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Samsung's new Galaxy S21 FE is here, and it's pretty embarrassing

You should pick up the Pixel 7 or OnePlus 11R instead, or wait for the Nothing Phone 2.

Published onJuly 11, 2023

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE in hand rear profile
Eric Zeman / Android Authority
  • Samsung has launched the refreshed Galaxy S21 FE in India.
  • The new S21 FE features a 2021-era Snapdragon 888 chip and 256GB of base storage.
  • The phone might not get a longer software update pledge.

We’ve been expecting Samsung to re-release the Galaxy S21 FE in India for a while now, and the company has finally made it official this week. And for better or worse (but mostly for worse), it looks like the rumors and teases were true.

Samsung India quietly launched the refreshed Galaxy S21 FE yesterday (July 10), bringing the Snapdragon 888 chipset to the market instead of the original Exynos variant. This model also comes with 256GB of base storage instead of the original device’s 128GB of entry-level storage.

Swapping out one very old chip for another

We’re glad to see 256GB of base storage here, but the decision to swap out the mediocre Exynos 2100 chipset for the similarly mediocre Snapdragon 888 is a disappointing one. The first phones with these chips launched in 2021 and have been surpassed by the likes of the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 and Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SoCs. So if horsepower is a priority for you, there are much better handsets out there.

We also tested the Snapdragon 888 versus the Exynos 2100 back in 2021, finding that the two SoCs offered similar CPU performance. The Snapdragon model delivered better GPU performance and sustained performance, but we also thought the Exynos model delivered better battery life. So the Snapdragon variant isn’t a clear-cut upgrade in all areas.

What else are you getting?

Otherwise, this is the same phone that was released in January 2022. So expect a 6.4-inch FHD+ 120Hz OLED screen, 8GB of RAM, a 4,500mAh battery with wireless charging support, and an IP68 rating. The phone is also equipped with the same flexible triple rear camera system, consisting of a 12MP main shooter, 12MP ultrawide camera, and an 8MP 3x telephoto camera. 

Another major disappointment is that the refreshed S21 FE might not get a significant software update pledge. Samsung customer support noted to us that the phone will only be updated until Android 14. This pledge is compounded by the phone apparently running Android 12. This update info seems odd in light of the fact that the standard S21 FE is in line to get Android 15 or 16. We’ve asked Samsung India PR representatives to confirm an update pledge but have yet to hear back from them. But even an update promise taking it to Android 15 would be disappointing (but not surprising) for a re-released handset.

There are better, more modern phones

Google Pixel 7 white back angled
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
Pixel 7

The new Galaxy S21 FE will set you back Rs 49,999 (~$607). The phone is also available in Graphite, Lavender, Olive, White, and a new Navy color option.

It goes without saying that there’s no shortage of better options in India right now for the price, especially if you don’t care about wireless charging and water resistance. The much cheaper OnePlus 11R (Rs 39,999) is a front-runner in this regard, lacking the aforementioned two features but bringing a superior Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 SoC, a higher resolution screen, a bigger battery with much faster wired charging, and a longer update pledge. Did we mention it was significantly cheaper?

Do you think the new S21 FE is worth buying?

398 votes

Nothing will also launch the Phone 2 in India today, and it’s believed to be cheaper than the re-released S21 FE. The Phone 2 will arrive with the superior Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chip, wireless charging, and a longer update promise.

Value wireless charging and a significant IP rating as part of a well-rounded package? Then the Google Pixel 7 might be the best rival, coming in at Rs 47,999 and bringing a similarly capable processor, an IP68 rating, wireless charging, great image quality, and a lengthy update pledge. 

Toss in other rivals from the likes of Motorola, realme, IQOO, and POCO, and there’s no shortage of strong competition for the new Galaxy S21 FE in India. But at least this release means Samsung can get rid of excess S21 FE stock, right?

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