Samsung’s Galaxy S21 series has arrived and it’s undeniably the best smartphone the company has ever made. The phone has better cameras, hardware, design, and specs than ever before. But, with a starting cost of $799.99 and priced at $1199.99 at the upper reaches, what are the alternatives to the Galaxy S21?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are a number of available options. And if you’re looking to see what those are, you’ve landed at the right place for that.
Unfortunately, owning one of Samsung’s top devices comes at a high cost. That’s hardly surprising, given that this phone has some of the best specs and features ever. But the Samsung Galaxy S21 series, in particular, starts out at $799.99, making alternatives all the more appealing. Although, the phone can currently be bought for just $99 with trade-ins.
That leaves wide open the question as to whether or not any other smartphones really can compete. And are any of those really worth choosing as alternatives to the Samsung Galaxy S21? The answer, of course, is yes. There are plenty of other smartphones on the market today that rival the Samsung Galaxy S21 on specs, performance, cameras, and everything else.
Now, we’re not going to be able to cover all of the alternatives to the Samsung Galaxy S21. That list would run entirely too long. Moreover, not every smartphone that will compete directly or otherwise, such as the TCL 20 5G or Xiaomi Mi 11, is ready to ship just yet. Or at least not for the world to use, with regard to the latter device. Likewise, there are still plenty of phones to be announced in 2021. So there are some omissions here on those basis alone.
But, bearing that in mind, we have compiled a list of our picks to choose from instead of Samsung’s latest flagship, five smartphones in total. Especially for those who don’t want to trade in a device to get a good deal or those who don’t want to spend a lot of money.
|Google Pixel 5||From $699|
|Samsung Galaxy S20 FE||From $599.99||Amazon|
|ASUS ROG Phone III||From $715||Amazon|
|OnePlus 8 Pro||From $799.99||Amazon|
|Apple iPhone 12||From $699.99||Amazon|
Google’s Pixel 5 is a shoo-in for those looking for the best smartphone money can buy without paying Galaxy S21 prices. But, starting at just $699.99, that’s not just because of the price. Google also outfitted its Pixel 5 handset with one of the cleanest Android experiences to date. And it backed that up with tons of features and respectable specs that should prove more than enough for just about anybody.
Just for starters, the Pixel 5 is a 6-inch HDR-ready display with a refresh rate of 90Hz. That’s not quite up to the same level as the 120Hz in the Galaxy S21 series. But it’s good enough that many won’t notice the difference. Behind that display panel, Google packed a Snapdragon 765G gaming chipset with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage. The underlying 4,000mAh battery charges via 18W fast charging. Or via Qi wireless charging with reverse wireless charging.
All of that equates to a seamless user experience, with extras across the board and performance to match.
Now, things get even more interesting on the camera side of the equation. That’s because Google Pixel 5 arguably has the best cameras in any Android phone. And that’s despite having just two rear snappers — a 16-megapixel and 12.2-megapixel camera — and a single selfie snapper — at 8-megapixels.
So if you want a great display, brilliant cameras, and respectable performance with all-day battery life, Google Pixel 5 is a great alternative for the Galaxy S21 series.
Looking past the previous entry in our list, maybe you just want to stick with Samsung but don’t want to shell out or trade-in for a new gadget. That’s easy enough to rectify thanks to last year’s Samsung Galaxy S20 FE.
The “FE” here stands for Fan Edition and this phone more than lives up to that. Sold directly from Samsung or on Amazon starting from $424.99 with a trade-in or $599.99 unlocked, this phone is almost identical to the powerhouse that is the now-discontinued Samsung Galaxy S20 series. Starting with 6GB RAM, 128GB storage, and a super-fast octa-core Snapdragon processor.
