OPINION: After a two-month wait following its early October announcement, the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE is officially available to buy in the UK – but it’s just a little too late for the phone to be the smash hit Samsung undoubtedly envisioned.
For those unfamiliar with Samsung’s FE branding, it stands for Fan Edition. It’s essentially Samsung’s way of marketing more budget-friendly versions of premium products like the flagship Samsung Galaxy S23, though it’s certainly not the first Samsung product to get the treatment.
We’ve seen it before with the Galaxy S21 FE, and we’ve also seen the Galaxy Tab S9 FE and Galaxy Buds FE appear more recently. All offer a broadly similar look to the premium tech they’re trying to emulate, and even include many of the same core specs, but, of course, there are compromises to help bring the price down.
When it comes to the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE, the phone looks and feels just like the flagship with its minimalistic design and glass and aluminium body, although the 120Hz AMOLED display is a touch larger at 6.4 inches and the bezels are ever so slightly thicker.
It sports the same main 50MP and 12MP ultrawide cameras as the flagship, along with an 8MP 3x telephoto in place of the 12MP alternative. Although it doesn’t sport the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy, the Exynos 2200 or Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 deliver solid everyday performance that outpaces much of the mid-range competition.
While I’m still not a massive fan of the Exynos/Snapdragon split that Samsung sometimes employs, the compromises within the S23 FE are pretty negligible. Even with the lower resolution telephoto lens, it remains one of few mid-rangers with a dedicated zoom lens, and elements like Gorilla Glass 5 are more common at the mid-range price point too.
Throw in a premium glass and aluminium design, a high-end display and IP68 dust and water resistance and you’ve got a recipe for a competitive mid-ranger, right?
That would’ve been a resounding yes if not for the Galaxy S23 FE’s biggest competitor, the Samsung Galaxy S23.
“But how can the S23 be a competitor when the FE is designed as a cheaper version of the phone?” I hear you cry. Reader, it’s all about the timing of the S23 FE’s release.
You see, the Samsung Galaxy S23 was first revealed on 1 February 2023, with release following on 17 February 2023. That means that the S23 has been on sale for just shy of 10 months at this point, and with 2024 drawing ever closer, it’s likely that we’re not too far from the reveal of the next-gen Galaxy S24 range.
As you’re well aware, smartphones tend to drop in price the longer they’re available – and that, of course, is true of the Samsung Galaxy S23. While its initial £849/$799 price tag put it comfortably in flagship territory, the same can’t be said in December 2023.
In fact, looking at Amazon product price tracker Keepa, we can see that the Galaxy S23 has already dropped beneath the £599 asking price of the Galaxy S23 FE, down to as little as £546 in recent months. It’s £599 at Amazon right now.
If you can get the full-fat flagship S23 for the same or even less than the budget version of the same phone, what’s the point in the latter?
If Samsung had launched the Galaxy S23 FE alongside the flagship S23 earlier this year, or even if it appeared a few months after, it would’ve been a completely different story. The regular S23 would’ve still been close to its original RRP, making the S23 FE look like a real steal.
But, in late 2023 with Galaxy S23 deals aplenty, the S23 FE doesn’t do enough to justify its existence. And that’s a real shame. Maybe Samsung should release the S24 FE a little earlier next year…