Samsung finally announces the Galaxy S21 FE with last year’s specs, 5G, optical fingerprint reader

The phone launches on January 11th for $699.

Samsung’s Galaxy S21 FE has been one of the tech community’s most sought-after pieces of hardware, mainly because it spent all of 2021 seeming as if it would be cancelled and never see the light of day. At CES 2022, Samsung flipped the doubters’ expectations by finally unveiling the phone, unusual timing and all.

I say that because the Galaxy S22 is rumored to be arriving in February, making the S21 FE seem irrelevant thanks to its name. The S20 FE, for reference, launched seven months after the S20 series debuted. The S21 FE, by contrast, is launching just under 12 months after the S21 series was unveiled. It’s certainly a weird time for this Fan Edition Galaxy phone to make its debut, but at least it seems to be a pretty solid offering for $699.

The Galaxy S21 FE looks nearly identical to the standard S21, save for the larger footprint thanks to the 6.4-inch display over the S21’s 6.1-inch screen. Both devices offer 1080p resolutions, 120Hz refresh rates, and Dynamic AMOLED 2X panels. In other words, you should expect a flagship-level viewing experience if you pick up an S21 FE.

Under the hood, Samsung includes last year’s Snapdragon 888 processor paired with 6 or 8GB of RAM and 128 or 256GB of storage. There’s a 5,000mAh battery for power (500mAh larger than the S21) that supports 25W fast charging, a triple camera setup on the back (identical to the S21 with 12MP main, 12MP ultra-wide, and 8MP telephoto lenses), Android 12, and both sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G.

A key difference between the S21 FE and standard S21 is the former’s use of an optical fingerprint scanner instead of a ultrasonic under-display sensor. Ultrasonic sensors haven’t proven to be all that reliable in daily usage, so many may prefer the S21 FE’s reader on the right side as a result.

Overall, while there isn’t a ton exciting about the Galaxy S21 FE, it at least seems like a solid value. The upper-mid-range section of the smartphone market is getting more and more crowded with excellent options from companies like Google, OnePlus, and Samsung who has a vast lineup of lower-end phones. Whether the S21 FE will do enough to stand out in the crowd remains to be seen, but at least on paper, it seems well-rounded enough to generate sales.

The Galaxy S21 FE will launch on January 11th starting at $699. It’ll be available in Olive, Lavender, White and Graphite.