The Samsung Galaxy S21 series is shaking things up next year, with an early January launch on the cards; but its not just the release window – the smartphone itself is potentially in for some wild changes.
We've heard a slew of rumors, from a possible merger with the Note series, to a barely-there upgrade as Samsung moves away from its more traditional handsets to make the Fold series its new flaship.
New trademarks the company has filed also points to a drastic design overhaul, while the luxury materials could be ditched in favor of plastic.
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.
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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.
The device is also set to include the S-Pen, which will bump up the cost even more, so if Samsung plans on offering the same premium specs with next year's S21, and we factor in the Qualcomm chip and S-Pen on top of that, things are going to get pretty pricey, pretty fast.
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).
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.
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.
The upcoming Snapdragon 875 chip is going to cost more than its performance gains justify, according to the rumours, which is why Samsung could stick to what it already knows. The Galaxy S21 wouldn't be a slow phone by any means – it just might not be that much faster than 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.
Samsung also announced an improvement to the way it makes RAM with itss 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,
On the camera front, we're expecting another another 108MP lens on the S21 Ultra but we hear that Samsung won't be using the ISOCELL Bright HM1 sensor, but upgraded sensor codenamed ISOCELL Bright HM2. 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.
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.
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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