The Samsung Galaxy S21 rumors have been picking up steam for a while now, and at it’s got to the point where we know almost everything there is to know about Samsung’s next flagship range. A range that’s expected to arrive before the end of January.
It may not have been long since the launch of the Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, but we’ve already seen some massive leaks. There may even be a few surprises that people have been pestering Samsung for for a while.
Judging from everything we’ve seen, the Samsung Galaxy S21 should have faster performance, a more sophisticated camera system, and a flatter overall design. Of course there are plenty of other things that could be improved, judging from how we got on with our Galaxy S20 review, Galaxy S20 Plus review and Galaxy S20 Ultra review.
Here’s everything we know about the Samsung Galaxy S21 right now, along with a few things we’d like Samsung to include when the phone sees the light of day.
Samsung Galaxy S21 news (Updated December 4)
Samsung Galaxy S21 release date
The Samsung Galaxy S20 series was launched this year at a Samsung Unpacked event February 11 and the phones went on sale March 6. Pre-orders started Feb 21. If Samsung had followed a similar schedule for its next phones, the Galaxy S21 release date would be March 5, which would be the first Friday in the month. But it seems those plans are out of the window at this point.
According to leaker OnLeaks, the Samsung Galaxy S21 launch date will be January 2021. This would be a month earlier than the usual February event for Samsung. Another rumor tips a possible Galaxy S21 reveal date for December, but we’re skeptical about that.
A report from WinFuture’s Roland Quandt claims Samsung began part production for the Galaxy S21 Ultra in early November, almost two months earlier than normal. While the company could be hoping to avoid COVID-related issues in the supply chain, it strongly suggests it’s gearing up for an earlier release than previous years.
After much speculation over why Samsung would launch the Galaxy S21 early, including trying to fill the gap left by Google-less Huawei and upstaging Apple after the late launch of the iPhone 12, we now know exactly when the phone is coming. According to Jon Prosser the Samsung Galaxy S21 will launch on January 14, 2021, with pre-orders opening that same day. The phone itself will then be released on January 29.
Samsung Galaxy S21 price
Samsung made a gamble with the Galaxy S20 line by not offering a cheaper Galaxy S20e variant in the $700 to $750 range. Instead, the cheapest Galaxy S20 was $999. The Galaxy S21 price will presumably be in the same ballpark, with the prices starting at $999 / £899 / AU$1,499 for the regular Galaxy S21.
The Galaxy S21 Plus would likely cost $200 more and the and Galaxy S21 Ultra $200 more than that.
Some reports have suggested that the Galaxy S21 could cost more than what Samsung charged for this year’s phones because of the Snapdragon 875, the system-on-chip expected to power the new phones. However, some people dispute the report of pricier Snapdragon chipsets.
Samsung Galaxy S21 specs
Full specs for all three Samsung Galaxy S21 models have leaked courtesy of Android Police. Here’s a look at what to expect:
|Specifications||Galaxy S21||Galaxy S21 Plus||Galaxy S21 Ultra|
|Display||6.2-inch FHD+ LTPS, 120Hz||6.7-inch FHD+ LTPS, 120Hz||6.8-inch WQHD+ LTPO, 1-120Hz adaptive|
|Software||One UI 3.1 based on Android 11||One UI 3.1 based on Android 11||One UI 3.1 based on Android 11|
|CPU||Snapdragon 875 or Exynos 2100||Snapdragon 875 or Exynos 2100||Snapdragon 875 or Exynos 2100|
|Rear Camera||Ultra wide: 12MP Main: 12MP Telephoto: 64MP||Ultra wide: 12MP Main: 12MP Telephoto: 64MP||Ultra wide: 12MP Main: 108MP, Gen 2 sensor 3X Optical: 10MP 10X Optical: 10MP|
|Connectivity||5G, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1||5G, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1||5G, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.1|
|Colors||Phantom Violet, Phantom Pink, Phantom Gray, and Phantom White||Phantom Silver, Phantom Black, and Phantom Violet||Phantom Black and Phantom Silver|
|Battery||4,000 mAh||4,800 mAh||5,000 mAh|
Samsung Galaxy S21 design
The Galaxy S21 may look pretty similar to the Galaxy S20 based on the renders we’ve seen. According to Ice Universe on social media site Voice, The S21 has a vertical camera stack that looks similar to the Galaxy Note 20 series, and the front display is flat instead of curved. The trade-off is that the bezels look a bit thicker for the Galaxy S21.
