Samsung has made official its new flagship smartphone lineup, following months of rumors and leaks. The Galaxy S21 series, like the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S20, comes in three models: A Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+, and a Galaxy S21 Ultra.
As you would expect, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is in a league of its own, while the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+ are a little humbler despite being proper flagships in their own right. And yes, the Galaxy S21 has a plastic back, as we had been expecting, but unlike the Galaxy Note 20, the S21 has the latest Gorilla Glass (Victus) protecting the display. The Galaxy S21+ (and the S21 Ultra), on the other hand, has Gorilla Glass Victus on both the front and back.
The S21 and S21+ come with 6.2-inch and 6.7-inch displays with 120Hz adaptive refresh rate that adjusts the screen’s frame rate depending on content (it can go as low as 48Hz in order to save power where possible). Both phones have flat displays, and their resolution maxes out at Full HD+, which is a downgrade compared to the S20 and S20+ on paper but shouldn’t make much difference in practice.
At the back, the S21 and S21+ has the beautiful new “Contour Cut Camera housing that seamlessly blends into the device’s metal frame for a sleek, yet striking, aesthetic”, as Samsung puts it. And we can attest that it looks as amazing in person as it does in photos and is likely to dazzle anyone who lays their eyes on it. In case you’re wondering, the camera sensors are covered by metal instead of glass, which should ensure the Galaxy S21’s camera glass breakage issue will not rear its head again.
Camera sensors carry over from the Galaxy S20 and S20+
Speaking of camera sensors, nothing has changed on the S21 and S21+ compared to the S20 and S20+ except for the removal of the 3D ToF sensor on the Plus model. There’s a 12MP F1.8 main camera with Dual Pixel autofocus and optical image stabilization, a 12MP 120-degree F2.2 ultra-wide camera, and a 64MP F2.0 with OIS for 3x optical and 30x digital zoom. A 10MP F2.2 front camera with Dual Pixel autofocus handles selfies.
However, there are a couple of new camera features on the software side. Live Focus mode is now Portrait mode and comes with more professional background blur effects. Director’s View is a new mode that lets you preview the live feed from all rear cameras and even the front camera while shooting video for better framing. And zooming on these phones will be less of a blurry affair thanks to Zoom Lock, which locks the subject to the center of the frame.
8K video recording is available on both phones courtesy of the 64MP lens, though 8K videos are still limited to 24 frames per second. Night mode has been updated too and allows the user to select whether the camera should decide the exposure time on its own or whether it should shoot at the maximum exposure time possible for a particular scene.
Exynos 2100 and Snapdragon 888, no expandable storage
The Galaxy S21 and S21+, like their Ultra sibling, are powered by the new Exynos 2100 processor in most markets and the Snapdragon 888 in others (US, Canada, and China). Both of these chipsets are mighty powerful and efficient and are paired with 8GB of RAM and 128GB or 256GB of storage that can’t be expanded. 5G connectivity is built in as well, though Samsung is still expected to disable 5G support in some markets. Last but not least, the S21+ supports Ultra-wideband technology for fast file sharing with nearby devices and connectivity with various smart devices.
Keeping the lights on will be a 4,000 mAh and 4,800 mAh battery on the S21 and S21+ respectively. The S21+ has a battery capacity that is 300 mAh higher than the S20+ – that should result in noticeable battery life improvements, partly because of the more efficient processors and displays. Both phones support 25W super fast charging, but you won’t get a 25W charger in the box or any earphones, nor will you be able to request them for free. Fast wireless charging and reverse wireless charging are supported as well.
The Galaxy S21 and S21+ also have many other features that we’ve come to take for granted on Samsung flagships, such as AKG-tuned stereo speakers, IP68 water and dust resistance, Samsung Pay support, and an ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensor. Samsung tells us the fingerprint sensor is the new one announced by Qualcomm, which is 77% larger and 50% faster than the first-generation sensor used in the Galaxy S10 and the Galaxy S20 series.
On the software front, you get Android 11 with One UI 3.1. There are a few new features, including Eye Comfort Shield, which sounds like an updated version of the blue light filter option. There’s also Private Share, which enables you to control how your files are shared with others, with the option to set an expiration date for shared content and disable further sharing of the content. As Samsung has promised, the Galaxy S21 series should get three major Android OS and One UI upgrades.
Available starting January 29, price starts at $799
The Galaxy S21 and S21+ will be available for purchase worldwide from January 29. The S21 will come in Phantom Violet, Phantom Gray, Phantom Pink and Phantom White and the S21+ will be available in Phantom Violet, Phantom Silver and Phantom Black. These colors are for the 128GB variants – the 256GB S21 and S21+ will only be available in Phantom Gray and Phantom Black respectively). Pricing starts at $799/€849/£769 and $999/€1049/£949, and pre-order customers will get a free Galaxy SmartTag and, at least in South Korea, free Samsung credit for spending on other products on the company’s website.