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Samsung Galaxy S21: release date, price, specs, and more

T3 logo T3 07/12/2020 David Nield
Samsung Galaxy S21 renders © Provided by T3 Samsung Galaxy S21 renders

The Samsung Galaxy S21 series is set for an early January release next year, and the smartphone is set for a hardware revamp, as well as new features like S-Pen support. 

Rumors have suggested the handset won't be in for the usual standard of upgrade we'd expect for the series, as Samsung is set to move away from the traditional candy bar device and bring its foldables to the forefront as its new flagship. 

It's even rumored to be working on a rollable device, tentatively dubbed the Galaxy Scroll, that will be yet another addition to its Z series.

The Galaxy S21 leaks also point to a line-up made of the divisive 'glasstic', seeing Samsung ditch the premium materials for the cost-effective plastic.    

The Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S20 Ultra, meanwhile, boast a number of luxury specs, and tipsters have been recommending that fans stick to the existing devices over the new Galaxy S21. But let's dive in to find out what's in store.

Samsung Galaxy S21: launch date

Samsung likes to keep its phone launch schedule pretty much the same every year, so we were expecting the Galaxy S21 to be announced in February, 2021 and debut in March. 

However, in a surprising turn of events, it seems that Samsung is kicking up production to have the smartphone ready for January 2021, with plans to shave a month and a half off schedule. 

That's been further narrowed down to January 14 for the unveiling and pre-orders, and January 29 for the actual release. 

According to the latest rumors on the launch date, the move is motivated by poor Galaxy S20 sales, so by releasing its next S series device early, Samsung can mitigate the underwhelming performance of 2020's handset.

The second, and most intriguing reason, is that the Korean tech giant is reportedly considering merging its S series with the Note series, and the new launch window could help further draw the line between the old format and schedule, and the new one.


Samsung Galaxy S21: price

The all-important question: how much is the Samsung Galaxy S21 actually going to cost? Pricing can make or break a phone irrespective of the sort of performance or camera quality it offers, so Samsung will be keen to get this right. 

Samsung usually offers a range of phones in any given series to hit different price points, so as many people as possible can find something that works for their budget – although they are premium tier smartphones so they're never going to be that cheap. 

We haven't heard any specifics about the price of the handset itself, but if it houses Qualcomm's Snapdragon 875 5G processor – a step up from the Snapdragon 865 utilised in the S20 – then we're looking at a price hike.

The 875 will come in at $250 with its Snapdragon X60 5G modem, but Samsung does have its own Exynos chip to fall back on, but the performance isn't on a par with Qualcomm's offering. 

Looking at the Galaxy S20 range, the standard S20 stared from £899 / $999, the S20 Plus from £999 / $1,199, and the S20 Ultra starting from £1,199 / $1,399. 

Gallery: Best tablet 2020: Top tablets to buy today (Pocket-lint)

Samsung Galaxy S21: screen and design

Leaked CAD drawings have potentially spilled the beans on the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S20 Ultra, giving is dimensions of both devices, screen size, and details of their camera housing – although they haven't enlightened us when it comes to actual specs. You can check out 360-degree videos of the Galaxy S21 and S21 Ultra by OnLeaks, aka Steve Hemmerstoffer, above. 

As you can see, any ideas about the S series introducing an under-screen camera seem to have been shot down, which is line with rumors that the under display camera tech might not be ready in time to make its debut in the S21, and will roll out in the Galaxy Z Fold 3 instead.

There are three phones in the Galaxy S20 range – the 6.2-inch standard S20, the 6.7-inch S20 Plus, and the huge 6.9-inch S20 Ultra. We're assuming it's going to be the same this time around, but the leaked CAD drawings are for the S21 and S21 Ultra only.

The S21 is set to feature a 6.2-inch flat display and measures 151.7mm x 71.2mm x 8mm thick (extending to 9mm for the camera bump).

The S21 Ultra's screen has been reported to measure 6.8-inches by Twitter tipster Ishan Agarwal, is slightly curved, and the overall device measures 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm (10.8mm with the camera bump).

The premium model is said to boast a 120Hz AMOLED LTPO panel, but unlike the Galaxy S20, which made users choose between WQHD resolution at 60Hz or FHD+ at 120Hz, the Galaxy S21 Ultra will reportedly offer WQHD resolution at 120Hz.

While we heard that the S21's bezel is larger than the S20, with Twitter tipsters and insiders advising that "smart Samsung fans" should opt for the S20 over the S21, Samsung Display has filed a newt trademark for a 'Blade Bezel' which sounds like it'll be switching to a thin, flat design, taking a leaf out of Apple's playbook; the US tech giant reverted back to the flat edges last seen on the iPhone 6 this current smartphone generation.    

