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If you took my advice last month and returned your new Galaxy S20, the day you’ve been waiting for has nearly arrived. On Thursday, Samsung will hold its first Unpacked event of 2021, and the star of the show will be the first Android flagship of the year, the Galaxy S21. Here’s everything we think we know about the new phones:
Design and display
Just when you thought Samsung had run out of ways to make rectangular slabs of glass unique, it finds a new way to spice things up. Based on leaked renders published by Voice, the S21 has a very unique look this year, with a camera module that appears to be cut out from the top corner of the phone. It’s a major visual change from both its own phones and its competitors and is likely to be the start of a new design language for Samsung’s handsets.
Otherwise, the design is basically the same as the S20, with skinny bezels and a centered hole-punch camera. There will reportedly once again be three models this year, with very similar screen sizes: 6.2 inches, 6.7 inches, and 6.8 inches. If those sizes are accurate, that means the S21 Ultra would be slightly smaller than the 6.9-inch S20 Ultra. The Ultra model might also be the only one with a curved “Edge” screen, as renders provided by Evan Blass suggest the S20 and S21 have “flat” displays like the S20 FE. Specs from WinFuture also suggest that the smaller phones’ max resolution will top out at 1080p.
Specs and features
While there has been much speculation about the processor inside the S21, WinFuture reports that Samsung will once again be turning to Qualcomm and the Snapdragon 888 chip for the United States. International models will be powered by the new Exynos 2100 chip that just launched on Tuesday.
As far as batteries go, the S21 and S21 Ultra will reportedly have the same 4,000mAh and 5,000mAh batteries as their S20 counterparts, with the S21+ getting a slight bump to 4,800mAh, according to WinFuture. The S21 and S21+ will also reportedly have less RAM than their predecessors (8GB, vs. 12GB on the S20), while the S21 Ultra will stick with 12GB. All of the phones will have 128GB of base storage, according to WinFuture.
All three phones will ship with One UI 3/Android 11, with a guaranteed upgrade to Android 14 when it arrives in 2024.
Samsung is also reportedly going to bring S Pen support to the Galaxy S line. Rumored for months and teased by Samsung itself, WinFuture confirms speculation that the S Pen will be an optional accessory for the S21 Ultra either on its own or as part of a case bundle. Samsung currently sells the S Pen for the Galaxy Tab S7 for $60, but it’s often on sale for $30.
If the Unpacked teaser image is any indication, the S21 lineup’s cameras are in for a shakeup. While the phones will reportedly keep the same number of cameras—three on the S21 and S21+ and four on the S21 Ultra—WinFuture has outlined some big changes.
According to the site, the S21 and S21+ will have a larger sensor for better low-light shots, as well as the ability to shoot “8K videos at 30 frames per second, 4K videos with up to 60 FPS and Full HD videos at up to 240 frames per second.” The phones are also rumored to be getting “phase detection optics and…triple hybrid optical zoom,” to help with stability while shooting from a distance.
The S21 Ultra is reportedly getting an even bigger camera upgrade. For starters, WinFuture reports that the S21 Ultra will gain the laser autofocus system that Samsung introduced on the Note 20, as well as a pair of telephoto cameras with “different focal lengths or magnification,” which would be a first for a Samsung phone. Additionally, the 108MP main sensor is reportedly getting optical image stabilization to make pictures sharper.
Pricing and release
The Galaxy S21 series will likely be available for preorder on Friday for delivery on January 29, assuming Samsung follows its usual release schedule. Prices are expected to be quite a bit cheaper, with 91mobiles reporting that the new phones will cost $850, $1,050, and $1,400, respectively.
Those lower prices might come with a catch: Samsung is likely to dump the earbuds and power adapter with the S21. That was expected after the Note 20 didn’t include earbuds and Apple dumped the power adapter with the launch of the iPhone 12. But with all you’re getting, you might not even notice.
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Michael Simon covers all things mobile for PCWorld and Macworld. You can usually find him with his nose buried in a screen. The best way to yell at him is on Twitter.