Samsung releases a range of Galaxy S flagship smartphones every year with design tweaks, camera improvements and more cutting-edge tech than the year before, and 2021 is likely to be no different, with the Galaxy S21 – or maybe S30 – on the way.
2020’s Galaxy S20 lineup initially consisted of three phones, in the S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra, more recently expanding to include the cheaper S20 FE. We expect Samsung to continue this trend into 2021 but it’s unclear if the phone range will be called the Galaxy S21 series or the Galaxy S30 line, though rumours and leaks are beginning to settle around S21 as the more likely name.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra improved considerably on the S20 Ultra, so we’re excited to see what Samsung will stuff into its next Galaxy S phones. And it looks as though the rumours and leaks are already starting to flow with impressive regularity.
When is the Samsung Galaxy S21/S30 release date?
From looking at the company’s biggest releases of 2020, it makes sense to expect the S21/S30 series to debut in February 2021, however, it appears that isn’t to be the case.
One established source, Jon Prosser, cites a launch date of 14 January, with pre-order availability kicking off on the same day and the phone range going on sale two weeks later on 29 January.
Samsung Galaxy S21, S21+, S21 Ultra 👀
Announcement: January 14, 2021Pre-order: January 14, 2021
Launch: January 29, 2021
Black, White, Grey, Silver, Violet and Pink
— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser)
November 3, 2020
Talk of an earlier launch date has circulated for a while now, with one of the first leaks from an established source on the matter, OnLeaks (aka Steve Hemmerstoffer), pointing to the earlier-than-usual release window of January 2021, marrying up with separate reports that production on the next S series commenced far earlier than previous generations ever had.
Hemmerstoffer shared a number of revealing S21/S30-related posts with claims that his source stated, “Samsung will officially introduce the Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21 Ultra in January 2021!”
This was then corroborated by Korean news site Maeil Business (as spotted by Sleepy Kuma, on Twitter), whose sources suggested that the phones would be announced in the first portion of January and go on sale in either late January or early February (which just about lines up with Prosser’s claims).
Such a shift is thought to be an attempt to grab the number one slot at the fore of 2021, simultaneously pulling attention and sales away from Apple’s iPhone 12 line while also continuing to capitalise on Huawei’s inability to compete under the restrictions of the US entity list.
What will the Samsung Galaxy S21/S30’s price be?
The freshest rumours on pricing come from tipster Landsk, via the Korean-language blog, Naver.
The pricing table mentioned highlights the potential price ranges (in US Dollars) of each of the three expected Galaxy S21 models, with the base S21 expected to cost between $850 and $899, the S21+ at somewhere between $1050 and $1099, and the top-tier S21 Ultra coming in at $1250 to $1299.
The Samsung Galaxy S20+
In the US, 2020’s base Galaxy S20 started at $999, while in the UK there was the option of a 4G-only variant costing £799 (the base S20 in the US came with 5G as standard). The S20+ cost £999/$1,199, while the spec-heavy S20 Ultra cost £1,199/$1,399.
When it comes to value from year to year, there’s also what comes in the box to consider. There’s a chance that next year’s Galaxy S series will go the way of the iPhone 12 line and ditch both the in-box headphones and power adapter that usually feature.
Such news comes from Korean site ChosunBiz, who suggests that – in a similar fashion to Apple’s latest iPhones – Samsung will nix the earbuds and potentially the adapter from the boxes of its Galaxy S21 handsets, citing an ‘industry source’ who stated that “beyond the similarity between the functions and designs of the Galaxy and the iPhone, they have a great influence on each other’s launch policy.” [machine translated from Korean]
What about the Samsung Galaxy S21/S30 specs?
In terms of what to expect from the hardware that Samsung is utilising for its next-gen S devices, the previously-mentioned posts from OnLeaks gave us our first look at renders of both the standard Galaxy S21/S30 and the beefier S21/S30 Ultra, along with dimensions and a couple of additional tidbits.
Jump forward to mid-November and Android Police were plied with a number of additional details, corroborated by multiple sources, covering both specs and design elements that provide the most robust look at what next year’s Galaxy S phones will offer.
Samsung Galaxy S21/S30 | Source: Steve Hemmerstoffer
The most obvious change compared to this year’s S20 line is the new camera bump, the design of which is seen to flow in from the phone’s corner. Beyond that, the base S21/S30 is stated to feature a flat 6.2in panel with a hole-punch front camera and approximate dimensions of 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9mm. Thickness supposedly rises to 9mm if you take into account the new camera bump. It’s also said to sport a plastic back, not unlike this year’s Galaxy Note 20.
Fellow tipster IceUniverse observed that, in a side-by-side comparison between these renders and press shots of the Galaxy S20, the 2021 phone actually sports thicker bezels, alluding to more affordable construction methods.
