Galaxy S21 vs. iPhone 13 vs. Pixel 6: Which smartphone do I choose in 2021?

Before viewing just what are the main similarities and differences between the three models in greater detail, I will share a comparison table of hardware specifications, positive and negative points as mentioned in our reviews on NextPit below.

 
Comparison table

Product

Image

Screen
6.1-inch OLED
1,170 x 2,532 pixels (460 PPP) at 60 Hz
1,200 nits maximum brightness
6.4-inch OLED
1,080 x 2,400 pixels (411 PPP) at 90 Hz
6.2-inch OLED
1,080 x 2,400 pixels (421 PPP) at 120 Hz
1,300 nits maximum brightness

SoC
Apple A15 Bionic
2x Avalanche @ 3.24 GHz
4x Blizzard @ 2GHz
Apple proprietary GPU
Google Tensor
2x Cortex-X1 @ 2.80 GHz
2x Cortex-A76 @ 2.25 GHz
4x Cortex-A55 @ 1.80 GHz
20x Mali-G78 (GPU)
Samsung Exynos 2100
1x Cortex-X1 2.9 GHz
3x Cortex-A78 @ 2.8 GHz
4x Cortex-A55 @ 2.2 GHz
14x Mali-G78 (GPU)

Memory
4 GB
128, 256 or 512 GB NVMe
8 GB LPDDR5
128 GB or 256 GB UFS 3.1
8 GB LPDDR5
128 or 256 GB UFS 3.1

Micro SD slot
None

Main camera
12 MP | f/1.6 | 1/1.9″ | 1.7 µm
Dual Pixel AF | sensor-shift OIS
50 MP | f/1.85 | 1/1.31” | 1.2 µm | 82° FoV
LDAF | OIS
12 MP | f/1.8 | 1/1.76″ | 1.8 µm | 79° FOV
Dual Pixel AF | OIS

Ultra Wide-angle
12 MP | f/2.4 | 1 µm | 120° FoV
12 MP | f/2.2 | 1.25 µm | 114° FOV
12 MP | f/2.2 | 1.4 µm | 120° FoV

Telephoto lens
n/a
n/a
64 MP | f/2.0 | 1/1.72″ | 0.8 µm | 76° FOV
PDAF | OIS | 3x Hybrid Zoom

Video
4K at 60 FPS
1080p at 240 FPS
720p at 30 FPS
Front: 4K at 60 FPS
4K at 60 FPS
1080p at 60 FPS
Front: 1080p at 30 FPS
 
8K at 24 FPS
4K at 60 FPS
1080p at 240 FPS
720p at 960 FPS
Front Face: 1080p at 30 FPS

Selfie camera
12 MP | f/2.2 | 1/3.6″ | 120° FoV
8 MP | f/2.0 | 1.12 µm | 84° FoV
10 MP | f/2.2 | 1,22 µm | 80° FoV
Dual Pixel AF

Audio
Stereo Speakers
No Headphone Output

Battery
3,227 mAh
4,614 mAh
4,000 mAh

Charging
20W (wired)
15 W (wireless)
30 W (wired)
15 W (wireless)
Reverse charge
25 W (wired)
15 W (wireless)
4.5 W (Reverse charge)

Resistance
IP68
Corning/Apple Ceramic Shield (display)
IP68
Corning Gorilla Glass Victus (display)
Gorilla Glass 6 (back)
IP68
Corning Gorilla Glass Victus (display)

Connectivity
5G, Wi-Fi 6, NFC, Bluetooth 5.0, UWB
5G, Wi-Fi 6E, NFC, Bluetooth 5.2
5G, Wi-Fi 6, NFC, Bluetooth 5.0

Pros

OLED screen with deep blacks
Good battery life
Good quality main camera
IP68 certification
Smarter iOS 15

Striking design
Well-calibrated 6.4-inch 90Hz AMOLED display
High-performance Tensor CPU that does not overheat
Pixel-like photo rendering
Good battery life
5 years of security updates
IP68 + wireless and reverse charging
Competitive price (overseas)

Relatively compact
Fast, even when compared to the S21+ and Ultra
Premium looking plastic back
Upgrade policy

Cons

Screen refresh rate of only 60 Hz
Face ID remains cumbersome with mask usage
Charging speed at only 20 W