Samsung has also filed a trademark for a 'Blade Display' that's likely to appear on the S21 and S21+ models, while the S21 Ultra is said to be sticking with the edge display. The new design is reported to be used to create a "speaker resonance chamber" – a Boombox, basically, like the LG G7 ThinQ

The S21's colors have also leaked, revealing that the base model will ship in Grey, Pink, Violet, and White, the S21+ in Black, and Silver; and the S21 Ultra in Black, Silver, and Violet. Recent renders show off the new colorways and they look sublime.

There is one aspect fans might no be so happy about, and that's the possibility of glasstic being used for the smartphones. The plastic material was a feature of the base Note 20 model, and wasn't received well by fans who took umbrage with paying $1,000 for a less than premium material. 

Samsung Galaxy S21: specs and features

If you're hoping that the Galaxy S21 is going to be a huge leap forward from what we've seen with the Galaxy S20 and Note 20 in the performance department, be prepared to be disappointed: some tipsters are suggesting that there won't be a massive upgrade in terms of specs, and that the S21 might even stick with the same Snapdragon 865 processor that powers the S20.

On the other hand, Samsung might push its own Exynos 1000 CPU to the fore with the Galaxy S21, from a processor line that it's previously used in certain regions for Galaxy S phones. This chipset is reportedly a real powerhouse in terms of speed and performance, so there is still hope that the Galaxy S21 smartphone is going to arrive on the market with enough oomph to give the iPhone 12 some strong competition.

The most recent leaks point to the Galaxy S21 touting the new Snapdragon 888 processor, and while that seems like a ray of hope for fans, a Geekbench 5 score for the device doesn't paint a very impressive picture. 

The smarphone posted a single-core score of 1,075 and a multi-core score of 1,302, which is less than the iPhone 12, which posted 1,585 and 4,676 respectively. It's also less than the OnePlus 8 Pro, but before you pass judgement, it's worth bearing in mind that benchmark scores aren't necessarily indictive of real world performance.  

Samsung also announced an improvement to the way it makes RAM with its new 10-nanometer 16GB LPDDR5 RAM chip. It offers a 16% speed improvement on those currently powering Android phones, and is capable of transferring over 50GB of data in one second.

 It's also 30% thinner than the existing version, which is handy as smartphone manufacturers try to pack all of the components they need into thinner, more lightweight handsets. The chip is said to be debuting in Samsung's next flagship, which we assume will be the S series, but perhaps it'll be the Fold if that's the new golden child.  

However, the latest speculation points to Samsung's shift in focus to its foldables as its new flagship, with one Twitter tipster heralding the end of the S/Note era, bolstering the rumors of a merging of the two handsets.   

The battery is also set to get a boost, and while early rumors suggested the base S21 will house a 3,880mAh battery, and the S21 Plus a larger 4,660mAh battery, the most recent leak bumps up the S21 Ultra's to 5,000mAh, and we're also expecting this model to support 45W fast charging. 

On the camera front, we're expecting another another 108MP lens on the S21 Ultra and but we hear that Samsung won't be using the ISOCELL Bright HM1 sensor, but upgraded ISOCELL HM3 sensor, which is set to support Samsung's upcoming ISOCELL 2.0 tech. This should offer improved color fidelity and light sensitivity. The 40MP front-facing camera will also carry over the S21.   

The leaked CAD drawings show a triple camera array on the S21, and a quad camera setup on the S21 Ultra, with speculation that the Ultra's setup features "two Telephoto/Periscope lenses" and "wide and ultra-wide lenses". 

Samsung Galaxy S21: other rumours and news

Samsung's digital assistant Bixby continues to live on, though it's hardly causing the likes of Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant a huge amount of worry when it comes to market share. We've heard on the rumour grapevine that the Galaxy S21 might arrive without a Bixby button – the thinking being that Samsung knows the Google Assistant is better, and wants to let that app take the lead in future. 

The latest tidbt also points to voice unlocking through the Bixby voice assistant, but that doesn't sound as secure as consumers might like.  

Otherwise it's likely to be business as usual – the Galaxy S21 should come with the usual IP68 waterproofing and dustproofing, wireless charging, and all the other goodies you normally get with a flagship phone from Samsung. Data transfer and wired charging will no doubt be handled with a USB-C port, as is standard these days.

It's rumored that Samsung might be following in Apple's footsteps, and ship the S series without the earphones and charging block it usually includes in the box. Interestingly, the Galaxy S21 launch could sit alongside the release of a new pair of Galaxy Buds as a successor to the Galaxy Buds Live. The Galaxy Buds Beyond are expected to offer improved ANC and ambient mode.   

While we thought the device might include the S-Pen, which would bump up the cost even more, it now seems that the Galaxy S21 series won't ship with the stylus, but the Galaxy S21 Ultra will offer S-Pen support

What we can be sure about is that the Samsung Galaxy S21 will be one of the phones of 2021, ready to take on whatever Apple, Google and the other manufacturers have got planned. We will of course keep you right up to date with what's happening with the Galaxy S21 as the launch date gets closer and closer.


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