Samsung Announces New Galaxy S21 Smartphones, Buds Pro, and SmartTags

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Today, at its virtual Unpacked event, Samsung unveiled a trove of new products, including its latest lineup of flagship smartphones, the Galaxy S21. Along with the new family of smartphones, the other big headliners were the Galaxy Buds Pro and a new tracking device Samsung is calling the Galaxy SmartTag. Here’s everything we saw at this year’s Unpacked event.

Galaxy Buds Pro

The show kicked off with the Galaxy Buds Pro, the newest generation of Samsung’s popular wireless earbuds. According to Samsung, the Galaxy Buds Pro deliver “Samsung’s best audio experience yet” by utilizing immersive sound quality, intelligent active noise cancellation, and a speaker-influenced design featuring an 11mm woofer and 6.5mm tweeter. Unfortunately, that new design means no more “beans,” but the new look is still pretty slick, and Samsung claims they’re more comfortable, fit more securely, and facilitate a better sound quality.

Samsung also trumpeted the Galaxy Buds Pro’s 360 Audio feature, which uses Dolby Head Tracking to create a “realistic and immersive” sound experience for general listening, vlogging, and mobile gaming. Other important specs include up to 8 hours of playtime, wireless charging, and an IPX7 water-resistance rating, which is the highest protection ever offered from the Galaxy Buds line.

The Galaxy Buds Pro are available in three “Phantom” color variants: black, silver, and violet.

Galaxy SmartTag

From the Galaxy Buds Pro, Samsung segued to a new tracking tile called the Galaxy SmartTag. The idea behind the SmartTag is pretty straightforward: a small, Bluetooth-enabled tile you can attach to your valuables and then track via the SmartThings app. The Galaxy SmartTags aren’t the first Bluetooth trackers to ever hit the market, but for anyone who regularly misplaces their keys or wallet (read: me), they are absolute lifesavers.

Galaxy S21 Smartphones

Of course, the main headliner of this year’s event was the new Galaxy S21 smartphone. Samsung’s latest iteration of its signature smartphone series includes three model variants: the Galaxy S21, the Galaxy S21+, and the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Similar to years past, the most conspicuous difference between the three models is the screen. From smallest to largest, the displays measure 6.2, 6.7, and 6.8". However, unlike last year’s models, it’s not just size that sets these screens apart.

Galaxy S21 | S21+ | S21 Ultra
Galaxy S21 | S21+ | S21 Ultra

This year, both the S21 and S21+ have a flat AMOLED screen, as opposed to the S21 Ultra, which is the only model offering a curved display. Also, both the S21 and S21+ have been dialed back from the Quad HD+ graphics we saw in last year’s models to Full HD+—though, thankfully, they still have a 120 Hz refresh rate and are both brighter than last year’s phones. On paper, the lowered resolution might sound like a step backward, but considering the size of the screens, the high refresh rate, and Samsung’s reputation for making arguably the best-looking smartphone displays in the world, it likely won’t impact most users. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that by dialing back the screen resolution to Full HD+, Samsung has actually elevated the value of these phones through reducing design costs that would otherwise be passed on to consumers.

As we mentioned, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the only version of the new smartphone lineup that offers a curved, edge-to-edge screen. It’s also the only model that features a Quad HD Infinity-O AMOLED with an adaptive 120 Hz refresh rate and up to 1500 nits of peak brightness. That might all sound like one big word salad, but the takeaway is that screen looks guh-ood. Obviously, a virtual event isn’t going to tell us the whole story, but if history has taught us anything, we might just be looking at the best smartphone display in the world.

Samsung S21 Ultra 5G
Samsung S21 Ultra 5G

In addition to the bigger and better screen, the Galaxy S21 Ultra also supports a newly designed S Pen and the upcoming S Pen Pro, which makes it the first Galaxy S phone to ever support a stylus. According to Samsung, many of the fan-favorite uses of the S Pen will be available with this new stylus, including drawing, note taking, smart gestures, and more. Like the earliest iteration of the S Pen, this new S Pen doesn't require charging. Samsung made a point to mention that it was designed with Wacom technology, so presumably the S Pen draws power through resonant coupling. Samsung also noted that older S Pens will work with the Galaxy S21 Ultra, although not all functionality will be available.   

