With Samsung’s Galaxy Note 20 Ultra launched and improving considerably on the S20 Ultra, we’re excited to see what Samsung will stuff into its next Galaxy S phones. And it looks as though the rumours and leaks are already starting to flow with impressive regularity.
When is the Samsung Galaxy S21/S30 release date?
While Samsung's existing release schedule and, more specifically, by looking at the company's biggest releases of 2020, it makes a lot of sense to expect the S21/S30 series to debut in February 2021, it looks like that isn't to be the case for the company's next S series phones.
One of the first leaks from an established source on the matter, OnLeaks (aka Steve Hemmerstoffer), points to an earlier-than-usual release window of January 2021, which marries up with separate reports that production on the next S series is commencing far earlier than previous generations ever did.
Hemmerstoffer posted a number of revealing S21/S30-related posts on burgeoning new social media platform - Voice - and stated that his source claims that, "Samsung will officially introduce the Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21 Plus and Galaxy S21 Ultra in January 2021!"
What will the Samsung Galaxy S21/S30's price be?
We expect the Galaxy S21/S30 range to priced similarly to the S20 phones. The regular S20 started in the UK at £799 - but that was for the 4G version - with the 5G model starting at £899.
The 4G model was only available with Samsung's own Exynos chip, sold in regions like Europe and Australia. The Snapdragon 865 chip used in the US model was only ever paired with 5G support, so the cheapest S20 there is $999.
The S20 Plus was £999/$1,199 while the spec-heavy S20 Ultra was £1,199/$1,399. We think the S21/S30 phones will start at around £899, as it’s unlikely Samsung will offer a 4G-only version of any within the range come next year.
Samsung does indulge in a price hike from time to time and it does depend on if we see the S21/S30, S21/S30 Plus and S21/S30 Ultra as expected, but we are easily looking at launch prices that orbit around £1,000.
Samsung phones tend to drop in price pretty fast, but those are still big numbers.
What about the Samsung Galaxy S21/S30 specs?
In terms of what to expect from the hardware that Samsung is utilising for its next-gen S devices, the previously-mentioned posts from OnLeaks give us our first look at renders of both the standard Galaxy S21/S30 and the beefier S21/S30 Ultra, along with dimensions and a couple of additional tidbits.
The most obvious change compared to this year's S20 line is the new camera bump, the design of which is seen to flow in from the phone's corner. Beyond that, the base S21/S30 is stated to feature a flat 6.2in panel with a hole-punch front camera and approximate dimensions of 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9mm, with the thickness rising to 9mm when taking the camera bump into account.
Fellow tipster IceUniverse observed that in a side-by-side comparison between these renders and press shots of the Galaxy S20, the 2021 phone actually sports thicker bezels, alluding to more affordable construction methods.
Whether this is just a case of Samsung saving money at the manufacturing stage or that next year's phones will actually end up cheaper remains to be seen, but it's an interesting observation that has bigger implications for Samsung's strategy in 2021.
As for the S21/S30 Ultra, like its predecessor, it sports additional camera sensors (four instead of three) compared to its more modest namesake, along with the new camera bump 'island' design.
Hemmerstoffer's article on the next Ultra's camera setup also makes mention of a possible dual telephoto sensor setup, alongside a wide and an ultrawide sensor.
The display is stated to be "roughly between 6.7in and 6.9in" and is supposedly curved along the edges, unlike the standard model, while the phone is said to measure in at 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm or 10.8mm thick if you, again, factor in the camera bump.
So what about beyond the bodywork? It's assumed that processor-wise, the S21/S30 range will, in all likelihood, have Qualcomm's expected Snapdragon 875 chipset onboard, if that is what the silicon specialist's next-gen high-end mobile processor is named.
Samsung normally uses its in-house Exynos chipsets in the UK and other regions - though did switch that up with the S20 FE - so it’ll likely be the top of the line entry from that series of chips in those markets. We hope Samsung can improve the Exynos version of the S21/S30 though, as the Snapdragon versions of the S20 and Note 20 lines have significantly better battery life (not to mention better performance) when compared against their Exynos-powered equivalents.
What is alleged to be a Galaxy S21+/S30+ appeared on benchmarking app Geekbench, sporting 8GB of RAM and a processor named the 'exynos2100'. That may be a codename though, rather than indicating a shift in Samsung's naming strategy, but either way, the multi-core score of 3107 is a big step up from the score of 2695 we saw when we tested the S20+ - though it's still behind the top-performing Snapdragon phones.