Not versatile enough camera module without a telephoto lens
Slow charging and no adapter in the box
Unnatural Night Sight results for night shots
128 GB storage without a microSD port
Only 3 Android updates

Short battery life
No S Pen support
No UWB chip
No expandable memory

Rating

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As you can see above, all of the three smartphones received a rating of 4.5 stars. This means that the three models are very well balanced (making Thanos proud) and that it is in the details that one smartphone will eventually stand out in relation to the rest. Having said that, let’s get right down to the comparison.

iPhone 13 vs Pixel 6 vs Galaxy S21: Prices

 
Apple iPhone 13
Google Pixel 6
Samsung Galaxy S21

128 GB
$799
$599
$799.99

256 GB
$899
$699
$849.99

512 GB
$1,099
n/a
n/a

Starting with the storage options and price, the iPhone 13 comes out ahead by offering a maximum of 512 GB of storage space. This is a huge advantage considering that none of the models accept memory cards. On the other hand, Apple’s iPhone 13 is more expensive to begin with, both in its list price and in-store prices.

As for the Pixel 6, just like its previous generations, availability is limited to selected markets only, so those who want one would have to settle for grey imports. Not only that, there are other issues to consider such as warranty and technical support should the hardware run awry. 

Galaxy S21 vs Pixel 6 vs iPhone 13: OLED duel

Despite the three smartphones offering OLED screens, this component has very different specifications in each of the devices. Starting with the refresh rate, the Galaxy S21 offers a stunning 120 Hz which translates to smoother animations on the screen compared to the other two devices.

The Pixel 6, in turn, offers a refresh rate of 90 Hz, while the iPhone 13 comes in last as it still relies on a refresh rate of 60 Hz. In the case of Google’s and Apple’s devices, the 120 Hz option is exclusive to the Pro models.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 sports a 120 Hz screen in this comparison / © NextPit

The size of the displays is also different, with 6.1-inches for the iPhone 13, 6.2-inches for the Galaxy S21, and 6.4-inches for the Pixel 6.

Combining the measurements with resolution, the iPhone 13 offers a higher dot density on the screen (460 DPI/PPP, with 1,170 x 2,532 pixels), versus 421 DPI for the Galaxy S21 and 411 DPI for the Pixel 6 (both with 1,080 x 2,400 resolution). However, your eyes would most probably be unable to tell the difference…and you must be a real nitpicker if you were to base your purchase decision on this criteria alone.

Galaxy S21 vs Pixel 6 vs iPhone 13: UI and system updates

When it comes to the user interface, we’re faced with three distinctly different major software experiences. While the Pixel 6 and Galaxy S21 run on Android 12 with Samsung ‘s device still in beta, the iPhone 13 features the latest version of iOS 15.1.

Among the software highlights, security and privacy concerns are present in all three operating systems, with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) based services available on the device.

Android 12 introduced a number of new features to Google’s operating system / © NextPit

In addition to having at least two really distinct software experiences between these models, another point of separation would be OS updates. However, by 2021, the gap between system update releases between Android and iOS has narrowed.

While Apple offers up to five years of iOS updates, Samsung and Google guarantee at least three major Android updates, but four and five years of security updates for the Galaxy S21 and Google Pixel 6, respectively.

Also read:

Galaxy S21 vs Pixel 6 vs iPhone 13: Custom processor in all three devices

When it comes to the SoC, all three smartphones are the best examples in terms of verticalization – that is, relying on internally developed processors except for the North American versions of the Galaxy S21 which comes equipped with the Snapdragon 888 chipset.

The latest release would be Tensor, Google’s first mobile SoC which features a curious configuration with two Cortex-X1 high-performance cores, two Cortex-A76 intermediate CPUs, and four Cortex-A55 high-efficiency cores.

Tensor marks Google’s debut in mobile SoCs / © Google

In benchmark tests, this SoC proved to not be superior in everyday tasks to the Exynos 2100 that powers the Galaxy S21, which features one X1 core, a trio of A78 CPUs (more modern and faster than the A76), and a quartet of A55 cores.

Google’s trump card over the Samsung however, lies in the higher number of Mali-G78 graphics cores, which promises superior gaming performance, in addition to the integration of machine learning (ML) features.

