iPhone 12 vs Galaxy S21: An In-Depth Flagship Comparison

The rivalry between Apple and Samsung drives innovation that continually raises the bar for premium smartphones year over year. As 5G networking rolls out globally, their latest and greatest flagships – the iPhone 12 and Galaxy S21 – pack bleeding-edge advancements in critical areas like device design, displays, camera technology, processing muscle and battery life.

Deciding between these industry leaders depends on your budget, features you value most, and even allegiance towards iOS or Android. This comprehensive comparison examines all the key strengths and weaknesses of both phones across six major categories. After breaking down their similarities and differences in over 2000 words, you‘ll know exactly which flagship best fits your needs and preferences. Let‘s dive in!

Durable by Design: Metal & Glass Craftsmanship

As the first major physical redesign since iPhone X, Apple returned to flat sides and edges reminiscent of the iPhone 5 generation…but with massively improved durability. Front and back panels utilize Ceramic Shield material claimed to offer 4x better crack and scratch protection compared to predecessors. Corning achieves this through a high-temperature crystallization step infusing nano-ceramic crystals within glass.

  • Real-world results prove impressively resilient against scratching and shattering alike. In SquareTrade drop tests from 6 feet, the iPhone 12 suffered no significant damage to front, back or sides after 7 drops, only picking up minor scuff marks on some edges and corners. Repairability still proves challenging however if cracks ever develop underneath that ruggedized glass.

Samsung played it safer with a familiar "Contour Cut Camera" housing that smoothly blends surrounding metal frames with the camera module, keeping the S21‘s profile slimmer and protecting fragile camera components. Rather than glass, they utilize a special "Glasstic" polymer composite dubbed Gorilla Glass Victus by Corning on the rear panel. Lab tests claim 2x scratch resistance over Gorilla 6 and the ability to survive 2 meter drops onto concrete.

With measurements of 5.97 x 2.8 x 0.31 inches and weighing in at 6.07 ounces, Galaxy S21‘s dimensions grow taller and heavier to accommodate its larger display and battery. By contrast, iPhone 12‘s smaller 5.78 x 2.81 x 0.29 inch chassis with 5.78 ounce weight fits easier in pockets and single handed use. For water and dust protection, both devices meet IP68 standards signifying 1.5 meter depth resistance for 30 minutes – useful durability if accidentally dropped in a pool or caught in sudden rainfall!

Winner: iPhone 12

  • Proven 4x improved scratch and crack resistant Ceramic Shield
  • Survives 6+ foot drops from SquareTrade better than Victus
  • More one-hand friendly dimensions

Visual Brilliance: 120Hz AMOLED vs. OLED

While the iPhone 12‘s 6.1" 1170×2532 resolution OLED display delivers vibrant colors and searing 1200 nit brightness that‘s easy to view outdoors, it lacks the buttery smoothness rival flagships provide through high refresh rates up to 120Hz for rendering silky smooth animations and motions.

Samsung‘s Answer? A sizable 6.2" 2400×1080 Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel cranking between 48Hz up to 120Hz adaptive refresh rates courtesy of LTPO backplane transistors, dynamically optimizing power draw to frame rates. The result is outstanding 1440p-esque clarity with buttery responsiveness for gaming, videos and scrolling alike. Measuring peak manual brightness at excess 1300 nits outdoors, it‘s brighter viewing HDR content.

But Apple counterpunches hard come iPhone 13, matching 120Hz adaptive ProMotion up to 1000 nits on 6.1" OLEDs while Samsung pushed S22 to a laptop-rivaling 240Hz! Neither leaves you wanting in 2022 with gorgeous, fluid visuals.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21

  • Noticeably smoother animations and scrolling at up to 120FPS
  • 1440p-rivaling clarity despite lower pixel resolution
  • Brighter in HDR content; great sunlight visibility

All Day Power: mAh vs mAh

Cramming in the largest battery ever for S-series Galaxy smartphones at 4000 mAh, the S21‘s marathon cell outsizes iPhone 12‘s 2815 mAh pack by over 42%! Why doesn‘t nearly double the capacity equate to 2x better runtime? Blame the power hungry 120Hz display and 5G connectivity. Video playback for iPhone 12 lasts about 17 hours per Apple based on 60Hz playback, with Samsung quoting around 16 hours of runtime mixing usage types.

  • Tom‘s Guide testing using web browsing over 5G measured 13:10 hours runtime on the S21. Battery saving 60Hz mode extends this figure closer to the iPhone 12‘s longevity.

  • GSMArena‘s endurance rating figure hits 117 hours for the S21.

