Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S21 Plus vs S21 Ultra 3

David Imel / Android Authority

The Samsung Galaxy S21 series represents the latest and greatest from the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer. Last year, Samsung tried to mostly appeal just to the ultra-premium buyer, but the Galaxy S21 series is a bit more well-rounded.

That being said, there are still three models in the line and each one has different pros and cons. Don’t worry, though: we’re here to help you navigate the series and find the phone that’s best for you (and your wallet). We’ve compiled all the info you could ever want to know about the Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21 Plus, and Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Editor’s note: This Samsung Galaxy S21 buyer’s guide is current as of May 2021. We will update it with new content regularly.

Samsung Galaxy S21, S21 Plus, and S21 Ultra at a glance

Samsung launched the Galaxy S21 series on January 14, 2021. That’s a much earlier date than usual for a Galaxy S launch. This is perhaps partly because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Pre-orders for the three phones in the series opened on January 14, and the devices hit store shelves on Friday, January 29, 2021, in the US and across Europe.

Galaxy S21 Ultra

If you want the most powerful phone in the series, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is for you. It comes with the largest display at 6.8-inches, the biggest battery at 5,000mAh, and the best camera setup with a primary 108MP sensor. It also comes with as much as 16GB of RAM. However, it’s also the most expensive with a starting price of $1,199 (€1,249/£1,149). Do note that this phone received our Editor’s Choice award.

Galaxy S21 Plus

The Galaxy S21 Plus is the middle child. It features a slightly smaller 6.7-inch display and a 4,800mAh battery. It has three rear cameras instead of five and only 8GB of RAM. However, because you’re losing out on some of those high-end features, the entry-level price comes down significantly to $999 (€1,049/£949).

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus back on table 2

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus

The Galaxy S21 Plus is the middle child of Samsung’s Galaxy S21 series. It features a 6.7-inch display and a 4,800mAh battery. It has three rear cameras and 8GB of RAM.

Galaxy S21

Finally, the vanilla Galaxy S21 is the smallest and weakest of the three. On the plus side, you do get a more palm-friendly 6.2-inch display and basically the same specs as the Galaxy S21 Plus. You do need to sacrifice battery capacity by a bit, though, as the Galaxy S21 only has a 4,000mAh cell. The rear is also made out of “Glasstic” rather than true glass. Your wallet will be happy, however, because the starting price of the phone is just $799 (€849/£769). Also, this phone received our Recommended badge.

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S21 Plus vs S21 Ultra 3

Samsung Galaxy S21

The vanilla Galaxy S21 is the smallest and most affordable of the three Samsung Galaxy S21 series phones. You do get a palm-friendly 6.2-inch display and basically the same specs as the Galaxy S21 Plus. You do need to sacrifice battery capacity by a bit, though, as the Galaxy S21 only has a 4,000mAh cell. Your wallet will be happy, however, because the starting price of the phone is just $799.

Are the Galaxy S21 phones worth buying?

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus back camera macro

David Imel / Android Authority

Like clockwork, a Galaxy S phone always ends up in the running for one of the best phones in the year of its launch. Objectively, there won’t be many phones launched in 2021 that will offer the speed, power, and reliability of a Galaxy S21 smartphone.

If all you do with your smartphone is browse the web, answer email, check Instagram, and send a few texts, any of these Galaxy S21 phones will be overkill. You may be better off saving a ton of cash and grabbing a budget Android phone, which will do everything you need without issue. It’s a different story for power users, people who absolutely need 5G access, and those buyers for whom price isn’t a barrier.

Your thoughts: Is the Galaxy S21 series hot or not?

People who use their phones for processer-intensive tasks and have a need for the best-of-the-best would likely benefit from owning a Galaxy S21 phone. The phones all feature the latest flagship silicon (the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 in certain countries and the Exynos 2100 everywhere else). They also have plenty of RAM and internal storage space which power users will no doubt appreciate.