Whether this is just a case of Samsung saving money at the manufacturing stage or that next year’s phones will actually end up cheaper remains to be seen, but it’s an interesting observation that has bigger implications for Samsung’s strategy in 2021.
In a separate post, IceUniverse also affirms that the base S21/S30 and the Plus models will both feature flat or “2D” displays, while the Ultra’s is set to sport curved edges. Bezels along all sides are also said to be of equal thickness, rather than sporting a thicker bottom edge compared to the other sides.
Additional details from the Android Police report that the standard S21/S30 and the Plus will make use of LTPS 120Hz Full HD+ screens (lower resolution than this year’s models), while the Ultra will opt for an LTPO WQHD+ adaptive 1-120Hz panel.
Samsung Galaxy S21/S30 Ultra | Source: Steve Hemmerstoffer
Perhaps most interestingly, in the case of the Ultra, Samsung is apparently adding in S Pen stylus support, although unlike its Note line, the phone won’t feature an integrated stylus and instead it’ll be sold as a standalone accessory, along with a compatible case complete with its own S Pen holder.
This feeds into reports that Samsung might be retiring the Note line in 2021, to make room for devices like the Galaxy Z Fold Scroll.
Like its predecessor, the S21/S30 Ultra is set to sport additional camera sensors (at least four instead of three) compared to its more modest namesakes, along with the new camera bump ‘island’ design.
Hemmerstoffer’s original article on the next Ultra’s camera setup also mentions a possible dual telephoto sensor setup, alongside a wide and an ultrawide sensor.
The display is stated to be 6.8in (according to AP) and is supposedly curved along the edges, unlike the standard model, while the phone is said to measure in at 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm or 10.8mm thick if you, again, factor in the camera bump.
Not long after the above renders were served up, OnLeaks brought a revised take on the Ultra to the table; renders that highlight a reworked camera module with what appears to be an additional component.
Initially, it was unclear whether this was a ToF (time-of-flight) depth sensor or something else but it was a feature that wasn’t made apparent until the latest DVT (Design Validation Test) prototype was spotted (this is described as the phase before mass production).
To add to OnLeaks’ renders, website MySmartPrice acquired unrendered CAD files of the Galaxy S21/S30+ with more measurements to match.
Samsung Galaxy S21+/S30+ | Source: MySmartPrice
The renders show a familiar layout compared to OnLeaks’ imagery of both the standard and Ultra models, with an ‘island’ triple-sensor camera bump, a centrally-justified hole-punch selfie camera and no sign of a headphone jack.
Dimensions clock in at 161.5 x 75.6 x 7.85mm, while the phone is reported to sport a 6.7in flat display (corroborated by AP’s more recent report).
If you’re curious to see what the S21+/S30+ might more realistically look like, recently new renders of the phone – again supposedly based on accurate CAD files – emerged by way of a collaboration between xleaks7 and Italian site CoverPigtou.
Samsung Galaxy S21+/S30+ | Source: xleaks 7 × CoverPigtou
Following on from analyst Ross Young’s initial tweet on the matter, beyond base colour’s for each device, AP’s report also includes the branding that Samsung likes to preface its colourways with, “Phantom.”
The standard Galaxy S21/S30 will come in Phantom Pink, Phantom Grey and Phantom White, while both it and the Plus model will also be up for grabs in Phantom Violet. Both the S21/S30+ and S21/S30 Ultra will also come in Phantom Black and Phantom Silver.
So what about beyond the bodywork? The S21/S30 range looks as though it’ll support Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 chipset or the company’s own forthcoming Exynoss 2100 flagship chip, depending on market. While previous generations of Galaxy S phones have demonstrated a disparity between the Exynos and Qualcomm-based internals, next year’s 2100 will reportedly by “on-par or better than the Snapdragon .”
What is alleged to be an Exynos 2100-powered Galaxy S21+/S30+ (sporting 8GB of RAM) appeared on benchmarking app Geekbench, with a multi-core score of 3107; a big step up from the score of 2695 we saw when we tested the S20+ – though it’s still behind the top-performing Snapdragon phones.
On top of OnLeaks’ camera insights, the next Ultra is again reported to centre around an updated 108Mp sensor.
Galaxy S21 Ultra，Still 108MP, the sensor is the successor to HM1
— Ice universe (@UniverseIce)
August 19, 2020
The S20 Ultra was a fine phone save for its disappointing cameras, which struggled with autofocus issues and other faults that don’t come across based on its spec sheet alone.
There’s a rumour that Samsung might drop the time-of-flight sensor from the S21/S30 too, just as it has done with the Note 20 phones. The hardware helps with portrait mode photos but Samsung lags behind here compared to Apple and Google.
This has also been corroborated by a separate IceUniverse leak, that suggests the S21/S30 Ultra will instead use a laser autofocus system – the same adjustment made to the Note 20 Ultra’s camera system (to great effect).
