an exclusively affordable approach? Definitely not in my opinion.

Technological innovation is critical to the reputation of technology companies. After all, experts love to compare the latest and greatest features from competing companies, such as a camera shootout with Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro Max. We all want to see what is possible on a high-end budget. However, state-of-the-art cell phones also map the roadmap for cheaper models. Wireless charging and 5G components that used to be expensive are much cheaper today, and this ultimately also applies to periscope cameras and the like. Premium innovation is what drives the industry.

The value may be more attractive, but Samsung needs premium innovation for its next generation phones.

Samsung’s current strategy is appropriate, especially given the times we live in. As long as it remains financially viable, I definitely want Samsung to continue reducing its latest technology to the essentials with a Samsung Galaxy S21 Fan Edition model. Of course, lower prices are great. Although the already cheaper version of the Galaxy S21 series may struggle to stand out from the S21 FE compared to last year.

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However, the situation must change again from 2022. The Samsung Galaxy S22 range requires a number of high-end innovations to keep consumers interested. A single generation in which not much changes, but two, would be a worrying sign of stagnation in the company. Fortunately, a balanced but evolving portfolio that spans an inexpensive FE to Ultra should keep most consumers happy.

The reality of a value-driven marketplace may trump technological ambitions in 2021, but I expect consumers will yearn for a return to more aggressive innovation in the next year.

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