If you’re a shutterbug, the Samsung Galaxy S21 lineup all capture some great images. The second-gen 108MP sensor on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, in particular, is a powerhouse for both stills and videos. That being said, it’s become quite rare for Samsung to beat out other players for the best camera of the year. Check out our 2020 roundup for more info.

Phones in the Galaxy S series have always been a rock-solid investment for power users.

Also, do keep in mind that Samsung has committed to eventually launching more Fan Edition models of its flagships following the success of the Galaxy S20 FE. That device walked away with Android Authority‘s 2020 Editor’s Choice award. The seemingly inevitable Galaxy S21 FE will probably offer many of the core specs of the Galaxy S21 phones but with a lower price. If you want to save some cash and can wait until the summer for a new phone, you might want to hold for the Galaxy S21 FE.

Samsung Galaxy S21 series specs

Samsung Galaxy S21 Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Display 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED
Flat FHD+
2,400 x 1,080 at 421ppi
Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate
HDR10+ certified
6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED
Flat FHD+
2,400 x 1,080 at 394ppi
Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate
HDR10+ certified
6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED
Curved WQHD+
3,200 x 1,440 at 515ppi
Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate
HDR10+ certified
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or Samsung Exynos 2100 Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or Samsung Exynos 2100 Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or Samsung Exynos 2100
RAM 8GB 8GB 12 or 16GB
Storage 128 or 256GB 128 or 256GB 128, 256, or 512GB
MicroSD No No No
Battery 4,000mAh
Fast wired and wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging
4,800mAh
Fast wired and wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging
5,000mAh
Fast wired and wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging
Cameras Rear:
– Wide-angle: 12MP, ƒ/1.8, 1.8µm with OIS and dual-pixel AF
– Telephoto: 64MP, ƒ/2.0, 0.8µm with OIS and phase-detection AF
– Ultra-wide: 12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.4µm with 120-degree FoV
3x hybrid optical/digital zoom
30x “Space Zoom”
Front:
– 10MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.22µm, with dual-pixel AF
Rear:
– Wide-angle: 12MP, ƒ/1.8, 1.8µm with OIS and dual-pixel AF
– Telephoto: 64MP, ƒ/2.0, 0.8µm with OIS and phase-detection AF
– Ultra-wide: 12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.4µm with 120-degree FoV
3x hybrid optical/digital zoom
30x “Space Zoom”
Front:
– 10MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.22µm, with dual-pixel AF
Rear:
– Wide-angle: 108MP, ƒ/1.8, 0.8µm with OIS and phase-detection AF
– Telephoto: 10MP, ƒ/2.4, 1.22µm with OIS, dual-pixel AF, and 3x optical zoom
– Telephoto: 10MP, ƒ/4.9, 1.22µm with OIS, dual-pixel AF, and 10x optical zoom
– Ultra-wide: 12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.4µm with dual-pixel AF and a 120-degree FoV
– Laser AF sensor
10x optical zoom
100x “Space Zoom”
Front:
– 40MP, ƒ/2.2, 0.7µm, with phase-detection AF
Connectivity 4G LTE support
5G (sub-6GHz, SA and NSA, mmWave)
Wi-Fi 6E support
Bluetooth 5.0
4G LTE support
5G (sub-6GHz, SA and NSA, mmWave)
Wi-Fi 6E support
Bluetooth 5.0
4G LTE support
5G (sub-6GHz, SA and NSA, mmWave)
Wi-Fi 6E support
Bluetooth 5.2
S Pen support No No Yes
Operating System One UI 3.1
Android 11
One UI 3.1
Android 11
One UI 3.1
Android 11
Water resistance IP68 IP68 IP68
Security Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, face unlock Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, face unlock Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, face unlock
Color 128GB in Phantom Violet, Phantom Gray, Phantom Pink, and Phantom White
256GB only in Phantom Gray
Future colors: Phantom Gold and Phantom Red
128GB in Phantom Violet, Phantom Silver, and Phantom Black
256GB only in Phantom Black
Future colors: Phantom Gold and Phantom Red
128 GB in Phantom Silver and Phantom Black
256 and 512GB in Phantom Black
Future colors: Phantom Titanium, Phantom Navy, and Phantom Brown
Dimensions and weight 71.2 x 151.7 x 7.9mm
171g
75.6 x 161.5 x 7.8mm
202g
75.6 x 165.1 x 8.9mm
229g

