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The $600 Samsung Galaxy S23 FE revives the company’s Fan Edition of phones, and it’s selling for a much lower price than the original $800 Galaxy S23. Samsung on Tuesday revealed the lower-priced flagship, which keeps many higher-end features like the inclusion of a telephoto lens for the camera and reverse wireless charging. There are noticeable changes, however, that might not affect the phone’s overall appeal, but reveal how Samsung was able to offer the phone at a $200 price difference. (International pricing wasn’t immediately available, but its US price roughly converts to £500 and AU$950.)

This story is part of Samsung Event, CNET’s collection of news, tips and advice around Samsung’s most popular products.

The S23 FE’s release comes after Samsung paused the line in 2022, having released the Galaxy S21 FE early that year but decided to not release a Galaxy S22 FE. These phones have aimed to provide as much of the flagship phone experience as possible for less money, and in some cases improve by including a bigger battery and screen. While Samsung does offer a lot of Galaxy A phones priced at $450 and less, Samsung’s FE phones tend to focus on the most noticeable features from its higher-end line while making cuts in areas that could be less noticeable.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE with Galaxy Watch 6.

The Samsung Galaxy S23 FE has a 6.4-inch display.

Numi Prasarn/CNET

In the case of the Galaxy S23 FE, Samsung decided to scale back by using last year’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor — but that processor is still quite powerful for most tasks and can be found in Motorola’s $1,000 Razr Plus foldable phone. There is also a noticeable change in the phone’s appearance, with the standard Galaxy S23 using a more glossy aluminum frame than the aluminum used on the FE.  

The Galaxy S23 FE has a 50-megapixel wide camera and a 12-megapixel ultrawide camer, similar to the Galaxy S23, but its 8-megapixel telephoto camera is a minor step down from the regular S23’s 10-megapixel zoom camera. The S23 FE also uses a 10-megapixel front-facing camera, versus the 12-megapixel one seen on the standard S23.

Sample photo taken on Galaxy S23 FE of a fridge.

A photo taken on the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE at the Samsung 837 showroom.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

However, the Galaxy S23 FE does include a slightly bigger battery than the original S23: 4,500 versus 3,900 mAh. The phone is also a little bigger than the Galaxy S23, with the FE including a 6.4-inch display that makes it a hair shorter than the 6.6-inch display on the S23 Plus. The S23 FE’s display can run at a 120Hz refresh rate, but will adapt between that 60Hz, depending on the phone’s activity, to save battery.

But aside from those differences, the phone shares many similarities with the Galaxy S23. That includes Android 13, wired charging at a speed of 25 watts, wireless charging along with the ability to wirelessly charge other devices, an in-display fingerprint sensor and 128GB or 256GB storage options. Unlike the cheaper $450 Galaxy A54 5G, the S23 FE does not include expandable storage via microSD.

The phone will be available in six colors at launch, with stores getting mint, purple, cream and graphite. Indigo and tangerine colors will also be available through Samsung’s website.

In my brief time using the phone, I paired it with a Galaxy Watch 6, browsed websites and took a few sample photos at the Samsung 837 showroom in New York. 

Selfie photo taken on the Galaxy S23 FE

The Galaxy S23 FE uses a 10-megapixel front-facing camera.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

Photo of muffins

These muffins were on display in the Samsung 837 showroom. This is using the default camera zoom setting.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

Close up of muffins

The same muffins zoomed in using the Galaxy S23 FE’s telephoto lens.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

While I’ll need more time with the phone to get a better impression, my initial thoughts put the Galaxy S23 FE as less of an alternative for “fans,” but more as an option to consider as a step up from the $499 Pixel 7A and the Galaxy A54. While camera testing will be needed to see how the FE compares to the 7A, the new Samsung phone does have a slightly bigger screen than Google’s phone. The S23 FE also includes a telephoto lens with a 3x optical zoom, which neither the 7A nor the Galaxy A54 include.

The Galaxy S23 FE arrives in the midst of the busy fall phone season, debuting the night before before Google plans to unveil its Pixel 8 line. Samsung is also likely to reveal the Galaxy S24 early next year, only a few months from now.

But the FE does provide a more premium option for someone looking to step up from phones that normally cost between $300 to $500, and it could provide all the essentials at that lower price.

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