Updated: Everything you can expect from the Galaxy S21 flagship lineup
It’s difficult to believe that the Galaxy S21 series is weeks away from release but it is true, at least according to all the credible reports, including our own, hinting at a mid-January launch event. The series has already been leaked and rumored extensively so we have a fairly good idea on what to expect next month.
A refreshed design, an updated One UI version and better performance are all par for the course, as is the case every year with each new generation of Galaxy flagships. But the nitty-gritty of how Samsung will improve the formula next year is what counts the most. It will make the difference between an iterative update and an innovative product. Time will tell to which category the Galaxy S21 series belongs, but until Samsung spills the beans officially, here’s all we have learned about the lineup so far through less official means.
Galaxy S21 series design
Samsung is once again redefining its flagships’ design language and is bringing a new range of colors to mark the occasion. The base Galaxy S21 variant is said to gain inspiration from the Galaxy Note 20 and sport a plastic back instead of a glass finish. The Galaxy S21+ might also be wrapped in plastic though this detail is unclear as of this writing, but the Galaxy S21 Ultra should enjoy more premium materials.
The biggest change in design consists of a new camera housing for all three models. This design element continues to be the focal point of the back panel but the housing has a more streamlined design and is flushed against the side and top edges of the phone.
Samsung’s new range of colors for the Galaxy S21 series has the ‘Phantom’ designation and the base model will be available in Phantom Pink, Violet, Gray, and White. The Galaxy S21+ will launch in Phantom Violet, Black, and Silver, whereas the Galaxy S21 Ultra will be available in Phantom Black and Silver, though additional color options could be added to the top-tier model later down the line.
Galaxy S21 series display
One of the biggest and unexpected changes to the Galaxy S21 series might come in the form of S Pen support. Several rumors have suggested that the Galaxy S21 lineup, or at least the Galaxy S21 Ultra, will support the S Pen, even though it won’t ship with one or have a dedicated slot akin to the Galaxy Note series.
The Galaxy S21 should carry a 6.2-inch display. The S21+ model will reportedly have a 6.7-inch panel, and they should both have FHD+ resolutions. The Galaxy S21 Ultra, on the other hand, is said to feature a 6.8-inch panel with a higher WQHD+ pixel count.
All three models are also expected to support a high refresh rate of 120Hz, but oddly enough, only the top-tier variant might benefit from adaptive refresh rate. The panels should have an improved contrast ratio of 3,000,000:1 and a peak brightness of 1600 nits.
Galaxy S21 series internal hardware
The Galaxy S21 series will be powered by a new generation of chipsets. The flagship trio is expected to employ the Snapdragon 888 chipset in markets such as the USA, South Korea, and China, whereas the global variant will rely on the brand-new Exynos 2100 SoC. Samsung’s next-gen solution has yet to be officially unveiled but it will be introduced on December 15. It should feature a new high-performance Cortex-X1 CPU core, three Cortex-A78 cores, and four Cortex-A55 cores. Graphics will be handled by a Mali-G78 graphics chip.
On the Qualcomm side, the Galaxy S21 series will benefit from the Snapdragon 888 chipset. It incorporates the Snapdragon X60 5G modem and it promises up to 25% CPU performance improvements and up to 35% faster graphics rendering compared to the Snapdragon 865.
Regardless of the chipset’s make and origin, the base Galaxy S21 model is likely to ship with 8GB of RAM, though 12GB options might also be available. The Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21 Ultra could ship with 12GB of RAM as standard.
As for batteries, a few certificates from regulatory agencies have emerged months ago, revealing that the Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+, and Galaxy S21 Ultra will be powered by batteries with capacities of 4,000mAh, 4,800mAh, and 5,000mAh, respectively. There may not be chargers in the box in some markets, however.
Galaxy S21 series cameras
Samsung might be focusing a lot more energy in making the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s camera system excel. That’s not to say the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+ will let us down, but they won’t benefit from the same advanced camera features as the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
The Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+ should share the exact same main camera characteristics. They should carry 12MP primary and ultra-wide sensors as well as a third 64MP telephoto camera.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra should have a 108MP main shooter, a 12MP ultra-wide sensor, and two 10MP telephoto lenses featuring 3X and 10X optical zoom. A laser autofocus system is expected to be on-board as well, similar to the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, and the telephoto lenses are said to feature Dual Pixel autofocus for enhancing focusing.
Specifications pertaining to the selfie cameras are unknown but regardless, the sensor will be enclosed in an Infinity-O display cutout and it won’t be hidden behind the display.
Galaxy S21 series software and availability
The most recent One UI 3.0 firmware update is now available for the Galaxy S20 series and it will soon reach additional flagship models. But while Samsung was tinkering with the beta versions of One UI 3.0, the company was also developing One UI 3.1 behind the curtain.
One UI 3.1 will debut with the Galaxy S21 series but the firmware’s feature list has yet to be revealed. Samsung has successfully kept One UI 3.1 under wraps but one main feature that could define the experience is a new form of authentication through Bixby Voice.
All of these devices, features, and more should be unveiled by Samsung on January 14 at a virtual Galaxy S21 launch conference. The series is expected to go on sale on January 29. Time will tell how much the new flagships will cost but they might reflect the Galaxy S20 series’ launch prices. Other reports suggest that the series might get a hefty price cut over the Galaxy S20, with the base model said to be going on sale for anywhere between $849 and $899. We’ll keep you up to speed as soon as more Galaxy S21 details emerge.
This is a developing story and will be updated as more details emerge. Stay tuned!
Update 1: A new report emerged on December 10, revealing that the Galaxy S21 series is already available for reservation at Experience Stores in India for customers who willing to pay an INR 2,000 ($27) fee.
Update 2: A credible report confirms that the Galaxy S21 series, or at least the Galaxy S21 Ultra will have S Pen support and an optional S Pen case accessory. The same report goes into more availability details for Europe.
Update 3: The Galaxy S21+ has been exposed through a real-life hands-on video depicting the front and back panels. Benchmarks were also performed on camera.
Update 4: Samsung’s new flagship series will reportedly sport a Sony IMX563 sensor.
Update 5: Reports from Korea say that Samsung will ship the Galaxy S21 series with a 25W charger in the box and is developing a 30W charger to be sold separately.
Update 6: STAR Labs CEO confirms that NEON, the artificial human, is not coming with the Galaxy S21 series or any other Galaxy device.
Update 7: One UI 3.1 is expected to allow users to set Google Discover on the leftmost home screen of the Galaxy S21.
Update 8: Samsung Indonesia reveals that the Galaxy S21 will be given away to some early adopters. Meanwhile, the company confirms S Pen support for more Galaxy devices next year, and the first official Galaxy S21 press render has leaked.
Update 9: More official press renders leak to reveal the Galaxy S21, the Galaxy S21+, and the Galaxy S21 Ultra along with the new Phantom color palette. The entire spec sheet for the Galaxy S21 Ultra also made its way online. Alleged pricing details for the Galaxy S21 series emerged. It’s both good and bad news.
Update 10: European Galaxy S21 buyers may not get chargers or earphones in the retail box. On the bright side, eco-friendly Galaxy S21 Kvadrat cases are in the works and the latest official wallpapers for the series are already up for download.