What AA readers think of the Galaxy S21 phones

In October 2020, we saw our first leaked renders of the Galaxy S21 phones. We ran a poll asking our readers what they thought of those designs. Check out the results below:

Now, those answers are based on leaked renders, not the actual products. However, those leaked images very closely align with the real phones.

Once the phones actually launched, we ran a simpler “hot or not” poll for the series. Here’s how that data breaks down:

What can we glean from this info? It appears our readers liked the designs of the Galaxy S21 lineup, but then decided they weren’t as good as they were expecting once they launched. This could have to do with lots of other factors: specs, availability, and price, especially.

Overall, though, it appears a very large chunk of our readers love the designs of the phones and think they are a “hot” item.

How good are the Galaxy S21 cameras?

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra macro of back cameras

David Imel / Android Authority

In general, Samsung’s flagships have great cameras. If you want to own one of the best phones for photos and videos in the Android world, you can’t go wrong with the latest entry in the Galaxy S family. The 2021 series absolutely continues that trend.

We have reviewed the Galaxy S21 camera systems and have subjective opinions on how they stack up. We can also let you know what each phone has as far as hardware goes and give some insight on how that hardware has stacked up historically.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra cameras

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S21 Plus vs S21 Ultra back in hand 4

David Imel / Android Authority

There are five premium imaging sensors on the back of the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Combined, they create the most advanced camera phone Samsung has ever launched. Check out what’s included:

  • 108MP wide-angle — ƒ1.8, 0.8μm, with autofocus (AF) and optical image stabilization (OIS)
  • 12MP ultra-wide — ƒ2.2, 1.4μm, with AF and a 120-degree field of view (FoV)
  • 10MP telephoto — ƒ2.4, 1.22μm, with AF, OIS, and 3x optical zoom
  • 10MP telephoto — ƒ4.9, 1.22μm, with AF, OIS, and 10x optical zoom
  • Laser autofocus sensor

Last year, the Galaxy S20 Ultra boasted similar specs, including a 108MP primary lens. Unfortunately, in our testing with the Galaxy S20 Ultra, we found the focus to be unreliable as well as a few other problems. Thankfully, our testing with the Galaxy S21 Ultra shows that Samsung has fixed almost all the issues we saw with the 2020 model.

In pretty much every situation, the Galaxy S21 Ultra impressed us. Zoomed shots are crisp and detailed thanks to the two telephoto lenses. Color accuracy across all the lenses is top-notch. And, most importantly, the focus is terrific.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra’s camera hardware combined makes it the most powerful camera phone Samsung has ever launched.

There are still some things to keep in mind. Samsung is still using the “Space Zoom” branding to describe its 100x digital zoom feature with the Galaxy S21 Ultra. In practice, 100x digital zoom results in horrible image quality. We recommend avoiding zooming in this much with your smartphone, even if it is capable of the feat.

See also: Galaxy S20 Ultra revised: Should you still buy it six months later?

On the front, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has the same 40MP shooter as the previous model. That sensor has phase detection autofocus, an 80-degree FoV, an ƒ2.2 aperture, and a pixel size of 0.7μm. Just like last year, selfies look great with this phone.

Samsung Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus cameras

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus back on table macro

David Imel / Android Authority

For the first time since 2017, the regular and Plus variants in this year’s Galaxy S lineup have identical cameras. Over the past three cycles, the Plus model would offer something extra, such as more sensors, better-quality sensors, or even an extra entire lens. This year, though, both phones will produce the exact same image quality.

