Samsung Galaxy S21 vs iPhone 12 Pro Comparison: Which One to Buy?

Galaxy S21 Series

Samsung today announced the Galaxy S21 series to take on Apple’s iPhone 12 lineup. While the company tends to launch its new flagship phones in late February or early March, it decided to launch the Galaxy S21 series a few weeks earlier than usual to better compete with the iPhone 12 lineup. Now that the Galaxy S21 lineup is official, here’s a look at how it fares against the iPhone 12 Pro series.

The Galaxy S21 lineup features three devices — the Galaxy S21, S21 Plus, and the Galaxy S21 Ultra. The Plus and the Ultra models are the ones that can take on the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. Samsung has made a number of underlying improvements to the Galaxy S21 lineup this year that make them a worthy competitor to the iPhone 12 Pro series. Check out our detailed comparison below to know how the Galaxy S21 fares against the iPhone 12 Pro series.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max

Design

  • iPhone 12 Pro – IP68, Stainless Steel frame, Ceramic Shield glass
  • Galaxy S21 Plus/Ultra – IP68, Aluminium metal frame, Gorilla Glass Victus

The iPhone 12 Pro and Galaxy S21 series are premium phones and that shows from their build quality. The iPhone 12 Pro series, however, has a slight edge in this department as it features a stainless steel chassis while the Galaxy S21 series uses aluminum. The iPhone 12 Pro’s display is protected by Ceramic Shield glass which as per Apple offers 2x drop resistance while the Galaxy S21 series uses Corning’s latest Gorilla Glass Victus. Both devices are also IP68 certified, though the iPhone 12 Pro offers better water-resistance.

Galaxy S21 Ultra

Display

  • iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max – 6.1-inch(Pro) / 6.7-inch (Pro Max) True Tone OLED, 2688 x 1242 pixels (458 ppi), 82.9 percent screen-to-body ratio, HDR10, Dolby Vision, Haptic Touch, Super Retina XDR
  • Galaxy S21 Plus/Ultra – 6.7-inch FHD+ (Plus) / 6.8-inch QHD+ (Ultra), Dynamic AMOLED 2x, 120Hz Adaptive refresh rate, HDR10

Even if one excludes the size, the Galaxy S21 series has one major advantage over the iPhone 12 Pro series in the display department. It features a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate panel while the iPhone 12 Pro series is stuck at 60Hz. The higher refresh rate means UI interactions and animations on the Galaxy S21 will look and feel smoother than they do on the iPhone 12 Pro. And with the adaptive refresh rate technology, Samsung is ensuring that there’s no major hit to battery life as well. The Galaxy S21 Plus also has a bigger display when compared to the iPhone 12 Pro, though for some reason, Samsung has downgraded its resolution to FHD+ from QHD+ on the Galaxy S20 Plus.

iPhone 12 Pro MaxChipset – Snapdragon 888 vs A14 Bionic

  • iPhone 12 Pro – A14 Bionic, 5nm TSMC
  • Galaxy S21 Plus/Ultra – Snapdragon 888 (US) or Exynos 2100 (International variant), 5nm Samsung EUV

It’s no secret that Apple’s A-series chips offer class-leading performance as well as efficiency. The A14 Bionic chip based on the 5nm fab and found inside the iPhone 12 Pro series is no different either. It offers unrivaled performance and efficiency that’s leagues ahead of what any other flagship chipset in the market can offer. The Snapdragon 888 from Qualcomm is a notable jump over the Snapdragon 865 in terms of efficiency and it even comes with an integrated 5G modem, but its performance is a generation or two behind that of A14.

Samsung will also be using its in-house Exynos 2100 chipset inside the Galaxy S21 series sold outside of the United States. While previous Exynos chips have offered poor performance and had heating issues, the Exynos 2100 is a step in the right direction and is a good alternative to the Snapdragon 888. However, even its performance is nowhere near close to the A14 Bionic.

RAM and Storage

  • iPhone 12 Pro – 6GB RAM | 128GB, 256GB, 512GB
  • Galaxy S21 Plus/Ultra – 8/12GB RAM | 128GB, 256GB, 512GB (Ultra only)

This is an area where the Galaxy S21 Plus and Ultra are ahead of the iPhone 12 Pro series. The Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+ ship with base 8GB RAM and 128GB storage while the Galaxy S21 Ultra has 12GB RAM. Samsung is also offering these devices in 256GB and 512GB storage variants. In comparison, the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max feature 6GB RAM and 128GB base storage. The iPhone is also available in 256GB and 512GB storage variants. The additional RAM on the Galaxy S21 series should allow it to offer better multitasking performance and keep apps in memory longer.

