The Galaxy S21 series is expected to mark an important turning point in Samsung’s history with the integration for the first time of an S-Pen stylus on a smartphone that is not a Note. Otherwise, we do not expect big changes compared to the S20 since the front photo sensor under the screen is finally no longer relevant.
The Galaxy S line of Samsung smartphones is the South Korean brand’s most iconic. Each year the new models are highly anticipated and give us a mark of what to expect in the mobile industry for months to come. Samsung has not yet officially communicated on its next flagships, which we are not yet sure if they will be called S21 or S30 . But as usual, a lot of indiscretions and leaks allow us to already have a good idea of what lies ahead. Data sheet, price, release date, new features, here is everything we know about the Galaxy S21 to date.
Galaxy S21 release Date
Previously, Samsung launched its new Galaxy S at MWC Barcelona at the end of February for a release around mid-March. The manufacturer has changed its strategy in recent iterations, preferring to present its products at an Unpacked conference ahead of the world mobile show, canceled in 2020 and which should be held later than usual in 2021.
Of course, the situation can change quickly due to the COVID-19 outbreak, which may upset Samsung’s schedule . We can expect dates close to those of S20 for S21. As a reminder, the S20 series was introduced on February 11, with a pre-order opening on February 21 and marketing from March 6. But it could also be that Samsung completely upsets its plans, mainly because of the disappointing sales of the S20. There are rumors that the S21 could be released by the end of 2020 . But the most credible information, for the moment, seems that concerning a launch of the S21 for January 2021, for marketing at the end of January / beginning of February. Either way, it would be a big first for Samsung!
Galaxy S21 Price
For the Galaxy S20 series, Samsung has switched even more to premium. No more affordable S20e like we had with the S10e, the cheapest S20 is sold for 909 euros, with a Plus version available from 1009 euros and an Ultra version which costs the trifle of 1359 euros. Only the Galaxy S20 FE is a little more affordable, but it takes everything from 659 euros to acquire the 4G version, and 759 euros for the 5G edition.
For the S21s, Samsung is expected to adopt the same strategy with a standard S21, S21 +, and S21 Ultra. It is very unlikely that we will see a drop in prices, we could even see prices rise further. A report indicates that the cost of Snapdragon 875 SoCs engraved in 5nm will increase significantly compared to that of Snapdragon 865, which would be reflected in the final price of products that are equipped with them.
It remains to be seen whether the Snapdragon 875 will be embedded in the Galaxy S21s , some information suggests that the homemade Exynos chips could be preferred in all regions. If we finally stay on the model of recent years, namely the Exynos for Europe and the Snapdragon for the United States and China, Samsung should balance prices, that is to say that European consumers would be impacted by the price increase of Snapdragon SoCs even if they had to be satisfied with the Exynos. We come back to this chip story in more detail in a part of this report devoted to performance.
Galaxy S21 design
No big changes in terms of design, the Galaxy S21 will look like the Galaxy S20. On the back, we should find the “hotplate” which has been rampant for a year now on the back of smartphones to house the photo sensors. At the front, the front camera would be integrated into a punch in the upper central part of the screen, as on the previous models.
We had hoped that Samsung finally offers us a mobile front face that is only a screen, without border, notch or punch. It won’t be this time. The manufacturer is working on a photo sensor technology under the screen that would make it invisible, as it has already been done with fingerprint scanners. But Samsung is not yet ready to implement it in a mainstream product because it does not meet its quality requirements, at least for now. It is the Galaxy Z Fold 3 foldable smartphone expected for the second half of 2021 which could become the first device to benefit from such a feature, giving hope that it will be available later on the Galaxy S22.launch a smartphone with a photo sensor under the current screen 2021.
The S21 + and S21 Ultra will keep the best materials of the moment, namely aluminum chassis and glass back, with Corning Gorilla Glass Victus protection as on the Note 20 for the screen. We hope to see the same characteristics for the S21, while Samsung has decided to use plastic on its Note 20 in order to reduce costs. All three smartphones are IP68 certified for water and dust resistance.
Screen Size and Refresh Rate
Dynamic AMOLED 2X technology will make a comeback on all three S21 models. The three screens should display a QHD + 1440p definition, offer HDR10 + compatibility for improved color rendering and benefit from a refresh rate of up to 120 Hz. We hope that this time around, Samsung will make it possible to take advantage of both 120 Hz and QHD + quality, whereas it was necessary to choose between the two on the previous generation (FHD + 120 Hz or QHD + 60 Hz). All while managing to control energy consumption of course.
The Always-on functionality will of course be present on the S21, S21 + and S21 Ultra to always have the time, the battery level and the new notifications displayed on the panel, even at rest. Ultimately, the difference will be only on the size between the three smartphones. We had 6.2, 6.7 and 6.9 inches with the S20 series, this should change little with the S21. How about an S21 Ultra that reaches 7 inches?
Chipset, Snapdragon or Exynos
The upcoming generation of high-end smartphones marks a turning point, because they will be equipped with an SoC engraved in 5nm, and no longer in 7nm (or 8nm) as it was customary for the last two years. The Galaxy S21 will be among the first to take advantage of it.