Here’s what both the Samsung Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus pack:

  • 12MP wide-angle — ƒ1.8, 1.8μm, with autofocus (AF) and optical image stabilization (OIS)
  • 12MP ultra-wide — ƒ2.2, 1.4μm, with AF and a 120-degree field of view (FoV)
  • 64MP telephoto — ƒ2.0, 0.8μm, with AF, OIS, and 3x “Hybrid Optic” zoom

Those three lenses are the trifecta of imaging sensors in smartphones. Your standard wide-angle sensor is used for basic shots. The ultra-wide sensor helps you capture more of an image in your viewfinder without needing to physically move backward. And the telephoto lens gives you the ability to zoom in on your subject.

The Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus won’t be as versatile as the S21 Ultra, but the average person is likely to be happy.

When it comes to zoom, you get 3x “Hybrid Optic” zoom. This is marketing jargon that essentially means a certain percentage of the 3x zoom will be optical (i.e. lossless) while another percentage will be digital (i.e. lossy). We found this results in decent-quality photos when zoomed in at 3x. Even going as high as 10x still creates good-looking shots. But we advise against going past 10x. Regardless, zoom won’t be nearly as good as what you’ll see with the pure optics of the Galaxy S21 Ultra. 

See also: What a pro photographer can do with a cheap Android phone

Essentially, the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus cameras should be a good fit for the average person. Even for professional photographers, the high-quality sensors here would likely enable them to produce some stunning pictures and videos. The Galaxy S21 Ultra will offer more versatility and slightly better quality, but it would also probably be overkill for the average person.

On the front, both phones have a 10MP shooter housed in a display cutout at the top center of the phone. That sensor has dual-pixel autofocus, an 80-degree FoV, an ƒ2.2 aperture, and a pixel size of 1.4μm.

Do the Galaxy S21 phones have good battery life?

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra back camera macro

David Imel / Android Authority

In our review period with the Galaxy S21 Ultra, we saw incredible battery life. Even on days of heavy use, we made it through the day and into the early morning of the next before needing to charge. With light use, we could handily get two days of battery life with no charging at all.

With the vanilla Galaxy S21, we also saw great battery life. We had one session with 8.2 hours of screen-on-time, which is pretty great. Similar to the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the regular Galaxy S21 could be a two-day phone with light use.

Related: Battery life — A guide to everything that drains your phone’s power

In the case of the Galaxy S21 Plus, the story is the same: battery life was great.

Keep in mind, though, that none of these phones have a charger in the box. To charge up the devices, you’ll need to use an existing charger you already own or buy a new one. To get the highest charging speeds, you’ll need a 25W charger. We have a whole article on how to best pick a charger here.

Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S20 series: What’s changed since last year’s models?

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra back next to S20 Ultra back

David Imel / Android Authority

As with any tech product, this year’s Galaxy S21 phones are better in many ways than the previous year’s models. However, due to the lowered pricing, some aspects of the phones are actually weaker than the Galaxy S20 series.

Below you’ll find the most significant differences with this year’s lineup. Please note that this is not every difference, just the highlights.

