Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs. iPhone 12: Which should you buy?

Galaxy S20 FE vs. iPhone 12
Galaxy S20 FE vs. iPhone 12 (Image credit: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Galaxy S20 FE Cloud Mint

Thanks to outstanding hardware and great value, the Galaxy S20 FE is one of the best Android phones you can buy today. Samsung nailed the basics here, with the phone offering a 120Hz AMOLED panel, the same primary camera as the Galaxy S20, IP68 rating, wireless charging, and all-day battery life.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Best of Android

Fluid 120Hz AMOLED display
Snapdragon 865 with 5G connectivity
Same 12MP camera as regular S20
IP68 dust and water resistance
15W wireless charging
Three Android version updates
Polycarbonate back
No 3.5mm headphone jack

iPhone 12

iPhone 12

Even if iOS isn't your cup of tea, there's no denying just how good the iPhone 12 is. Apple's continued refinement of its familiar formula hit a new high this year, with the iPhone 12 touting a gorgeous OLED display, great cameras, and the unmatched A14 Bionic chipset.

iPhone 12

Best of iOS

Gorgeous OLED panel
Fastest internal hardware available today
One of the nicest iPhone designs ever
Five years of guaranteed updates
Excellent cameras
MagSafe has tons of potential
60Hz panel with wide cutout
No charger in the box
Still uses Lightning

Samsung and Apple — two of the largest phone brands on the planet — launched outstanding handsets this year with the Galaxy S20 FE and iPhone 12, respectively. Both phones have the same goal of delivering a high-quality user experience for their respective ecosystem at a great price, meaning you can look forward to a flagship-like smartphone without going completely broke. There are pros and cons to each one, but at the end of the day, you really can't go wrong either way.

Galaxy S20 FE vs. iPhone 12 Price and availability

Right off the bat, let's talk about how much it'll cost you to own either of the phones. The Galaxy S20 FE has a starting price of $700 for 128GB of storage, and if you want to step up to 256GB, you'll spend $770. It's worth noting that the 256GB variant is only available in the Cloud Navy color, which is a bummer considering how many other color choices there are if you go with 128GB. No matter which size you pick, you can always add more storage after the fact with a microSD card.

Looking at the iPhone 12, Apple gives you three models to choose from. These include:

  • 64GB costs $799
  • 128GB costs $749
  • 256GB costs $849

These are good prices considering everything you get with the iPhone 12, but if your main goal is getting the best bang-for-your-buck, Samsung takes the lead with the Galaxy S20 FE here.

Galaxy S20 FE vs. iPhone 12 Specs

Galaxy S20 FE vs. iPhone 12

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

Both the Galaxy S20 FE and iPhone 12 deliver the latest internal hardware money can buy, whether it be high-end processors or quality displays. Here's a quick breakdown of all the technical and spec differences between the phones:

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CategorySamsung Galaxy S20 FEiPhone 12
Operating systemAndroid 10One UI 2.5iOS 14
Display6.5-inch 120Hz AMOLED2400 x 1080 (20:9)HDR10+Gorilla Glass 56.1-inch 60Hz OLED2532 x 1170 (19.5:9)Dolby VisionCeramic Shield
ChipsetQualcomm Snapdragon 865Apple A14 Bionic
MicroSD slotYes (Up to 1TB)
Rear camera 112MP, f/1.81.8um, OIS8K at 24fps12MP, f/1.61.4um, OIS4K at 60fps
Rear camera 212MP, f/2.21.12um, 123-degree wide-angle12MP, f/2.4120-degree wide-angle
Rear camera 38MP, f/2.41um, OIS, telephoto3x optical zoom
Front camera32MP, f/2.24K at 60fps12MP, f/2.24K at 60fps
AudioUSB-CStereo speakersLightningStereo speakers
Battery4500mAhNon-removableUp to 17 hours of video playbackNon-removable
ChargingUSB-C PD 3.025W fast charging15W Qi wireless chargingLightningUp to 20W fast charging7.5W Qi wireless charging15W MagSafe charging
Water resistanceIP68IP68
SecurityIn-display fingerprint (optical)Face ID
Dimensions159.8 x 74.5 x 8.4mm190g146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4mm164g
ColorsCloud Mint, Cloud Lavender, Cloud Red, Cloud Orange, Cloud Navy, Cloud WhiteBlue, Green, (PRODUCT) RED, Black, White

Galaxy S20 FE vs. iPhone 12 Powerful hardware for both phones

Galaxy S20 FE vs. iPhone 12

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

There are key differences when comparing an Android handset against an iPhone, but in the case of the Galaxy S20 FE versus the iPhone 12, there are plenty of similarities. Take the processor, for example. While Apple's A14 Bionic is technically more powerful than the Snapdragon 865 inside the S20 FE, both phones deliver excellent performance for virtually every task. Whether you're juggling multiple tabs in a browser, playing graphically-intense games, or just scrolling through Twitter, the S20 FE and iPhone 12 can handle everything without breaking a sweat.

We see something similar when it comes to the display. You're getting a Full HD+ OLED panel, whether you get the Galaxy S20 FE or iPhone 12, and both look fantastic. The Galaxy S20 FE benefits from a smoother 120Hz refresh rate, and while the iPhone 12 makes up some ground given all of the buttery animations present in iOS 14, the experience is technically better on the Samsung phone.

Moving over to the cameras, you end up with a respectable package both ways. The addition of a telephoto sensor on the S20 FE is something you just won't find on the iPhone, though we tend to appreciate the more natural and lifelike image processing that Apple gives you. Just like any Samsung phone, the S20 FE's cameras are filled with saturated colors and faces that are a bit too smoothed out. For the vast majority of folks, though, you'll be happy no matter which way you go. Whether you want to share pictures on Instagram or fill up your Google Photos library with endless memories, both phones are well-equipped to take great shots almost every single time.

On the battery side of things, it's a similar story yet again. The Galaxy S20 FE and iPhone 12 are both fully capable of lasting a full day on a single charge, meaning you don't have to worry about running out of juice. The S20 FE has a bit more overall endurance, but each of these phones is well-equipped to last until the end of the night.

As for some smaller hardware differences, there are a few other things to keep in mind. The S20 FE's polycarbonate back isn't as premium as the glass back of the iPhone 12, though we greatly prefer the USB-C port on the Galaxy compared to the iPhone's aging Lightning port. The S20 FE is the only phone with support for microSD cards, but the iPhone 12 boasts the new MagSafe standard that opens up new charging and accessory possibilities not seen anywhere else.

Galaxy S20 FE vs. iPhone 12 It all comes down to software

Galaxy S20 FE vs. iPhone 12

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

If you've read any of our Android vs. iPhone comparisons here on AC, you know a lot of them come down to the same conclusion. There are things to nitpick about the S20 FE compared to the iPhone 12, but for most people, the final decision comes down to the software each phone is running.

For users that love the customization and freedom that comes with Android, the Galaxy S20 FE is the phone to get. Comparatively, if you just can't live without iMessage or AirDrop, you'll be right at home on the iPhone 12. That's not to say that one operating system is objectively better than the other, but that most people have set preferences for these platforms.

The Galaxy S20 FE and iPhone 12 are two phones that deliver fantastic user experiences across the board, so whether you prefer the best Android phone or iOS, you end up with a stellar handset for the operating system you call home.

Joe Maring

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.