The “Fan Edition” (FE) series from Samsung was once a beacon of hope for budget-conscious Android enthusiasts. Offering flagship features at a more accessible price point, the first Galaxy S20 FE was a roaring success, leaving fans and critics alike swooning. But somewhere along the line, the magic fizzled out. Subsequent iterations stumbled, the S21 FE was a lukewarm affair, and 2022 saw the series skip a year entirely. What happened?
Let me set the picture, it’s May 2021 and Samsung has launched a mid-range Galaxy phone with a Flagship-grade Snapdragon 865 processor, a 120Hz AMOLED display, and a versatile triple-lens camera system all at a very competitive price point.
The Galaxy S20 FE hit all the right notes, it was most notable (okay, I will stop) in that it retained the sleek design and powerful processor of the flagship S20 series while making strategic cuts to bring down the cost. This cocktail of flagship experiences at a reasonable price struck a chord with consumers, making the S20 FE a critical and commercial darling, everyone, me included, easily recommended this phone.
The Downward Spiral: S21 FE and Beyond
However, the S20 FE’s successor, the S21 FE, failed to capture the same magic, it was delayed so much and was super expensive. The value proposition significantly dropped leading to a lukewarm reception, with critics and users alike lamenting the compromises compared to the stellar S20 FE. I actually gave a few reasons why I wouldn’t buy it here, (spoiler alert It was the price.)
The lackluster performance of the S21 FE, coupled with the chip shortage and changing market dynamics, led Samsung to skip the FE series altogether in 2022. This further fueled speculation about the series’ future, was it the “Fan Edition” or “Frustration Edition”?
The S23 FE’s arrival in 2023 rekindled a flicker of hope for the FE fans, however, it was still a bust, coming in at an almost flagship price with a 2-year-old Exynos chipset that struggled to be good even those two years ago, it was so bad the Verge called it the ‘fan forgettable’.
Despite the reduced price competition like the Pixel 7a which is a bit cheaper killed it at launch. I recommended the Pixel when I did my comparison here.
So, what went wrong?
Several factors contributed to the FE’s decline:
- Cutting too deep: Sacrificing too much on build quality and core features backfired, alienating fans who valued the premium feel of the original S20 FE.
- Inconsistent timing: While the first FE came at a time when everyone felt the Galaxy S20 series needed a refresh the launch of the s21 FE just before the s22 series made sure no one would get time to even consider it.
- Competition: The mid-range market is increasingly crowded with compelling options, making it harder for the FE to stand out.
Reclaiming the FE Throne: A Path Forward
Samsung can still revive the FE series, but it needs a strategic shift:
- Sharper Differentiation (Price): Clearly distinguish the FE models from their flagship counterparts by keeping them cheaper, focusing on specific areas like battery life.
- Consistent cadence: Maintain a regular release schedule to retain consumer interest and avoid confusion. Don’t let the “FE” become synonymous with “forgotten edition.”
- Focus on emerging markets: The mid-range segment is booming in developing countries. Tailor the FE series to these markets with good chipsets and competitive pricing.
Thank you for coming to my FEd (up) Talk.