  • Designs: Samsung has added a lot more design flair to the Galaxy S21 series. The rear camera module is now more recessed into the side of the phone, giving it a distinct look. There are also more colorways from which to choose. The vanilla S21 is also made of “Glasstic” rather than real glass.
  • Displays: The displays might look the same as last year’s, but they are different. The Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus now have flat displays. They also have lower resolutions, clocking in at 1080p instead of 1440p. The Galaxy S21 Ultra, though, keeps the 1440p curved display from last year.
  • RAM: The Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus have less RAM than last year (8GB as compared to 12GB). The Ultra model, though, stays the same with 12 or 16GB.
  • Storage: Each phone starts at the same level as last year: 128GB of internal storage. However, the vanilla and Plus models have 256GB versions this year, which didn’t happen last year. Unfortunately, only the Ultra model has a 512GB option now.
  • MicroSD cards: None of the Galaxy S21 phones have MicroSD card slots. This is the first time the entire lineup has lacked this feature since the Galaxy S6 line.
  • Cameras: The Galaxy S21 and Galaxy 21 Plus both have the exact same front and rear camera setups. This hasn’t happened since the Galaxy S8 series. The Galaxy S21 Ultra has a slightly new setup with two more sensors as compared to the others.
  • 5G: In the United States, all three phones have both Sub6 and mmWave access. Last year, the vanilla Galaxy S20 did not have mmWave access.
  • S Pen: For the first time ever, a Galaxy S device can support Samsung’s S Pen. Usually reserved for the Note series, the S Pen works only on the Ultra variant of the Galaxy S21 family. There is no S Pen included in the box, though.

See also: Samsung Galaxy S series — A history of the biggest name in Android

Samsung Galaxy S21 series: Competition and alternatives

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max 2

Adam Molina / Android Authority

In March, OnePlus launched its latest flagship phones within the OnePlus 9 series. The OnePlus 9 Pro, in particular, is probably the closest equivalent to the Galaxy S21 Ultra on the market right now.

The 9 Pro has a very similar display within a device of similar dimensions. It has a powerful rear camera (the best ever in a OnePlus device) and a variant with 12GB of RAM. It even has faster wired and wireless charging (with a charger in the box!). However, it doesn’t have the dual-telephoto lens setup or the 108MP main sensor of the Galaxy S21 Ultra. It also doesn’t have a variant with 512GB of storage and has a smaller battery. Still, the two phones are quite comparable.

As for the other two Galaxy S21 devices, there’s not much on the market yet that can truly compare. The OnePlus 9 has the same processor as the Galaxy S21 lineup but lacks a telephoto lens and an IP rating. The Xiaomi Mi 11 is probably the best competition for the Galaxy S21, but it is hard to get in many countries, especially here in the US. As we get further into 2021, there will be more phones that will better compete with the price/specs/value ratio offered by the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus.

The Galaxy S21 series will encounter some tough competition in 2021.

If you don’t need the latest-and-greatest silicon, there are still plenty of 2020 phones that will offer tons of processing power, good battery life, great cameras, etc. We would highly recommend considering the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, which was voted by our readers as the best phone of 2020. The Google Pixel 5 and Sony Xperia 5 II were also in the running for our favorite smartphone of 2020, so be sure to give those a look.

Finally, if you’re OK with exiting the Android world, there’s always the Apple iPhone 12 series. The iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max are the most comparable to this Galaxy S21 lineup. However, the iPhone 12 and the smaller iPhone 12 Mini will also offer plenty of speed and decent photos — albeit with only two rear lenses instead of three.

Where to buy the Samsung Galaxy S21 phones

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra wide view of back

David Imel / Android Authority

The Galaxy S21 series is available now. You can grab it unlocked directly from Samsung and a few other third-party retailers. You can also grab it from most major wireless carriers. 

Buy from Samsung

United States

In the US, the Galaxy S21 series starts at $799. Check out the prices for each configuration below:

  • $799 — Galaxy S21 (8GB/128GB)
  • $849 — Galaxy S21 (8GB/256GB)
  • $999 — Galaxy S21 Plus (8GB/128GB)
  • $1,049 — Galaxy S21 Plus (8GB/256GB)
  • $1,199 — Galaxy S21 Ultra (12GB/128GB)
  • $1,249 — Galaxy S21 Ultra (12GB/256GB)
  • $1,379 — Galaxy S21 Ultra (16GB/512GB)

Want to save some cash? You can trade-in your old phone at Samsung.com to earn up to $700 towards the cost of a Galaxy S21 device. You can find more info on this during the add-to-cart procedure on Samsung’s website.

