Samsung is almost certainly busy preparing the mid-range Galaxy S21 FE for launch later this year, but rumour has it that the phone has been badly affected by the industry's ongoing chip shortage - so it was no surprise that we didn't see it launch at the August Unpacked event.
We are confident that the phone is still on the way, and thanks to leaks we even know exactly what it will look like - and after months of waiting it looks like it might finally launch next month.
When will the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE be released?
Samsung hasn't confirmed an official release date for the S21 FE yet - or even that it exists. That said, last year's S20 FE was announced in September ahead of an early October release, so similar timing would make sense this time around, potentially alongside the Galaxy Tab S8.
Leaker Mauri QHD tipped a launch on 8 September which obviously didn't end up taking place, though Jon Prosser has predicted a launch in late October. He claims that the phone will go on sale on 29 October, with pre-orders from 20 October. He doesn't claim to know when the phone will be announced, but it's plausible that it would be the same day pre-orders start.
Samsung has announced an event for October. Tech Advisor has been invited to an event named Life Unstoppable: House of Surprises on 12 October. It's possible that this will include the launch of the S21 FE, though you shouldn't get your hopes up: a similar event last year focussed on connected home tech, and it's likely that this will be similar.
Even if the phone doesn't go on sale on 29 October, most leakers do at least agree that it will launch this year. SamMobile claims that sources had cited a Q4 release for the S21 FE this year, while Korea's FN News points to October in a report that claims the phone had been set for August but suffered a delay.
That makes sense, as early leaks from the likes of Evleaks and Ross Young had predicted an August launch for the phone, but that clearly didn't happen. We did get an August Galaxy Unpacked event, but we only saw the launch of the Galaxy Z Fold 3, Galaxy Z Flip 3, Galaxy Watch 4, and Galaxy Buds 2.
It looks most likely that Samsung was aiming for August, but has since had to change its plans. A (now deleted) report from Korean publication ETNews, published in mid-June, suggested that Samsung's supply of Qualcomm silicon – thought to be intended for the S21 FE – was dwindling and that the company was reallocating said components to a forthcoming foldable.
However, Samsung promptly responded by contacting Bloomberg to deny the specifics of the report's allegations, stating, “while we cannot discuss details of the unreleased product, nothing has been determined regarding the alleged production suspension.”
Just as interestingly, the FN News report claims that thanks to the chip shortage the phone is being considered for a launch limited to the US and Europe, with no availability in Asia at all.
"I know that some time ago, production was considered to be stopped due to a chip shortage. However, considering market reliability, it was reconsidered to release some quantities in the United States and Europe," a quoted official says (in Korean, through Google Translate).
In a comment a Samsung official seems to admit that the late, limited launch is being considered, but refuses to confirm final plans. Again, this quote is machine-translated, so take it with a pinch of salt:
"It is only one of several measures currently being considered. Nothing has been confirmed yet."
Following that, another Korean site - Maeil - reported that the S21 FE's launch has slipped back to Q4 2021 - October, November, or December. The report echoes the possibility that Samsung will limit the launch to certain markets, but adds another possibility: that the company will achieve a global launch by limiting the Snapdragon 888 model to certain markets, and using its own Exynos chipsets elsewhere.
Presumably this would be the Exynos 2100, the same chip used in the standard S21 phones in many markets, including the UK and Europe. While Samsung splits its chips for different regions for its flagships, last year's S20 FE used the same chip worldwide, so this would represent a strategy shift.
How much will the Galaxy S21 FE cost?
In early June, Korean publication Herald Corp referenced potential pricing for the next entry in the Galaxy S21 line, citing a local price of between KRW₩700,000 and ₩800,000 (which directly converts to between £445-510/€520-590/US$630-720), a notable price reduction compared to its predecessor - the S20 FE - which in South Korea launched at ₩899,990 (roughly £570/€665/$810).
Regional pricing for the Galaxy S20 FE actually worked out to be higher than that of direct conversion from the Korean pricing; with the 4G variant starting at £599/€659, while the 5G model started from £699/€759/$699.
In the US, the S20 FE arrived exclusively with 5G, with the same holding true for the Galaxy S20. More recently the same was true in the UK for the Galaxy A52, while other European markets still got their hands on a 4G version as well, which could imply that the same will be true of the S21 FE.
As always, the phone is likely to come with offers. A promo listed on the Samsung France site - and since removed, though not before it was captured by SamMobile - accidentally confirms the S21 FE name, but also reveals that (in France at least) it will come with four months of free YouTube Premium.
What are the Samsung S21 FE specs and design?
When it comes to what this year's FE might look like, we start with a trip to famed tipster OnLeaks' column on Voice, where he shared some apparent renders of the phone:
With Hemmerstoffer (OnLeaks) never revealing his sources, it's uncertain whether the images shared are based on official imagery from a source within Samsung or simply fan-made based on current rumours, but taking them at face value, they reveal some of the subtle differences that this year's FE will sport compared to its predecessor and the current Galaxy S21 range.
