What do we know about the Galaxy S21?
Well, to start, we know it’s called the Galaxy S21. For a while, many of us expected Samsung to jump to S30, but that’s definitely not what’s happening this year.
As usual, the Galaxy S21 is Samsung’s smallest flagship phone, and it got a slight makeover this year. The changes are most notable when you view the device from the rear: the all-black camera humps that debuted in last year’s S20 series have been replaced by more elegant housings that blend into the S21’s metal frame. (The phone nerd community quickly dubbed this the Phantom of the Opera design, and who are we to argue?) As a result, some of the S21’s new color options look a lot cooler than others; the black and pink models have metal frames that match their bodies, while the white and purple models have eye-catching silver and bronze trim, respectively.
Meanwhile, the cameras themselves seem quite close to the ones we got in last year’s non-Ultra Galaxy S20s. WinFuture’s Roland Quandt notes the main 12-megapixel rear sensor offers an f/1.8 aperture and a 79-degree field of view, just like last time, and the phone’s 12-megapixel ultra-wide and 10-megapixel front camera seem similarly unchanged. The one difference Quandt points out has to do with the S21’s 64-megapixel telephoto camera: Samsung’s chosen sensor seems to be a little smaller than last year, but the light-capturing pixels are reportedly the same size.
The front of the S21 is as sparse as ever, but there are a few interesting things to note about the 6.2-inch, 120Hz Infinity-O display. For one, it uses an LTPS backplane which — long story short — allows for either lower power consumption or higher resolutions. Curiously, a detailed leak provided by AndroidPolice claims the Galaxy S21’s display only runs at Full HD+, which would make this year’s display quite a bit less pixel-dense compared to the ones we saw last year. If these reports hold up, then it’s clear Samsung wanted to squeeze as much life as it could out of the S21’s reported 4,000mAh battery.
Multiple reports also suggest Samsung is finally giving up on its use of curved-edge displays, and we’re frankly happy to see them go. If you’ve ever accidentally launched an app or clicked a link with the side of your hand while stretching your thumb to reach for something, this is good news for you.
In the past, we’ve occasionally seen Samsung use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chipsets in all versions of a particular smartphone, like the Galaxy Z Fold 2. Don’t expect that here, though. While an FCC leak confirms the US version of the S21 will use Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 888 chipset, some variants sold outside the US will instead pack Samsung’s Exynos 2100.
In other years, that would come as troubling news to some of the company’s biggest fans, since Exynos-powered devices are frequently outgunned by their Qualcomm variants, but some early benchmarks suggest Samsung might have actually turned the tables this time. Granted, these kinds of tests don’t speak to the totality of the smartphone experience, but the results are promising at least. And beyond the different chips powering the S21, you can expect to see similar configurations just about everywhere. We’re expecting Samsung’s small flagship to come with 12GB of RAM, and either 128GB or 256GB of internal storage.
Oh, and one more thing: Samsung may give people the option of using Google’s Discover feed on their homescreens instead of the company’s lookalike. Not everyone will find this change all that interesting, but it’s great news for Google purists who prefer the search giant’s intelligent reminders and customized content picks.
What about the Galaxy S21 Plus?
Just like last year, the S21 Plus is shaping up to be (what else?) a bigger version of the standard S21. The only differences we’re expecting to see are fairly obvious ones, like a larger 6.7-inch screen also running at Full HD+ and a more capacious battery. Otherwise, expect the same RAM and internal storage allotments, the same cameras, the same new design — the list goes on. That said, the S21 Plus might not come in that charming pink-on-pink color scheme which has us a little bummed.
Conventional logic would suggest that, based on specs, the S21 Plus has the potential to be the most popular. After all, it nicely splits the difference between Samsung’s most affordable and most premium new models. Then again, Samsung felt the same going into 2020, but more people gravitated toward the highest-end model instead.