Verizon

The nation’s largest wireless carrier is offering the Galaxy S21 series with some promotional benefits. Here’s what you’ll pay monthly if you don’t pay in full:

  • Galaxy S21 — $33.33/month for 24 months
  • Galaxy S21 Plus — $33.33/month for 30 months or $41.66/month for 24 months
  • Galaxy S21 Ultra — $39.99/month for 30 months or $49.99/month for 24 months

If you switch to a Verizon Unlimited plan from another carrier and trade-in an eligible phone, you could earn up to $1,000 in credits, essentially earning you a Galaxy S21 Plus for free. Current customers can also trade-in eligible phones for discounts up to $600.

Current customers can buy a Galaxy S21 phone and add a new Unlimited line to earn up to $1,000 in credit, which you can then apply to a second Galaxy S21. This is a de facto B1G1 deal if you factor out the new line.

AT&T

Like Verizon, AT&T is open to taking in your old smartphone and giving you credit towards a new Galaxy S21. Depending on the phone, you could earn up to $800 in credit, which would get you a Galaxy S21 for free. For this to work, you need to buy the phone on a 30-month installment plan and connect it to a new or existing Unlimited line.

T-Mobile

The offers from T-Mobile are similar to those from AT&T. New or current subscribers can trade in a phone and get up to $800 off the purchase of a Galaxy S21 device. You don’t need to open a new line or jump through any hoops, either, just bring in the trade!

Here’s how T-Mobile’s pricing breaks down:

  • Galaxy S21 — $33.34/month for 24 months
  • Galaxy S21 Plus — $41.67/month for 24 months
  • Galaxy S21 Ultra — $50.00/month for 24 months

Click the button below to grab your new phone from the Uncarrier.

US Cellular

The deal that US Cellular is offering puts the other companies to shame. For a limited time, if you switch to US Cellular and order a vanilla Galaxy S21, you get the phone for free. No trade-in needed, no plan requirements, and no activation fees. You sign up, and it gives you a Galaxy S21. Don’t want the Galaxy S21? You can instead slash $800 from a Galaxy S21 Plus or S21 Ultra.

If you’re a current US Cellular customer, there’s a deal for you, too. If you upgrade or add a line to your account, you can get $400 off any of the three devices, once again with no trade-in or activation fee required.

Visible

If you’d rather grab a Galaxy S21 without a contract, you can head to Visible. To help you make the move, Visible will slash a few bucks off each device and offer a sweet perk. However, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is not available from the carrier.

Here’s what each device costs:

  • Galaxy S21 — $792 (128GB) or $840 (256GB)
  • Galaxy S21 Plus — $984 (128GB) or $1,032 (256GB)

If you buy one of the phones and open a new Visible account, and hold onto that account for 32 days, you’ll get a $200 Samsung gift credit which you can use at Samsung.com for accessories. Not bad!

Europe and the UK

In Europe, the Galaxy S21 series starts at €849, and in the UK it starts at £769. Here are the prices in each currency:

  • €849 / £769 — Galaxy S21 (8GB/128GB)
  • €1,049 / £949 — Galaxy S21 Plus (8GB/128GB)
  • €1,249 / £1,149 — Galaxy S21 Ultra (12GB/128GB)

You can grab the latest phones in the Galaxy S21 family at the links below:

India

Here is the pricing for the Galaxy S21 lineup in India.

  • 69,999 INR — Galaxy S21 (8GB/128GB)
  • 81,999 INR — Galaxy S21 Plus (8GB/128GB)
  • 105,999 INR — Galaxy S21 Ultra (12GB/128GB)

You can grab the latest phones in the S21 family below:

Samsung Galaxy S21 software updates

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Google Pixel 5 cameras

Adam Molina / Android Authority

Over the past year, Samsung has really upped its game when it comes to software updates. There have been many times that Samsung’s flagship phones have seen the monthly Android security patch days before even Google’s own Pixel lineup sees them.

