Apple iPhone 12 vs. Samsung Galaxy S21: Which Flagship Takes the Crown?

Korean smartphone powerhouse Samsung announced its latest Galaxy phones, the S21 series, today, just a few months after Apple announced its iPhone 12 flagships. That means it’s time for the two bestselling smartphones in the US to face off.

At the moment, Samsung has taken the wraps off its new Galaxy S21 ($799.99), Galaxy S21 ($999.99), and Galaxy S21 Ultra ($1,199.99) models, though a Galaxy S21 FE may be in the cards later this year. It’s a hearty lineup that compares well with Apple’s iPhone 12 models but lacks a pint-size option like the iPhone 12 mini.

Over the past several months we’ve had plenty of time to put all four iPhone 12 models through the paces, but we have yet to receive the full Galaxy S21 lineup, so many of our comparisons are based on the specs. We’ll update this article once we’ve had a chance to play around with the S21s.

Apple iPhone 12 vs. Samsung Galaxy S21 tableIP68 rating, meaning they can withstand 4.9 feet of water for a half hour. Beyond that, there are a few differences when it comes to durability. The S21s all have aluminum frames and Gorilla Glass displays and bodies. All iPhone 12 models use ceramic shield glass for displays and bodies. It’s supposed to be more durable than other strengthened glass options (though our iPhone 12 had a display scratch within days). The iPhone 12 models have an aluminum frame while the Pro models sport a stainless frame.

iPhone 12 Pro front and backQualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 chipset. The iPhone 12 features Apple’s custom A14 Bionic chip.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus tableiPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro use a 6.1-inch screen with 2,532-by-1,170-pixel resolution. At the top of the line, the iPhone 12 Pro Max sports a 6.7-inch display with a 2,778-by-1,284-pixel resolution. None of the iPhone 12 models has a 120Hz refresh rate, but they’re significantly brighter than the S21s—most notable when watching HDR content.

Samsung takes this round by a hair. Most of the iPhone 12 models have a higher display resolution, and all of them are brighter, but the Samsung phones’ adaptive refresh rate is a spectacular feature for gaming or even scrolling through social media feeds.


Cameras

Both Samsung and Apple use some of the best smartphone cameras on the market, but there are significant differences between brands and even between individual models. Here’s the rundown.

Both the Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21 feature a triple rear camera stack. The primary telephoto lens clocks in at 64MP with an f/1.8 aperture, dual phase detection autofocus (AF), hybrid optic 3X zoom, and optical image stabilization (OIS). There’s also a 12MP wide-angle lens with an f/1.8 aperture, dual pixel AF, and OIS. A 12MP ultra-wide lens with an f/2.2 aperture rounds out the stack. On the front you’ll find a 10MP lens with an f/2.2 aperture and dual pixel AF.

Back of the Samsung Galaxy S21 PlusC-band support.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max vs. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra tableavailable on the entire iPhone 12 lineup. MagSafe uses a series of strong magnets to wirelessly charge your phone and connect various accessories. Apple and other third-party manufacturers offer dozens of MagSafe accessories, and we expect to Apple introduce new and innovative ways to use the feature in the future.


Which Phone Is Best?

It’s hard to say until we get our hands on the entire Samsung Galaxy S21 series. Apple’s iPhone 12 mini ($699) is a great value for the money, but the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra offers some impressive features—including 100x Space Zoom, a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate, and S Pen support—that make it extraordinarily versatile. Preorders for the Samsung Galaxy S21 flagships begin on January 14 at 11 a.m. ET, and keep an eye out for our reviews in the coming weeks.

January 14, 2021
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