Samsung Galaxy S21 counters iPhone 12 botched Face ID with lightning-fast new fingerprint sensor

Fresh leaks reveal both an upgraded fingerprint sensor and the unexpected return of a controversial design choice

Samsung Galaxy S21 render
(Image credit: 김케로 YouTube via Ice Universe)

It’s hardly a secret that Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones are positioned as some of the most premium devices on the market. The Galaxy S20 5G alone costs an eye-watering $999 / £899 / AU$1,499 - and don’t even get us started on the foldables. 

If new rumors circulating on Twitter are to be believed, the Galaxy S21 certainly won’t be changing tradition with no price cut in sight. To justify the cost, the S21 will be kitted out with a lightning-fast fingerprint sensor amongst other features including S-Pen support on the S21 Ultra. However, a sting in the tail comes in the form of a plastic back panel, a divisive design choice that’s already found itself the subject of speculation.  

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Leading with the good news, reputable Samsung leaker Ice Universe claims that the S21 will feature a 64mm ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, a significant upgrade over the S20's 36mm sensor. 

This would signal the first major technological boost to the sensor itself since the Samsung Galaxy S10, supposedly doubling the unlock speed.

Unfortunately, the news goes downhill from here. According to fellow leaker Tron, who confirmed – in a since-deleted tweet (opens in new tab) – that the Galaxy S21 Ultra will be kitted out with a plastic back panel, as well as the S21  and S21+, likely the controversial ‘glasstic’ material fitted on both the Note 20 and S20 that received a rocky reception.

Whilst a price cut reflecting the cheaper material might have offset the shock, it looks like this won’t be the case, with Tron bluntly stating “there won’t be a steep price cut.”

As for the aforementioned S-Pen support, Tron (opens in new tab) also reports that Air Actions won’t be available on the S21 Ultra.   

Whilst this is another disappointment to add to the growing pile, this one is more understandable given all prior leaks emphasise the S21 Ultra won’t house the S-Pen, only support it. As Air Actions rely on Bluetooth with the S-Pen incapable of charging within the S21 itself, this feature would be difficult, if not impossible to pull off without extra tinkering. 

Finally, Tron (opens in new tab) delivered the news that the European variants of the Galaxy S21 series won’t come packing the powerful next-gen Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, instead using Exynos 2100, the next iteration of Samsung’s in-house SoC. 

Whilst an FCC filing implies that US models will be kitted out with the Snapdragon 888, it’s an unwelcome surprise given past parities between the two processors coupled with rigid pricing that doesn’t reflect the differing internal components. 

This adds extra pressure for the Galaxy S21 to impress upon its looming January launch. Given rival devices including the OnePlus 9 look to be launching in the same window at cheaper starting costs, all eyes will be on Samsung to have people reaching for their wallets come the new year.