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Samsung finally launches the Galaxy S21 FE 5G after months of delays

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE set the stage for an affordable flagship that was missing in the company’s lineup until 2020. Its successor — the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE — has been reported to be under development for more than six months. Now, despite numerous rumors about Samsung ditching the Fan Edition lineup, it is finally launching the Galaxy S21 FE at a precursor event to CES 2022.

No surprises here

As pointed by the umpteen Galaxy S21 FE leaks, the smartphone largely derives its form from the Galaxy S21. Despite Samsung’s efforts to offer much more competitive pricing on its 2021 flagships, the Galaxy S21 couldn’t compete on price relative to its Plus and Ultra siblings. However, the Galaxy S21 FE is much more likely to remedy that issue with a more attractive $699 price as its key selling point, with some variation across carriers.

Other than its price, one thing that makes the Galaxy S21 FE a fairly attractive offering from Samsung is the Snapdragon 888 chipset, which is still powerful despite Qualcomm launching a successor last month. The chipset is bundled with either 6GB or 8GB of RAM and comes with up to 128GB or 256GB of storage. The phone gets 5G support with both sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G networks.

Despite having the same thickness as the Galaxy S21, the Galaxy S21 FE has slightly larger dimensions and a bigger display. The 6.4-inch Full HD+ Dynamic AMOLED display offers a 120Hz refresh rate and 240Hz touch response. The display also houses an in-display optical fingerprint scanner — unlike the much faster ultrasonic sensor on the Galaxy S21 series.

All the hardware we already knew

Besides a bigger display, the Fan Edition phone also comes with a larger, 4,500mAh battery. In addition to the fast wired charging at 25 watts and wireless charging at 15W, the smartphone supports Wireless PowerShare — Samsung’s moniker for reverse wireless charging that will allow you to juice up batteries on wirelessly charging accessories like the Galaxy Buds 2.

When it comes to cameras, the Galaxy S21 FE has an assortment identical to the Galaxy S21. The Fan Edition smartphone retains the 12-megapixel primary wide-angle with an f/1.8 aperture and optical image stabilization (OIS). The 12MP ultrawide-angle camera also appears the same on paper, with an f/2.2 aperture and a slightly wider 123-degree field of view. The tertiary camera on the back is an 8MP telephoto camera that offers 3X optical zoom and up to 30X digital zoom using an f/2.4 lens setup. Samsung is also hailing 30X Space Zoom on the S21 FE, but we don’t expect it to be anywhere close to the striking zoom capabilities of the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s periscope zoom camera. On the front, the Galaxy S21 Ultra sports a 32MP selfie camera with an f/2.2 aperture and an 81-degree wide field of view.

Models and colors

Like the previous generation, Samsung is offering a suite of colorful options for the Galaxy S21 FE to attract young buyers. This time, you get to choose from graphite, lavender, olive, and white  with a “haze” finish, as Samsung dubs it. The company is also marketing a “contour-cut frame” that blends the camera bump seamlessly with the rest of the body. Like its predecessor, the Galaxy S21 FE is also expected to be clad in “glasstic,” which is Samsung’s name for a plastic back that has a glasslike finish. Despite its plastic back, the smartphone offers protection against dust and water with an IP68 rating.

Software

The phone will run the company’s latest version of its custom skin, One UI 4 based on Android 12, right out of the box. One UI 4 gets a host of new features from Android 12, including dynamic theming, improved widgets, a privacy dashboard, and more.

Price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE will be available in the U.S. starting January 11 for a price of $699 for the carrier-unlocked 128GB variant. The 256GB variant will be available for $769.

Verizon is offering a 30-month plan for $23.33 a month, along with up to $700 in trade-in credits. The prices in other regions are unknown at the time of writing, but we will update this story as more details emerge. Meanwhile, AT&T is offering a more affordable $15/month plan for the 128GB and $20/month for the 256GB variant with a 36-month agreement.

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