iPhone 12 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus: Which should you buy?

Performance (Image credit: iMore)

You can't really lose with either of these smartphones, but choosing between the iPhone 12 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus will hinge on your usage preferences and habits. The Galaxy brings an incredible display with a higher refresh rate, while the iPhone 12 Pro keeps the title for best camera with amazing image quality in any lighting. For convenience, the iPhone 12 Pro now features the very cool MagSafe technology, allowing for the use of all kinds of charging and case accessories. On the other hand, the SG21+ has better zoom features built into the camera. Still not sure? Keep reading for a fully detailed comparison.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. Galaxy S21 Plus: Key differences

Here we have two best-in-class handsets with very different advantages to offer. Both the iPhone 12 Pro and Galaxy S21+ are considered two of the most advanced smartphones in the world, but they look very different when compared side by side. For one thing, the SGS21+ has a bigger, better display, and the iPhone 12 Pro brings all the convenience of the built-in MagSafe technology. Check out the specs below to see how they stack up against each other.

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Header Cell - Column 0 iPhone 12 ProGalaxy S21+
DesignCeramic Shield front + Glass back and aluminum frameGlass front and back (Gorilla Glass Victus), aluminum frame
ColorsSilver, Graphite, Gold, Pacific BluePhantom Violet, Phantom Black, Phantom Silver, Phantom Gold, Phantom Red
Display6.1‑inch OLED display, 60Hz refresh rate6.7-inch AMOLED 2X display, Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate
CameraTriple lens 12-megapixel wide and 12MP ultra-wide rear, 12MP TrueDepth frontTriple lens 12-megapixel wide and 12MP ultra-wide, 64 MP telephoto rear, 10MP front
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512 GB + 6GB RAM128GB, 256GB + 8GB RAM
Battery2,815mAh, Fast charging (20W charger sold separately), Qi wireless charging4,800 mAh, Fast charging (Charger sold separately), Qi wireless charging
IP ratingIP68IP68
Headphone jackNoneNone
Size and weight5.78x2.81x0.29 inches, 164g6.36x2.98x0.31 inches, 200g
SoftwareiOS 14Android 11

While both phones are impressive when it comes to technical specifications, the Galaxy S21+ actually looks better on paper, with a larger screen, a larger battery, and better camera hardware. When it comes to everyday use, however, the iPhone 12 Pro has a lot to offer. Let's look at the aspects that are most important to usage and functionality.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. Galaxy S21 Plus: Durability versus display


Design (Image credit: iMore)

When it comes to design, the Samsung Galaxy S21+ is rocking a brand new look that incorporates a contour cut camera set directly into the aluminum chassis. The result is a pleasing contrast between aluminum and glass, a contrast that is even more striking in the violet and gold colorway. While the iPhone 12 Pro is certainly attractive in its throwback squared design, the Galaxy S21+ has a more sleek, modern look. With that being said, the Galaxy is bigger, thicker, and a lot heavier than the iPhone 12 Pro, so if you like to use your phone one-handed, this might be something to consider.

There's no denying that the Galaxy S21+ has the better display, but the Ceramic Shield that's built into the iPhone 12 screen shows better results in drop tests.

Where the Galaxy S21+ really shines is in its display. The large 6.7-inch screen is bright and vivid with AMOLED 2X technology, a full 100 nits brighter than the iPhone 12. It is also larger than the iPhone 12 Pro, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your own preferences. The GS21+ also has a super-fast 120Hz refresh rate, which is noticeably smoother than the 60Hz refresh rate on the iPhone. Finally, the iPhone 12 Pro still has that notorious black notch, which is a bit distracting when compared to the Galaxy's seamless edge-to-edge design. There's no denying that the Galaxy S21+ has the better display.

The iPhone 12 Pro is more durable, however, with a more substantial squared, aluminum-wrapped frame and Ceramic Shield screen. While the Gorilla Glass Victus screen on the GS21+ is quite tough, the Ceramic Shield that's built into the iPhone 12 screen shows better results in drop tests. It will likely hold up better under tough treatment than the Galaxy.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. Galaxy S21 Plus: Brains versus brawn


Camera (Image credit: iMore)

From the outside looking in, the Galaxy S21+ does appear to have an advantage over the iPhone 12 Pro. The 12MP wide and ultra-wide lenses are the same, but the 64MP telephoto is impressive indeed, with the ability to achieve 3X optical zoom and an incredible 30X digital zoom. While the digital zoom does come with a loss of quality, it is the best we've ever seen on a smartphone for sure.

