The Samsung Galaxy S21 and its variants will be the first flagship phones of 2021 after only a smattering of phones were announced at CES 2021. The Samsung Galaxy Unpacked event arrives roughly a month earlier than its normal mid-February timing, just weeks ahead of Mobile World Congress.
Thanks to countless leaks and the less-than-subtle announcement materials from Samsung, we know the Galaxy S21 models are coming today. While we have a pretty clear picture of the phones (quite literally) from the various leaks, there are always some details that were missed. Watch along to find out exactly where Samsung is setting the bar with the Galaxy S21 and whether it has anything else in store for us today.
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How to watch the Samsung Galaxy S21 launch event
Galaxy Unpacked will be virtual and will be streaming live on Samsung's website and on YouTube. The event will begin today at 10 a.m. Eastern time (7 a.m. Pacific).
Samsung's invite for the event didn't give a full look at the Galaxy S21, but the lightly obscured object inside the box was pretty easily recognizable as the camera array for the new Galaxy S21. Based on the renders and allegedly official marketing materials that have leaked, the camera array does seem like the defining feature of the only slightly tweaked design of the Galaxy S21. Below the image is the message "Welcome to the Everyday Epic," which doesn't really give us any additional clues.
Galaxy S21, S21 Plus and S21 Ultra
If you want our deep dive on these phones, you can check out our Galaxy S21 hub, but here's a look at some of the highlights.
For those hoping for a significant rethink of the Galaxy S design, the Galaxy S21 isn't going to scratch that itch with what appears to be a very subtle change from the Galaxy S20 focused on integrating the camera array into the top and edge of the phone. I didn't find the jutting camera on last year's Galaxy devices to be a particularly appealing aspect of the design so I'm all for this change, although it's far from a full redesign.
Just like last year, there should be three Galaxy S21 models, starting with the Galaxy S21 at 6.2-inches, the Galaxy S21 Plus at 6.7-inches and the Galaxy S21 Ultra at 6.8-inches. All will feature 120Hz panels, but there is some disagreement on whether they will all add the battery conserving adaptive refresh rate technology found on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.
Inside, we expect all of the Galaxy S21 models to feature the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor; it's not going to go toe-to-toe with Apple's A14 Bionic, but it is a reasonably significant jump from last year's Snapdragon 865.
While the camera array may be getting a big design change, the cameras themselves will reportedly remain the same on the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus with 12MP wide and ultra-wide lenses accompanied by a 64MP telephoto. The Galaxy S21 Ultra, on the other hand, will apparently add a fourth lens to the mix. It keeps that same massive 108MP wide angle, a 12MP ultra-wide and now a pair of 10MP telephoto lenses offering 3x and 10x optical zoom. It should also offer improved focus speed and accuracy with the laser autofocus system from the Note 20 Ultra.
Last, but far from least, is the rumor that the Galaxy S21 could be getting a somewhat significant price drop from last year's models. The rumors range anywhere from a $100 to $200 decrease, which would seem like a wise move for Samsung to bring back buyers who were more reluctant to spend upwards of $1,000 on a new phone last year.
Galaxy Buds Pro
In addition to the Galaxy S21, there have been persistent rumors of new true wireless earbuds from Samsung. Back in December, the Galaxy Buds Pro were revealed in FCC paperwork. Further support for a launch alongside the Galaxy S21 came in the form of leaked pre-order deals that include the Galaxy Buds Pro.
Previous leaks have suggested that the Galaxy Buds Pro will feature active noise-cancellation, Bluetooth 5.1, IP68 water and dust resistance, touch controls, USB-C fast charging and wireless charging. As you would expect with that more advanced feature set, they are projected to be the most expensive Galaxy Buds so far at $229. This still would bring them in under the AirPods Pro at $249.
The last device that may arrive at today's event is the Galaxy SmartTag. These are Samsung's answer to Tile and also could be stealing Apple's thunder with its now long-rumored AirTags. Not as much is known about these other than integration with Samsung's SmartThings platform, Bluetooth 5.1 support and a rumored price of around $18.
Leaked photos of the Galaxy SmartTags uncovered by 91mobiles weren't exactly flattering as you can see above. They feature a much larger rounded form factor than the slim options we're accustomed to from Tile. If the pricing rumors prove correct and the feature set is compelling then that may not matter, but the size may eliminate them from some use cases.
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Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more. Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.