Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Apple iPhone 12

The recently-launched Samsung Galaxy S21 is set to be the main Android rival for Apple’s iPhone 12.

Samsung will be hoping its latest flagship can significantly outperform its predecessor – the Galaxy S20 – which posted low sales volumes in 2020 when compared to its previous premium releases.

Research group M Science previously claimed that sales of the S20 Series in the first months after its launch were down around 50% from the Galaxy S10, which itself performed worse than the Galaxy S9.

By comparison, Counterpoint Research said Apple’s main iPhone 12 model became a best-seller among 5G smartphones within two weeks of its release, accounting for 16% of all 5G smartphone sales in October 2020.

Notably, for the period between January and October 2020, the iPhone 12 claimed the 7th position of all 5G smartphones sold.

We compared the specifications of these two flagship smartphones to see which offers the best capabilities.

What you see

The Galaxy S21 features a plastic back with aluminium frame, while the iPhone 12 gets a more premium glass back with stainless steel frame.

Samsung has introduced a Contour Cut design for its Galaxy S21 series, which means the camera bump wraps around and blends into the phone’s aluminium frame.

The body comes in four frosted colours – violet, pink, black, and white.

The iPhone 12 sports a more traditional camera housing with two lenses arranged vertically.

Unlike most other modern smartphones, it features flat edges along its stainless steel frame. It comes with a glossy glass back available in black, white, green, red, and blue.

When it comes to displays, the two smartphones exchange blows in certain key areas.

The iPhone 12 has the superior resolution of 2,532 x 1,170 on its 6.1-inch OLED compared to the 2,400 x 1,080 pixels on the Galaxy S21’s 6.2-inch screen.

However, at 120Hz, the Galaxy S21 has double the refresh rate of the iPhone 12, making for a “smoother” navigation experience.

Under the hood

When it comes to performance, it is unlikely that the Galaxy S21 or the iPhone 12 will disappoint intensive users.

Both these smartphones offer cutting-edge 5nm chips which are among the top five best-performing of any phone processor on the market, according to the latest benchmarks.

The iPhone 12 boasts the A14 Bionic chipset, which is the fastest mobile processor of any smartphone on the market at the moment.

It comes paired with 4GB RAM, which is more than enough to run apps smoothly when used in conjunction with iOS 14.

The Galaxy S21 in South Africa packs an Exynos 2100 – Samsung’s promising new chip – that ranks in fourth place. It runs alongside 8GB RAM in all the available storage configurations.


For photography, the Galaxy S21 sports a triple setup comprising a 12MP main camera, 12MP ultrawide, and 64MP telephoto lens.

The latter allows for optical zoom up to 3x or software-enhanced magnification up to 30x.

The iPhone 12 has one fewer sensor, with only a 12MP wide and 12MP ultrawide on offer, but despite this, it has posted a very high score of 122 on DXOMark’s rankings.

One notable feature that the Galaxy S21 has, however, is 8K video recording and frame snapping, allowing users to capture 33MP pictures while they film. The iPhone 12’s recording resolution maxes out at 4K.

Battery life

The S21 offers a larger battery than the iPhone 12 – 4,000mAh as opposed to 2,815mah.

According to tests performed by Tom’s Guide, the iPhone 12 managed only 8 hours and 25 minutes on a single charge.

The Galaxy S21 will supposedly perform even better than its predecessor – the S20 – which reached 9 hours and 31 minutes in the same tests.

Fast charging is possible one both models – with 25W on the Galaxy S21 and 20W for the iPhone 12.

Both also offer wireless charging at 15W, but only the Galaxy S21 comes with reverse Qi charging for supported devices like earbuds.

Pricing edge

While neither of these smartphones would be regarded as inexpensive, the Galaxy S21 has a slight advantage in the pricing department.

It comes with a starting price of R17,999 for the 128GB model, compared with the R19,999 for the iPhone 12 128GB.

The table below compares the specifications of the Galaxy S21 and iPhone 12.

Specifications Galaxy S21 iPhone 12
OS Android 11 iOS 14
Display 6.2-inch 2,400 x 1,080 OLED 120Hz 6.1-inch 2,532 x 1,170 OLED 60Hz
Processor Exynos 2100 A14 Bionic
Storage 128GB / 256GB 64GB / 128GB / 256GB
Rear Camera 64MP + 12MP + 12MP 12MP + 12MP
Front Camera 10MP 12MP + SL 3D
Network 5G 5G
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 6 Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 6
Biometrics In-display fingerprint reader Face ID
Protection level IP68 IP68
Battery and charging 4,000mAh
25W wired
15W wireless
20W wired
15W wireless
Dimensions 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9 mm (169g) 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4 mm (164g)
Price R17,999 / R18,999  R18,999 / R19,999 / R20,999

Galaxy S21

Galaxy S21 front and back

iPhone 12

Now read: Samsung Galaxy S21 contract prices in South Africa

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