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Samsung Galaxy S21 launch recap: All the news from Unpacked 2021

Here's all the biggest news from the Samsung Galaxy S21 showcase

Galaxy S21
(Image: © Samsung)

The Samsung Galaxy S21 series has finally been revealed after a huge amount of leaks pretty much spoiling all of the excitement behind Unpacked 2021. Nevertheless, Samsung put out a rather sick and fast presentation speeding through its new trio of flagship phones, AirPods Pro-rivalling wireless earbuds, and its new device tracking tags. 

The Unpacked showcase effectively launched two phones that are iterative upgrades over the previous Galaxy series and one Ultra handset that looks like it will sit at the top of Samsung's smartphone lineup for some time. 

Here’s a quick recap of the new product announcements at Unpacked 2021.

Samsung Galaxy S21: Starting at $799/£769, the new Samsung Galaxy S21 gets a new design, improved dynamic refresh rate display, and access to new Snapdragon 888 or Exynos 2100 matched with 8GB of RAM. While the camera specs are the same as the Galaxy S20, Samsung has done a lot more on the computational photography side to boost photo results. Starting at $799/£769, there's a clutch of colour options, and storage comes in 128GB and 265GB; there's no microSD expansion slot this time round though. 

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus: WIth a 6.7-inch display, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus is basically a larger Galaxy 21. It’s camera specs, Dynamic AMOLED display, and storage is the same as the S21. it does get a larger 4,800 mAH battery though. It starts at $999/£949., with pre-orders for both phones going live January 14 and the phones will go on sale January 29. 

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: The difference between the Galaxy S21 Ultra and its standard and Plus stablemate is more pronounced. Not only does it have a larger curved 6.8-inch WQHD+ Dynamic AMOLED display, but it also has a larger 5,000 mAh battery, 12GB or 16GB of RAM, and up to 512GB of storage. But the most significant difference is its quad rear camera array. Comprising an upgraded 108MP main lens, 12MP ultra-wide angle camera, and a pair of 10MP telephoto cameras, as well as a laser autofocus sensor, the Galaxy S21 promises a big step up in photography, including a big boost in night time photo snapping. It also comes with support for an upgraded S Pen and the S Pen Pro. With a starting price of $1,199/£1,149, this could be the one Samsung phone to rule them all this year. Pre-orders go live on January 14 with the phone going on sale January 29. 

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro: With a suite of active noise cancelling and audio boosting tech, the $200/£219 Galaxy Buds Pro are shaping up to be AirPods Pro rivals, only cheaper. They have a neat design, a trio of color options and a whole host of smart features. You’ll be able to get the buds on January 15. 

Samsung Galaxy SmartTags: Effectively Samsung’s answer to NFC or Bluetooth trackers, SmartTag lets you attach a tracking tag via a keyring to devices that you might be concerned about losing. With a Bluetooth Low Energy connection, you can then use Samsung’s SmartThings app to track down a missing something. The SmartTags Plus makes use of ultra wide-band (UWB) to deliver directional and spatial tracking with a higher level of accuracy. A single SmartTag costs $29/£29 and will go on sale January 29 and the Plus will cost $39 and is “coming soon.” 

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus

(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung Galaxy S21 event live blog


So today is the big day. At 7 a.m. PT/10 a.m. ET/ 3 p.m. GMT, Samsung will take to the stage - albeit virtually - to give us a look at its next flagship phone. After a busy week of CES 2021 tech news, we expect this to be a slick presentation focussed on phones. 

Of course, even at the 11th hour, there's going to be a Galaxy S21 leak. The latest has shown off official images from Samsung marketing materials. We're not sure if there's going to be any surprises left for Unpacked 2021 now. 

And there's yet another last-minute leak! This one is from Evan Blass and it gives away a lot of Galaxy S21 info, especially around the Galaxy S21 Ultra's cameras; sometimes we'd just wish the leakers would leave something to be a surprise!

What are you most excited about for the Galaxy S21? Will you be looking to upgrade? And would you go for the standard S21 or the S21 Ultra? Let us know in the comments or tweet us @tomsguide. 

Here's our take on the new massive Samsung Galaxy S21 leak - give it a read to get an insight into what more to expect from today's S21 reveal. 

