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Cheaper Samsung Galaxy S21 is coming — but there’s a catch

Samsung Galaxy S21 review
(Image credit: Future)

With prices starting at $799, the Samsung Galaxy S21 is already $200 cheaper than the Galaxy S20. But that doesn’t mean Samsung doesn't have a way to make the phone even cheaper.

According to some leaks, there may be a cheaper Galaxy S21 variant coming, one that skips 5G connectivity altogether. The only problem is you probably won’t be able to buy one, at least not if you're reading this story from the U.S.

Samsung announced three Galaxy S21 variants at Galaxy Unpacked on Jan. 14, each packing in support for 5G networks. But things may be changing, because a new version of the phone has been spotted on the Bluetooth SIG database

This one has a model number “SM-G990F,” which indicates it will sit somewhere under the SM-G991X - aka the standard Galaxy S21 model. The consensus is that it'll be exactly like the standard Galaxy S21, just without 5G.

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Interestingly this isn’t the first that’s been said about a 4G-only Galaxy S21. WinFuture’s Roland Quandt revealed such a device existed back in November, though his information noted it was destined for markets that would benefit from lower-priced phones, such as Brazil.

Offering a 4G-only variant is nothing new for Samsung, since there were 4G-only versions of the Galaxy Note 10 series, plus the Galaxy Note 20, S20 and Galaxy S20 FE. Unfortunately, the U.S. missed out on the latter three, meaning the nation's absence on the list for a 4G S21 is no big surprise.

It’s not entirely clear how Samsung plans to cut out 5G to save money, though. The Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100 chipsets both have 5G built-in, which suggests such a phone could need a totally different chipset, or some sort of custom LTE-only variant. 

However, since Samsung develops the Exynos chips itself there is the possibility that such a chip has been developed for this very purpose.

If the phone does exist, it’s almost guaranteed to have the exact same specs and features as the standard Galaxy S21. That means the same 4,000 mAh battery, 25W fast charging, triple-lens rear camera array, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and the phone's new design. It just won’t have the 5G component and whatever other changes may come to the chipset as a result.

Unfortunately, there’s no word on when the phone might arrive. The rest of the S21 range is currently set for release on January 29 in the U.S., so we shouldn’t have too long to find out.

Tom Pritchard

Tom covers a little bit of everything at Tom’s Guide, ranging from the latest electric cars all the way down to hot takes on why Christopher Nolan is wrong about everything. Appliances are also muscling their way into his routine, which is a pretty long way from his days as Editor at Gizmodo UK. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.