Benchmarks

Model/Benchmark
Google Pixel 6
Samsung Galaxy S21
iPhone 13

Geekbench 5 (single/multi)
1.031 / 2.803
899 / 2.961
1.716 / 4.555

3DMark Wild Life
6.721
5.461
8.819

3DMark Wild Life Stress Test
6.707
5.609
8.905

3DMark Wild Life Extreme Stress Test
2.017
1.785
2.566

The iPhone 13, meanwhile, is in a category of itself when it comes to SoCs, as Apple uses its own CPU and GPU cores and they outperform the competition in benchmarks year after year as system optimizations make up for the shortfall of having half as much RAM as its rivals.

Galaxy S21 vs Pixel 6 vs iPhone 13: Cameras

On the innovation front, the camera is perhaps the most important feature on a smartphone today after software. While all of these models in this comparison hit the market in 2021, the Samsung Galaxy S21 is the only model that was announced in the first quarter of the year.

That might even place Samsung’s vanilla variant at a disadvantage. However, out of the three smartphones, the Galaxy S21 is the only one to feature a triple camera system with a telephoto lens to boot.

The iPhone 13 offers a dual-camera module. / © NextPit

When it comes to the iPhone 13, however, we have the new Cinematic Mode, which applies the bokeh effect to videos, and Photographic Styles, which applies hue, temperature, and saturation changes using the iPhone’s hardware to optimize the end result.

As for Samsung’s camera software, the South Korean conglomerate also offers the blurred background effect in videos, but its accuracy is not the same as we found in the Cinematic Mode of the new iPhone 13.

The Pixel 6, on the other hand, makes use of Google’s computational photography prowess, whose camera software is unique and cannot be found on other models that run on the Android operating system. Out of the three devices, the Pixel 6 is also the one with the largest main camera sensor, capable of capturing more light in low-light environments.

Galaxy S21 vs Pixel 6 vs iPhone 13: Battery and charging technology

Another reflection of Apple’s software-hardware integration is in the battery, with the iPhone 13 equipped with “only” a 3,227 mAh battery versus the Galaxy S21’s 4,000 mAh and the Pixel 6’s 4,614 mAh batteries, respectively.

In reviews by the NextPit team, the iPhone 13 generally offers enough battery life for a day’s use, while this remains one of the weak points of the Galaxy S21 as pointed out by editor Benjamin Lucks.

First impressions of the Pixel 6 show a decent battery life but without the same efficiency found in the iPhone 13.

Like the S21 Ultra in the photo, Galaxy S21 and Pixel 6 can recharge your earbuds wirelessly. / © NextPit

When it comes to battery charging, all three devices have average performance that lies far from what Chinese manufacturers offer. Here they are in increasing order, following the battery capacity: the iPhone 13 at 20 W; the Galaxy S21 at 25 W, and the Pixel 6 at 30 W.

All three smartphones are compatible with the Qi wireless charging standard, compatible with power up to 15 W. In the case of the iPhone 13, you can only with MagSafe chargers that are certified by Apple. As a plus, both the Galaxy S21 and Pixel 6 offer reverse wireless charging, allowing you to charge the batteries of your earbuds, smartwatch, or even another Qi-compatible smartphone.

Galaxy S21 vs Pixel 6 vs iPhone 13: Which one do I choose?

Samsung Galaxy S21? Apple iPhone 13? Google Pixel 6? Regardless of which model you choose to invest in, you’re getting a great smartphone.

Of the three models, the Google Pixel 6 has limited worldwide availability. However, it offers a consistent hardware configuration, a pure software experience, in which the company that included a custom Tensor SoC also developed the operating system. Out of the three models, the Pixel 6 is the most recent release and deserves to be highlighted with the lowest launch price: $599 before taxes.

Launched in September, the iPhone 13 has the best performance among the three models on this list and has a strong camera software. Out of the three models on this list, it is most certainly my recommendation for those who want to use the device for content creation, highlighting the Cinematic Mode. On the other hand, the iPhone 13 is the most expensive option on this list, but it is also the smartphone with the longest lasting software support among the three.

Finally, the Galaxy S21 is the variant of this comparison list that is closest to having a successor released, which should hit the market in the first quarter of 2022. However, this is also the only one that offers a triple camera module, with the telephoto lens being the highlight. Right now, this is also the smartphone that can be purchased for the lowest price in this comparison.

This article was developed in collaboration with Rubens Eishima.


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