When Samsung launched the Galaxy S20 FE back in 2020, its $700 sticker price felt groundbreaking. We called the phone “fancy but frugal” in our detailed review, as it was arguably the best bargain flagship of its day. Well, it’s funny how things change. Samsung just announced the Galaxy S21 FE, and even with that same $700 price tag, it’s a hard sell in 2022.
Just to be clear, we haven’t had a chance to review the Galaxy S21 FE. We’re sure it’s a great phone—after all, it’s just a repackaged Galaxy S21. Unfortunately, the “repackaged Galaxy S21” angle is exactly what muddles the value here.
Yeah, It’s Basically a Galaxy S21
Samsung is sticking with its old formula for the Galaxy S21 FE release. In other words, it’s a slightly-downgraded, cuter version of the original Galaxy S21. But these phones aren’t completely identical, so it’s important to review their differences before we get into pricing.
Both the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 FE run a Snapdragon 888 chip, pack a 120Hz FHD+ display, support mmWave 5G, and have an IP68 water resistance rating. Even their charging specs are identical, with 25-watt fast charging, 15-watt wireless charging, and support for reverse wireless charging.
As with the original Samsung “Fan Edition” phone, the S21 FE has a slightly larger screen than its older brother—it’s a bulky 6.4 inches instead of 6.2 inches. Samsung also upgraded the S21 FE’s battery a bit, pushing it to 4500mAh instead of 4000mAh, which is quite nice.
But yeah, there are some noticeable downgrades. The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE has the same camera array as its predecessor, the Galaxy S20 FE. That means a 12MP main lens, 12MP ultra-wide, 12MP telephoto, and 32MP selfie camera. If you need a juicy 64MP camera, go buy the original Galaxy S21.
Other downgrades include the under-display fingerprint sensor, which uses optical technology in the Galaxy S21 FE instead of the more accurate ultrasonic tech. And of course, RAM gets cut down a bit. The original Galaxy S21 has 8GB of RAM, while the base model (128GB) Galaxy S21 FE has just 6GB. If you want 8GB of RAM, you need to buy the Galaxy S21 FE with the upgraded 256GB storage configuration for $770.
It’s Time to Talk Pricing
The original Galaxy S21 launched in January of 2021 with a starting price of $800. You know what happens to year-old Samsung phones? They get a lot cheaper—like, more than you’d really expect. We’ve watched the Galaxy S21 fall to around $650 during Amazon sales, carriers regularly offer deals on the phone, and you can get a refurbished model for just over $500 at Walmart.
Now, to be fair, the Galaxy S21 still has an $800 MSRP. But it’s not hard to shop around and get the phone for far less, which makes the downgraded $700 Galaxy S21 FE a hard sell. The incoming Galaxy S22 release also complicates things a bit, as it will lead to a permanent discount for the old Galaxy S21.
And unlike previous years, there’s a lot of competition in the $700 price bracket. Google’s new Pixel 6 flagship costs just $600, for example. The iPhone 13 Mini costs $700, and the OnePlus 9 costs $730.
One last note; if you want a Samsung flagship with a 120Hz display, a large 4500mAh battery, and a camera array that’s identical to the Galaxy S21 FE, there’s always last year’s Galaxy S20 FE! It’s easy to find for under $500!
If Your Carrier Offers a Good Deal, Go For It
While we’re not psyched on the Galaxy S21 FE’s price, carriers are running some limited-time deals that could make the phone a great investment for you. Now, carrier deals often depend on trade-ins, new phone lines, installment plans, and other stuff that may not apply to all customers. But hey, they’re worth looking at anyway, especially if you want a Galaxy S21 FE.
We don’t have details on every carrier deal or discount just yet, but Verizon and AT&T reached out ahead of time to let us know what’s up. These deals go live when the Galaxy S21 FE launches on January 11th.
Verizon Carrier Deals
Verizon customers can save up to $700 on a Galaxy S21 FE when they add a new line to an Unlimited plan or offer a qualifying trade-in device. Additionally, new Verizon customers can get up to $1000 toward a new phone when they switch.
Funny enough, Verizon will take damaged phones for trade-ins. If you’re in need of a new phone today and love the Galaxy S21 FE, which is genuinely a gorgeous device, it may be worth the trouble.
AT&T Carrier Deals
I think AT&T customers are getting the best deal here, to be honest. For a limited time, new and existing AT&T customers can get discounts up to $160 on the S21 FE with a qualifying installment plan. That means you could buy the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE for as low as $540 (or $15 a month).
You can also save money on the S21 FE at AT&T with a qualified trade-in, though the carrier isn’t offering any unusual trade-in bonuses.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE goes on sale January 11th, starting at $700. We’ll update this article with links to purchase it from Samsung or your carrier when such links are available. We’ll also add any deals we find along the way, so bookmark this page (CTRL + D) or join our free newsletter if you want to stay in the loop!