Samsung, the world leader in the smartphone category, has been defeated by its Chinese rival Xiaomi in India for several consecutive quarters. There is no denying that Xiaomi has understood the needs of Indian consumers and timely delivered products that are a hit without a miss. This has resulted in Samsung's share shrinking from the world's second largest smartphone market. But ever since the coronavirus outbreak started, there has been some negativity towards China and its companies and this anti-China sentiment could work in favour of Samsung if not be the sole reason to reclaim its lost share in India.
That said, the Galaxy M21's launch timing couldn't be more perfect. With the businesses taken a huge hit in India due to extended lockdowns, Samsung Galaxy M21 could be perceived as a suitable option for budget shoppers.
Design and Display
Samsung is being consistent with the design of its M-series smartphones. The Galaxy M21 features a polycarbonate body, which is study, durable and not a fingerprint magnet. There's a hint of a gradient touch, which gives the illusion of a glass body, which is made possible by its shiny panel. The smartphone does get smudged, but compared to a glass back, it is something you can live with.
Samsung has stuck to the basics with the overall design element, which is quite natural given the phone's affordable price point. It's handy, can be used easily with a single hand, doesn't slip away easily and offers a solid grip. The volume and lock controls are easily reachable and the usual charging port, which is a Type-C (thankfully), and speakers, 3.5mm headphone jack sit comfortably at the bottom.
A huge part of the design is the display, which is a full screen with a tiny dot notch. It's a 6.4-inch Full HD+ AMOLED panel with Gorilla Glass 3 protection, which makes up for an otherwise dull design. Samsung has always been the best when it comes to displays and the low budget of the Galaxy M21 doesn't sway that commitment away. The display has vibrant colours and it can be used outdoors without straining the eyes. For those who are concerned, it gets Widevine L1 certification for those who stream a lot of content on OTT platforms such as Amazon Prime and Netflix.
Samsung Galaxy M21 is powered by its own Exynos 9611 chipset paired with 4GB RAM. As a daily driver, who wouldn't demand a lot high graphics gaming, the Galaxy M21 delivers sufficiently. From using the phone for calls, browsing in 4G or Wi-Fi, scrolling through your social media feeds (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook) can be done with ease. But don't put too much strain on the phone by extended video recording sessions or running too many tabs on the browser.
Mobile phone gaming can be done with ease as long as there's no demand for high graphics. PUBG Mobile's graphics are automatically adjusted so you will feel the budget nature of the phone, but that is essential for the game to run smoothly.
However, all smartphones in its price range perform similarly so there's no real winner here. But if you consider the user experience, the One UI 2.0 could make a huge difference for those who want a cleaner interface. Budget shoppers can surely consider the One UI 2.0, which powers almost all Samsung phones, as a strong USP for long-term impact.
The fingerprint sensor and face unlock work without any issues.
Samsung Galaxy M21 features three cameras on the back, which combine a 48MP main sensor, an 8MP ultra-wide-angle lens with 123* field of view and a 5MP depth sensor. The selfies are taken care of by a 20-megapixel sensor. The results are surprisingly good.
There are some strong points and weak points in the Galaxy M21 camera setup. Firstly, shooting stills in daylight can fetch you some stunning results (for its asking price). The dynamic range is good, colours are well balanced, crispness is retained to the maximum level. This is in part due to the pixel-binning of the photos. Different modes like Live Focus aka Portrait along with its post-editing skills make for some great shots.
But if you get too excited with the primary sensor and switch to its ultra-wide-angle lens expectation similar results, you might be disappointed. There's distortion on the edges and noise as well. But that loss is made up by the bokeh shots, which come out great if there's ample lighting. Overall, the cameras perform best under good lighting, but as it gets darker, there's noise and dull images. But the results are not so bad that you would stop clicking.
Selfies are quite good. If you do not have a taste for filters and artificial beautification, you can turn them off. Even without those filters, the selfies came out fine outdoors as well as indoors. The video shooting isn't the phone's strongest suit, so if your requirement is for videos, it is better to look elsewhere. Stills, on the other hand, can be good on the Galaxy M21.
Samsung Galaxy M21 is riding high on the battery and truly hoping to win consumers on this feature. With a massive 6,000mAh battery under the hood, users won't have to worry about running low on charge anytime during the day. In our case, the Galaxy M21 easily lasted two days and still had some juice left in it. The usage was primarily for calls, messages, social media browsing and some mild gaming.
Samsung also throws in a 15W fast charger in the box, which is nice touch. Even with that, it took two hours to get the phone to reach 80 percent. But that's enough battery for a whole day and even two days if your screen-on time isn't as high.
Samsung has a balanced spec-sheet, which is mostly working in its favour. The display is great for the price, the battery is a really long-lasting one, cameras have good daylight shooting capabilities, and the performance is not working against it. The brand value surely makes a lot of impact in the case of this budget smartphone, especially considering its Chinese rivals are also placed in a similar price range with similar offerings.
The Galaxy M21 is priced at Rs 13,999 for the 4GB+64GB variant and Rs 15,999 for 6GB+128GB variant (for those who do a lot of multitasking). Even then, Samsung's only threat is its competition with rivals with their capable offerings. For instance, you get Realme 6, Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro and one might even consider Samsung's own Galaxy M31, which proved its worth during our review.