It’s been a long time since Samsung last tackled the budget flagship market with a device built specifically for the task, and this is the reason why the company took the mobile world by surprise with the release of the Galaxy S20 FE. At first glance the Galaxy S20 FE is a recipe for success. It’s a budget phone done by the book, at least on paper, and it’s especially threatening to similarly-priced rivals. But the harsh reality is that the Galaxy S20 FE now serves to highlight Samsung’s inexperience with building devices for the competitively-priced flagship segment.
We love the Galaxy S20 FE for numerous reasons, such as its IP rating, the snappy performance, the excellent camera, the 120Hz refresh rate and the fact that you can use 120Hz without having to worry too much about battery life. It’s not perfect and it lacks some basic features such as a 3.5mm headphone jack, but at the end of the day it was good enough to earn praise in our review.
Samsung’s budget flagship efforts squandered by this one problem
We were lucky – or rather unlucky – enough to come across a perfectly-functioning Galaxy S20 FE unit for our review. Other people who have purchased the Galaxy S20 FE weren’t as fortunate, as weeks after release they began voicing their complaints on public forums. And this is when it all came to light: some Galaxy S20 FE units have a major touchscreen issue wherein touch inputs are erratic and the display can become unresponsive.
Below is a sample video showing how pinch-to-zoom misbehaves on an affected Galaxy S20 FE unit, courtesy of one of SamMobile’s friends.
Smartphones are complex engineering marvels but this complexity can lead to bugs and unwanted behaviors. They’re not uncommon and many problems faced by smartphone users can usually be fixed through firmware updates.
By now we were hoping for Samsung to address the touchscreen issues chipping away at the near-perfect Galaxy S20 FE experience but none of the firmware updates rolled out so far have solved the problem. The November 2020 security patch came and went but the issues persist.
Giving the FE / budget flagship series a bad reputation
To be precise, we’re not suggesting that the Galaxy S20 FE is inherently a bad device. On the contrary; the fact that it’s near perfect is the most infuriating thing about it. In the eyes of many unfortunate owners, these touchscreen issues make the Galaxy S20 FE look almost as bad as the Galaxy Note 7. The latter was the reason for the creation of the extremely scarce FE (Fan Edition) lineup in the first place. The FE series is meant to reward fans of the Galaxy brand for their loyalty, so perhaps Samsung should’ve paid extra attention to its latest model.
And that’s the biggest takeaway here regardless of whether this touchscreen problem is rooted in a hardware or software issue. The underlying problem lies with Samsung’s inexperience with budget flagship phones and the fact that these mishaps are giving the FE series a bad reputation. These devices have to strike a great cost-value balance and, granted, some corners have to be cut in order to achieve the perfect combo. But sadly, Samsung appears to have cut the wrong corner with the Galaxy S20 FE and it’s really disappointing, especially given the inclusion of 120Hz support for such a low price point.
It’s unclear whether this major touchscreen issue had slipped by Samsung’s Q&A team because of the strange working conditions we face in the age of social distancing or due to other factors. After all, the entire world is going through difficult times and businesses have had to quickly adjust to the new normal. Regardless, this was Samsung’s second FE-labeled device in three years and although the initial comeback was stronger than expected, the aftertaste leaves something to be desired.
We can only hope that the issues surrounding the Galaxy S20 FE won’t resonate much further into the future and that this won’t be the end of Samsung’s budget flagship series for the time being. Samsung, please get your budget flagship priorities straight and save this legacy before it’s too late. Fix the Galaxy S20 FE touchscreen issue via firmware updates if possible or otherwise compensate affected users, and ensure that the next budget flagship hits it out of the park.