Samsung Galaxy S21: Your complete buyer’s guide to the new S21 series

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Samsung Galaxy S21 SeriesSource: Android Central

There are some things in the mobile tech space that are a given every single year, one of which is that we get a new Samsung Galaxy S release pretty early on. That’s no different for 2021, but rather than waiting until March or April like it usually does, Samsung’s launching its next big flagship right now.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 brings a mix of expected and drastic changes compared to last year’s S20 family, including things like spec upgrades, a refreshed design, and all-new camera tech. Whether you’re in the market for a price-conscious flagship or something that goes all-out, the S21 series has something for you.

No matter if you’re looking for pricing information, details on where you can buy the Galaxy S21, or anything else in between, here’s everything you need to know!

Killer flagship

Samsung Galaxy S21

More phone, less money

The Galaxy S21 series has arrived, and for a lot of shoppers, the baseline S21 will be the go-to choice. It has a compact and user-friendly size, incredible performance with the Snapdragon 888, capable cameras, and a large battery. You get all of this for just $800, making it a seriously great deal.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Price

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Source: Android Central

When a new smartphone comes out we expect it to cost more than its predecessor. That’s just how things typically work, but in the case of the Galaxy S21, Samsung did the unthinkable — it made the phones cheaper than the Galaxy S20 models they’re replacing.

For some context, here are the retail prices for the S20 series:

  • Galaxy S20 — $999
  • Galaxy S20+ — $1199
  • Galaxy S20 Ultra — $1399

With that in mind, here’s how much you’ll pay for the Galaxy S21 lineup: $799 for the S21, $999 for the S21+, and $1199 for the S21 Ultra. That’s a price cut of $200 for every single phone, which is kind of unheard of as far as flagship releases go. A move like this would be praised for any year, but especially after the year we had with 2020 and people still dealing with tighter budgets than normal, this is greatly appreciated.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Availability

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Top Down

Source: Android Central

If you’re interested in buying a Galaxy S21 for yourself, the good news is that you don’t have to wait too much longer to get your hands on one. Pre-orders are available right now and retail sales begin on January 29. As usual, there are plenty of nice promotions during the pre-order phase to make your S21 purchase even more affordable.

Taking a look at the best Galaxy S21 deals, there are a few offers that stick out as being particularly noteworthy. If you buy directly from Samsung’s website, trading in an eligible phone will get you up to $700 for an instant discount on your purchase. You can also get up to $200 in instant credits for another Samsung purchase, along with a free Galaxy SmartTag and four free months of YouTube Premium.

T-Mobile has one of the most appealing carrier deals, offering up to $800 in credits when trading in an eligible phone — effectively making the regular S21 free. What makes this a standout offer is that older and cheaper phones like the Galaxy S9 and Pixel 4a will still get you that $800 credit. Furthermore, this deal can be combined with the same offer from Samsung that gets you a free Galaxy SmartTag and up to $200 in Samsung credit.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Hands-on

We aren’t quite ready to share our full and final thoughts on the Galaxy S21, but in the meantime, be sure to check out our Galaxy S21 hands-on coverage. We’re currently testing the regular S21 and the top-tier S21 Ultra, and so far, we’re liking what we see.

These phones are subtle refinements in some regards, but in others, they represent notable change that should only benefit the Galaxy S family as a whole. The new design this year is one of the best we’ve seen from Samsung in a long time, the new camera tech has us very excited, and the lower prices across the board are exactly what we needed in the year following 2020.

The value of the S21 is what’ll likely attract most shoppers, but as far as pure flagships go, the S21 Ultra is packing a big punch. With features like 100x zoom, S Pen support, and its massive 5,000 mAh battery, it works hard to justify the steep cost.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Models

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Vs S21 Plus

Source: Android Central

We’ve already mentioned that there are three distinct versions of the Galaxy S21 to choose from, but looking at the big picture for these phones, how do they compare to one another? Let’s break that all down real quick.

The regular Galaxy S21 is the phone to buy if you want the core S21 experience while spending as little as possible. It has the same Snapdragon 888 processor found in the other two models, there’s an AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate, and the camera setup should be quite promising. There is a plastic design compared to the glass build of the S21+ and S21 Ultra, however, and you won’t get any UWB functionality that’s found in those more expensive handsets. If none of that bothers you, the S21 is a seriously great deal at just $800.

Then we have the middle child, the Galaxy S21+. It has a larger display and a bigger battery than the baseline S21, which are two notable perks if you plan on watching a lot of movies or playing a lot of games. The design is also a bit nicer thanks to the glass back, and if you care at all about UWB, that is present here. The camera system and processor are identical, though, so unless you need the larger display and battery, you could just buy the S21 for a nearly identical experience and save some cash while doing so.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Source: Android Central

And, of course, there’s the Galaxy S21 Ultra. This is the phone you buy if you want the very best that Samsung has to offer in 2021, and in doing so, you’re treated to one heck of a phone.