On top of OnLeaks camera insights, the next Ultra is again reported to centre around an updated 108Mp sensor.
Galaxy S21 Ultra，Still 108MP, the sensor is the successor to HM1— Ice universe (@UniverseIce) August 19, 2020
The S20 Ultra was a fine phone save for its disappointing cameras, which struggled with autofocus issues and other faults that don't come across based on its spec sheet alone.
There’s a rumour that Samsung might drop the time-of-flight sensor from the S21/S30 too, just as it has done with the Note 20 phones. The hardware helps with portrait mode phots but Samsung lags behind here compared to Apple and Google.
Separately, SamMobile states, via industry sources in Korea, that the upcoming flagship will still feature a quad-camera setup. Improvements, though, will come as "more telephoto glass should equate to a better variety of quality images at higher focal lengths."
The site says the S21/S30 Ultra's dual telephoto zoom lenses will feature 3x and 5x magnification respectively using a periscope mechanism. There will also be a 108Mp wide-angle camera, 12Mp ultra-wide lens and a 40Mp selfie camera.
Meanwhile, the other two members of the range won't come with significant upgrades in this area. Like the Ultra, they won't have a time of flight (ToF) sensor but will have better optical image stabilisation.
For a brief moment, it was also thought that this next range of Galaxy S phones would be the first of Samsung's to debut an under-display front-facing camera setup, however, according to Korean news site The Elec (via Android Authority), this tech is now being bumped onto the Galaxy Z Fold 3 - assumed to be launching later into 2021.
The reasoning behind the S21/S30 series missing out? Low yield at the manufacturing stage - a limitation of certain cutting-edge technologies that makes it a much better fit on a more exclusive device like the Z Fold 3 - assuming that's what Samsung decides to call the future foldable.
Separately, it looks like there could be significant upgrades to the phone line's wired charging chops. Dutch publication GalaxyClub reports that the S21/S30 could support 65W speeds, up from 45W on Samsung's current flagships. The site has unearthed a Samsung charger certification called 'EP-TA865', with the last 2 digits hinting at 65W. This seems like a credible rumour, especially when you consider the current charger is officially known as 'EP-TA845'.
That said, an unknown Samsung device dubbed 'SM-G9910' (for reference, the Galaxy S20 was model number SM-G981) has recently made its way through CCC approval (China's approval certification system) with a reported 25W fast charging; this coming via MyFixGuide, who previously suggested that next year's S21/S30 Ultra will have a 4855mAh battery.
Separately, the same source has suggested that the base S21/S30 will feature a smaller 3880mAh cell.
Samsung Galaxy S21/S30 wish list
Here are a few things we wish Samsung would do to improve the S21/S30 handsets over the S20 generation.
120Hz at full resolution
We’d like to see the option of 120Hz at full QHD+ resolution. On the S20s you have to pick between QHD+ at 60Hz or 1080p at 120Hz – you can’t have both the highest settings. Samsung needs to fix that this time around, as other OEMs offer it.
Better all-round camera performance
We hope that Samsung adds in the Note 20 Ultra’s excellent 5x optical zoom, which is more stable and better performing than the S20 Ultra’s 4x affair. The Note 20 Ultra was a better-balanced phone all-round, and the S20 Ultra has ended up being one of 2020’s smartphone disappointments. Samsung's saturated images are just about keeping up, but Apple has a better all-round camera array on the iPhone 11 Pro than any of the S20 phones.
Face ID-style biometrics
If it can’t do an in-screen camera then we’d like Samsung to try and incorporate a 3D face ID system similar to Apple if possible. Currently, manufacturers are avoiding doing this because the camera array needed requires a physical notch. But until Samsung’s ultrasonic fingerprint sensors are more reliable, it’d be nice to have secure face unlock and biometric identification. All the S20 and Note 20 phones only use 2D face recognition for unlocking the device, and not for biometrics.
Snapdragon for everyone
Unless Samsung can bring the Exynos chips up to scratch with Qualcomm’s 8-series, then we’d love to see the Snapdragon 875 in every S21/S30 phone in 2021. It’d go some way to improving the performance of the phone for European customers who are year-after-year buying a phone with noticeably worse battery life and a ceiling on performance.