In this clash between Samsung Galaxy S21 Vs iPhone 12, we pit the two smartphone giants against each other to see which is the best smartphone you can buy. The iPhone 12 has already established itself as a strong competitor, with its OLED screen, powerful A14 Bionic processor, and camera upgrades.
But Samsung has not accepted this problem with the launch of its new Galaxy S21 flagships. The Galaxy S21 is one of the best Android phones available right now, featuring Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 888 CPU, a beautiful display with a high refresh rate, and some of Samsung’s best camera deals.
This is a fierce battle with the two phones performing strongly. The ultimate winner comes down to what works best for you, Android or iOS. Either way, you’re getting extremely capable phones here.
Where one phone does well, the other isn’t far behind. Both are great devices – here’s how this clash between Samsung Galaxy S21 and iPhone 12 stands out. (To see how the larger phones from the two manufacturers compare, we also have a comparison between the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and the iPhone 12 Pro Max.)
But to make that choice clearer and a little easier, we’ve compared these two flagships in all the key areas from design and display to the camera, battery life, specs, features, and price so you can make up your mind. which – if any – to buy.
Pricing And Availability For Samsung Galaxy S21 Vs iPhone 12
At first glance, the Samsung Galaxy S21 and iPhone 12 seem similarly priced. After all, the Galaxy S21 starts at $799/£769/AU$1,249, while the iPhone 12 starts at $799/£799/AU$1,349.
For that money, however, you get 128GB of storage with the Samsung Galaxy S21, but only 64GB with the iPhone 12. For a 128GB model of the iPhone 12, you’ll have to pay $849 / £849 / AU$1,429.
So the Samsung Galaxy S21 is the cheapest and arguably the best value proposition, especially when you factor in the camera’s extra lens.
As for availability, the two phones are now on sale. The Galaxy S21 was unveiled in January 2021, while the iPhone 12 was unveiled in October 2020. Don’t expect any significant price discounts on the iPhone 13 until later this year or the Galaxy S22 in early 2022.
Current best deals for Samsung Galaxy S21 and Apple iPhone 12
Samsung Galaxy S21 Vs iPhone 12 Design
The Samsung Galaxy S21 is a premium smartphone, but it doesn’t have most of the premium versions. It’s coated with “Glasstic,” which is an elegant way of saying plastic that looks like glass.
Still, it feels like the piece, and in our review, we found that the matte finish made it feel quite premium too – if not a perfect match for glass. There’s no real compromise on the front of the device, though, where you get a full-screen design with a selfie-sharpening camera.
The iPhone 12 has a glass back, though, so it looks just as expensive as it looks, but on the front, there’s the typical Big Apple notch.
In terms of dimensions and weight, the Samsung Galaxy S21 comes in at 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9mm and 172g, while the iPhone 12 has 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4mm and 164g. So the two phones are similar in size and weight, but the iPhone 12 is slightly shorter, thinner, and lighter – although slightly wider.
In terms of colors, you can get the Samsung Galaxy S21 in ghost gray, ghost white, ghost violet, or ghost pink, some of which offer contrasting camera colors, while the iPhone 12 comes in black, white, red, green, or blue. both phones are IP68 certified for water and dust resistance.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Vs iPhone 12 Display
The Samsung Galaxy S21 has a 6.2-inch 1080 x 2400 Dynamic AMOLED 2X screen with a refresh rate of 120Hz. The iPhone 12, on the other hand, has a 6.1-inch 1170 x 2532 Super Retina XDR OLED display with a 60 Hz refresh rate.
Looking beyond marketing terms, these two screens are OLED and high quality – in our reviews we were impressed with both.
We note a slight disappointment that in Full HD + the S21’s screen is notably a step below the Samsung Galaxy S20’s QHD +, but it’s still comparable to the iPhone 12, with that phone offering 460 pixels per inch, while the Samsung Galaxy S21 has 421.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 has a slightly larger screen than the iPhone 12, but the difference is marginal. The biggest difference is the refresh rate, which is twice as high on Samsung’s new phone, meaning screen interactions should be smoother.
Both phones also have a flat-screen – if you’re looking for something curved in the Galaxy S21 lineup, you’ll have to buy the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Vs iPhone 12 Camera
There’s a triple-lens camera on the back of the Samsung Galaxy S21, with a 12MP f/1.8 main camera, a 64MP f/2.0 telephoto (with 3x optical zoom), and an ultra-wide-angle 12MP f/2.2. The main and telephoto snappers also feature optical image stabilization (OIS).
The iPhone 12, meanwhile, has a dual-lens camera, with a 12MP f/1.6 main snapper and an ultra-wide 12MP f/2.4 snapper. Therefore, he misses a telephoto camera, and only the main lens has OIS.
That said, in our review we found that the cameras – while similar to the iPhone 11’s – performed well, even handling tricky low-light scenes better than many rivals.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 also has a top camera. This one is also similar to its predecessor, but in our review, we were impressed by the zoom potential and the wealth of new modes on offer, such as Director’s View, which lets you shoot with both the front and rear cameras at the same time. These modes plus the extra lenses mean that Samsung’s camera should be a little more versatile.
