Apple iPhone 12 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: which is the better 5G phone?

We compare the excellent Apple iPhone 12 and Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G smartphones

Apple iPhone 12 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
(Image credit: Samsung)

The introduction of 5G has created a new class of high-end devices that can, theoretically, achieve huge downloads speeds anywhere. We've spent many hours finding the best 5G phones and today we're comparing the Apple iPhone 12 and Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G. 

Wait, you might be thinking, isn't one of these a top-tier smartphone while the other is mid-range? In a sense, yes, but the iPhone 12 is nearly a year old and will inevitably be replaced by the iPhone 13 at some point soon, making the two increasingly comparable. 

And, of course, both of them support 5G, the latest wireless standard that can, in theory, give you near-WiFi internet speeds, especially if you are lucky enough to live (or work) in the centre of a big UK city. While 5G has a way to go, adoption is increasing, coverage is improving, and smartphones with 5G are getting cheaper. 

So, let's jump into our comparison between between the Apple iPhone 12 and Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G. 

Apple iPhone 12 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: features

The first and perhaps most obvious difference between these two smartphones is software: Samsung's Galaxy S20 FE runs Android 10 (upgradeable to Android 12) with the OneUI skin, while the iPhone 12 runs iOS 14 (upgraded to iOS 15 when the time comes). You likely already have a preference, so keep that in mind. 

Elsewhere, the iPhone 12 is well and truly a premium smartphone and it shows from the moment you pick it up. The refreshed design, with squared-off edges, is sleek and reminds us of the iPhone 5, no bad thing. The 6.1-inch display is big enough without dominating, like the larger iPhone 12 Pro models, and the internals are super, super fast; things never feel slow. 

The Galaxy S20 FE, on the other hand, has a 6.5-inch display (with 120Hz refresh rates), powerful internals, and the same comfortable-to-hold design as other Galaxy smartphones, complete with rounded edges. Samsung has cleverly avoided changing too many of the design features on the FE, instead opting to remove many superfluous features. 

The cameras are perhaps the highlight on both. Apple has spent many years refining some of the best smartphone cameras going, as has Samsung, and it shows. Low-light conditions are well-represented, colours are accurate, and shot times are down to milliseconds, ensuring you'll never miss a moment. 

When it comes to features, the iPhone 12 and Galaxy S20 FE are very evenly matched, although the iPhone 12 does have an edge due to its premium status. 

Apple iPhone 12 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

(Image credit: Future)

Apple iPhone 12 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: design and use

We'll just say it: the iPhone 12's new design is stunning. The iPhone 11 was a lovely handset, but the 12 takes this to another level with its squared-off edges that fit so neatly into your hand. Diversity is the spice of life and Apple has delivered.  

Anyone who has used an iPhone knows that things are polished to perfect: nothing lags, scrolling is always silky smooth, apps load instantly, and the camera is constantly ready to take stunning pictures. The iPhone 12 is no exception, tying all of these things together in a stunning package. 

While the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE sits below the new Samsung Galaxy S21 series in the hierarchy, technology has progressed to such an extent that it still manages to feel premium. We never experienced any slowness, even during intensive tasks, thanks to the high-end chipset and beautiful 120Hz display. 

Samsung has really done well with choosing which features to drop from the S20 FE, keeping all of the powerful internal components that make the difference when it comes to speed and use. Gone are the days when mid-tier Android smartphones lagged behind iPhones. 

The only downside for these two devices is battery life. It's not awful, especially on the iPhone 12, but if you're looking to really put these handsets through their paces with many hours (or even days) away from a plug, make sure you're carrying a portable charger. But that's literally it. 

Apple iPhone 12 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

(Image credit: Samsung)

Apple iPhone 12 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: verdict 

These two 5G smartphones are surprisingly evenly match, which is a credit to Samsung really. Despite being a mid-range handset, the Galaxy S20 FE is reliably excellent, crunching any tasks we threw at it, taking amazing photos, and so on. 

On balance, if your budget allows, we think the iPhone 12 is probably the better of the two – but then being an Apple flagship means it should be. As the iPhone 13 draws nearer, you're going to see big price cuts for the 12 models, too. 

Overall, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is a fantastic smartphone, especially if you're already locked into the Android (or Samsung) ecosystem but we think the iPhone 12 with a good contract just about beats it. 

Max Slater-Robins

Max Slater-Robins has written for T3 now on and off for over half a decade, with him fitting in serious study at university in between. Max is a tech expert and as such you'll find his words throughout, appearing in everything from reviews and features, to news and deals. Max is specifically a veteran when it comes round to deal hunting, with him seeing out multiple Black Friday campaigns to date.