Our first glimpse of the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE surfaced recently thanks to rendered images based on leaked specifications. They reveal that Samsung’s combination of a budget price and high-end specifications could cause problems for rivals Apple and Google.
The renders (via LetsGoDigital and OnLeaks) show us that the new handset will look like most of Samsung’s current lineup that isn’t foldable. There’s a full-screen display, shimmering chassis (plastic instead of the S21 Ultra’s glass) and three cameras on the back with a holepunch selfie snapper on the front.
But the specs offer a glimpse into Samsung’s plans with a rumoured Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or Exynos 2100 chipset, up to 8GB of RAM, and a 6.4-inch high refresh rate AMOLED display. If accurate, this would deliver on Samsung’s promise of high performance at a low cost, which is something the S20 FE largely achieved with a then top-end Snapdragon 865 chip, premium design and excellent camera hardware that borrowed from Samsung’s best.
Where the FE fell down was its persistent touchscreen issues, which appeared to affect thousands of users. Samsung released several updates to solve it, which it did for some but not all. A repair expert I spoke with (check out my video below) said this may be a hardware calibration issue that can’t be completely fixed with software updates. If you’re being generous you could put this down to first generation woes, which is why I generally recommend buying the next device in a new range. The S21 FE could be that phone.
Samsung has form when it comes to perfecting its tech and fixing problems in its second generation of devices. The Fold 2 vastly improved on the conceptually impressive, but fundamentally flawed, original Fold. The S21 Ultra fixed the S20’s long list of problems, especially in the camera department. So I have some faith that the Korean company will follow suit in its second try at the FE.
What stopped me from properly recommending the S20 FE was the touchscreen responsiveness problem, which was a serious slip up. But as an idea, the FE range is a persistent threat to the competition. Google’s Pixel line has long been praised for having the best still photography for a reasonable price, and Apple’s iPhones bring stability alongside top-end photography and a premium user experience. The S21 Ultra beat both phones in those areas, and that’s the first time I’ve said that about a Samsung phone in years.
More than that, the Pixel 5 struggled with a screen gap issue on release and thousands of iPhone 12 owners have complained about their displays having a green tint. In contrast, Samsung’s S21 range hasn’t had any serious problems (yet).
Can Samsung carry that stability and consistency through to the FE? Or, more importantly, can Samsung find a way of including its industry-beating S21 Ultra camera tech – the optical zoom skills in particular – in the FE? If there’s no Note phone this year, then it’s possible. The Korean company’s end of year line-up – the Fold 3, 21 FE and S22 – will be a tantalising prospect for any buyer. But an affordable FE with Samsung’s best camera tech could be irresistible. Before all of that, though, Samsung needs to iron out the previous model’s display problems.