Alongside a fresh pair of Galaxy Buds and a new location tracker, the main event at Samsung’s first Galaxy Unpacked of the year was the official unveiling of its Galaxy S21 flagship phone lineup.
As the rumours had already covered in extensive detail, Samsung had three phones to show off as part of the 14 January launch: the Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21 Plus (styled at ‘S21+’) and the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Aside from the new “Contour Cut” camera modules and the new “Phantom” branded colourways, at first glance the S21 lineup doesn’t look markedly different from last year’s S20 family, particularly in terms of attributes like design and camera setup (at least in the case of the S21 and S21+).
While a lot of the technology at play is shared across all three phones – including the latest-generation top-tier Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or Exynos 2100 processor (depending on the market you’re picking one up in) – there are some key differences to consider.
Left to right: S21 Ultra, S21+ and S21 in all available launch colourways
The standard Galaxy S21 features a 120Hz 6.2in Full HD+ display, a 4000mAh battery, a plastic back and doesn’t include the UWB (ultra-wideband) technology that the other two S21 entries benefit from. Beyond that UWB tech, the S21+ sports a glass back, a larger 6.7in panel and a bigger 4800mAh battery to match, but beyond that is much the same phone as the base S21.
It’s the new S21 Ultra that really sets itself apart. Aside from boasting the largest display of this year’s Galaxy S lineup (6.8in), it also totes a more dynamic AMOLED panel, a bigger 5000mAh battery, it’s the first phone to support new, faster WiFi 6E and it packs a completely reworked camera, with a “dual-tele zoom system.”
Unlike the S21 and S21+’s triple rear cameras, which top out at 64Mp, the S21 Ultra has an improved 108Mp primary snapper and two telephoto sensors: one 3x zoom lens and one periscopic 10x zoom lens – all with OIS – optical image stabilisation (there’s also a 12Mp ultrawide angle sensor in there too, as on the other S21 models).
This new camera system should offer better low light performance, better quality zoomed photos – at up to 100x magnification – and, thanks to the addition of laser autofocus, faster more accurate focusing.
The S21 range can also shoot up to 8K video at 24 frames per second and supports 4K video at up to 60fps across all of each device’s myriad of cameras.
S Pen integration also arrives on the Galaxy S family for the first time, with an optional S Pen stylus now supported by the S21 Ultra and able to be stored within new dedicated phone cases, raising yet more question marks about the Galaxy Note 20 family’s 2021 successors.
For more details on everything the Galaxy S21 series brings to the table, check out our in-depth ‘Samsung Galaxy S21, S21+ & S21 Ultra release date, price, specs & more’ feature.
Beyond the phones, Samsung also introduced the Galaxy Buds Pro, new in-ear true wireless buds with dynamic noise cancellation, as well as the Galaxy SmartTag, which works with Samsung’s SmartThings Find service to add location tracking to your possessions.
In some markets, both new accessories also serve as pre-order bonuses, while the phones themselves start at £769/€849/US$799.99, £949/€1,049/$999.99 and £1,149/€1,249/$1,299.99 for the S21, S21+ and S21 Ultra, respectively.
Eagle-eyed Samsung fans will notice that all three devices come in at markedly lower starting prices than last year’s S20 series (thought to be in an effort to make them more competitive against Apple’s iPhone 12 line). Also like Apple’s latest phones, Samsung has decided to ditch the power adapter (and headphones) in-box, so buyers can expect smaller packaging that just contains a phone, SIM tool and USB lead.
Whether the new performance, camera features, updated design and lower prices are enough to entice buyers away from Apple’s latest phones remains to be seen, but we won’t have long to wait to find out, with the phones on pre-order following announcement (set to ship on 28 January) and on sale from 29 January.
Read next: Where to buy the Samsung Galaxy S21, S21+ and S21 Ultra