Samsung should very quickly present its premium Exynos 2100 SoC, successor to the Exynos 990, in order to cut the rug out from under Qualcomm’s foot. We are still waiting for benchmarks to be able to judge the performance gain compared to the Exynos 990 and compare it to the Snapdragon 875, which will be announced on December 1, 2020 during Qualcomm’s Tech Summit Digital 2020.
On previous models, Samsung equipped its high-end mobiles with different chips depending on the geographic region. The versions intended for Europe and South Korea shipped an Exynos SoC and those shipped to the United States and China were entitled to a Snapdragon. A difference in treatment that is controversial each year since there is systematically a significant power gap to the advantage of Qualcomm chips.
Nothing will change for European consumers with the Galaxy S21, it is the Exynos 2100 that is expected in our market. But this time around, Samsung could go for its worldwide in-house SoC and snub the upcoming Snapdragon 875. It is rumored that the Exynos 2100 would be based on the ARM architecture for the CPU and that the GPU component would be entrusted to AMD. This would finally allow Samsung to reach the level of Qualcomm.
Another rumor from a Chinese leaker claims that Samsung has not yet entrusted the GPU of its high-end chipset to the creator of Radeons. He explains that the graphics processor of the Exynos 2100 would be an ARM Mali-G78 MP14. This means that the GPU would be made up of 14 Mali-G78 cores, the most recent graphics core from ARM. Still according to the same source, this GPU would offer a power comparable to that of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 875, a component which should equip a large part of the flagships of 2021.
The Chinese certification body 3C (China Compulsory Certificate), which validates CCC marks equivalent to CE in Europe, has already revealed the battery capacity of the three expected Galaxy S21 models. The standard S21 should have a battery of around 4000 mAh, like the S20. The S21 + would be entitled to an accumulator of nearly 4750 mAh, slightly higher than what we had on the S20 +. No change for the Ultra version, it is the same 5000 mAh battery of the S20 Ultra that is expected on the S21 Ultra.
Compared to the previous Galaxy S, we can expect a gain in autonomy given that the batteries are roughly identical, the screen size should not move too much, and the new SoC rotating the smartphones should be more energy efficient.
Another leak tells us that Samsung is preparing a 65W charger, strongly suggesting that at least the Galaxy S21 Ultra will benefit from such a fast recharge. On the other hand, that of the Galaxy S21 will not change: while the S20 was satisfied with a 25W charge and the S20 Ultra was already at 45W, the charge of the S21 will remain at 25 W, as evidenced by an official document published by the Chinese organization 3C.
The three mobiles will be compatible with wireless charging as well as the “powerbank” function allowing the smartphone battery to be used to charge a third-party device, such as wireless headphones.
The information that has reached us so far concerns primarily the Galaxy S21 Ultra. The latter would be equipped with a 108 megapixel sensor . It will not be the ISOCELL Bright HM1 module found on the Galaxy S20 Ultra and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra but an improved version of it.
As with the Note 20 Ultra, the ToF 3D sensor dedicated to measuring the depth of field should disappear on this new series. Samsung would like to focus on improving its telephoto lenses with the S21s. We remember that the 100x zoom of the S20 Ultra had been strongly criticized. The S21 Ultra should benefit from a telephoto lens with 10x optical zoom and maybe even a second telephoto lens dedicated to less powerful zooms (3x or 5x).
Samsung has a reputation for releasing some very good camera phones, but we have to admit that we have been somewhat disappointed with the progress made over the past two years as the price of devices has increased significantly.
This is the emerging trend, the S-Pen stylus that makes Note smartphones excellent productivity tools, would land on the S range. The S21 Ultra should be accompanied by the S-Pen, which allows you to write in a handwritten on their mobile (with the possibility of transforming the text into typed format, of copying it, of sharing it…), of drawing, of taking pictures remotely, of passing slides and much more. It is not yet clear whether all S21s will be equipped with a stylus, but given that this is an experiment, it would be particularly risky to impose the S-Pen on all models. We therefore expect a stylus only for the S21 Ultra.
Several sources have been preparing us for the upcoming demise of the Note range for a few years now. The Galaxy S and Note have gradually moved closer to each other: screen size and battery, DeX function, and now the S-Pen. The integration of a stylus into the Galaxy S range looks like the death blow and if the Note 21 does not seem in danger, the mythical Samsung Galaxy Note could disappear from 2022. We would then have in the first half of each year the launch of new Galaxy S, merger of the S and Note range, then in the second half of the year, the release of the brand’s foldable screen smartphones.
Samsung ON UI
All three Galaxy S21 models will be native to Android 11. Samsung has promised three years of software support on its flagships, so they will receive an update to the next three major versions of Android. We will of course find for the occasion a brand new version of the One UI home overlay, one of the best Android interfaces on the market.
If the S-Pen is confirmed, the smartphones concerned should take over many of the stylus-related features available on the latest Galaxy Note. The wireless DeX mode that first appeared with the Note 20 could also land on the S21 series.