At long last, Samsung has announced the long-awaited Galaxy S21 FE. The phone arrives as a cheaper version of its 2021 flagship, the Galaxy S21. There are a lot of affordable flagship phones at the moment, and the competition is pretty stiff as there are several good options to choose from, one of which is the Google Pixel 6.

Google surprised many people when it announced the Pixel 6 in Oct. 2021 at a retail price of just $599. That price makes it an easy pick for those who want a flagship Pixel phone that won't put a hole in the pocket. While it has some tradeoffs compared to the Pixel 6 Pro, they both have the same processor, primary camera and ultrawide-angle camera. With the launch of the Galaxy S21 FE, which costs $100 more, the question of which one of the two to buy arises.

The Galaxy S21 FE and the Pixel 6 have strikingly different designs, at least on the back. On the front, they both rock a 6.4-inch AMOLED display with a centered punch hole for the front-facing camera. However, the rear takes a different turn, with Samsung opting for vertically arranged triple cameras and Google going for a horizontal camera bar that houses two sensors. The materials are different too — Gorilla Glass on both sides of the Pixel 6, while the Galaxy S21 FE has Gorilla Glass in front and a plastic back. However, both have a metal alloy frame and an IP68 rating. Both devices are available in attractive colors, but Samsung has the advantage of providing more color options to choose from.

A Tough Battle

The Galaxy S21 FE comes in four colors

The display is where the difference starts. Samsung's Galaxy S21 FE wins in this department as its screen has a 120Hz refresh rate, and while it is not the LTPO type, it is still smoother than the 90Hz display of the Pixel 6. It also bests it in some areas in the camera department, such as its 8MP telephoto camera that provides 3x optical zoom and up to 30x Space Zoom. There is also a 32MP selfie camera on the Galaxy S21 FE. On the other hand, the Pixel 6's 50MP primary rear camera is sharper and captures more light than the 12MP one on the Galaxy S21 FE. Its camera software has features such as Magic Eraser, which is also pretty impressive. However, its 12MP ultrawide angle camera has a smaller field of view than Samsung's phone.

Google's phone packs the bigger battery capacity at 4614mAh against the 4500mAh capacity inside the Galaxy S21 FE. It also charges faster, at least wirelessly (21W against 15W), but on the wired side, Samsung's phone should charge faster even though its 25W rating is lower than Google's 30W charging. This is because the Pixel 6 can only draw a maximum of 21W from the 30W Google Adapter (purchased separately). Buyers also don't get a charger in the box of the Galaxy S21 FE. Both phones have an in-display fingerprint scanner, stereo speakers, NFC and support only sub-6 5G networks. Both Google and Samsung ship their phones with Android 12, but the interface is different as the Galaxy S21 FE rocks the custom One UI 4 skin on top.

The Snapdragon 888 in Samsung's phone and the Tensor chipset in the Pixel 6 both offer impressive performance. The former is paired with 6GB/8GB of RAM and 128GB or 256GB of storage depending on the region, while the Pixel 6 has 8GB of RAM and 128GB or 256GB of storage. At $599, the Pixel 6 has a better primary camera packed with useful software features, a bigger battery, faster wireless charging, and more RAM. It is also likely to be gotten for less from carriers and official stores since it has been available for a few months now. Samsung offers a smoother display, an additional and valuable third rear camera, and slightly faster wired charging, but there is less RAM even though it costs $100 more. The good news is that Samsung has great trade-in offers, so those who take advantage of that may not be bothered about the higher price.