On the front, you get a 10MP f / 2.2 camera on the Samsung phone and a 12MP f / 2.2 on the Apple phone. Again, both worked well in our tests.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Vs Iphone 12 Battery Life
The Samsung Galaxy S21 has a much larger battery life than the iPhone 12, with the former reaching 4,000mAh, while the latter has just 2,815mAh.
You might think this would lead to a much longer life for the Galaxy S21 than for the iPhone 12, but in our tests, we found that while you should generally take a day off from any one of them, you’re unlikely to get much more. The 120 Hz refresh rate on the Galaxy S21 has a noticeable detrimental effect on the battery, so that’s a big part of the reason the extra size doesn’t mean much extra life.
Both phones support fast charging and wireless charging, with the Samsung Galaxy S21 additionally offering Wireless Power Share, which lets you use the S21 as a wireless charging pad for other devices.
It’s important to note, however, that none of these phones come with a charger in the box.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Vs iPhone 12 Specifications and Features
Both phones are full of energy. For the Samsung Galaxy S21, you get a Snapdragon 888 chipset (in the US) or an Exynos 2100 (in the UK and most other regions). Both are at the top of their respective ranges and are among the best you’ll find on a phone. The Galaxy S21 also has 8GB of RAM and a choice of 128GB or 256GB of storage.
The iPhone 12 is just as powerful, with a state-of-the-art A14 Bionic chipset and 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB storage options. It only has 4GB of RAM, but that never stopped Apple phones.
In practice, we found both phones to be as fast as you’d expect, but on the downside notably, neither of them has a microSD card slot – that’s always the case on Apple phones, but Samsung’s usually have one.
Both phones also support 5G but have some different features. The most obvious and arguably biggest difference is the operating system, with the Galaxy S21 running Android 11, while the iPhone 12 running iOS 14.
However, they also have different security options – with the iPhone 12 the focus is on the Face ID, while the Samsung Galaxy S21 has an on-screen fingerprint reader. Both work fine, although Samsung’s on-screen solution isn’t as fast as a physical fingerprint scanner.
The Galaxy S21 also features DeX mode. Offered by several of Samsung’s flagships, this allows you to connect the phone to an external display and display a more desktop-like interface.
Meanwhile, the iPhone 12 benefits from MagSafe, which allows you to magnetically attach accessories (such as pouches, wallets, and wireless chargers) to the back of the phone.
In addition to just confirming them, the phone can also tell you what you’ve plugged into it through MagSafe. At the time of writing, the types of MagSafe accessories available were limited, but the selection is likely to improve.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Vs iPhone 12: Specs
|Samsung Galaxy S21||iPhone 12|
|Starting price||$799||$799 on contract, $829 unlocked|
|Screen size||6.2-inch AMOLED (2400×1080)||6.1-inch OLED (2532×1170)|
|Refresh rate||48Hz – 120Hz||60Hz|
|CPU||Snapdragon 888||A14 Bionic|
|Storage||128GB, 256GB||64GB, 128GB, 256GB|
|Rear cameras||12MP (f/1.8) wide; 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide; 64MP (f/2.0) telephoto 3x optical||12MP (f/1.6) wide; 12MP (f/2.4) ultrawide|
|Front camera||10MP (f/2.2)||12MP (f/2.2)|
|Water resistance||IP68 up to 1.5 m||IP68 up to 6 m|
|Battery size||4,000 mAh||2,815 mAh|
|Battery life||09:53 (60Hz) / 06:31 (adaptive)||08:25|
|Size||5.97 x 2.8 x 0.31 inches||5.78 x 2.81 x 0.29 inches|
|Weight||5.96 ounces||5.78 ounces|
Samsung Galaxy S21 Vs iPhone 12: Which one should you buy?
The Samsung Galaxy S21 was released in January 2021, while the iPhone 12 was released in early October 2020 with the same starting price of $799. Since neither is newer, you can find good deals on both devices.
The Galaxy S21 offers a better display with a higher refresh rate, a versatile camera configuration, reliable battery capacity, and more storage for the same price. The iPhone 12, on the other hand, competes with a more premium build, smooth performance, and a seamless iOS experience.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 has more cameras than the iPhone 12, plus more RAM, a bigger battery, a slightly larger screen, a higher refresh rate, and more storage in the base model.
Meanwhile, the iPhone 12 only has MagSafe and a glass back to make it stand out from the S21 in terms of the markings on the back of the case, but both phones are powered and have impressive specs across the board.
Of course, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Vs iPhone 12 specs don’t always tell the whole story, as evidenced by the fact that the iPhone 12 still has a great camera despite being just a dual-lens, and smooth performance despite only 4GB of RAM.
So on paper, the iPhone 12 may not look much like the Samsung Galaxy S21, but in practice, it turned out to be an excellent phone in our review. We gave it four stars – the same rating we gave the Samsung Galaxy S21, so there’s no clear winner, it’s more a matter of choosing which one suits you best.
Ultimately, the biggest determinant is the ecosystem you’re used to. However, if an OS works for you, the Galaxy S21 is the best return on investment and delivers a great overall experience with minimal compromises.
That said, you’re getting extremely capable phones here and you can’t go wrong with any of them.