The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE has a problem: its price. Despite this economical alternative to launching the Galaxy S21 at a lower price than its 11-month-old sibling, due to the devaluation of technology over time, the older, more powerful handset is now the cheapest.
As a result, after its debut at CES 2022, responses from tech journalists to the Galaxy S21 FE have been lukewarm; in our test we said “at its introductory price, it’s hard to recommend”. And our sister site Tom’s Guide said, “Samsung should have just canned this one and saved all the fanfare for the Galaxy S22.”
So it’s easy to ignore this afterthought of a smartphone, but there’s actually a way Samsung can save it – and it all comes down to the Galaxy S22, which we plan to launch soon.
A new S22
We were rather impressed with the price of the Samsung Galaxy S21 when it launched, as its cost of $ 799 / £ 769 / AU $ 1,249 was indicative of a larger price drop for the family – the S20 mobiles cost a little more expensive.
This is part of the problem with the Galaxy S21 FE. Its siblings were cheap enough that at its price it wasn’t a cheaper alternative.
But Samsung could fix it all. Depending on the price of the Galaxy S22 phones, the S21 FE might serve better as a budget companion to the new range, instead of the S21 family.
The timing works – it’s basically about throwing alongside them, plus or minus a few weeks.
The difference between specs and features probably isn’t a problem either. Samsung phones typically only have a small update each year, and we don’t expect the S22 devices to be much different from their S21 predecessors. So the S21 FE won’t look much more like a downgrade from the S22 models than its price tag would.
Additionally, the S21 FE also runs Android 12, unlike the S21 family that came with Android 11 (although they can be upgraded now). So in terms of software, the S21 FE is already closer to the S22 than S21 devices.
A rising price
If the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE were positioned as the cheaper sibling of the S22, there would be an obvious and possibly problematic implication: such a move would only work if the Galaxy S22 series were a bit more expensive. We could see a return to the S20’s starting price of $ 999 / £ 899 / AU $ 1,499, or at least at this stage.
That steep price would make the Galaxy S22 a bit more difficult to afford for most average buyers, especially the Plus and Ultra models which would end up costing even more.
This is not only a problem for buyers, but also for Samsung, as the phones would be less tempting than alternatives from competitors like the Xiaomi 12, OnePlus 10, Oppo Find X4 and Realme GT 2, and later also the iPhone 14.
The level of high-end smartphones is competitive, with many powerful phones being marketed at similar prices, and Samsung would be at a great disadvantage if it drastically increased the price of its mobiles.
If Samsung made the starting price of the S22 higher than that of the S21, the S21 FE might seem like a more tempting option, but at the expense of sales and the attractiveness of the S22 models. There’s no perfect answer, but we’ll likely find out what the company’s choice is soon, with the new Samsung Galaxy phones launching around the end of January.