Dimensions of 155.7mm x 74.5mm x 7.9mm (or 9.3mm thick with the rear camera bump included) - since confirmed by the phone's TENAA certification listing - render the S21 FE marginally taller and wider than the standard Galaxy S21, which OnLeaks states would suggest a slightly larger 6.4in display - also mentioned by TENAA.
The design, meanwhile, clearly follows in the footsteps of the existing S21 line but sees the contour cut camera bump rise out of the 'glasstic' back, rather than the metal frame - as on the other entries in the S21 series.
Evan Blass has also shared shots showing the phone's colours, which almost exactly match the expected colourways predicted by Ross Young in early May, embedded further up this feature.
Galaxy S21 FE w/ updated/additional colors/angles (clockwise from top left: green, white, blue, violet, grey) pic.twitter.com/kui51pJ6ch— Evan Blass (@evleaks) June 8, 2021
The only colour that doesn't match is the blue model, which Young didn't mention back in May. Curiously that's also the only colour missing from this leaked image from Android Headlines, which appears to be an official Samsung promo - and is thus arguably our best look yet at the phone's final design.
These four colours are also those mentioned by Prosser in his release date leak (again, with no mention of the blue), this time with names: Graphite, White, Olive Green, and Lavender.
Blass was back again on 10 July, with a bumper crop of animated GIFs revolving around every product (and in every known colourway) that at one point was expected to feature at this year's Unpacked on 11 August.
The S21 FE renders give a 360-degree walkaround of the phone's design and have been made available in the full set of expected finishes. If that's not enough, he's also shared 3D models of the phone in various colours so that you can play around with how it looks for yourself.
SGS21FE in 3Dhttps://t.co/JVdBFRUmFQ— Evan (@evleaks) August 20, 2021
If you want confirmation that this is the phone's design, it's also what we see in the photographs submitted to TENAA by Samsung for the phone's certification, which makes it official.
And if you want yet more confirmation, how about the fact that Samsung itself shared it?
Fans spotted that the phone in this Instagram post looks a lot like leaked S21 FE renders. Not convinced? Well, the fact that Samsung has since deleted the post in question all but confirms that this is an image of the upcoming phone.
So, onto the internals. WCCFTech first reported that the new model would be something of a downgrade in quality from the initial Galaxy S20 FE. The main area of compromise being cited as the display, which could take the form of a 60Hz AMOLED panel, rather than the 120Hz one that featured on its predecessor.
Regardless of refresh rate, the TENAA listings, and Blass's leaks, confirm that the display will measure 6.4in on the diagonal, with a resolution of 1,080 x 2,340 and 19.5:9 aspect ratio.
In terms of chipset we're expecting to see the Exynos 2100 or Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipsets (likely varying by market, as mentioned above), with small bumps to both the camera sensors and battery size.
Subsequent Geekbench 5 benchmarking leaks seem to confirm that the Snapdragon 888 will feature in at least one variant, with model number 'SM-G990B' apparently featuring the flagship chip. The listing also makes mention of Android 11 (which could be replaced with Android 12 come the device's launch, depending on the timing) and 6GB of RAM.
A Google Play Console developer listing for the phone shows the same SKU, with the Snapdragon 888 and 6GB of RAM. MySmartPrice unearthed another variant of the S21 FE on Geekbench, this time sporting 8GB of RAM (with the Snapdragon 888 once again in tow).
After all these Snapdragon versions, in September 2021 an Exynos variant of the phone finally popped up on Geekbench and a Play Console listing, finally confirming that this version is also on the way. As expected it includes the Exynos 2100, and like the Snapdragon variant packs 8GB RAM.
8GB RAM was also seen in the version of the phone submitted to TENAA, which also mentions storage options of 128GB or 256GB - the same storage options predicted by Prosser.
The TENAA listing also mentions welcome support for microSD cards, but this has since been cast into doubt. SamMobile obtained a leaked US user manual for the phone, and there's no mention at all of a microSD slot. This could just be a case of regional variation however - with a microSD slot included in Chinese versions of the phone, but not the US model.
Other details from the manual include an IP68 rating, an ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensor, and the expected high refresh rate. It also confirms that there's no 3.5mm headphone jack.
TENAA also confirms many of the camera specs. On the back we'll find a triple camera, with a 32Mp main lens and 12Mp and 8Mp additional lenses - most likely an ultrawide and a telephoto, the latter of which will offer 3x optical zoom.
Battery-wise, the TENAA listing confirms that the battery capacity will match that of its predecessor at 4370mAh - likely to be advertised as 4500mAh - landing between the base Galaxy S21 (4000mAh) and the S21+ (4800mAh).
There's also the matter of charging, and between China's 3C certification (as spotted by MyFixGuide), FCC certification, and the TENAA certification, we know that the phone will support both 25W and 45W charging. The leaked user manual confirms both wireless and reverse wireless charging too.
TENAA claims that a charger will be included with the phone, but it's more likely that this will be the slower 25W charger, with owners having to pay extra for the faster speeds. In another clash, the user manual instead says that no charger is included - again, this is most likely a case of regional variation.