The glass-infused “Glasstic” back shouldn’t throw you off too much either. The premium material is more durable than the standard glass. Meanwhile, on the other side, Samsung’s flat 120Hz Super AMOLED display panel features minimal bezels. And the phone’s 4500mAh battery is more than enough to provide power for that through a full day.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is a flagship phone at well under the usual flagship price. And it still comes with premium flagship-grade features, cameras, audio, performance, and display. Perhaps as importantly, it’s available in no fewer than six colors. Namely, Cloud White, Cloud Red, Cloud Orange, Cloud Navy, Cloud Green, and Cloud Lavender.
Perhaps the closest any phone will come to packing the same level of hardware, features, and characteristics as the Samsung Galaxy S21 is, of course, a gaming phone. Or, more specifically, a dedicated gaming smartphone such as the ASUS ROG Phone 3.
Now, this phone is still chiefly available as an import from China — with direct US availability still incoming. So it must be purchased, for now, without a warranty. But it comes as close as anything else to offering something akin to the new Galaxy flagship phone. Starting with a 6.59-inch FHD+ display at a refresh rate of 144Hz. For reference, the Samsung Galaxy S21 comes with a refresh rate of just 120Hz. So this phone should provide a similar, if not superior, experience on that front.
And ASUS continued that design-savvy through to this phone’s Snapdragon 865+ chipset, 8GB RAM, and 128GB storage. With models available up to 16GB RAM and 512GB storage.
The 6,000mAh capacity battery underpinning all of that performance will last all day too. And the cameras, a triple array at the back, won’t disappoint. That’s led by a 64-megapixel main sensor, while the front is using a well-above-average 24-megapixel snapper.
ASUS coupled that all with all of the software, customizations, and performance that’s to be expected from a gaming phone. So, if you happen to be a gamer, this smartphone will almost certainly suit you better anyway. But the ASUS ROG Phone 3 is equally well-suited as an alternative to the Galaxy S21 series smartphones, regardless of use case.
If you’re looking for a new flagship without paying flagship prices, look no further than the OnePlus 8 Pro.
Now, this phone is priced exactly at the same price as the entry-level Galaxy S21. And the OnePlus 9 is, based on various rumors, just around the corner — months away at most. But, at flagship-killing OnePlus, that cost is for the top-tier model of the 8 Pro. So that includes 12GB RAM, 256GB storage, and a Snapdragon 865 SoC. Perhaps as importantly, it’s also 5G-ready, just like every other phone on this page. And it packs a similarly-specced 120Hz 6.78-inch QHD+ display panel too.
Of course, if you’re looking for something to set this phone apart from the new Samsung handsets, there’s plenty of that too. Starting with a 48-megapixel quad camera. That doesn’t quite have the same zoom as that other device. But it does feature 3x telephoto zoom and up to 30x Digital Zoom. And the forward-facing 16-megapixel selfie camera won’t disappoint either.
Meanwhile, under the hood, the OnePlus 8 Pro uses a 4510mAh capacity battery as well. So OnePlus 8 Pro has more than enough battery life, power, and features to keep you going all day long and is more than worthy to stand among alternatives to the Galaxy S21 series. All at a price that’s decidedly lower than the top models Samsung is offering.
The final device on this list isn’t like any of the other alternatives to Samsung’s new Galaxy S21 series. And that’s because it’s an iPhone. Maybe you’ve been considering switching over to iOS for some time. Or are just looking for something different. If you just want a comparable device without too much concern for the money, the iPhone 12 series may just have what you want.
Not only does the entire series pack a similar — if lower refresh rate — OLED display panel, at 5.4‑inches for the iPhone 12 Mini and 6.1-inches for the iPhone 12. The iPhone 12 Max Pro, conversely, comes in at 6.7-inches. They also come with a similar range of features, from 5G and wireless charging to Apple’s A14 Bionic chip. And battery life is, undeniably, better managed on iOS. So there shouldn’t be much concern over battery life, even though Apple’s phones ship with less capacity.
Additionally, Apple’s latest run of iOS smartphones starts at just $699 — although the Pro Max can be had for $1,099. World-class cameras, a great operating system, and solid build quality are all hallmarks of this series.