If you want a one-stop-shop for all the rumors of far then we have you covered with our Samsung Galaxy S21 hub. We're expecting a lot of what's in there to become official news in a few hours. 

It's a good way off and far from official but a leak has hinted that the iPhone 13 could come with a powerful new A-series chipset that could keep the Galaxy S21 at bay. 

If the leaks do prove to be true, and we expect a lot of them to be, then the Galaxy S21 looks likely to replace the Galaxy S20 on our best phones list. But we'd need to give the upcoming phone a proper test to know that. 

How do you feel about the rumor that the Samsung Galaxy S21 will come with no charger in the box? Is this sensible or unfriendly to Samsung phone fans? Let us know. 

Wow! Prices for the Galaxy S21 have just been leaked a mere hour before the launch event. Flagged by another Twitter leaker, the prices look pretty compelling. 

We're an hour and a handful minutes away from Unpacked 2021. It's likely to be the first of many this year. 

T-minus 1 hour. You can watch the stream in the YouTube video embedded below.

So here's how much the Galaxy S21 will cost you according to the latest leak. Both the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus are cheaper than their predecessors - that's good news! 

Not long to go now. We're currently wondering if Samsung will have done much to boost the display of the Galaxy S21 over its predecessor. Samsung has always been good at phone screens, and we're curious where it will go next given the Galaxy S20 already has a 120Hz refresh rate display.

Under 10 minutes to go before Unpacked 2021 kicks off. 

And we're off! 

Here's TM Roh. Samsung's president and head of mobile communications business. We're getting the standard here's what Samsung does well spiel. 

Ah we're talking collaboration, because who isn't collaborating today. 

Samsung has just announced the Galaxy Buds Pro. These's look like an evolution of the previous buds. We like the purple color. 

Active noise cancelling is going to be a big feature of the Galaxy Buds Pro. And you're getting 360-degree audio that can intelligently recalibrate when you turn your head. All this is powered by a chipset in the buds. 

"Intelligent ANC" allows for the Galaxy Buds Pro cleverly adjust ANC on the fly so you don't completely block out all external sound while you're out and about and walk into a busy road.

There's beamforming too to allow for clearer wireless calls. The closed fit of the buds should also prevent too much disruption from wind noise. 

We have a full breakdown of the Galaxy Buds Pro. They go on sale January 15 and will set you back $200/£219. They come in Phantom Violet, Phantom Black, Phantom Silver. 

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung is talking SmartTag and SmartTag Plus - basically, Samsung's NFC tags that use ultra-wideband (UWB) technology for tags you can pop on all sorts of devices and track them from your smartphone. 

Here come the Galaxy S21 phones! 

Looks like we're starting with the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus. An evolved design and improved cameras have been touted. 

The design of the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus look just like their predecessor from the front, but on the back there’s the much-leaked camera module that curves around the top left-hand-side of the phones. It looks kinda neat.  

Galaxy S21

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Galaxy S21 comes in Phantom Violet, Phantom Grey, Phantom Pink and Phantom White colors. While the Galaxy S21 Plus drops the white and pink options but gets Phantom Silver. We’re rather keen on all these colors  

Now we’re talking displays. The Galaxy S21 gets a 6.2-inch flat Dynamic AMOLED 120Hz display, running at a FHD+ resolution. The dynamic bit means it’ll be able to change its refresh rate on the fly from 120Hz to 48Hz. That should help preserve battery life. Same for the Galaxy S21 Plus only it has a larger 6.7-inch screen. Both are coated in Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus. And they come with Samsung’s “Eye Comfort Shield” which helps filter out blue light to reduce eye strain.  

Galaxy S21

(Image credit: Samsung)

Now we're onto cameras. The Galaxy S21 and S21 have a trio of rear cameras: 12MP main lens, 12MP ultra wide and a 64MP telephoto snapper. That’s the same as the Galaxy 20 and Galaxy S20 Plus. But it looks like Samsung has improved the computational photography on the S21 series. 

Galaxy S21

(Image credit: Samsung)

You're getting improved portrait photo capabilities, with a "studio" feature that allows you to better adjust light. And there's a 10MP punch-hole selfie camera that gets more computational photography smarts to improve your selfie game. 