As for that 108MP snapper, the tweet also points to the as-yet-unseen ISOCELL Bright HM3, the “successor to the HM1” as mentioned above. While it’s said to offer the same 0.8µm individual pixel size and same pixel count as the HM1, it supposedly offers 12% better light sensitivity, meaning faster low-light shooting, among other benefits.
Separately, SamMobile states, via industry sources in Korea, that the upcoming flagship will still feature a quad-camera setup. Improvements, though, will come as “more telephoto glass should equate to a better variety of quality images at higher focal lengths.”
The site says the S21/S30 Ultra’s dual telephoto zoom lenses will feature 3x and 5x magnification respectively using a periscope mechanism. There will also be a 108Mp wide-angle camera, 12Mp ultra-wide lens and a 40Mp selfie camera.
Some of this info is at odds with what appears to be the most up-to-date insight on these phones’ camera setups (from AP), with mention of 10Mp 3x and 10x optical zoom cameras instead.
Meanwhile, the other two members of the range won’t come with significant upgrades in this area. Like the Ultra, they won’t have a time of flight (ToF) sensor but will have better optical image stabilisation. Reports of a 12Mp main sensor, a 12Mp ultrawide and a 64Mp telephoto, much like this year’s devices, is said to feature across both the base and Plus models.
For a brief moment, it was also thought that this next range of Galaxy S phones would be the first of Samsung’s to debut an under-display front-facing camera setup, however, according to Korean news site The Elec (via Android Authority), this tech is now being bumped onto the Galaxy Z Fold 3 – assumed to be launching later into 2021.
The reasoning behind the S21/S30 series missing out? Low yield at the manufacturing stage – a limitation of certain cutting-edge technologies that makes it a much better fit on a more exclusive device like the Z Fold 3 – assuming that’s what Samsung decides to call the future foldable.
Separately, it looks like there could be significant upgrades to the phone line’s wired charging chops. Dutch publication GalaxyClub reports that the S21/S30 could support 65W speeds, up from 45W on Samsung’s current flagships. The site has unearthed a Samsung charger certification called ‘EP-TA865’, with the last 2 digits hinting at 65W. This seems like a credible rumour, especially when you consider the current charger is officially known as ‘EP-TA845’.
That said, an unknown Samsung device dubbed ‘SM-G9910’ (for reference, the Galaxy S20 was model number SM-G981) has recently made its way through CCC approval (China’s approval certification system) with a reported 25W fast charging; this coming via MyFixGuide, who previously suggested that next year’s S21/S30 Ultra will have a 4855mAh battery.
Separately, the same source has suggested that the base S21/S30 will feature a smaller 3880mAh cell.
AP’s report states that all three phones will support a minimum of 25W fast charging and feature 4000mAh, 4800mAh and 5000mAh batteries respectively.
As for software, the S21 range will reportedly arrive on Android 11, with Samsung’s own One UI 3.1 overlay on top. We don’t know much about what to expect from the update, except for one odd tidbit: SamMobile reports it will introduce Bixby Voice as a biometric option, letting users unlock their phone using voice recognition powered by Samsung’s beleaguered virtual assistant, though no doubt this will be even less secure than the phone’s facial recognition tech.
Samsung Galaxy S21/S30 wish list
Here are a few things we wish Samsung would do to improve the S21/S30 handsets over the S20 generation.
120Hz at full resolution
We’d like to see the option of 120Hz at full QHD+ resolution (on the Ultra at least, as it’s transpired that the S21 and S21+ may top out at Full HD+ resolution anyway). On the S20s you had to pick between QHD+ at 60Hz or Full HD+ at 120Hz – you can’t have both at their highest settings simultaneously. Samsung needs to fix that this time around, as other OEMs offer it.
Better all-round camera performance
The Note 20 Ultra was a better-balanced phone all-round, and the S20 Ultra has ended up being one of 2020’s smartphone disappointments. Samsung’s saturated images are just about keeping up, but Apple has a better all-round camera array on the iPhone 12 line than any of the S20 phones.
Face ID-style biometrics
If it can’t do an in-screen camera then we’d like Samsung to try and incorporate a 3D Face ID system similar to Apple if possible. Currently, manufacturers are avoiding doing this because the camera array needed requires a physical notch. But until Samsung’s ultrasonic fingerprint sensors are more reliable, it’d be nice to have secure face unlock and biometric identification. All the S20 and Note 20 phones only use 2D face recognition for unlocking the device, and not for biometrics.
Snapdragon for everyone
Unless Samsung can bring the Exynos chips up to scratch with Qualcomm’s 8-series (which does seem to be a possibility), then we’d love to see the Snapdragon 888 in every S21/S30 phone in 2021. It’d go some way to improving the phones destined for European customers who are year-after-year buying a device with noticeably worse battery life and a lower ceiling on performance.
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