Ice Universe has also leaked the rough dimensions of the Samsung Galaxy S21. 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9mm (9.0mm with the camera bump included). That’s a pretty big camera bump. By comparison, the Galaxy S20 is 151.7 x 69.1x 7.9 mm, so the S21 could wind up being wider than its predecessor.
IceUniverse has also revealed that the S21 and S21 Plus will both come with the same 2.5D screens included with their S20 counterparts, while the S21 Ultra will come with a more traditional curved display.
There’s also speculation about whether the S21 will get Samsung’s newly patented ‘blade bezel’ design, which aims to almost completely eliminate the bezel. If implemented we could see very thin and flat edges along the S21, and coupled with the curves of the 2.5D display they could end up being very hard to stop.
That said it seems unlikely Samsung would have it ready so soon after receiving the patent. So we don’t expect to see blade bezels on the S21 range.
Samsung has been working on a “perfect full-screen phone” design for well over year, and there were hopes that the Samsung Galaxy S21 could make this vision a reality. Samsung Display started talking about the possibility of eliminating the punch holes on the front of its phones in March 2019.
The idea is that the camera hole would be invisible, “while not affecting the camera’s function in any way.” However, based on early leaks appears that an under-display camera isn’t coming to the Galaxy S21.
Samsung Galaxy S21 cameras
The Galaxy S21’s cameras are shaping up to be largely similar to what we saw on the Galaxy S20, but with some key upgrades to the most premium model.
The Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus will once again sport triple cameras in the back, sporting an ultrawide 12MP sensor, a 12MP main sensor and a 64MP telephoto lens. The highest-end Galaxy S21 Ultra will pack a second-generation version of the 108MP sensor found in the S21 Ultra and Note 21 Ultra, with a new 3x optical telephoto sensor and a 10x optical “super” telephoto sensor.
That should lead to a big bump in zoom quality. And according to Android Police, Samsung will be bringing back 100x Space Zoom, while introducing laser autofocus on the S21 Ultra to avoid some of the focus problems from last year’s model.
Samsung seems to be planning some even crazier ideas for future phones, but it’s unlikely they’ll come to the Galaxy S21. A patent for a six-camera array with lenses and sensors that can move, pivot and zoom in and out has made the rounds, courtesy of LetsGoDigital. This idea seems as though it may be too radical to debut in a phone as soon as the Galaxy S21, though the increase in lens quantity and the idea to allow those lenses to move sounds like a worthwhile long-term goal for Samsung.
Samsung Galaxy S21 processor
If Samsung follows past practices, it will use two different chipsets to power the Galaxy S21 — the latest Snapdragon 8 Series system-on-chip for phones released in the U.S. and one of its one Exynos processors for models that ship in the rest of the world. But that may not be the case this time around.
On the Snapdragon front, the new chipset is expected to be the Snapdragon 875, if Qualcomm sticks to its numbering conventions for new versions. An early report from 91Mobiles claims that this will be a 5-nanometer chip, as opposed to the 7-nanometer Snapdragon 865. There will also be a 5G modem included with the chipset.
A report from BusinessKorea says that Samsung will actually be manufacturing Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765 chip in a deal that could be worth $1 billion. So it remains to be seen whether Samsung will go ahead with its next-gen Exynos chip.
Samsung’s next processor is expected to be named the Exynos 2100, and it’ll be another 5-nanometer chip. This chip was thought to be called the Exynos 1000 and cpuld come with a graphics accelerator made with AMD.
Samsung Galaxy S21 performance and early benchmarks
Early performance leaks have show the Samsung Galaxy S21 with a Snapdragon 875 delivers a Geekbench 5 a single-core score of 1,120 and multi-core result of in 3,319. That’s solid but a little disappointing as it’s not a big difference over the Galaxy S20 Plus and its Snapdragon 865 chip, which delivered a Geekbench 5 single-core score of 811 and a multi-core score of 3,076.
