Samsung has just unveiled the Galaxy S21 series which will sit as a direct competitor to Apple’s iPhone 12 range. If you’re on the hunt for a new phone for 2021, chances are these two will be on your radar.
While there will be those who are so deep into Apple’s ecosystem that the thought of buying an Android phone wouldn’t even begin to build, or those who have dived right into Samsung’s ever-expanding product line, many are open about switching operating systems when a tempting new device comes along.
Both the Samsung Galaxy S21 and iPhone 12 are enticing devices, with a strong focus on camera and performance along with various larger (and smaller) versions for those who want something a little different.
Here we’ll delve into what sets these phones apart and where they’re similar.
Pricing and availability – How do the iPhone 12 and Galaxy S20 compare in price?
The Samsung Galaxy S21 starts at £769/$799. This is a minor reduction over the outgoing Galaxy S20, at least in the UK, which launched at £799 in March 2020. By launching at £769, Samsung undercuts Apple’s iPhone 12 in the UK at least as Apple’s phone retails for £799/$799.
There are other models available though if you’re looking for a different display size or more power. The starting RRP of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is £1149/$1199, while the Samsung S21 Plus will cost from £949/$999 upwards.
In terms of iPhone 12 models, you’ve got the iPhone 12 Mini at £699/$699, iPhone 12 Pro at £999/$999 and iPhone 12 Pro Max at £1099/$1099.
All the iPhone 12 models are available now, with the Galaxy S21 following on January 29.
Design and display
These two phones are drastically different in their approach to design, even though they both have rather notable facelifts from their predecessors.
Let’s start with the iPhone 12, as this is the one we’ve spent the most time with. Apple finally retired the aged design we’ve had since the iPhone 6 with this new model, replacing those rounded sides with a flat finish. It looks great, and the smaller-sized versions (basically everything but the Max) are a pleasure to grip onto for extended periods.
If you go for the regular iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Mini, you have matte sides and a glossy glass back, while the Pro model switches them around. There’s a nice selection of pastel colours too, and some darker, moodier options for the Pro.
Apple’s iPhone 12 range is also big on variety. There’s the 5.4-inch Mini, 6.1-inch 12 and Pro and 6.7-inch Pro Max. No other phone range offers this variety of sizes and we appreciate having a small option. All the iPhone 12 models are IP68, have Lightning ports for charging, Face ID for biometric unlocking and OLED panels with proper HDR support.
There are three models in the S21 line and each has a similar look. This year, Samsung has made the camera module more seamless with the design, blending it in via the metal rim. It looks striking and rather futuristic.
There are big differences, though. For instance, the S21 has a plastic back, whereas the other two models are glass. The S21 Ultra also has a far bigger camera array and a curved display – the displays on the S21 and S21 Plus are both flat.
One big feature you’ll find on the S21 series but not on the iPhone 12 is a 120Hz display. A faster screen gives you smoother scrolling, more responsive gaming and a generally faster feel. The iPhone 12, with its 60Hz panel, feels lacking in comparison.
Performance and camera
Whatever iPhone 12 or Samsung Galaxy S21 model you choose, you’ll be getting a seriously nippy chipset powering the phone. The iPhone 12 series runs an A14 Bionic, while the S21 packs the Snapdragon 888 (USA) or the Exynos 2100 (UK). These both have 5G modems and while we haven’t reviewed the S21 yet, we expect these chipsets to be very capable.
Storage options vary by model, with the iPhone 12 and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra going all the way up to 512GB. Plump for cheapest versions and you’ll get 64GB on the iPhone 12 and 128GB on the Galaxy S21. Samsung has ditched expandable storage from the range, something you’ve never been able to find on the iPhone.
In terms of battery life we’ll have to save judgement until we’ve properly tested the Galaxy S21, however we have been impressed with the endurance of the iPhone 12 series even if we’d like to get a little more juice from the dinky 12 Mini. All of these phones ditch the charger from the box, support wireless and fast wired charging.
All of the iPhone 12 models have 12MP cameras, with the iPhone 12/Mini having a duo of them while the Pro models add a tele camera into the mix. You’ll find a much bigger main sensor on the iPhone 12 Pro Max though and the snaps here the best of the bunch.
You can read all the latest round of Apple cameras in our iPhone 12 review, iPhone 12 Pro review and iPhone 12 Pro Max review.
On the Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus you’ve got a very similar setup to the outgoing S2o models. That’s a 12MP wide, 12MP ultra wide and 64MP tele. 8K video is supported too, with the iPhone 12 maxing out at 4K.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra has possibly the most interesting camera array of the bunch, with four distinct sensors. See the chart below for a closer look.
|Model||Rear wide||Rear ultra wide||Rear Tele 1||Rear Tele 2||Front||Video|
|Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra||108MP, OIS, f/1.8||12MP, f/2.2||10MP 3x zoom, OIS, f/2.4||10MP 10x zoom, OIS, f/4.9||40MP||8K, Single Take 2.0, Directors View|
We’ll bring you full reviews of the cameras on these phones soon.
Related: Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S21 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy S21 vs iPhone 12 – Early Verdict
While it’s too soon to judge the Galaxy S21 line, we do know that it has the specs and starting price to really take on the iPhone 12. This might be a toned-down S-series flagship when compared to recent years, however many of the sacrifices could be worth it considering the overall qualities remain.