Why I switched from a Pixel to a Galaxy S21 after years of rejecting Samsung

Galaxy S21 colors
Galaxy S21 colors (Image credit: Android Central)

I just couldn't deal with the Pixel 4's poor battery life any longer. That's something you've probably heard before, either in real-space or written on the internet because the phone really does have the worst battery life of any product since the battery was invented in 250 BC. Seriously, though, it is bad. Really bad.

I hated to do it because I thought everything else about the phone was marvelous and that it was still one of the best Android phones I've used. Of course, it was only marvelous when it had enough juice to stay powered on. I first moved to the OnePlus 8 and was really digging it but was having problems with Google Fi and activation. I did what any tech writer would do in this situation, and just got another phone instead of trying to figure it out with Fi tech support.

And now, for the first time since the Galaxy S7, I'm using a Samsung phone. I don't hate it. I don't quite love everything about it, but it's a damn great little phone and I'm actually glad I switched. 🤯

Here's what I love about it

The "regular" Galaxy S21 is the perfect size for me. I hate tall skinny phones and while the Galaxy S21 is tall and skinny compared to phones built before silly 2-ish by one aspect ratios became a thing, it's not ungodly tall and huge like so many other phones made today. It fits in my pocket, and I can use it with one hand. These are must-have features for me.

It's the right size and has the best display I've ever seen.

The screen is to die for. Samsung makes great displays that almost every great phone uses, but it holds back the very best for itself. The S21 leaves nothing to be desired when it comes to the 120Hz HDR10+ Dynamic AMOLED display. I thought the screen on the Pixel 4 was good. This is amazing.

I love the way it's built. The back is plastic, but it's extruded in some way that makes it feel silky and textured without any give if you push on it. I really don't care if the back of my phone is glass or aluminum or ceramic or plastic as long as it feels really good while I'm holding it.

Finally, that camera bump/housing/wrap-around thingy looks pretty damn cool and I dig it.

What I don't like about it

Samsung Galaxy S21 in-hand

Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

If you're expecting me to say the software you're going to be disappointed. Samsung has done a fine job taking what Google provides and turning it into a real operating system and it works. As a whole, anyway, because there are some parts of it I'm just not in love with.

I hate the calendar notification screen. In fact, I hate it so much I installed Google Calendar on it and did everything I could to stop it from ever notifying me ever again. I'm sure Samsung has data that some folks like it and that's cool, but for me, naw. Go away.

The software is pretty good once you fix the one or two things that don't suit you.

I also had to switch out a few other apps like the messages client and phone dialer because Samsung was letting spam through that Google doesn't. I hate spam as much as I hate giant full-screen calendar notifications. But for the most part, I'm using the phone with the software it shipped with and I'm OK with it. That's something I couldn't have said before Samsung fixed things up.

I don't like the fingerprint sensor. It's far better than any other in-screen fingerprint sensor I've used, but it still struggles when your fingers are scarred and calloused. Mine are and no matter how many times I set it up, I can't get it to work more than 50% of the time with my right thumb, which is the digit I want to use. This isn't that big of a deal because I'm only using the fingerprint unlock to check it out and will switch back to using a PIN because I really don't care for biometrics.

And then there are the ads. Stop showing me ads unless I'm playing a game or using the web browser, Samsung. Cut that shit out and realize it's a bad look for the biggest phone maker on the planet to force ads on its users.

An ad in the Samsung weather app

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

Believe it or not, that's the end of my gripe list. Everything not mentioned as something I love or something I hate is something that's just fine. The camera isn't as good as the Pixel 4's, but it's more than good enough and if you're not being picky you'll love it. Bixby isn't nearly the pain in the ass the internet told me it was and it took all of two minutes to make sure I never see it unless I want to see it. All my apps run great on the beefy guts inside the phone and even phone calls sound great.

Don't be like me and think Samsung phones are still an over-the-top mess, because in 2021 they aren't.

Don't be like me. I stayed far away from Samsung phones for the past several years because of how they were ages ago. You need to remember that every phone was pretty bad back then and things have improved so much since. I can't speak for any Pluses or Ultras or anything else, but I like the Galaxy S21. I like it a lot.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.