And now we're talking 8K video capture and the ability to snap 32MP photos from within videos. Samsung is also talking up Single Take, the ability for the S21 to capture a section of photos from within a burst of video. And the new "Directors View" that provides preview thumbnails of all the shots from all the S21's cameras have lined up at once on the screen. 

We know both phones will come with the Snapdragon 888 chipset in the U.S. which promises a solid boost in CPU and GPU performance. In the U.K. and other regions, the Galaxy S21 will make use of the Exynos 2100. Both chips have octa-core CPUs and can clock up to 2.8GHz. And Samsung is talking up the security of the Galaxy S21 range: Samsung Knox Vault basically provides secure memory to keep your most private data secure on the phone. 

Battery life now. And Samsung says it'll last a good while. We know the Galaxy S21 has a 4,000 mAh cell and the S21 Plus has a 4,800 mAh battery. Nothing hugely surprising here, so you can expect enough juice to get you through a working day. Wireless charging and fast charging are also included.  

While Android 11 is expected out of the box for the Galaxy S21, One UI 3 is coming. Looks like it's had a virtual makeover and offers more widgets, notably on the lockscreen. 

One UI 3 looks pretty good and it'll play nicely across a range of Samsung devices. There are some pretty cool AI features, such as smart photo editing. 

The Galaxy S21 is available January 29 from a starting price of $799/£769 and the Galaxy S21 Plus starts at $999/£949. Get all the latest info right here

Now we're onto the Galaxy S21 Ultra, aka the big one. Samsung is talking up its quad-cameras array. We know that's made up of an upgraded 108MP main lens with optical image stabilization, a 12MP ultra wider camera, and two telephoto lenses; one offers a 3x optical zoom with OIS and the other has a 10x optical zoom.

There's new tech on the main sensor at a pixel level to let in more light, with AI helping boost night mode. Basically, the rear camera array has a lot of smarts helping it out. 

And the 100x Space Zoom is back, helped by a laser autofocus sensor. The 10x and 3x optical telephoto lenses are a big help here to ensure you get a lot of zoom range without masses of distortion, all before the AI takes over to pull out details from high magnifications. Basically, all the rumors around the rear camera array are pretty much true. 

The laser autofocus sensor is also set to help facilitate clear and detailed macro shots. And you can get 12-megabit RAW photos too. In short, there's a lot of photography power here. 

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung is now waxing lyrical about the Phantom Black colour the Galaxy S21 Ultra will come with. 

"Phantom Black is our boldest color yet"......okay. 

Samsung is talking up the S21 Ultra’s display now. It’s a 6.8-inch WQHD+ Dynamic AMOLED panel with an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate. Only unlike the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus, it will go as low as 10Hz - that’ll help with keeping power consumption in check. It's 25% brighter than its predecessor, and more colorful too. 

And here's the much-rumored S Pen compatibility. There's an evolved S Pen and the S Pen Pro, which looks a lot like a shorter Galaxy Tab S7 S Pen. 

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

(Image credit: Samsung)

The Galaxy S21 Ultra is coming on January 29 and comes with a suite of colorful backplate options. Samsung's not mentioned it but there's also a Phantom Silver option coming. Pre-orders go live January 14 and you can get a Phantom Silver or Phantom Black S21 Ultra in 128GB with 12GB RAM, 256GB with 16GB RAM, 512GB with 16GB of RAM models. Prices start at $1,199/£1,149.  

Don't expect any chargers in the Galaxy S21 box. There'll only be a USB-C cable in the box. Samsung says this is to help reduce e-waste. 

So that's the Galaxy S21 stuff done - there's a lot Samsung didn't mention that we've added in here. But basically the Galaxy S21 is an evolution of its predecessor, while the Galaxy S21 Ultra looks like a decent step up from the Galaxy S20 Ultra

Samsung has worked with Google to ensure there's a better interplay between Android Auto and SmartThings, so you can control smart home kit from your car. 

Samsung is entering into a new partnership with Google, all around mobile tech. 

That means more Google-developed features on the Galaxy S21, including Talkback, a Google screen reader, which will come to the S21 first. 

We hope there's more to the Google partnership than software - how about Samsung-designed Pixel phones? 

And that's if for the first Unpacked of the year. Whew, there was a lot to take in there. But in short, you've got a trio of new Galaxy phones, the Galaxy Buds Pro, and Samsung SmartTag. Not bad at all.