Samsung Galaxy S21 preview: New look, small changes, and a price cut

Here's everything we've heard.

Credit: Voice

If you took my advice last month and returned your new Galaxy S20, the day you’ve been waiting for has nearly arrived. On Thursday, Samsung will hold its first Unpacked event of 2021, and the star of the show will be the first Android flagship of the year, the Galaxy S21. Here’s everything we think we know about the new phones:

Design and display

Just when you thought Samsung had run out of ways to make rectangular slabs of glass unique, it finds a new way to spice things up. Based on leaked renders published by Voice, the S21 has a very unique look this year, with a camera module that appears to be cut out from the top corner of the phone. It’s a major visual change from both its own phones and its competitors and is likely to be the start of a new design language for Samsung’s handsets.

Otherwise, the design is basically the same as the S20, with skinny bezels and a centered hole-punch camera. There will reportedly once again be three models this year, with very similar screen sizes: 6.2 inches, 6.7 inches, and 6.8 inches. If those sizes are accurate, that means the S21 Ultra would be slightly smaller than the 6.9-inch S20 Ultra. The Ultra model might also be the only one with a curved “Edge” screen, as renders provided by Evan Blass suggest the S20 and S21 have “flat” displays like the S20 FE. Specs from WinFuture also suggest that the smaller phones’ max resolution will top out at 1080p.

Specs and features

While there has been much speculation about the processor inside the S21, WinFuture reports that Samsung will once again be turning to Qualcomm and the Snapdragon 888 chip for the United States. International models will be powered by the new Exynos 2100 chip that just launched on Tuesday.

galaxy s21 teaser Samsung

Samsung is clearly referencing the camera array in this S21 teaser.

As far as batteries go, the S21 and S21 Ultra will reportedly have the same 4,000mAh and 5,000mAh batteries as their S20 counterparts, with the S21+ getting a slight bump to 4,800mAh, according to WinFuture. The S21 and S21+ will also reportedly have less RAM than their predecessors (8GB, vs. 12GB on the S20), while the S21 Ultra will stick with 12GB. All of the phones will have 128GB of base storage, according to WinFuture.

All three phones will ship with One UI 3/Android 11, with a guaranteed upgrade to Android 14 when it arrives in 2024.

Samsung is also reportedly going to bring S Pen support to the Galaxy S line. Rumored for months and teased by Samsung itself, WinFuture confirms speculation that the S Pen will be an optional accessory for the S21 Ultra either on its own or as part of a case bundle. Samsung currently sells the S Pen for the Galaxy Tab S7 for $60, but it’s often on sale for $30.

Camera

If the Unpacked teaser image is any indication, the S21 lineup’s cameras are in for a shakeup. While the phones will reportedly keep the same number of cameras—three on the S21 and S21+ and four on the S21 Ultra—WinFuture has outlined some big changes.

galaxy s21 ultra camera Evan Blass

The Galaxy S21 Ultra’s camera array is loaded with lenses.

According to the site, the S21 and S21+ will have a larger sensor for better low-light shots, as well as the ability to shoot “8K videos at 30 frames per second, 4K videos with up to 60 FPS and Full HD videos at up to 240 frames per second.” The phones are also rumored to be getting “phase detection optics and...triple hybrid optical zoom,” to help with stability while shooting from a distance.

The S21 Ultra is reportedly getting an even bigger camera upgrade. For starters, WinFuture reports that the S21 Ultra will gain the laser autofocus system that Samsung introduced on the Note 20, as well as a pair of telephoto cameras with “different focal lengths or magnification,” which would be a first for a Samsung phone. Additionally, the 108MP main sensor is reportedly getting optical image stabilization to make pictures sharper.

Pricing and release

The Galaxy S21 series will likely be available for preorder on Friday for delivery on January 29, assuming Samsung follows its usual release schedule. Prices are expected to be quite a bit cheaper, with 91mobiles reporting that the new phones will cost $850, $1,050, and $1,400, respectively.

s21 box Evan Blass

The S21 box likely won’t have earbuds or a charger.

Those lower prices might come with a catch: Samsung is likely to dump the earbuds and power adapter with the S21. That was expected after the Note 20 didn’t include earbuds and Apple dumped the power adapter with the launch of the iPhone 12. But with all you’re getting, you might not even notice.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Michael Simon

Michael Simon

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Brother MFC-L3745CDW Colour Laser Multifunction

Learn more >

Mobile

Exec

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?