Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Apple iPhone 13: Which phone offers more value?

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Apple iPhone 13: Which phone offers more value?

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE may not have left a lasting impression on most people as its predecessor the Galaxy S20 FE did, but there’s no denying that it’s still an all-around great phone with some powerful internals. It offers a good set of specs at an accessible price, but it’s not without its flaws. Apple, on the other hand, isn’t shy of slapping a rather huge price tag on the iPhone 13 because of its top-tier specs and premium finish. The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE and Apple iPhone 13 are two very different phones with entirely different ecosystems and a pretty big price difference, but we wanted to see how these two cross paths as you may stumble upon them as viable options to consider, especially as the iPhone enters the second-hand market with a lowered price tag. So let’s take a look at the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Apple iPhone 13 comparison to find out which phone is better to buy?

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Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Apple iPhone 13: Specifications

Before we begin the comparison, let’s take a quick look at the specifications to find out what each of these phones bring to the table:

Specification Samsung Galaxy S21 FE Apple iPhone 13
Build
  • Plastic back
  • Metal frame
  • Aluminum mid-frame
  • Glass front and back
  • “Ceramic Shield” for front glass
Dimensions & Weight
  • 155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9 mm
  • 177 grams
  • 146.7mm x 71.5mm x 7.65mm
  • 174g
Display
  • 6.4-inch FHD+ AMOLED
  • 2340 x 1080
  • 120Hz refresh rate
  • 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED
  • 2,340 x 1,080 resolution
  • 60Hz refresh rate
  • 120Hz touch sampling rate
  • 1300nits peak brightness
  • HDR10
  • True tone display
SoC
  • USA: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
  • International: Exynos 2100
  • Apple A15 Bionic
RAM & Storage
  • 6GB RAM/128GB storage
  • 8GB RAM/256GB storage
  • No microSD card slot
  • 4GB RAM
  • 128GB/256GB/512GB
  • No microSD card slot
Battery & Charging
  • 4,500mAh battery
  • 25W wired fast charging
  • 15W wireless charging
  • 4.5W reverse wireless charging
  • 3,240 mAh
  • Wired charging up to 20W
  • Wireless charging up to 7.5W
  • MagSafe charging up to 15W
Security In-display fingerprint scanner Face ID
Rear Camera(s)
  • Primary: 12MP, f/1.8, 120˚ FoV
  • Wide-angle: 12MP, f/2.2, 123° FoV
  • Telephoto: 8MP, f/2.4, 32˚ FOV
  • Primary: 12MP wide, f/1.6 aperture, 1.6μm
  • Secondary: 12MP ultra-wide, f/2.4 aperture
Front Camera(s) 32MP, f/2.2 12MP TrueDepth camera system
Port(s)
  • USB Type-C
  • No headphone jack
  • Lightning
  • No headphone jack
Audio Stereo speakers Stereo speakers
Connectivity
  • Sub6/mmWave 5G
  • 4G LTE
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/x (dual-band)
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • 5G (sub-6 GHz and mmWave)
  • Gigabit LTE with 4×4 MIMO and LAA
  • Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) with 2×2 MIMO
  • Bluetooth 5.0
Software One UI 4.0/Android 12 iOS 15
Other Features
  • Samsung Pay with NFC
  • IP68 rating
  • Dual physical SIM or Dual eSIM support

It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison (quite literally), so there are bound to be a lot of differences between the two phones. That being said, the specifications table gives us a pretty good idea of what to expect from these devices. Let’s jump into individual sections now to get more details and see which one comes out on top.

Design & Display

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is cheaper and hence it gets slightly less premium build materials. It comes with a polycarbonate back panel and metal frames for the sides. The plastic back doesn’t look bad because Samsung has managed to give the phone a nice coat of paint. The contour cut camera module, as you can see, also blends into the back panel. The Galaxy S21 FE is available to purchase in a bunch of fun pastel colors like Lavender, Olive, White, Graphite, and Navy.