The heart of the S21 Ultra is the same Snapdragon 888 chipset, but in almost every other regard, it brings meaningful upgrades to the table. For starters, the display resolution is upped from Full HD+ to Quad HD+ and adds greater variability to the refresh rate (allowing it to scale from just 11Hz to 120Hz). The cameras are also completely different — the primary camera is a 108MP sensor and you get two telephoto ones for incredible zoom shots. Smaller changes include more RAM, Wi-Fi 6E instead of Wi-Fi 6, and a truly massive 5,000 mAh battery. Oh, and it’s compatible with the S Pen!

The $1199 asking price of the S21 Ultra is quite high, but when compared to the $1399 S20 Ultra or the $1299 Note 20 Ultra, it’s pretty impressive how much Samsung is offering here. Just do a quick comparison of the Galaxy S21 Ultra vs. Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and it won’t take long to see how much Samsung really knocked it out of the park.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Specs

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Space Zoom

Source: Android Central

Speaking of specs, here’s a full rundown of everything you can expect from all three S21 models. From the processor, display, cameras, and more, here’s what makes the phones tick.

Category Galaxy S21 Galaxy S21+ Galaxy S21 Ultra
Operating System Android 11 / One UI 3.0 Android 11 / One UI 3.0 Android 11 / One UI 3.0
Display 6.2-inch Full HD+
Dynamic AMOLED
120Hz refresh rate
6.7-inch Full HD+
Dynamic AMOLED
120Hz refresh rate
6.8-inch Quad HD+
Dynamic AMOLED
120Hz refresh rate
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Memory 8GB RAM 8GB RAM 12 or 16GB RAM
Storage 128 or 256GB 128 or 256GB 128, 256, or 512GB
Expandable Storage
Rear Camera 1 12MP primary 12MP primary 108MP primary
Rear Camera 2 12MP ultra-wide 12MP ultra-wide 12MP ultra-wide
Rear Camera 3 64MP telephoto 64MP telephoto 10MP telephoto (3x)
Rear Camera 4 10MP telephoto (10x)
Front Camera 10MP 10MP 40MP
Security Ultrasonic in-screen fingerprint sensor Ultrasonic in-screen fingerprint sensor Ultrasonic in-screen fingerprint sensor
Connectivity Wi-Fi 6
5G (sub-6 and mmWave)
Wi-Fi 6
5G (sub-6 and mmWave)
Wi-Fi 6E
5G (sub-6 and mmWave)
Battery 4,000 mAh 4,800 mAh 5,000 mAh
Water Resistance IP68 IP68 IP68
Dimensions 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9mm 161.5 x 75.6 x 7.8mm 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm
Weight 172g 202g 228g

Samsung Galaxy S21 Design

Samsung Galaxy S21 All Colors

Source: Android Central

As you’ve probably noticed by now, the Galaxy S21 looks quite a bit different from previous Galaxy releases. We still have large, bezel-less displays with a centered hole-punch cutout, but looking at the back, we’re treated to a brand new design we haven’t seen before.

The camera housing is now integrated with the frame of the phone, seamlessly flowing into it. It’s a pretty drastic change that you’ll either love or hate, and if you ask Samsung, it’s “the biggest step forward in design for the Galaxy S series ever.”

It likely won’t make much of an impact in day-to-day use, but this does allow for some pretty unique color combinations — specifically, giving the camera housing a different accent color compared to the rest of the phone.

Samsung has always had fun with its color choices, and for the Galaxy S21 series, that looks to be the case more than ever. If you find yourself unsure of what color Galaxy S21 you should buy, I’d personally recommend going with Phantom Violet (it looks so freaking good!).

Samsung Galaxy S21 Accessories

Samsung Galaxy S21 Spen Case

Source: Android Central

We’ve said it a few times before and we’ll say it again: a good phone isn’t complete without the proper accessories. Especially in the case of the Galaxy S21 lineup where you’re making a hefty investment in your new phone, it’s in your best interest to keep it protected as best as you can.

The regular S21 may be made out of a durable plastic, but that’s not an excuse to ignore the best Galaxy S21 cases. From adding more grip to giving the phone a bit of style, it’s an essential accessory you simply can’t ignore.

Thanks to the glass backs of the other two models, shopping for the best Galaxy S21+ cases and best Galaxy S21 Ultra cases shouldn’t be something we have to tell you to do twice.

No matter which variant of the S21 you get, it’s also worth taking a dive into the best Galaxy S21 accessories overall. From portable battery packs, smartwatches, and more, there’s a lot out there to further elevate your experience with Samsung’s latest and greatest.

Killer flagship

Samsung Galaxy S21

More phone, less money

The Galaxy S21 series has arrived, and for a lot of shoppers, the baseline S21 will be the go-to choice. It has a compact and user-friendly size, incredible performance with the Snapdragon 888, capable cameras, and a large battery. You get all of this for just $800, making it a seriously great deal.

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