And compared against the iPhone 12, the Galaxy S21 is left in the udst. The A14 Bionic in our iPhone 12 review delivers a higher single-core score of 1,593 and a superior multi-core score of 3,859. We’d have hoped the Galaxy S21 would be closer to the iPhone 12.
There are a few caveats to bear in mind here, with the first is that it’s still early days for the Snapdragon 875, which hasn’t even been officially announced by Qualcomm yet. And that means more optimization could be had out of the chip. Furthermore, Samsung could do more on the software and cooling side of its Galaxy S21 to push the chip even further.
The second caveat is synthetic benchmarks don’t always tell a true story of phone performance. For example, you’re not likely to notice a huge difference in performance between a A13 Bionic-equipped iPhone 11 and the A14-touting iPhone 12;
These benchmarks also hint some disappointment for U.K. and European Samsung phone fans. Usually the U.S. versions of the Samsung S and Note series get access to the Snapdragon chips, whereas the U.K. and Europe have to make do with handsets that use Samsung’s Exynos chips.
In everyday sue the Exynos processors are far from bad. But they generally aren’t as fast as Qualcomm chips, and can be yield worse battery life than Galaxy phones with Snapdragon chips.
As such, if the Geekbench 5 result for the Snapdragon 875 is a bit lackluster, going by Samsung’s previous form, we could posit that the Exynos chip in U.K. versions of the Galaxy S21 could deliver worse performance.
An earlier Geekbench 5 leak for the Exynos 2100 in the Galaxy S21 saw it deliver a single-core score of 1,038 and a multi-core result of 3,080. So the Exynos 2100 looks to be slower than the Snapdragon 875; at least when used in the Galaxy S21.
However, other performance leaks for the Exynos 2100 have it down to deliver a 3x improvement over the Snapdragon 865. And graphics improvements should also be on the cards, thanks to the potential use of AMD graphics.
With that in mind, if those rumors are true, we could finally see the scales tip in favor of getting a Galaxy S21 with an Exynos chip over one with a Snapdragon chipset. At the moment, we’ve only got rumors and somewhat inconclusive leaked benchmarks to go by.
Samsung Galaxy S21: Included charger and headphones?
Apple drew the ire of many when it announced it would ditch packed-in headphones and charging adapters with the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro. However, recent reports from Korean media suggest the same will hold true for the Galaxy S21 — or at least that Samsung is entertaining the idea.
The latest news on this front comes courtesy of SamMobile, which cites “Korean media” in its report, but doesn’t name specifics. That said, it’s a predictable step; ditching packed-in accessories allows Samsung to increase margins on its handsets, which is becoming all the more imperative as phones get more and more expensive, thanks to developments like 5G.
That said, it’s possible Samsung could let customers down easy by employing a program similar to what it implemented for the Galaxy Note 20, where interested buyers could request a complimentary pair of AKG headphones from customer service with their purchase, though they weren’t included by default in box. Ultimately, we’ll have to wait and see how Samsung approaches this decision.
Samsung Galaxy S21: S Pen support
Based on reporting from South Korean publication The Elec, the Galaxy S21 Ultra may feature an S Pen. However, it’s more likely that the phone will offer S Pen support but not feature a holster for the stylus. It would be optional.
These rumors were confirmed by a massive leak from Android Central, which noted that the Galaxy S21 Ultra will indeed support the S Pen but as an optional accessory.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
The major difference between the S21 and the S21 Ultra is the size. While the standard S21 is set to come rocking a 6.2-inch display and measuring 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9mm (9.0mm with the camera bump). According to OnLeaks, who published the first renders of the phone, the S21 Ultra will have a larger display, between 6.7- and 6.9-inches in size, while leaker Ishan Agarwal says it will come with a 6.8-inch display — which is slightly less than the 6.9-inch display on the S20 Ultra. It might even feature a peak refresh rate of 144Hz, though it appears the jury is still out on the legitimacy of that rumor.
The phone will measure 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm (10.8mm with the bump), according to OnLeaks. So it’s longer, wider, and ever so slightly thicker than the standard S21 — especially when you take the camera bump into consideration.