For charging, Samsung supports the latest USB-PD PPS standard allowing wired charging at 25W, 50% quicker than iPhone 12‘s 20W USB-PD charging capped for battery longevity reasons. Both reach 50% charges in 30 minutes. Want charging without wires? Samsung sticks to 15W Qi wireless charging with support for 4.5W reverse charging to cover Bluetooth peripherals. Apple made no advances here sporting identical 15W MagSafe specs as earlier iPhones.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21

  • Significantly higher capacity at 4000 mAh
  • Faster 25W wired and 15W wireless charging
  • Wireless reverse charging

Photo Prowess: 12MP vs. 64MP Triple Camera

iPhone 12 debuted sensor-shift optical stabilization across both rear 12MP cameras plus a 12MP front shooter – cleverly stabilizing the sensor itself vs the entire camera assembly to counter micro-jitters. Combined with an ultra wide f/2.4 offering 120 degrees field of view plus regular wide f/1.6 aperture lens, Apple‘s dual camera array captures amazing detail and clarity in all conditions. Enhanced through Apple‘s industry-leading A14 Bionic Neural Engine chip analyzing scenes, Smart HDR 3 processing for dynamic range and Deep Fusion sustained performance even during nighttime shoots.

Not content chasing Apple‘s coattails, Galaxy S21 adds a 12MP f/2.2 ultra wide camera matching iPhone 12‘s along with a primary 12MP f/1.8 wide camera very similar on paper. The star of the show is an upgraded 64MP f/2.0 telephoto camera combining 9 pixels into 1 big 2.4 micron superpixel using a process dubbed Nona-Binning. The results? 3x hybrid zoom matched with vastly enhanced low light sensitivity better preserving detail in the dark. Paired with 30fps shooting, laser assisted autofocus, dual-pixel PDAF, OIS and 8K video recording, it‘s one of the most versatile mobile camera systems money can buy!

iPhone 12 Sample Shots
Night Mode:

Galaxy S21 Sample Shots

Winner: Tie

  • iPhone 12 delivers stunning clarity through Apple software and powerful sensor-shift OIS
  • Galaxy S21 matches ultrawide function and adds 3x zoom telephoto with 64MP hi-res captures

Blazing Speed and Power

Both Samsung and Apple utilize leading edge 5 nanometer silicon for their latest flagships powering the iPhone 12 and S21 family respectfully. Leveraging extreme ultraviolet lithography, 5nm fabrication packs 50 billion transistors per square mm enabling dramatic leaps in efficiency and performance.

Apple‘s homegrown 6-core A14 Bionic CPU takes the lead in most sustained workloads however, outperforming the Snapdragon 888 in key disciplines like single and multi-core processing critical for swift app launching and task juggling. Where Qualcomm fights back hardest lies graphics might thanks to beefier Adreno 660 integrated GPU pushing up to 144 FPS in games for buttery smooth visuals. See how they compare based on Geekbench 5 and 3DMark scores!

iPhone 12 on A14Galaxy S21 on SD888
CPU Benchmark1598 single / 4152 multi1122 single / 3319 multi
GPU Benchmark85 FPS (Manhattan 3.1)113 FPS (Manhattan 3.1)

Both devices offer a similar premium experience though when launching apps, multi-tasking, gaming and juggling data-intensive workloads – hardly leaving anyone waiting on slowdowns or lag today despite Samsung‘s beastlier graphics. Future iOS and Android updates guarantee smooth sailing for years too.

Winner: Tie

Price and Value: Storage Showdown

Starting with double the 64GB storage Apple offers to 128GB for just $799, early value favors team Samsung if wanting more built-in capacity since their $849 256GB upgrade matches iPhone 12‘s. Factor carrier offers however and the equation changes dramatically.

On Verizon for example, iPhone 12 leases for $33 per month over 24 months totaling $792 no money down. Galaxy S21 asks $41 monthly equaling $984 altogether. Assuming one keeps the S21 an extra year reaching resale value parity with iPhone‘s higher retained value, Samsung‘s cost of ownership premium narrows from 35% higher to about 15% over 3 years of use.

Value stays closely matched between these ultra premium flagships that represent the best iOS and Android platforms offer. Your preference between operating systems and device ecosystem may matter far more in making the best choice rather than monetary factors. With incredible polish no matter which flagship you select, buyers win big on cutting edge advancements found on both iPhone 12 and Galaxy S21 model families.

Winner: Tie

The Bottom Line

After six in-depth head-to-head comparisons spanning over 2000 words on every critical metric from visual design to imaging chops plus processing muscle and value factors, is there a clear winner between iPhone 12 vs Galaxy S21?

In a word – nope. Each device wins decisively in two categories as the scorecard below shows. The remaining elements end so closely matched that personal preferences, budgets and mobile OS ecosystem allegiance plays the biggest role crowning your ultimate choice. Feeling equally great in hand with smooth lag-free operation, I‘d give the edge still to iPhone 12 by virtue of smaller footprint, familiar iOS and slightly better drop test results to date. Yet most Android lovers find adaptability and capability advantages keeping them loyal to Samsung. Fortunately no matter which flagship leaves with you – the power is ultimately yours. Enjoy!

DesigniPhone 12
DisplayGalaxy S21
BatteryGalaxy S21

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