The question is whether Samsung can rekindle the magic that brought us an affordable dynamo like the Galaxy S20 FE or if we’ll be looking at a watered-down flagship like the Galaxy S21 FE that will have a hard time finding a place in today’s market. Hopefully, Samsung acknowledges that the mid-range space has gotten much tougher and comes in below the $699 of its predecessors, but regardless, it will have its work cut out for it against the Pixel 7a at $499.
While its follow-up was a disappointment, the S20 FE was one of my favorite phones that I’ve ever reviewed, so I can’t help but be intrigued by Samsung reviving the line. Here’s a look at everything we know so far including the rumored release date, price, features, specs and more.
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE release date
The FE was already on an inconsistent release schedule and then Samsung skipped an entire year, so suffice to say I’m not as confident about this one as the Galaxy S24 launch for example.
If I had to venture a guess, we would lean toward an August or September release, a timeframe that was tipped by the Korean news site Hankooki. This would get Samsung in before the iPhone 15 or Google Pixel 8.
With that said, we know Samsung Unpacked is coming in late July, which could also serve as the release for the Galaxy S23 FE. However, there are already quite a few devices expected at that event with the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Galaxy Z Flip 5 a virtual lock and other devices like the Galaxy Watch 6 and Galaxy Tab S9 potentially arriving as well.
Given its budget positioning the Galaxy S23 FE doesn’t necessarily warrant a full event, so I would put my money on that slightly delayed announcement in August or September.
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE price
There are no credible rumors regarding the price of the Galaxy S23 FE yet, but if we follow the breadcrumbs left by Samsung’s pricing on its existing Galaxy phones we can perhaps find our way there.
The Galaxy S23 starts at $799, but Samsung pulled an Apple this year and kept the Galaxy S22 around at a starting price of $699. You have to drop all the way to $449 for the Galaxy A54 from there, so there’s a definite hole in Samsung’s lineup.
So that leaves open three possibilities. The most likely option is that Samsung drops the Galaxy S22 and the Galaxy S23 FE takes its place at $699. Behind door number two Samsung could drop the Galaxy S22 to $599 and have the Galaxy S23 take the $699 price point. Or door number three is that Samsung drops the Galaxy S22 altogether and the Galaxy S23 FE slots in at $649 to split the difference.
Count on the Galaxy S23 FE coming in between $599 to $699, but that’s as close as we can come for now.
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE features and design
While I miss the Contour Cut Camera housing from Samsung, it’s time to let it go. The Galaxy S23 FE will almost certainly pick up the same design as the Galaxy S23 and the Galaxy A54, which is either a minimalist paradise or a blank boring design depending on your point of view.
Renders of the phone support this notion showing the triple camera array aligned vertically in the upper-left corner of the phone with a small flash located just to the right of the space between the first and second cameras. The back will likely be some form of plastic polymer, which may not be as fancy as Gorilla Glass Victus, but after carrying around the Asus Zenfone 10 for a week I was reminded once again that a plastic back can be better.
We’ll get into the specs next, but that triple camera array is what sets the Galaxy S23 FE apart from most of its budget flagship competition. Most phones below $700 drop the telephoto lens, either offering you just a wide and ultra-wide or sometimes tossing a macro lens (which you should almost never use) on to maintain that triple camera look. As an advocate for telephoto cameras on phones, I’ll give Samsung credit for keeping this part of its flagship experience alive on its more affordable phones.
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE specs
Perhaps the biggest problem for the Galaxy S21 FE was that it launched immediately prior to the Galaxy S22, meaning that its specs aligned with the Galaxy S21 which had launched a full year prior. The Galaxy S23 FE will avoid that mistake if it launches in August or September, arriving still 4-5 months before the expected release of the Galaxy S24.
However, the rumors surrounding its chipset in particular muddy the waters for the Galaxy S23 FE. The dueling rumors come from a leak published by 91Mobiles indicating the S23 FE will feature a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip and a report from SamMobile saying it will drop Qualcomm in favor of Samsung’s own Exynos 2200 chipset. Neither is an ideal outcome. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 was a revolutionary upgrade for Android phones in 2023 with improved efficiency and performance. The 8+ Gen 1 and Exynos 2200 aren’t terrible, but if that’s what’s inside Samsung better be at that $599 price point.
Display rumors are still scarce, I’d expect Samsung to stay in that middle ground at around 6.4 inches to avoid too much conflation with the Galaxy S23 or Galaxy S23 Plus. The real question here will be whether Samsung can bring an adaptive 120Hz display to this price range or if you’ll once again need to just lock in at 60Hz or 120Hz and take the battery or refresh rate hit.
The other major spec question is what kind of cameras will be behind the glass of those three little dots on the back of the phone. The Galaxy S21 FE gave us 12MP wide and ultra-wide cameras that weren’t bad, but the 3x 8MP telephoto was an afterthought that may as well have been forgotten entirely. Samsung needs to up its game this time around. After two years in the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S23, the 50MP primary from those cameras may not be out of reach for the Galaxy S23 FE. If Samsung manages that then the ultra-wide and telephoto both sitting at 12MP would be acceptable.
The mid-tier market is on fire right now with options like the Pixel 7a and OnePlus 11 representing some of the best values that we’ve ever seen for buyers. That makes it a rough time for the Galaxy S23 FE to make a comeback, but Samsung unquestionably can deliver a worthy rival to those phones.
If Samsung can give buyers 85% of the Galaxy S23 experience for $599, that’s going to be a tempting buy for a lot of people heading into the holiday season. However, I’m not sure if it’s going to get there. The rumors regarding the CPU worry me and while I’m hopeful that Samsung won’t shortchange the cameras in the S23 FE, it missed the mark there with the S21 FE so I’m not supremely confident.
Finally, there’s the pricing. When Samsung shocked us with the Galaxy S20 FE there were no viable “budget flagships” below $700. The fall off from the features of the true flagship phones at $800 plus to a more affordable phone was massive with Samsung’s Galaxy S20 FE jutting up out of the water as a lone island in the gulf between those two sides. That’s not the world we live in today, so Samsung is either going to need to shock us on pricing or specs to stand out again with the Galaxy S23 FE, but for now, we’ll just keep following every leak and rumor.
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Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more. Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.