Galaxy S21 FE

Apple’s iPhone 13 comes with a premium finish thanks to the glass and metal build. It features a flat structure overall with curved edges. Design-wise, the iPhone 13 looks almost identical to its predecessor, the iPhone 12. That’s not necessarily bad but we think it’s time for Apple to switch things up a little in the design department. If you are leaning towards buying a thinner and lighter phone, though, then the iPhone 13 is the way to go as it measures 7.65mm in thickness and weighs 174g. In comparison, the Galaxy S21 FE measures 7.9 mm in thickness and weighs 177g. The iPhone 13 is also slightly shorter than the Galaxy S21 FE, making it more comfortable to use with one hand.

Galaxy S21 FE performance

On the durability side, you get an IP68 rating with both phones and they also use fairly durable glass panels on the front to protect the display. You’re missing out on a 3.5mm headphone jack and a microSD card slot on both phones, so no difference there either.

iPhone 13

Samsung’s Galaxy S21 FE, however, has a couple of advantages over Apple’s iPhone 13 in the display department. Firstly, there’s no notch on the Galaxy S21 FE’s display. Samsung moved to a punch-hole cutout for the selfie camera and we think it looks cleaner and less distracting than the iPhone 13’s notch. Yes, Apple has reduced the overall size of the notch over the years, but it still gets in your way. Next up, you get an optical in-display fingerprint scanner on the Galaxy S21 FE, while the iPhone 13 users will have to rely on Face ID for biometric security.

iPhone 13 front

As for the display itself, the Galaxy S21 FE sports a slightly bigger 6.4-inch FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2x panel with support for up to a 120Hz refresh rate. The iPhone 13 sports a 6.1-inch OLED panel that tops out at a 60Hz refresh rate. Both displays are on-par with each other when it comes to overall quality. They both get adequately bright outdoors and show good colors with sharp details.

Internal hardware

Now that we’ve seen how the Galaxy S21 FE and the iPhone 13 compare from the outside, it’s time to see what each of these devices packs inside because that’s what really counts for most people. There’s no shred of doubt that both the Galaxy S21 FE and the iPhone 13 are very capable devices that’ll handle just about any workload you throw at on a day-to-day basis. That being said, there are some noteworthy differences between the two which we’re going to discuss now.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is powered by the Snapdragon 888 or the in-house Exynos 2100 chipset depending on where you buy it from. They are both 5nm chipsets but the Snapdragon variant is known to be better than the Exynos chip on many fronts. Apple’s iPhone 13, on the other hand, is powered by the incredibly powerful A15 Bionic chip under the hood. It’s Apple’s Hexa-core chipset that’s essentially amongst the best when it comes to performance.

The Galaxy S21 FE’s base variant comes with 6GB of RAM and 128GB storage, whereas the iPhone 13 only gets 4GB RAM on the base variant with 128GB storage. This, as you probably already know, isn’t an issue as 4GB RAM is all you need to yield a reliable performance out of the iPhone 13. In case you’re interested, the Galaxy S21 FE can be purchased with up to 8GB RAM and up to 256GB storage. The iPhone 13 tops out at 4GB RAM but you can choose to spend more on additional storage of up to 512GB. You also get a stereo speaker with both phones along with connectivity options including Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, and 5G, so no differences there either.

Moving on to the battery life, the Galaxy S21 FE packs a bigger battery than the iPhone 13. We’re looking at a 4,500 mAh battery inside the Galaxy S21 FE while the iPhone 13 packs a 3,240 mAh unit. You can expect both phones to last you through an entire day of use without any issues. It’s particularly impressive on the iPhone 13’s part and it shows just how power-efficient the A15 Bionic chipset really is. A lot of the credit also goes to Apple’s iOS software, so keep that in mind. When it comes to charging, the Galaxy S21 FE supports up to 25W fast wired charging and 15W wireless charging with reverse charging capabilities. The iPhone 13 also supports up to 23W wired charging and 15W MagSafe wireless charging, but it misses out on the reverse wireless charging feature.

Cameras

As for the optics, Samsung has equipped the Galaxy S21 FE with three cameras at the back —  a 12MP primary camera with an f/1.8 aperture, a 12MP wide-angle with 123° FoV, and an 8MP telephoto lens with 3X optical zoom and OIS support. As we mentioned in our Galaxy S21 FE review, this phone is capable of capturing excellent photos provided there’s good lighting. Colors are sometimes a bit over-saturated, and the low-light performance isn’t the best in the business, but you won’t be disappointed with any photos in general. The 32MP selfie shooter that’s located on the front inside the punch-hole cutout works reliably too.

