Samsung Galaxy S21 tech no-show leaves rivals free to hit home run

Samsung's under-screen camera won't be ready for the Galaxy S21 after all

Samsung Galaxy S21
(Image credit: Samsung)

With the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 out the way, all eyes are on the company’s next big handset: the Galaxy S21, which rumors have already been indicating could be a very special device indeed.

Unfortunately, according to a new report from Korean publication The Elec (opens in new tab), one feature Samsung wanted to introduce in the Galaxy S21 won’t be ready for show time, potentially leaving its rivals free to swoop in for glory.

The feature in question is the predicted under-screen camera, and while it appears to be functional, Samsung has had to abandon its Galaxy S21 debut thanks to “low production yield.”

Instead, the technology will reportedly make its debut in the Galaxy Z Fold 3, due in the second half of 2021 – but given the report says it was originally destined for the Z Fold 2, who can say whether this next target will be met?

The tech is the current ‘Holy Grail’ in the world of selfie-camera technology. As bezels have shrunk, the front-facing camera has lost its natural home, meaning it needs to live in a notch (think iPhone 11), a pinhole cutout (like the Galaxy S20) or as a pop-up camera that emerges from the shell on demand (seen on the OnePlus 7 Pro). 

Each one of these has its own drawbacks: notches and pinholes aren’t aesthetically appealing, while pop-up cameras add weight and possible unreliability to a handset. The underscreen camera could be the best of all worlds, assuming the technology works well enough.

Earlier this year, we saw Xiaomi teasing its implementation of under-screen camera tech: a semi-transparent area of screen with a slightly different pixel arrangement, which resulted in a screen where the camera was largely invisible in the promo video. 

Samsung, according to The Elec, has experimented with a number of different approaches, including drilling holes into the display: either one large one for the camera, or several tiny ones. A transparent area is another possibility, but the challenge is the same whichever approach is ultimately picked: the camera needs to pick up enough light to take usable photos, while not disrupting how the screen looks or feels to use. It’s no small feat.

Even without the under-screen display, the S21 is set to be an excellent handset. The Ultra model will reportedly pack S Pen support for the first time and may even have dual telephoto lenses in its quad-camera array. There could also be less obvious improvements on the insides, too – like Samsung’s potential use of 10-nanometer LPDDR5 RAM

We’re still some way away from seeing the Galaxy S21 in the flesh, of course. Historically Galaxy S handsets have launched in February, and with coronavirus continuing to disrupt supply chains, it’s entirely possible that this will be later than usual.