OnLeaks’ renders also showed the S21 Ultra with a curved display, and seemingly more pronounced than the 2.5D glass used on the S20 and S20+ last year. That suggests that, like the S20 Ultra, Samsung is sticking to an Edge-style curved display we’ve had for years rather than the more subtle bends of 2.5D. That information has also been corroborated by IceUniverse.
Those renders also showed the S21 Ultra sporting a fourth camera lens, and a wider camera bump to accommodate both it and the flash. However OnLeaks later released an updated render claiming there was actually a fifth lens included on the back of the S21 Ultra.
Further case leaks from IceUniverse still show the phone with four lenses, so we’re not quite sure which is which, but that doesn’t stop us speculating as to what a five-lens S21 Ultra may involve.
So would all those lenses be for?? There have been rumours from Korean tech site The Elec claiming that the S21 would get two optical zoom lenses — offering 3x and 10x zoom, respectively. It seems unlikely that the standard S21 would have two lenses, especially now we’ve seen renders of it sporting three cameras, but the S21 Ultra is a perfect candidate.
While the S20 Ultra came with an incredible 100x hybrid zoom, Samsung reduced it to 50x on the Note 20 Ultra. It’s possible that the extended optical zoom could offer an even longer zoom feature, though it seems more likely that it’ll be used to improve the overall quality of long-range zoom.
As for the others, it seems likely the S21 would include the mainstay ultrawide angle lens, while the fifth remains a complete mystery. It could be that Samsung is still including a Time of Flight sensor, as it did on the S20 Ultra, or there’s always a possibility it’s something else. A LIDAR sensor would be sensible upgrade, like the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max, but so far there’s no evidence Samsung is even considering that possibility
No doubt the S21 Ultra will also come with a higher resolution main camera than the standard S21, with those same rumours suggesting Samsung may go beyond the 108MP lens of the S20 Ultra. A report from SamMobile did claim that Samsung was developing a 150MP sensor for flagship phones, while The Elec claimed we could get a 180MP sensor instead. Whether we’ll actually get either in the S21 Ultra is another matter.
However Ishan Agarwal says Samsung will be sticking with the 108MP main lens, which makes sense considering how much resolution that actually is. Likewise he says the S21 Ultra will have the same 40MP front-facing camera as the S20 Ultra did last year. Alongside a 5,000 mAh battery which is, again, the same as before.
Samsung Galaxy S21: What we want
The Galaxy S21 will be fighting the iPhone 12 by the time it is released. And it will also face competition from the Google Pixel 5 as well.
Here’s how Samsung can improve on the Galaxy S20 while staying one step ahead of the competition.
A lower starting price: The $699 Samsung Galaxy S20 FE proves that Samsung needs a direct answer to the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini out of the gate and not months afterwards. We would expect the standard Galaxy S20 to start at $699, and the Galaxy S20 Plus would be the more premium flagship.
Longer battery life: Despite packing larger batteries across the board in the Galaxy S20 lineup, Samsung’s phones did not all last as long as their predecessors on our web surfing battery test. For example, the regular Galaxy S20 lasted 8 hours and 31 minutes, compared to 10:19 for the S10. And the Galaxy S20 Plus lasted 10:31, compared to 10:56 for the Galaxy S10 Plus 5G.
Only the Galaxy S20 Ultra made our best phone battery life list with a max runtime of 12:13. However, that time dropped all the way down to 9:13 with 120Hz mode enabled. Our best guess is that the addition of 5G took a toll on the endurance of these phones, so perhaps it will take a more efficient modem from Qualcomm to deliver more juice for the Galaxy S21.
Less bugs at launch: The good news is that Samsung issued a software update for the Galaxy S20 that addressed some early reviewer and user complaints. The bad news is that the company didn’t catch those issues before launching the phones. The biggest problem we had was with the Galaxy S20 Ultra, which was slow to focus when shooting video. The Note 20 Ultra thankfully uses the same 108MP sensor to much more reliable effect, but here’s hoping Samsung does more internal testing and quality control before releasing the Galaxy S21 lineup.