Here you have a classic case of software versus hardware, with the smart iPhone camera features offering an edge over the notable telephoto lens that Samsung brings.

On the other hand, the iPhone 12 Pro comes with a range of computational software tools that allow the camera to take smarter photos. From auto Night Mode in low-light situations to the intelligent auto-focus functionality, the iPhone 12 Pro consistently delivers better photos in low light and Night Mode, along with crisper details and more accurate color reproduction in daylight. The front camera also comes with a 12MP TrueDepth sensor, allowing for FaceID and Memoji features that are both convenient and nifty.

As for video, the Galaxy can record in 8K resolution, but then the iPhone 12 Pro offers Dolby Vision HDR recording. For videographers, this is a definite advantage. Here you have a classic case of software versus hardware, with the smart iPhone camera features offering an edge over the notable telephoto lens that Samsung brings. When you add the convenience of the FaceID feature and DolbyVision recording, the Apple smartphone has a little more to offer in the way of cameras.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. Galaxy S21 Plus: Gameplay versus convenience

You can't complain about either of these smartphones based on performance. Both handsets come with the latest in lightning-fast processors, with the Apple A14 Bionic performing slightly faster than the Snapdragon 888 in the SGS21+. Considering that the Galaxy has more RAM and a higher refresh rate, however, this difference in speed is virtually unnoticeable in everyday use. In fact, for gameplay, the Samsung will probably look and feel smoother due to the superior display.

You can't complain about either of these smartphones based on performance. Both handsets come with the latest in lightning-fast processors.

If you compare batteries, the Galaxy S21+ has a lot more juice due to a much larger 4800 mAh battery, as compared to 2,815 mAh in the iPhone 12 Pro. This does not translate into a longer battery life for the SGS21+, however, because its large AMOLED screen and 120Hz refresh rate suck down juice at a much faster rate. Surprisingly, the battery on the iPhone 12 Pro will actually last slightly longer than the Galaxy during everyday use.

One serious consideration to make when looking at a smartphone is its ecosystem. Apple has so much to offer in this arena, especially for anyone who owns other Apple products. The seamless integration of Apple devices is hard to beat. For example, the iPhone 12 Pro can be used as a remote control for the Apple TV, and content can be instantly shared between Apple devices using AirDrop and AirPlay features. Add that to the popularity of iMessages, and you have a convenient ecosystem that makes life easier in countless ways. Of course, if your family and friends are on Android devices and you use a PC, then the Android ecosystem will definitely be more convenient. This comes down to a lifestyle choice that only you can make.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. Galaxy S21 Plus: Which should you buy?

Hopefully, the points laid out in this article will make your decision easier when it comes time to choose a world-class smartphone. If you like a big, bright display that makes for amazing video playback and gaming features, then the Samsung Galaxy S21+ will be undeniably attractive.

Photographers and videographers, on the other hand, will love the smart computational photography offered by iPhone, as well as the DolbyVision recording capabilities. If you do your editing on a Mac, then the Apple ecosystem will also make things easier for content creators, since the devices work together so seamlessly.

Then again, the SGS21+ has amazing zoom features that you won't find on the iPhone 12 Pro, so it depends on how you prefer to use your camera. Price shouldn't really come into this decision, because both phones are sold at about the same price. This decision will mostly depend on how you use your smartphone and which one fits better into your lifestyle and social circle.

Jaclyn Kilani

Jaclyn Kilani is a content writer at iMore. She's a longtime Apple addict with a flair for creating (written works, design, photos; you name it!) on her devices. Jaclyn has also worked in the marketing sector for over 16 years, dabbling in a bit of everything from writing to graphic design and digital marketing. In her heart of hearts, however, she is a born writer and an avid reader who adores everything about the written word. Someday she may even churn out a book or two. Throughout her career, Jaclyn has also developed something of an addiction to all things Apple. Her professional and personal life is enhanced by an ever-growing collection of iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, Apple Watches, and even AirTags. Luckily, this expensive habit is of great use to her work at iMore, where she writes with authority on Apple products and the accessories that go with them.