Samsung Galaxy S21 vs iPhone 12: This is the $800 phone to engage

The fight is surprisingly cease but there’s a sure winner.

iphone 12 galaxy s21


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January has barely begun and we already earn our first heavyweight smartphone battle of 2021. Samsung has launched its lineup of Galaxy S21 phones a bit earlier than standard this year, and it’s sure they’ve Apple’s most modern phone in its sights. Samsung hasn’t reinvented the S21 as unheard of as it’s retooled it to take on the iPhone 12, with a much less expensive designate level, sharper construct, and some unusual digicam techniques. Now that I’ve had a likelihood to ascertain both handsets, here is how the 2 $800 phones stack up.


Samsung’s Galaxy S is frequently at the forefront of Android smartphone construct, and the S21 continues that custom. Samsung has crafted a truly outlandish construct where the metal facets seamlessly blend into the digicam array, as if it had been snapped onto the assist. The assist is fabricated from plastic as a replace of glass, but it surely calm has a top class in fact feel, despite the proven fact that it’s no longer rather as luxurious as the S20.

galaxy s21 colors Samsung

The S21 has a tender coloration palette this year.

Clearly, the iPhone is rarely any walk within the seems division. Apple presented a brand unusual, flatter construct with the iPhone 12 that has a retro charm paying homage to the iPhone 4, and it feels gigantic to preserve up. The square digicam array is nearly an connected to the iPhone 11’s and no longer nearly as outlandish as the S21’s.

The 2 phones are very the same in measurement. The S21 is a minute bit bigger and a bit heavier. On the opposite hand, Samsung has done an out of this world job with distributing the burden on the S21, so it doesn’t in fact feel as heavy as it weighs:

Galaxy S21: 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9mm, 164 grams

iPhone 12: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4mm, 171 grams

Both phones reach in a diversity of colors that most steadily boil all of the manner down to inner most desire, but Samsung’s outlandish construct stands out here as properly. The digicam array is handled as a construct ingredient and is made to stand out with a dauntless metal housing. It’s certainly one of many most outlandish designs Samsung has ever made, and it makes the iPhone 12 watch a bit conventional.

My take: The Galaxy S21


Now that Apple has long gone OLED and Samsung has long gone Stout HD, the iPhone 12 and Galaxy S21 earn very the same shows:

Galaxy S21: 6.2-proceed Flat FHD+ Infinity-O Show (2400×1080), 421ppi, 120Hz

iPhone 12: 6.1-proceed Flat Stout HD+ Tidy Retina XDR (2532×1170), 460ppi, 60Hz

iphone 12 face id Michael Simon/IDG

The iPhone 12 sticks with the notch.

Marketing phrases and tenth-of-an-proceed aside, the fully precise distinction between the 2 shows is the refresh fee. Samsung is all over all yet again the usage of a 120Hz mask on the S21, and this year it’s adaptive, which draw this would perhaps swap dynamically from a high refresh to low, depending on what you’re doing, in narrate to assign battery lifestyles. 

You’re also selecting between a hole or a notch. The iPhone 12 sticks with the rather gigantic notch at the tip of the mask that properties the TrueDepth digicam and sensors for Face ID, while Samsung has a petite hole within the guts for its selfie digicam.

The iPhone 12’s sing is stunning, and due to the the fee of system-on-chip, it feels extraordinarily like a flash. However the S21 takes it a step further with its buttery-gentle scrolling that feels effortless.

My take: Galaxy S21

Processor, RAM, storage, and battery

As standard, both phones characteristic the very most unusual in chip tech. The iPhone uses Apple’s earn A14 Bionic processor, while the S21 sticks with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888. Both phones are extraordinarily like a flash—bigger than the common app will ever need—but all over all yet again, the iPhone takes the crown.

Geekbench 5


Galaxy S21: 1,076/3,223

iPhone 12: 1599/4107


Galaxy S21: 4621

iPhone 12:

3D Sign Wildlife Limitless

Galaxy S21: 5645

iPhone 12:  8659

In phrases of memory, Samsung has dialed assist the RAM a bit from the S20’s ridiculous 12GB, but the 8GB all the draw during the S21 must calm be quite a bit. Apple has fully 4GB within the iPhone 12, but iOS 14’s optimizations originate it seem be pleased there’s unheard of extra. Both phones had been in a position to store dozens of most unusual apps screens and tackle transitions and app switching with out an whisper. Samsung also beats Apple with execrable storage, offering 128GB within the S21 when in contrast with the iPhone 12’s 64GB, although that you may possibly upgrade to 128GB for $50.

galaxt s21 back Michael Simon/IDG

The Galaxy S21 is rarely any longer genuine about seems—it be also certainly one of many quickest Android phones that you may possibly engage.