Camera

  • iPhone 12 Pro: Rear – 12MP with f/1.6 aperture, dual-pixel PDAF, OIS; 12MP f/2.0 telephoto, PDAF, OIS; 12MP f/2.4 ultrawide, 120-degree FoV; LiDAR sensor; 4K60fps video recording; Front – 12MP camera with f/2.2 aperture
  • Galaxy S21 Plus – 12MP camera, f/1.8 aperture, 1.8um pixels, OIS; Secondary 12MP f/2.2 120-degree FoV ultra-wide; 64MP f/2.0 telephoto sensor with OIS, 3x optical zoom, 30x digital zoom, 8K 30fps video recording; Front – 10MP with f/2.2 aperture

When it comes to the camera, the Galaxy S21 and iPhone 12 Pro series are very different from each other. The Galaxy S21 Plus features a 12MP camera similar to the iPhone 12 Pro, though it features larger pixels. Samsung is also offering a 64MP shooter on the Galaxy S21 Plus for 3x optical zoom while the iPhone 12 Pro relies on a 12MP telephoto sensor for 2x optical zoom. The Galaxy S21 can record 8K@30fps videos while the iPhone 12 Pro tops out at 4k60fps. Both phones are capable of recording HDR videos albeit in different formats.

  • iPhone 12 Pro Max – 12MP f/1.6 primary, dual-pixel PDAF, sensor-shift OIS, 1.7um large pixel) + 12MP f/2.2 telephoto, 2.5x optical zoom, PDAF, OIS + 12MP f/2.4 ultra-wide, 120-degree FoV + 3D ToF LiDAR Scanner, 4K60FPS video recording with Dolby Vision, Brighter True Tone Flash, Night Mode, Deep Fusion, Dolby Vision with HDR recording, Night mode Time-lapse
  • Galaxy S21 Plus – 108MP f/1.8 primary, OIS, 12MP ultra-wide f/2.2, 10MP f/2.4 telephoto periscope lens, 10MP f/4.9 telephoto periscope lens, 100x Digital Zoom, Laser autofocus, Pro Video mode, 40MP selfie camera

The Galaxy S21 Ultra and the iPhone 12 Pro Max have very different camera setups from their regular variants. The iPhone 12 Pro Max features a larger 12MP shooter with sensor-shift OIS while the Galaxy S21 Ultra uses a 108MP camera sensor. The latter also features two periscope telephoto lenses to offer up to 10x optical zoom and 100x digital zoom. Samsung is using a newer periscope lens technology with fewer refractions here that allow for better photos compared to previous such offerings.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra also comes with a 40MP selfie shooter while the iPhone 12 Pro Max has the same 12MP TrueDepth camera as other iPhone 12 variants.

Galaxy S21 Camera

Connectivity

  • iPhone 12 Pro: Dual-SIM with 5G, VoLTE, and VoWiFi; dual-band Wi-Fi ax with MIMO, Bluetooth v5.0, GPS with GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, and BeiDou, UWB, Lightning port
  • Galaxy S21 Plus/Ultra – Dual SIM, 5G, 2Gbps LTE, Wi-Fi 6 (6E on Ultra), Bluetooth 5.1, UWB, VoLTE, NFC, GPS with GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, and BeiDou, USB-C

The iPhone 12 Pro and Galaxy S21 series both support 5G connectivity. However, the S21 features a newer 5G modem that’s integrated into the chipset. This not only makes the modem more power-efficient but it also means that theoretically, it offers higher 5G speeds. The Galaxy S21 Ultra also supports Wi-Fi 6E which is surprisingly missing from other Galaxy S21 variants. In other aspects, the Galaxy S21 and iPhone 12 Pro series offer the same connectivity features.

Biometrics

  • iPhone 12 Pro – Face ID
  • Galaxy S21 Plus/Ultra – In-display ultrasonic fingerprint scanner, Face unlock

The iPhone 12 Pro and Galaxy S21 series take a very different approach in the biometrics department. While the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max feature Face ID, the Galaxy S21 series features an in-display fingerprint scanner. It does offer face unlock but it is not as secure as Face ID.

iPhone 12 Pro Shoot ProRAW

Battery and Charging

  • iPhone 12 Pro – 2815mAh (Pro) / 3687mAh (Pro Max), 20W charging, 50% charge in 30 minutes, MagSafe wireless charging
  • Galaxy S21 Plus/Ultra – 4800mAh (Plus) / 5,000mAh (Ultra), 25W fast charging, 15W wireless charging, Reverse wireless charging

The Galaxy S21 Plus and Ultra might have bigger batteries than the iPhone 12 Pro series but there’s not a big difference in the battery life of all devices. They all offer similar battery life, with the Galaxy S21 series offering a notable jump in battery life compared to the Galaxy S20 series. The Galaxy S21 series does support faster wired and wireless charging which can come in handy if you are in a hurry. Do note that using 5G heavily has a notable impact on the battery life of both devices and will drain their battery in no time.

Price

  • iPhone 12 Pro – Starts from $999 for Pro, $1,099 for Pro Max
  • Galaxy S21 Plus/Ultra – Starts from $999 for Plus, $1,199 for Ultra

The Galaxy S21 series trumps the iPhone 12 Pro lineup in the value department. Samsung has adjusted its pricing this time around so the Galaxy S21 Plus and Ultra are actually cheaper than the Galaxy S20 series from last year.


Based on the above comparison, which device will you purchase: the Galaxy S21 Plus/Ultra or the iPhone 12 Pro or Pro Max? Drop a comment and let us know!