- Samsung Galaxy S21 comes with a HDR10 AMOLED display but iPhone 12 has Dolby Vision support.
- Samsung Galaxy S21 has an extra 64MP telephoto camera that the iPhone 12 lacks.
- The iPhone 12 uses an aluminium and glass design while the Galaxy S21 comes with a plastic back.
Samsung launched three new phones last night, and these are the Galaxy S21, the Galaxy S21+, and the Galaxy S21 Ultra. This is the first big phone launch of 2021 and given that these are flagship phones — although the S21 and S21+ are, sort of, a step down from the S20 flagships last year — these are going to be the phone against which many other offerings this year will be measured. Now of these phones, the Galaxy S21 is the cheapest one, coming in at a starting price of Rs 69,999. As such, it is also an obvious competitor to the iPhone 12, which was launched a few months ago and since then has become a best-seller as far as iPhones are concerned.
So, of the two, that is between the Galaxy S21 and the iPhone 12, which one is better? Let us compare.
Display and design
The Galaxy S21 brings a new clip-like design for the cameras that juts out from the body. It is a different approach to how cameras look on flagship phones, which I think may work in favour of Samsung. It is not a major departure from the camera style on last year's Galaxy S20 but is more polished and that gives the phone a refreshing look.
The iPhone 12, on the other hand, draws its inspiration from the old iPhone 5 for its design. The flat metal rims and the glass back do give a sense of nostalgia to people who have used the iPhone 5 or iPhone 5S. But it is also a more subtle design change. It is not as bold as the camera module on the S21.
While the design is subjective and some people prefer the looks of the S21 and some will find the iPhone 12 more appealing, what most consumers are going to find tough to love is the plastic back of the S21. In a premium phone that costs Rs 69,999, the use of a plastic back cover seems questionable.
The Galaxy S21 has a 6.2-inch flatscreen 1080p AMOLED Infinity-O Display with 421PPI pixel density and an adaptive refresh rate of up to 120Hz. And there is support for HDR10+ on the display, as well. The iPhone 12, on the other hand, has a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display with 1170x2532 pixels resolution, with 460PPI pixel density, and support for Dolby Vision and True Tone. In the display department, both Samsung Galaxy S21 and iPhone 12 are going to be similar in use.
The big difference is support for Dolby Vision on the iPhone 12 though it will only appeal to people who tend to watch Netflix on their phone because Netflix supports Dolby Vision. People who create video content will also appreciate the Dolby Vision on the iPhone 12, but in. In regular use, the displays on both these phones should be more than fine for most users.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 comes with a setup of three cameras on the back: a 64MP telephoto camera, that has 1.1X optical zoom but a narrower field of view, giving it "zoom", a 12MP ultra-wide camera, and a 12MP wide-angle camera. The iPhone 12, on the other hand, has a 12-megapixel main camera and a secondary 12-megapixel camera with an ultra-wide lens.
On paper, both the Galaxy S21 and the iPhone 12 seem to have extremely capable cameras. Now, you can say that S21 has an extra telephoto camera. But that telephoto is more in name and less in functionality. It has only 1.1X optical zoom, which is enhanced with software to make it 3X zoom. It will give some leeway to users but not as much as a good telephoto lens can.
On the video side, the S21 supports 8K video recording. Though you may be able to play them only on select devices. 8K TVs or displays are almost non-existent. The iPhone 12, meanwhile, supports up to 4K videos at 60fps. One feature that iPhone 12 has is the HDR video recording with support for Dolby Vision. Now, displays that can show Dolby Vision colours are also rare, though in practice you will still find HDR video recording more useful than the 8K video recording.
On the front, the iPhone 12 has a 12-megapixel camera while the S21 comes with the same 10-megapixel camera that we saw in last year's Galaxy S20.
Neither the S21 nor the iPhone 12 is a slow phone. But the iPhone 12 has faster and better core hardware. The A14 Bionic processor in the iPhone 12 is unmatched in the smartphone world. It is significantly faster and is likely to age better. The S21 comes with Exynos 2100, which is new but cannot be considered in the same class as Apple's A-series processor. In fact, it is a sad fact that Android phones have to use something from Qualcomm or MediaTek or a chip like Exynos that despite being latest is slightly behind Apple's in-house chips like A14.
When it comes to RAM, the iPhone has less of it at 4GB. Although the way iOS works, it is good enough for the iPhone 12. The S21 comes with 8GB RAM. The Samsung phone also has double storage at 128GB compared to 64GB in the iPhone. Both phones are water and dust-proof. Both come without a charger and earphones in the box.
Samsung announced the new One UI 3 with the Galaxy S21 lineup at its event. This is a better version of the One UI, better than the OneUI 2 that began rolling out last year. One UI is a custom ROM, so it is obvious there are nifty, third-party features the Galaxy S21 series has. But the core is still Android, which brings us to the long-running debate between Google's operating system and Apple's iOS.
Apart from all the features that the two OSes have, the biggest difference is the timeliness of updates. And privacy. On both counts, the iOS is better and hence the iPhone 12 is better. Samsung often takes its own sweet time to roll out new software versions to its smartphones while Apple is perhaps the swiftest one to roll out new updates to the entire range of eligible iPhone models at once. Samsung, however, discriminates between smartphones according to the price segment they belong to. While it is (almost) certain that the Galaxy S21, being an expensive phone, will get updates before other Galaxy phones do, it is still not instantaneous like the way OS updates are rolled out to the iPhone.
Then privacy, which has become important, is also slightly better on the iPhone 12 because of the way iOS has been built. It's not like Android or One UI is unsafe, it is just that the iOS is better.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 will cost you Rs 69,999 for the base variant in India, and it goes all the way up to Rs 73,999 for the top 256GB model. The iPhone 12, however, costs a little higher at Rs 79,900 for the base model. Purely from a price point of view, the S21 is better. However, by paying extra for the iPhone 12 we believe you also get something extra that is worth it. You get a promise of software updates for at least 3 to 4 years, then there is faster performance, more premium build and an OS that is better for privacy. With S21 you get an extra rear camera and more storage with the base variant. But overall, we feel that iPhone 12 has an edge.