Battery lifestyles is a bit extra sophisticated. On paper, the S21 boasts a 4,000mAh battery versus the iPhone 12’s 2,815mAh one, but precise-world results would possibly be unheard of extra principal. The iPhone 12’s battery lifestyles bested that of Android phones with nearly twice as unheard of battery ability in 2020 and it outperforms the S21 here too. It is no longer a entire romp although. Both phones did properly to last through a entire day, although I tended to acquire a bit extra juice with the iPhone 12.

In phrases of charging, neither phone involves a charger within the box, although both phones offer like a flash charging with a succesful charger, 20W with the iPhone 12 and 25W with the S21. They both offer 10W wireless charging as properly, and the iPhone also affords MagSafe magnetic charging by blueprint of elective gear.

In assorted locations, both phones earn sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G, and Wi-Fi 6 for like a flash connectivity, as well to IP68 water resistance. The iPhone 12 also has a U1 ultrawide band chip for precise region mapping, but you’ll want to upgrade to certainly one of many more than just a few models (S21+ or S21 Extremely) to acquire that on the S21. Fancy last year, the iPhone 12 has 3D facial recognition, while the S21 has an ultrasonic in-sing fingerprint sensor, which is improved but calm no longer as stable or like a flash as Face ID.

My take: iPhone 12


Rather surprisingly, both Samsung and Apple opted to stick with the same digicam hardware when in contrast with their respective predecessors. Within the S21’s case, the triple-digicam system is an connected to the S20’s, while Apple fully a minute bit upgraded the extensive-angle sensor on the iPhone 12 with a wider aperture (f/1.6 vs f/1.8).

s21 night comp photos Michael Simon/IDG

In murky pictures, the S21 tended to overly brighten pictures so that they lost some ingredient as considered here on this shot. All three phones did extraordinarily properly to lift a extraordinarily murky scene but the S21 (left) uncared for a minute the ingredient that the iPhone 12 (middle) and Pixel 5 (simply) grabbed.

In its place, the enhancements are largely within the assist of the scenes and be pleased Google, Apple has bigger than confirmed its potential to path of stellar pictures. Time after time, the iPhone 12 produced pictures with crisper info, higher coloration, and sharper disagreement, where the S21 customarily overexposed pictures and uncared for some aspects. It is positively subjective and both phones will snap reliably lawful pictures in a snap, but I most smartly-most traditional the iPhone 12 in nearly every occasion, from absorbing to low light.

s21 detail photo comp Michael Simon/IDG

In this shot of a flower, the S21 (left) blew out the colors and ingredient a bit while the iPhone 12 (middle) and Pixel 5 (simply) handled the extra special surrounding light properly.

On the opposite hand, the iPhone 12 doesn’t earn any place cease to the energy of 30X zoom. Genuinely, it doesn’t earn a zoom lens at all, so you’ll want to acquire very cease to your area. That’s no longer something you are going to desire all that customarily, but if you originate, the S21’s telephoto abilities blow away the iPhone 12, which maxes out at 5X. On the opposite hand, except you are planning on taking varied some distance-away pictures, the iPhone 12 is completely the superior shooter.

My take: iPhone 12.

OS and updates

As frequently, you’re getting the most unusual OS with every of these phones—One UI 3.1 in accordance to Android 11 with the S21, and iOS 14 with the iPhone 12—but the lengthy flee isn’t rather as sure. Since the initiating of the Galaxy S20, Samsung has promised all unusual phones will acquire three generations of Android updates, so the S21 is assured to acquire Android 14 when it arrives in 2023. Apple technically affords no such guarantee, but iPhones are on the total supported for five years of upgrades. To illustrate, the iPhone 6s, which launched with iOS 9 in 2016, obtained iOS 14 when it landed in September.

You’re also assured to acquire iOS updates on the day they reach, something that isn’t so distinct with the S21. Whereas monthly security updates land quick, unusual variations of Android customarily take months sooner than they reach on the most unusual phones.

My take: iPhone 12


Samsung and Apple had been competitors for so lengthy as they’ve been making phones, but it surely’s been some time since they’ve had phones that had been such cease competitors. Both phones are impossible and either will carry distinctive fee when in contrast with nearly every competitor. On the opposite hand, if OS to a selected coloration is rarely any longer a ingredient, I would proceed with the iPhone 12, no topic its considerably conventional construct. You may possibly well furthermore simply no longer be unhappy with the S21, but you may possibly well be a bit happier with the iPhone 12. 

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Michael Simon covers all things mobile for PCWorld and Macworld. You may be in a position to on the total earn him with his nostril buried in a mask. Suggestions to suppose at him is on Twitter.

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