Beyond their screen specifications, the new phones also feature updated camera systems, although in some cases those updates are marginal. Both the Galaxy 21 and S21+, for example, appear to offer the same rear setup as last year’s models: a 64MP telephoto, a 12MP wide, and a 12MP ultrawide. Don’t let the identical specs alarm you, though. The Galaxy S20 and S20+’s camera systems were considered two of the very best, and the new chipsets in this year’s models will likely improve image quality even more. Both camera setups can record up to 4K 60 fps and 8K 24 fps, although the 8K is likely heavily cropped in.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra, on the other hand, really lives up to its moniker. It features four lenses on the back, including two 10MP telephoto lenses, a 108MP wide, and a 12MP ultrawide. Like the S21 and S21+, the S21 Ultra features Samsung’s “Space Zoom” technology, although the magnification power is greater with the Ultra. On the front of the Ultra is a 40MP sensor, which is what we saw in last year’s model. Just like the other members of the new Galaxy S21 family, the Ultra’s picture quality and performance should benefit from improved software and Samsung’s newest processor. In short: The best continues to get better.

Looking beyond the camera and display specs, the S21 series’ other notable features include 8GB of RAM for the S21/S21+ and either 12 or 16GB for the Ultra, depending on which model you choose. In terms of internal storage, the S21/S21+ offer 128 and 256GB options, while the Ultra lets you choose between 128, 256, and 512GB. The battery size looks similar to what we saw from last year’s models: 4000mAh battery for the S21, 4800mAh for the S21+, and 5000mAh for the Ultra. As we mentioned before, all three phones should be running either Qualcomm’s or Samsung’s latest processor, as well as the most current version of Android.

All of the products announced at today’s event are available for pre-order now and should be shipped later this month. You can also order accessories for the devices, including new cases and protective covers, charging devices, and the S Pen and S Pen Pro. Speaking of charging devices: Samsung has decided to follow the recent trend of smartphone manufacturers not including charging bricks with their handsets. All of the new Galaxy S21 smartphones will come with a USB-C to USB-C cable, but you will need to supply the power brick or compatible charger. If you don't have a compatible charger, Samsung does offer quite a few options for powering up your new phone, including wireless charging pads and power adapters.

If you have any questions about the new phones, or you want to share your thoughts about anything we saw today, let us know in the Comments section, below.

6 Comments

Which models support a Micro SD?  In the last generation only the Plus and Ultra supported a micro SD and none supported the UHS II standard.

Hi Patrick - 

The  new S21 Ultra 5G,  S21+5G,  and S21 5G will not support a microSDXC memory card. These phones have no memory card slots.

So they say that older s-pens can be used with S21 Ultra - so how do you charge an S-pen from an earlier phone if you don't have that phone anymore - Thinking Note 7 specifically.

So, this is kind of tricky because Samsung basically created a new version of the S Pen every time they released a new phone or tablet that supported it, and each of those new S Pen variants used a proprietary charging method that restricted how they could be recharged. In short: I don't know that you can charge the Note 7 S Pen without a Note 7. BUT the goods news is that even if you could charge it, the Galaxy S21 Ultra wouldn't support any of the BLE features that the Note 7 S Pen offered, so it doesn't really matter. What does matter is that you don't need to charge your old Note 7 S Pen to use it with the S21 Ultra. It should be able to register handwriting and drawing no problem without the S Pen being charged. Allegedly. We haven't gotten to test it out yet, but as we understand it, that is how it's supposed to work.

Hi, Where would the S Pen store? Onboard the S21? And in the article it says to check compatibilty but there is no chart on the B&H article that I can find. Please advise. Thanks!

Hi Scott - 
There is no on-board storage for the new P3 S Pen.  Perhaps the new cases that will soon be available will offer storage for it. Currently Samsung has not provided a compatibility guide for their new P3 S Pen

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