Samsung kicked off 2021, and interrupted CES, with its live-streamed product launch, Galaxy Unpacked. The event featured an overhauled trio of smartphones, a pair of intelligent wireless earbuds, and Samsung’s own “one more thing,” the long-rumored Bluetooth item-tracking Smart Tags (beating Apple to the punch). Let’s dive in.
Galaxy S21 and S21+
Samsung came out swinging with the $800 Galaxy S21 and $1,000 Galaxy S21, two clear jabs at Apple’s $800 iPhone 12 and $1,000 iPhone 12 Pro. Samsung’s phones are equipped with 5G, of course, but their selling point is a redesign that puts the camera front and center—with a suite of new photography features, to boot.
The Contour Cut Camera juxtaposes the glossy rear camera module, which matches the phone’s frame, against the phone’s matte glass back. This is particularly noticeable on the S21's Phantom Violet shade, and it’s sure to be polarizing.
The triple-lens camera doesn’t just look different—Samsung has included a variety of new tools for those who fancy themselves amateur filmmakers or YouTubers. A new vlogger mode lets you shoot from multiple lenses simultaneously, and a Director’s View feature lets you switch between lenses on the fly.
The S21 and S21+ are largely the same, aside from their 6.2-inch and 6.7-inch displays, respectively. Both are packed with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, and, unfortunately, no microSD card slot.
Where Samsung is really going big is with the 6.8-inch Galaxy S21 Ultra, which has a curved display, a quad-lens rear camera array, and support for Samsung’s S Pen. That’s right, the Galaxy Note is no longer the only giant Samsung phone that lets you write on it with a stylus.
Unfortunately, that stylus doesn’t come in the box, so you’ll have to snag one separately.
The $1,200 Galaxy S21 Ultra’s cameras have all the same features as its cheaper, smaller siblings, but with dual tele-lenses that can digitally zoom in up to 100X. (The lenses offer a 3x and a 10x optical zoom.)
The S21 Ultra also has a better display than the other S21 models in the lineup, with a higher resolution rate and the ability to adjust its 120Hz refresh rate between 10 and 120Hz depending on how you’re using your phone.
For more information about Samsung’s new Galaxy phone lineup, check out our preview here.
Samsung took some heat for its last pair of earbuds, the bean-shaped Galaxy Buds Live, so the company is back with a more traditional-looking pair of Bluetooth earbuds, the $200 Galaxy Buds Pro.
The Buds Pro feature a more ergonomic design and more intelligent active noise cancellation that can detect when you’re speaking and filters in ambient noise. There are also a couple of features specific to using the earbuds with a Galaxy S21 phone, including more immersive audio when watching Dolby Atmos content on a new Galaxy (similar to the Spatial Audio feature in Apple’s AirPods Pro).
For more details about the Galaxy Buds Pro, we’ve got you covered here.
Samsung also quietly snuck in its Bluetooth-tracking Tile rival, Galaxy SmartTag. You can stick a SmartTag on a non-smart device and use Samsung’s SmartThings Find feature on your phone to track it down.
And that’s it! Samsung’s new devices are available to preorder on the company’s website. We’ll be reviewing all of them in the coming weeks, so drop your questions in the comments.