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The best Samsung Galaxy S21 FE alternatives: 5 phones to consider buying

From Apple and Google to Samsung and beyond, here are a few S21 FE alternatives worth looking at.
By
January 9, 2022
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE against plant centered right
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

It’s taken a really long time and some reported delays, but the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE has finally been announced. The phone was originally expected to launch in Q3 2021 before being delayed to January 2022. Samsung’s latest FE model seems like an iterative upgrade over the Galaxy S20 FE, clearly taking an if-it-ain’t-broke approach and offering the same $699 price tag. But what if you want something a little different? Here are some of the best Galaxy S21 FE alternatives you should keep in mind.


The best Galaxy S21 FE alternatives


1. Samsung Galaxy S21

Samsung Galaxy S21 back against wall 1
David Imel / Android Authority

The Samsung Galaxy S22 series is basically around the corner, but the base Galaxy S21 is still one of the best Galaxy S21 FE alternatives. You don’t have to spend $800 on this phone either, as it’s been available for ~$700 these days, lining up well with the new release.

What we thought: Galaxy S21 review — Strength in value

The vanilla Galaxy S21 comes with a Snapdragon 888 SoC (Exynos 2100 outside the US), 120Hz OLED panel, wireless charging, and water resistance. This all matches the Galaxy S21 FE too, but the older phone is also equipped with 8K video recording which is missing from the new phone.

Otherwise, the new phone has a couple of advantages over the old device, such as a proper telephoto camera and a bigger battery. But those looking for an alternative device can do much worse than this.

Samsung Galaxy S21

2. Apple iPhone 13 and 13 Mini

iPhone 13 Pro review showing back in hand
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Like the idea of a sub-$1,000 flagship and lengthy update commitment? Don’t mind switching over from Android? Then the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini are worth considering too.

Apple’s phones generally get five or more years of software support, so you can be confident that you’ll still be getting new features several years down the line. Otherwise, the iPhone 13 and Mini model both offer a powerful A15 processor, IP68 water/dust resistance, wireless charging, dual 12MP rear cameras, and access to a nifty ecosystem.

Our verdict: Apple iPhone 13 review — Powerful pocket pal

There are a couple of downsides to the iPhone 13 and 13 Mini compared to the Galaxy S21 FE, namely the lack of a high refresh rate screen and the lack of a telephoto camera for zoomed-in shots. But these phones still warrant a look.

Apple iPhone 13
Apple iPhone 13 Mini

3. Google Pixel 6

Google Pixel 6 in hand on city street
C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

Google’s vanilla Pixel 6 is one of the best Galaxy S21 FE alternatives not made by Samsung. That’s mainly down to the fact that it costs just $600 in the US, making it cheaper than the Samsung phone. But there’s more to the Pixel than just an alluring price tag.

More reading: Google Pixel 6 review — Worth every penny

The Pixel 6 brings an in-house Tensor chipset that’s similarly powerful as Samsung’s Exynos 2100, a unique, water-resistant design, a 90Hz OLED panel, and a 4,614mAh battery that should deliver long battery life. Other notable features include a 50MP main camera sensor, a 12MP ultrawide lens, and wireless charging.

There are two downsides to the Pixel 6 compared to the Galaxy S21 FE though, namely the lack of a telephoto camera and the slower charging time. Otherwise, a similarly lengthy update commitment is the cherry on a tasty cake.

Google Pixel 6
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4. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE upright front
Hadlee Simons / Android Authority

The Galaxy S20 FE is another phone worth considering, as the Galaxy S21 FE is pretty much just the S20 FE with a horsepower upgrade. Best of all, the older phone has been available for under $550 for several months now.

Aside from the older flagship silicon, the S20 FE shares plenty in common with the new release. That means the same triple rear camera system, selfie camera, 4,500mAh battery with 25W charging speeds, 15W wireless charging speeds, and 120Hz OLED panel. Samsung’s phone also brings an extended update pledge, giving you some peace of mind compared to other phones.

Our thoughts: Samsung Galaxy S20 FE long-term review

The phone even improves upon the newer device by supporting microSD expansion, just in case 128GB or 256GB wasn’t enough for you. Either way, you can’t go wrong with this phone.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

5. OnePlus 9

OnePlus 9 review hero
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

The OnePlus 10 series has already been teased for China, and we’re expecting a wider release in the coming months. But the OnePlus 9 is still worth considering if you’re looking for a powerful phone that won’t break the bank.

Verdict: OnePlus 9 review — Serious business, cheap suit

OnePlus’s early 2021 device packs a Snapdragon 888 SoC, a 120Hz flat OLED screen, and 15W wireless charging — in line with the Galaxy S21 FE. This device also stands out from the Samsung device by offering 65W wired charging and a pretty impressive main and ultrawide camera pairing (48MP + 50MP).

The OnePlus 9 isn’t perfect though, as the Indian variant lacks wireless charging, unlocked variants don’t officially have an IP rating, and the phone packs a piddling 2MP monochrome lens instead of a telephoto camera. We hope that the company brings all the perks to all OnePlus 10 variants, but the older phone is still one of the better Galaxy S21 FE alternatives.


Samsung Galaxy S21 FE alternatives: Honorable mentions

  • Motorola Edge 20 Pro (€699): The Edge 20 Pro isn’t available in the US, unfortunately, but European and Indian consumers should keep an eye on this. Moto’s effort offers nifty features like a 144Hz OLED screen and an 8MP 5X periscope camera. It’s not all great though, as the phone lacks wireless charging, NFC, and proper water resistance, but you should keep it in mind anyway.
  • Motorola Edge 2021 ($699): The Motorola Edge 2021 is another Galaxy S21 FE alternative if you’re in North America, coming in at an identical $700 price tag. Some of the standout features include a 144Hz refresh rate, a clean take on Android, and a 5,000mAh battery. It definitely falls short of the Galaxy S21 FE in many areas though. There’s no wireless charging, it only offers splash resistance, it uses an LCD panel instead of an OLED screen, and it has the mid-range Snapdragon 778G chipset.
  • Samsung Galaxy A52 5G ($499): Another Samsung phone makes the list, and for good reason. The Galaxy A52 5G is $200 cheaper than the S21 FE and indeed sees several compromises, such as a mid-range processor, no wireless charging, and no telephoto camera. But you’re still getting perks like a 120Hz OLED screen, water resistance, and three years of OS updates. Some buyers outside the US also get the Galaxy A52s (£409) with an upgraded processor.
  • Asus Zenfone 8 ($629): 2021’s Zenfone 8 is another great flagship phone that won’t break the bank, and it’s compact too. For under $650, you’re getting a Snapdragon 888 chipset, 5.9-inch 120Hz OLED screen, and a 3.5mm port. Looking for a cheaper flagship that’s smaller than typical phones too? That’s where the Zenfone 8 comes in, bringing a 5.9-inch 120Hz OLED screen, Snapdragon 888 SoC, and water resistance. It does miss out on a telephoto camera and wireless charging, although you surprisingly gain a 3.5mm port.

These are our favorite Galaxy S21 FE alternatives. Not convinced by any of the competition? Then grab yourself a Samsung Galaxy S21 FE via the links below.

Galaxy S21 FE Green Back RGB
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
Samsung's 2021 flagship finally gets a "fan edition"
The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is very similar to the vanilla Galaxy S21. However, it pares things down a bit in order to slash $100 from the MSRP.