Galaxy S21 FE cameras

The Galaxy S21 FE’s capable camera system goes against Apple’s iPhone 13 that’s rocking a 12MP primary camera with an f/1.6 aperture along with another 12MP wide-angle camera with 120° FoV. The iPhone 13 gets larger sensors compared to last year’s iPhone 12 and as a result, they pull more light to offer shots in low-light, and the images also have a shallower depth-of-field. The iPhone 13 may not have as many camera sensors as the Galaxy S21 FE, but it’s safe to say that it’s capable of capturing some stunning shots, irrespective of the lighting condition. We couldn’t capture the same set of images from both phones to compare them side-by-side for this article, but we will leave a bunch of camera samples captured using both phones below to give you a better understanding of what to expect from each of them.

iPhone 13 back

Before we move on to the next section, it’s also worth pointing out that the iPhone 13’s “Cinematic mode” also works very well. This particular feature takes advantage of Apple’s A15 Bionic neural engine to produce an artificial bokeh for videos in real-time. You can learn more about it in our full review of the iPhone 13. There’s no equivalent feature on the Galaxy S21 FE but you use it to capture 4K videos at up to 60fps.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE camera samples

Apple iPhone 13 camera samples

Software

Comparing the Android-powered Galaxy S21 FE to Apple’s iOS on the iPhone 13 is like comparing apples to oranges. The difference between the two becomes entirely subjective when it comes to the software. If you are a long-time iOS user then you’d probably lean towards the iPhone 13. Android users, on the other hand, especially the ones who have been using Samsung’s One UI will definitely like the Galaxy S21 FE. If you’re not particularly leaning towards an OS then we’d suggest you put your hardware preferences above the software here. Without getting into too many details, it’s safe to say that there are some obvious fundamental differences between the two operating systems, but both of them get a lot of things right.

The same can be said about the longevity of both software powering these devices. You get Android 12-based One UI 4.0 with the Galaxy S21 FE out of the box and it’s guaranteed to get as many as four major Android OS updates and up to five years of security updates. The iPhone 13 runs iOS 15 out of the box and Apple is also known to keep its phones on the latest software for up to five years.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Apple iPhone 13: Which one should you buy?

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE  may not offer enough to convince an iOS user to switch over to Android but we think it brings a lot of value to the table. It comes with an excellent AMOLED panel with a 120Hz refresh rate as opposed to iPhone’s 60Hz panel. You also get a cleaner-looking display with no notch, a reliable optical in-display fingerprint scanner, flagship-grade chipsets, a bigger battery, and more. All that for a relatively cheaper price makes the Galaxy S21 FE a fantastic option for economical shoppers. But if you’re ready to spend more on a smartphone and have no qualms about using iOS, then the iPhone 13 is undoubtedly a better phone.

The iPhone 13 surges ahead of the Galaxy S21 FE when its superior performance, premium build quality, and impressive battery life are taken into account. Not to mention, it also captures consistently better photos and videos than the Galaxy S21 FE. For those of you who are curious, the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is currently going for around $630 in the US, which is significantly less than the iPhone 13’s $800 price tag. The iPhone 13 becomes even better if you can get it for cheaper, in which situation, the Galaxy S21 FE becomes a much harder sell. The Galaxy S21 FE wasn’t the best deal at launch for $700 but it’s more palatable now and makes it an affordable alternative if you don’t want to enter Apple’s walled garden.

    The iPhone 13 brings the powerful A15 Bionic and a really good main camera along with the usual Apple package of great software and eco-system.
    The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE offers a powerful set of internals and reliable cameras among other things for an excellent price.

So which smartphone are you looking to buy? Let us know by dropping a line in the comments below! Also, be sure to check out our best Galaxy S21 FE deals and the best Apple iPhone 13 deals page to see if you can save some money on your purchase. You can use that savings to pick up one of the best iPhone 13 cases or the best Galaxy S21 FE cases with your purchase to protect them from everyday wear and tear.

About author

Karthik Iyer
Karthik Iyer

Karthik covers PC hardware for XDA Computing. When not at work, you will find him yelling at his monitors while playing video games.

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