Samsung kills Galaxy S21 Ultra ahead of Galaxy S22 Ultra launch — and that's bad

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review
(Image credit: Future)

Unpacked 2022 is this week, and that means the Galaxy S22 is basically here. Before the week's out, we'll know all about the biggest Android phone of the year and that's pretty exciting.

But in the lead up to this new launch, Samsung has quietly discontinued the Galaxy S21 Ultra from its store. Why this is seems pretty obvious to me: Samsung is making room for Galaxy S22 Ultra. That should surprise no one. However, this paints an interesting picture for Galaxy buyers this year.

Not everyone wants to spring for the latest and more expensive model, and buying an older phone is sometimes seen as a more cost-effective measure in the age of very expensive flagship phones. In fact, Apple really leans into this with each new iPhone release. For example, the iPhone 11 is still sold today as a sort of mid-range iPhone, between the budget iPhone SE and the flagship series.

But in Android land, that's less common. In fact, I'm often wary of recommending that people buy an older Android phone simply because it won't be supported as long. With iPhones, you can count on many years of support (the iPhone 6s released in 2015 got iOS 15).

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

(Image credit: Future)

That's not true of most Android phones — even the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro will only see three years of platform updates despite their five years of security patches. That iPhone 6s from almost seven years ago? That got a full platform update, despite not being powerful enough for all of the new features.

This isn't a discussion about the merits of Apple's support timeline and the comparatively pathetic Android counterparts. Samsung discontinuing the sale of the Galaxy S21 Ultra effectively blocks customers from choosing the older, less expensive Ultra phone. Previously, you could purchase several of Samsung's older models and often score some great deals in the process. Not everyone needs or wants the latest and greatest.

You can still buy the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus from Samsung, and of course the Galaxy S21 FE, too, but Samsung is expected to make the S21 FE the de facto S21 model for 2022. The Galaxy Note 20 family is also gone from the storefront. All of this points to Samsung really counting on people wanting the Galaxy S22 Ultra (which is rumored to be a Galaxy Note in all but name).

Of course, just because Samsung no longer sells the Galaxy S21 Ultra doesn't mean you can't find one brand new elsewhere. Odds are, the carriers and retailers still have stock. And I'm sure that all of them will be more than happy to sell off their inventory to make room for the new guy. So this isn't a huge deal, but it's telling all the same. If you want an Ultra and you buy from Samsung, your only choice now is the Galaxy S22.

Jordan Palmer
Phones Editor

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over six years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets. Outside of work, you can find him poring over open-source software and his studies.