Samsung also has done an exemplary job rolling out Android 11 to its biggest phone lines. By the end of 2020, every phone in the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy Note 20 lineups saw Android 11. In addition, several phones in the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy Note 10 lines also saw the upgrade, as did other phones from the brand.

Related: Samsung’s three-year upgrade promise raises the bar for Android OEMs

On top of all this, Samsung went on the record and made a promise last year to deliver no fewer than three Android upgrades to every one of its flagship phones going forward. That means the Galaxy S21 lineup will see new Android versions all the way to Android 14. Time will tell if Samsung keeps its promise in this regard, but it has done nothing but impress us so far.

The bottom line here is that if you value consistent Android security patches and timely Android version upgrades, the Galaxy S21 series is a very good choice.

Top Galaxy S21 series questions and answers

Q: Which Samsung Galaxy S21 phone should I buy?
A: If you don’t want the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the choice between the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus is pretty simple: the Plus is bigger. Although the Galaxy S21 has a smaller battery due to its smaller size and doesn’t have a glass back, those two phones are more alike than they are different. If you want the best of the best (and have deep pockets), then you want the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Q: Are the Samsung Galaxy S21 phones waterproof?
A: Yes, all S21 devices are IP68-rated. This means they can be submerged in up to 1.5m (~5ft.) of water for a maximum of 30 minutes.

Q: Do the Galaxy S21 phones support 5G?
A: In the United States, all of the Galaxy S21 phones support all major 5G wireless networks. If you buy your phone unlocked, you will be able to get a 5G signal on all three of the biggest wireless providers.

Q: Do the Galaxy S21 phones come with chargers?
A: No. You won’t find a power brick bundled with any of the Galaxy S21 devices. You’ll need to use an existing one or buy one separately.

Q: Do the Galaxy S21 phones support expandable storage?
A: No. For the first time since 2015, no Galaxy S phones in 2021 support microSD cards.

Q: Do the Galaxy S21 phones have headphone jacks?
A: Unfortunately, no. You won’t find headphone jacks on any of the S21 models.

Q: Do the Galaxy S21 phones support the S Pen?
A: Only the Ultra variant supports the S Pen. Unlike the Galaxy Note series, the Galaxy S21 Ultra doesn’t come with an S Pen, nor does it have a built-in slot where you can store it. You can buy a specialized case for the phone that includes a spot to store an S Pen, though.

Q: What chipset powers the Galaxy S21?
A: In most markets across the globe, the Samsung Exynos 2100 chipset powers Galaxy S21 phones. In certain countries — including the US, China, and South Korea — the handsets come with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset under the hood.

Q: Which Galaxy S21 phones have a 120Hz display?
A: All of them. However, each phone uses “adaptive” 120Hz. This means the phone’s software will automatically choose the refresh rate of the display based on what you’re doing. For example, if the app you’re using only supports 60Hz, there’s no reason for the 120Hz feature to be on and needlessly draining the battery. The downside to this, of course, is that there will inevitably be apps and situations in which you would want 120Hz but the software prevents it.

Q: What colors are the Galaxy S21 phones available in?
A: Samsung is offering a lot of colors for its phones this year. However, the colorways on offer are limited to certain storage configurations. In addition, Samsung revealed that there are more colors that will be exclusively available from Samsung.com. See the specs table a few sections up for more info.

Q: Will there be a Fan Edition in the Galaxy S21 series?
A: According to a statement from Samsung, it is committed to launching Fan Editions for its biggest flagships. This heavily suggests that you can expect a Galaxy S21 FE. However, that variant likely won’t launch until at least the summer of 2021, if it ever launches at all.

Help other readers out

Do you own the Galaxy S21, S21 Plus, or S21 Ultra? Do you plan on getting one? If so, make your voice heard in our polls below, and then go ahead and post your own mini-review in the comments!



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