Samsung’s Galaxy S21 challenges Apple’s iPhone 12 with a matching price, as well as a cohesive new look, blazing-fast chip and three-camera array.
Samsung recently announced its latest smartphone, the Galaxy S21 and it is an exact price match for Apple’s iPhone 12. This leads to the ability to directly compare the two flagships, albeit at the entry-level. Samsung and Apple each have larger versions with more features and more cameras. Across the board, Samsung has lowered prices of this year’s Galaxy S-series to compete with the iPhone 12, though the iPhone 12 mini goes unchallenged on price.
Apple’s iPhone 12 set a high bar for the competing smartphones that follow. The design refresh brings flat-edges with contrasting, satiny metallic and glossy glass finishes. The cameras saw significantly better low-light performance, which had been one of the weakest aspects of the iPhone previously. Apple’s A14 chip gained even more speed, graphics and neural processing power. The 6.1-inch screen was upgraded to a brighter, more colorful OLED and durability was improved as well, with Ceramic Shield glass the toughest in the industry and the IP68 rating extending to a depth of 6-meters. Not to mention, MagSafe charging and accessories provide a new way to interface with the iPhone. In almost every way imaginable, the iPhone 12 was a big advance over the previous generation, while keeping the same price point.
The Galaxy S21 costs $200 less than the Galaxy S20, while offering greatly improved speed with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip, better image processing, and a more cohesive and beautiful style with the camera array integrated into the design, instead of looking like a separate component. It’s a great phone and presents a strong challenge to Apple’s iPhone 12. Samsung wins by default in the telephoto category, since it includes a 64-megapixel camera that allows up to thirty times digital zoom. The quality of digital zoom is often disappointing, but 64-megapixel is over 5-times as many pixels as the standard 12-megapixel resolution. As a result, shorter range zooming should still provide good quality in outdoor lighting, which is typically where telephoto is used.
In addition to the zoom camera, the Galaxy S21 includes an f/1.8 12-megapixel main camera and an f/2.0 wide-angle at the same resolution. The iPhone 12 matches Samsung’s 12-megapixel resolution on both of its rear cameras, with an f/1.6 main camera and f/2.4 wide-angle. The iPhone 12’s larger aperture allows more light in which may result in better low-light photos but, since computational photography plays such a big role now, the hands-on experience may paint a different picture. Overall, it seems like a pretty close camera match, except for zoom, which is exclusive to Samsung’s phone at this price point.
Samsung & Apple: Processor, Display & More
Design and camera capabilities are often the most interesting part of new smartphones, but a fast processor, bright and sharp display, and other details still matter. Both the Galaxy S21 and the iPhone 12 feature blazing-fast processors that are closely matched. Apple’s A14 is technically faster, but the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 in Samsung’s phone may offer better graphics and neural processing. Either should be satisfyingly crisp and responsive. Both have an all-day battery to power their bright and colorful OLED screens, Samsung’s measuring 6.2-inches and Apple’s at 6.1-inches. Although closely matched on screens, the Galaxy S21 offers an adaptive refresh rate of 48 to 120Hz, resulting in smoother scrolling and better gameplay.
Both phones support 5G, including mmWave and Sub-6 bands. Each has very tough glass, Samsung with Gorilla Glass Victus and Apple with Ceramic Shield, but neither should be dropped in the sand, as they are still glass screens and can be scratched. The greater durability means the screen is more likely to survive a drop with the IP68 rating making both phones water and dust resistant. Apple tested at up to 6-meters, while Samsung tested at 1.5-meters and that may make a difference for anyone using their phone around water.
In general, both phones are fantastic and it is hard to go wrong buying either. However, the deciding factor may come down to which ecosystem the shopper is already invested in. For those that own Apple products, the iPhone 12 will integrate with all of the other devices from Apple so well that it’s hard to choose a competing product, unless it offers quite a bit more. For anyone that has a library of Android apps, the Samsung Galaxy S21 will feel very familiar and work as expected right out of the box.
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