Samsung Galaxy S21 rumor round-up: what to expect

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Samsung has changed up is launch schedule for this year – the new S-series will arrive in January (this Thursday, in fact) instead of the usual February reveal. With focus shifting towards foldables as the new top tier of device, the company is shaking things up and not just the timing.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra will support an S Pen. A Samsung exec hinted at this move officially in December and we’ve seen plenty of leaks that painted a more detailed picture. It’s exactly the rumors that we want to talk about – here’s what to expect from Samsung’s upcoming flagships.

Samsung Galaxy S21 rumor round-up: what to expect

Going back to the S Pen, that will be an option. You will have to buy one separately (for €40) as well as a case to hold it as the phone itself has no compartment for the stylus. Cases like the S View Flip Cover do have a compartment for the stylus.

The issue of where to keep it aside, it looks like the Ultra will have full-fledged support for S Pen functionality. This video of One UI 3.1 shows Screen off memo, Air view, Air command and other Note features will be available.

S View Flip Cover for the Galaxy S21 with a place to stash the S Pen
The S Pen in question
The S Pen in question

S View Flip Cover for the Galaxy S21 with a place to stash the S Pen • The S Pen in question

The Galaxy S21 Ultra screen will be unique in the S21 series in another way – it will be the only panel to have 1440p+ resolution. Samsung has finally overcome the resolution limitation and the Ultra screen will be able to run at 120Hz at full resolution. The Galaxy S21 and S21+ are not so lucky. They will get the 120Hz refresh rate, but it seems that Samsung has decided to downgrade them to 1080p+ screens.

A screenshot from the Galaxy S21 Ultra's settings menu

A screenshot from the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s settings menu

The S21 Ultra display is expected to have a 6.8” diagonal, a tenth smaller than the S20 Ultra. And it will be curved too while the S21 and S21+ will have flat displays with 6.2” and 6.7” diagonals, respectively. All three will be guarded by Gorilla Glass Victus.

It seems that the Ultra is the only one getting upgrades. Even with the camera department it’s like looking at two different classes of phones. The following leaked infographics show that the S21 and S21+ are sticking with the triple camera setup of their S20 predecessors.

This means a 12MP main camera, 64MP zoom/8K video camera and a 12MP ultrawide snapper. Perhaps there are new sensors hiding behind those lenses and the new chipsets (more on them in a second) will have more number crunching power for image processing, but it’s not immediately obvious why you’d get an S21 over an S20.

Leaked infographics with camera details: for the Galaxy S21 Ultra
Leaked infographics with camera details: for the Galaxy S21 and S21+

Leaked infographics with camera details: for the Galaxy S21 Ultra • for the Galaxy S21 and S21+

In contrast, the S21 Ultra is getting a folded periscope for 10x optical magnification along with a new 3x telephoto camera. Rumor has it that the main 108MP sensor will be upgraded to an HM2 or even the yet to be announced HM3. Improvements to the ISOCELL technology will enable better light sensitivity at the same pixel size.

A closer look at the four camera setup (+ Laser AF in the bottom right)

A closer look at the four camera setup (+ Laser AF in the bottom right)

The Ultra will have a Laser AF module instead of a 3D ToF sensor while DepthVision module from the S20+ will not make a comeback for the S21+. If you watched the One UI 3.1 video you will have seen a new feature in the camera app – Focus enhancer. It’s clear that Samsung has been working to resolve the focusing issues that some complained about with the 2020 generation.

Now, the chipsets. The geographic split remains with some regions expecting Snapdragon 888 and others the Exynos 2100. This year the Samsung-designed chip may prove to be faster than the Qualcomm one. We’ll hear more about it tomorrow at the first dedicated Exynos event.

Snapdragon 888: 5 nm chipset with Cortex-X1 prime core and Adreno 660 GPU
Snapdragon 888: 5 nm chipset with Cortex-X1 prime core and Adreno 660 GPU
Snapdragon 888: 5 nm chipset with Cortex-X1 prime core and Adreno 660 GPU

Snapdragon 888: 5 nm chipset with Cortex-X1 prime core and Adreno 660 GPU

The fully kitted out Ultra will have 16GB of RAM paired with 512GB storage, the base version will probably come with 12/128 GB. The Galaxy S21 and S21+ buyers will get 8GB of RAM as standard and will have 128GB and 256GB to choose from. And they’ll have to choose carefully as only the Ultra will have a microSD slot.

The battery capacities will be 4,000 mAh for the S21 and 4,800 mAh for the S21+. Both phones will support 25W wired charging. The Galaxy S21 Ultra is getting a 5,000 mAh battery that could go up to 45W. Samsung will follow in Apple’s footsteps and ship the phones without chargers or headphones, according to rumors.

Galaxy S21
Galaxy S21+
Galaxy S21 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S21 • Galaxy S21+ • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Source: WinFuture)

The vanilla S21 is expected to have a plastic back while the other two will likely stick with glass. There will be a total of 11 colorways eventually, though only some will be available at launch. Phantom Violet seems to be the new hero color, it and some of the other options go for a two-tone look. The camera bump (with its characteristic design) will pop against the differently colored back.

Samsung Galaxy S21 color options

Samsung Galaxy S21 color options

Finally, prices and pre-orders. The Samsung Galaxy S21 trio will be up on pre-order either on Thursday or Friday this week, in-store sales will start on January 29. The Ultra pre-orders will reportedly net you a pair of the new Galaxy Buds Pro (now with ANC), €230 of value. The other two will get the new SmartTag Bluetooth tracker instead. The prices of the three phones are below (based on rumors and a leak by a Belgian carrier).

128 GB 256 GB 512 GB
Samsung Galaxy S21 €850 €900
Samsung Galaxy S21+ €1,050 €1,100
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra €1,350 €1,400 €1,530

Come back tomorrow to watch Exynos 2100’s unveiling and again on Thursday for the S21 reveal – the Unpacked event will be live streamed, starting at 15:00 UTC.

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