Jan 14, 2021
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About this Deal
Samsung’s new line of premium Galaxy S21 smartphones arrives Jan. 29 with advanced features aimed at securing the devices' position as desirable alternatives to Apple's iPhone 12.
Available for pre-order Thursday: The S21 starts at $799.99; the S21+ starts at
$999.99; and the S21 Ultra, which gains S Pen support, starts at $1,199.99 (S pen sold separately). Those prices are $200 lower than that of the S20 models released in March 2020 – and in line with competitor Apple's base prices for the iPhone 12 ($799), iPhone 12 Pro ($999) and iPhone 12 Pro Max ($1,099).
Pre-orders for the devices can be placed starting at 11 a.m. Thursday on Samsung.com.
Samsung was able to bring the Galaxy S21 lineup's launch prices down in part because of the tech giant's early investments in 5G, display and camera technologies, which have led to efficiencies in production, says Drew Blackard, vice president of product management at Samsung Electronics America.
But the coronavirus pandemic also has delivered a reality check. "It has changed some consumers’ budgets and we are very conscious of that," he said.
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The new Galaxy S21 smartphones: S21 Ultra, which starts at $1,199.99; the S21+ ($999.99), and the S21 ($799.99).
Samsung Galaxy S21: basic features
All of the 5G smartphones have dynamic 120Hz displays that automatically adjust the frame rate for smooth viewing. The S21 and S21+ come with 8GB of RAM and a minimum of 128GB of internal storage, upgradable to 256GB. The S21 Ultra comes with 128GB of internal storage and 12GB of RAM, upgradable to 256GB and 512GB (16GB of RAM).
The S21 has a 6.2-inch screen, while the S21+ has a 6.7-inch screen, the same sizes as the S20 and S20+ models. Slightly smaller than the S20 Ultra's 6.9-inch display, the S21 Ultra's 6.8-inch screen delivers higher resolution. And the S21 Ultra also sports a Gorilla Glass Victus covering.
The S21 and S21+ have four cameras (three on the rear and one in front), the S21 Ultra has five (four on rear, including a dual-telephoto lens) and one in front.
The S21 and S21+ both have 64-megapixel telephoto cameras and 12MP wide-angle cameras; the Ultra's new dual-lens system pairing optical 3X and optical 10X lenses capable of 100 Space Zoom, and separate 108MP wide-angle. All three also have a 12MP ultra wide-angle lens.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has five cameras -- four on the rear, including a dual-telephoto lens, and one in front. The device is available Jan. 29.
All of the devices support Samsung's Single Take feature, which with a single tap grabs a sequence and lets you decide whether to select a still, a slo-motion video or other clips. Each also will take short 8K video sequences that you can pull a single frame from – helpful with moving photo subjects such as kids and animals.
New features include Director's View, which lets you see subjects from multiple perspectives and change lens during a recording, and Vlogger Mode, for recording from the front and rear cameras simultaneously.
The entry-level S21 has a "4000mAh" battery, while the s21+ has a longer lasting 4500mAh battery and the S21 Ultra boasts more longevity at 5000mAh. The batteries use artificial intelligence, which Samsung says allows the devices to run all day.
What else is new on the S21s?
Samsung also is debuting Galaxy SmartTags, which can be attached on your car key fob, a backpack or pet, for instance, and you can use the new Galaxy SmartTag Bluetooth locator app to find them. Those who pre-order an S21 model before Jan. 28 get a free SmartTag and a Samsung credit of $100-$200, depending on the model purchased.
The S21 and S21+ will be available in a new color, Phantom Violet.
The Samsung Galaxy S21+ smartphone, which starts at $999.99 and is available for pre-order Thursday, shown here with Galaxy smartwatch and new Galaxy Buds Pro ($199.99). The S21+ will be available in a new color, Phantom Violet, as well as Phantom Silver, Phantom Black, and (on Samsung.com) Phantom Gold and Phantom Red.
Samsung says it has improved its Knox security platform with Vault protection with "tamper-resistant secure memory." A new Private Share feature lets you control who gets access to videos and photos you share – and how long the content is available. Another new feature lets you remove location metadata from photos and videos before you share them.
You can also use Samsung's new Galaxy Buds Pro wireless Bluetooth in-ear headphones, announced Thursday ($199.99, available now), to capture your voice and ambient sound on video recordings.
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This new wave of Galaxy smartphones comes as Samsung has increased its leading market share globally to 22% in the third quarter of 2020 (July-September), up from 21% a year ago, according to research firm Strategy Analytics.
In the U.S., Samsung increased its market share in the third quarter to 34%, up from 27%, moving it ahead of Apple, which saw its share dip to 30% from 36%, according to the research firm.
Samsung’s lower pricing for its premium phones could because “the COVID pandemic has hit the US smartphone market fairly hard. With higher unemployment and virus uncertainty, American consumers bought fewer phones last year,” said Strategy Analytics’ Neil Mawston.
“Samsung will need to be very competitive on price to maximize S21 sales in the post-Xmas lull,” said Mawston, who expects the new Samsung phones to be “well received.”
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.