We knew the Galaxy S21 series was coming. Now, we know when: January 14. Samsung has announced yet another major “Unpacked” event, scheduling it for the final day of CES 2021. The event kicks off at 10 a.m. ET / 7 a.m. PT, and will be livestreamed.
The Galaxy S21 event comes weeks earlier than last year’s Galaxy S20, which launched in early February. With any early-2021 event set to be virtual regardless, it seems Samsung figured it might as well get the phones out there as soon as they’re ready. And so we benefit, getting our eyes and hands on Samsung’s latest top-tier phones even earlier this year.
What we expect
As usual, a wide range of Galaxy S21 details have leaked ahead of the launch. We’re expecting the lineup of three phones: A standard Galaxy S21, upgraded S21+, and all-out flagship S21 Ultra. Across the lineup, we’ll likely see slightly larger displays than the S20 series, with the S21 Ultra going as large as 6.8 inches. The highest model at least will jump to a 144hz refresh rate, and there will probably be several other display improvements. The S21 Ultra in particular is expected to offer Galaxy Note S Pen compatibility, though it won’t have a silo to hold the pen.
On the back, a new camera system is highlighted with an all-new design in the corner of the phone. The lower S21 and S21+ models are expected to stick with a triple camera array, but the S21 Ultra will distinguish itself with a quad-camera anchored by a 108-megapixel sensor. There have also been rumors that it will include optical image stabilization (OIS) on the front-facing 40MP camera. How well Samsung’s able to step up its camera game will have a huge impact on its popularity this year.
One of the best parts of the Galaxy experience is the S21 is likely to have near-identical software and features to what has started rolling out in the Android 11 update for the Galaxy S20 and Note 20. There will be a few choice features that Samsung will highlight that take advantage of its new specs, or push the phones in a new direction.
How Samsung improves its cameras will be critical to the S21’s success.
What we aren’t expecting is a less-expensive “FE” model to replace the just-released Galaxy S20 FE. That model, though technically part of the 2020 generation of phones, will live on for several more months as the budget-minded Galaxy S option. The Galaxy S21 series will probably start at $999.
When it’s coming
On top of the exact specifics of the phone, we don’t yet know what the launch will look like. The latest information we have points to some sort of retail sales coming a week after launch, on January 22 — though considering the advanced timeline compared to last year, a full rollout could take several more days.
All will be revealed in short order, though — we’ll see you on January 14 for Unpacked.
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