Technology is getting better with the passage of time and, as a byproduct of this phenomenon, Samsung's latest flagship phones are more powerful than ever before. A new year usually brings with it a new chipset and other hardware advancements, and this is very true for the Galaxy S21 series and other flagships that came before it.
But aside from processing power, mobile photography prowess, and the use of modern materials like Gorilla Glass Victus, what really draws the line between run-of-the-mill flagships and the very best premium solutions are all those extra features that complete the ecosystem and/or the user experience. And as far as Samsung is concerned, it's sad to see that the company has done away with a lot of features that have been a part of the Galaxy user experience for a long time.
Here's a list comprising some of the most important features that have been removed from Samsung's flagship product lineup over the past few years:
- On-board storage for wireless earbuds: The Gear Icon X wireless earbuds had on-board storage and they allowed users to play audio files locally without having to rely on a Bluetooth connection. This feature has yet to make a comeback in later models.
- Heart rate and SpO2 sensors from Galaxy flagships: The Galaxy S5 was the first to boast a heart rate monitor and the sequel added an SpO2 sensor to the mix. Both these features were removed with the Galaxy S10e and later flagship models, though they were kept for the Galaxy S10 and S10+.
- Iris scanner: The unfortunate Galaxy Note 7 was the first Samsung flagship to feature an iris scanner as a biometric authentication method. The technology was then used by subsequent Galaxy S and Note flagships and was last employed by the Galaxy Note 9.
- Infrared port: This hardware component was a part of the Galaxy flagship experience up until the Galaxy S6 series. It's never made a return and some users are still missing it to this day.
- 3.5mm audio port: The Galaxy Note 10 series was the first flagship to do away with the 3.5mm standard in favor of USB-C and wireless connectivity.
- LED notifications: Perhaps not as important as other features that were removed throughout the years, LED notifications have been around for many years until they got replaced by Edge lighting with the release of the Galaxy S10 series.
These handful of features were removed some time ago, but Samsung continued its feature removal streak the following years:
- Edge display: Whether you're for or against Samsung's curved display design, there's no denying that it was a signature of the Galaxy flagship series. It's now slowly being phased out and new devices that continue to be labeled as boasting an Edge display have a less-obvious curvature.
- Premium glass back panels for base flagship models: This trend of replacing Gorilla Glass with a plastic back panel began with the Galaxy Note 20 and it was continued by the Galaxy S21. Polycarbonate has its advantages but even so, it's not what customers usually expect from a flagship.
- Expandable storage: Samsung's 2015 flagships (the Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+, and Note 5) were missing microSD slots, and it has happened again to the disappointment of many fans. The Galaxy S21 series lacks expandable storage and this may have set the tone for future flagships.
- Samsung Pay Rewards and Tiers: They were used as an incentive to get customers on board with Samsung Pay, but Rewards and Tiers were removed from the mobile payment platform in December 2020.
- MST: Along with the aforementioned changes to Samsung Pay Rewards and Tiers, the company also decided to abandon MST in some markets — including the USA and India — with the release of the Galaxy S21 series. MST was a convenient mobile payment method and one of the features that made Samsung Pay a better choice than rival platforms.
- Wall charger and wired earbuds: Another change introduced by the Galaxy S21 series has to do with the contents of the retail box. As many of you know by now, the 2021 flagships are no longer sold with a wall charger and wired earbuds included in the box.
Samsung has to do something about this feature removal streak
Arguably, Samsung already did something to mitigate the removal of these features, but in many cases it wasn't enough. Yes, iris scanners were replaced by in-display fingerprint sensors but they could have co-existed and offer a more complete kit of biometric sensors.
SpO2 and heart rate monitors were removed from smartphones but continue to exist in Samsung's wearables, which ultimately means that customers who didn't want to give up on these functionalities had to spend more cash on accessories.
Samsung also hopes that the removal of expandable storage from the Galaxy S21 flagship series will be less of an issue with the rise of cloud storage, but they're simply not the same, especially with features like 8K video recording taking up crazy amounts of space.
In truth, many of the features mentioned above haven't had a proper alternative since they got removed, and once again, this reflects Samsung's apparent indecision when it comes to planning out the future.
On the bright side, there are new features to look forward to, such as displays with high refresh rates and foldable devices, but significant sacrifices were made along the way and Samsung has left behind what looks like an ever-growing mound of defunct features, many of which may have arguably been retired ahead of time and without a proper replacement.
And who knows what else will be removed from future flagships? The Galaxy Note series is said to be on its last legs and, once again, the optional S Pen accessory that's now being sold alongside the Galaxy S21 Ultra doesn't magically turn the aforementioned flagship into a Galaxy Note device.
At the end of the day, technologies evolve while older solutions get replaced, and it's a good thing that Samsung isn't afraid of change. Perhaps there was no other, better way of moving forward alongside the industry, and maybe we had to give up on a lot of these features in order to gain others. But whether or not it was all worth it is another matter, and you could argue that it wasn't.
What's your favorite feature that got removed ever since you became a Samsung customer? Let us know in the comment section below.