Samsung Galaxy S21 vs iPhone 12: Which should you spend your $800 on?

January has barely begun and we already have our first heavyweight smartphone battle of 2021. Samsung has released its lineup of Galaxy S21 phones a little earlier than usual this year, and it’s clear they have Apple’s newest phone in its sights. Samsung hasn’t reinvented the S21 as much as it’s retooled it to take on the iPhone 12, with a lower price point, sharper design, and some new camera tricks. Here’s how the two $800 phones stack up.

Design

Samsung’s Galaxy S is always at the forefront of Android smartphone design, and the S21 continues that tradition. Samsung has crafted a truly unique design where the metal sides seamlessly blend into the camera array, as if it were snapped onto the back. The back is made of plastic rather than glass, but it still has a premium feel, even if it’s not quite as luxurious as the S20.

galaxy s21 colors Samsung

The S21 has a gorgeous color palette this year.

Of course, the iPhone is no slouch in the looks department. Apple introduced a new, flatter design with the iPhone 12 that has a retro charm reminiscent of the iPhone 4, and it feels great to hold. The square camera array is nearly identical to the iPhone 11’s and not nearly as unique as the S21’s.

The two phones are very similar in size. The S21 is slightly bigger and a bit heavier. However, Samsung has done a fantastic job with distributing the weight on the S21, so it doesn’t 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 come in a variety of colors that basically boil down to personal preference, but Samsung’s unique design stands out here as well. The camera array is treated as a design element and is made to stand out with a bold metal housing. It’s one of the most unique designs Samsung has ever made, and it makes the iPhone 12 look a little stale.
My pick: The Galaxy S21

Display

Now that Apple has gone OLED and Samsung has gone Full HD, the iPhone 12 and Galaxy S21 have very similar displays:

Galaxy S21: 6.2-inch Flat FHD+ Infinity-O Display (2400×1080), 421ppi, 120Hz
iPhone 12: 6.1-inch Flat Full HD+ Super Retina XDR (2532×1170), 460ppi, 60Hz