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Samsung Galaxy Note 21: Why it's not happening

Samsung galaxy note 21
(Image credit: LetsGoDigital)

The Samsung Galaxy Note 21 is definitely not happening this year. The company has said that the Note series won't be the company's focus, as it instead looks to bring S Pen functionality to devices like the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and other Galaxy devices. 

That's not to say Samsung has given up on the Note line, just that it might skip a generation, which isn't so bad as the previous couple of generations of Note phones are still plenty powerful and callable today. What's more, the S Pen compatible Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra may have rendered the Galaxy Note 21 a tad moot, given the former offers a lot of capabilities one would expect from a Note phone

Still, there are still rumors bubbling around that point towards some form of Note handset in the works. Here's what we've heard so far about the Galaxy Note 21, though keep in mind that at this point the next model would probably be a Galaxy Note 22. 

Latest Samsung Galaxy Note 21 news (updated July 27)

Samsung Galaxy Note 21: Why it won't ship

Late last year, rumors began to circulate that Samsung was planning to scrap 2021's Galaxy Note update. Those rumors picked up momentum when it became clear that the Galaxy S21 Ultra would be the first non-Galaxy Note phone to work with an S Pen stylus. Samsung Electronics president TM Roh also talked up his company's plans to release more foldable phones, seemingly leaving the Note 21 out in the cold.

But rumors of the Galaxy Note's demise overall may be premature. Samsung mobile chief Koh Dong-jin confirmed that there have been plans to release another Galaxy Note device. However, the ongoing global chip shortage means the phone may have to be delayed until 2022.

Samsung Galaxy Note 21 design

The way Samsung typically differentiates its two flagship phone lines is to give the Galaxy S-series a rounder silhouette than the Galaxy Note. Just look at the corners of the Galaxy S20 versus those of the Galaxy Note 20 for evidence of that.

That trend could continue, with the Note 21 getting its own version of the S21's new “Contour Cut” overflowing camera bump design. Renders from LetsGoDigital and Giuseppe "Snoreyn" Spinelli give us a general idea of how the next-gen Note will look.

For materials, the standard Note 20 uses a plastic back while the Note 20 Ultra has glass back, a habit Samsung has showed it will continue with the plastic back on the entry-level Galaxy S21. Both the Note 20 and S21 feel different to hold, but it will still look good at least.

Rumors have long suggested that Samsung is working on adding an under-display front camera to its phones, a feature that's already appeared in the ZTE Axon 20 5G. Should the Note 21 finally adapt this feature, that would mean the front of the phone could have a completely notchless display. 

Past Galaxy Note models have used curved displays, so we'd imagine that'll stay the same here too, since it helps make larger devices fit better into users' hands.

Samsung Galaxy Note 21 display

As noted above, the biggest change we might see on the Galaxy Note 21 is a under-display camera. That's based on an image from Samsung's CES presentation on Galaxy Upcycling that showed a phone similar to the Note 20, but without the usual camera punch-hole. 

We've seen elsewhere that Samsung is working on under-display cameras, so we're hoping this is a sneak-peak for the Note 21. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is also rumored to be getting the feature, though.

Samsung Galaxy Note 21

(Image credit: Samsung)

If there's no under-display camera on the Note 21, then it'll likely use the same central punch-hole for the selfie camera we've seen on Samsung phones for the last few years. While it's not as impressive looking as a hidden camera, it's still an effective way of balancing display space and selfie camera access.

The two current Galaxy Note 20 models came in different sizes. The Note 20 measured 6.7 inches, while the Note 20 Ultra measured 6.9 inches. Expect both these sizes again, but there's the possibility of the 6.9 inch model shrinking to 6.8 inches, which Samsung implemented when replacing the Galaxy S20 Ultra to the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Samsung seems to be sticking with maximum 120Hz display refresh rates on its flagships, so we can expect this to appear again. The question remains however of how dynamic this refresh rate will be. The S21 can go as low as 48Hz if it doesn't need to display a lot of moving images, but the S21 Ultra can go all the way down to 10Hz, as could whatever new Note model Samsung has in the works.

The final point worth mentioning is resolution. The Note 20 Ultra used a QHD panel, while the basic Note 20 used a less detailed FHD panel. Similarly, the S21 and S21 Plus default to FHD while the S21 Ultra uses QHD. Whether Samsung goes for more or fewer pixels will likely depend on if the whole phone is positioned as a premium flagship device or something a bit cheaper.

Samsung Galaxy Note 21 cameras

Should the Note 21 arrive with multiple devices, expect there to be a difference in camera set-ups. A basic one will likely use a similar or identical triple-camera set-up to the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus, which consists of 12MP main, 12MP ultrawide and 64MP telephoto sensors, with a 10MP selfie camera on the front.

An Ultra variant would like feature quite a bit more in terms of cameras. Samsung has used its enormous 108MP main sensor on the S20 Ultra and Note 20 Ultra in the recent  past, and we'd expect this will make a return. A 12MP ultrawide camera, the same as the S21's, will likely also be there.

Samsung galaxy note 21 concept

(Image credit: LetsGoDigital)

The S21 Ultra also has dual telephoto cameras, with one capable of 3x optical zoom and the other 10x optical zoom. These could find its way onto the Note 21 Ultra too, although last year the Note 20 Ultra didn't use the 48MP 4x optical zoom telephoto camera from the S20 Ultra, but its own 12MP 5x optical zoom camera.

Finally, look out for an auxiliary sensor of some kind, likely the laser autofocus that debuted on the Note 20 Ultra. Previous Samsung flagship phones have also used time-of-flight sensors which accomplish the same job, although there hasn't been one offered since the Galaxy S20 Plus.

On the front, Samsung will likely use one of two cameras. Either the 10MP sensor it adds to most of its flagship phones, or the 40MP model it's used on the S20 Ultra, S21 Ultra and Note 20 Ultra before.

Samsung Galaxy Note 21 performance

Each year's Galaxy Note usually gets equipped with the best Snapdragon chipset around the time it launches. For the Galaxy Note 20, that meant the Snapdragon 865 Plus system-on-chip, and it will likely be the Snapdragon 888 for the Galaxy Note 21, unless Qualcomm releases a Plus variant of this chip too.

Galaxy S21 benchmarks show the best performance we've seen from an Android device, even though the A14 Bionic-powered iPhone 12 still outperforms the Snapdragon 888-based Samsung phones. 

Things will probably be different in the U.K. Outside of the U.S., where Samsung has a long-standing arrangement with Qualcomm, we get Samsung's own Exynos chipsets — the Exynos 2100 in the case of the Galaxy S21. We'd again expect this to be the chip found in the Note 21.

As for other key performance metrics, expect 12GB RAM as at least an option. Both Note 20 models have this much, but the S21 has shown Samsung move back to 8GB for the cheaper models, a move it could pull again for the Note 21. 

Samsung galaxy note 21 concept

(Image credit: LetsGoDigital)

Storage isn't a glamorous spec, but it is important for users who want to save all their photos, videos and apps easily. Samsung typically offers 128GB or 256GB on cheaper flagships, while you can choose between 256GB or 512GB on more expensive versions.

What we really want to know is if Samsung's kept the microSD card reader on the Note 20 Ultra. The base Note 20 didn't have one, and none of the three S21 models have one either, which is concerning news if you need the option of extra removable storage.

Samsung Galaxy Note 21 S Pen

There's not a huge amount you can change about a stylus, but Samsung has been adding extras to the Note series' included S Pen over the past few generations. The Note 20's stylus, for example, can be used as a remote control for taking pictures or presenting slideshows, and can be waved around to navigate and control the phone via Air Gestures. We can expect one or two new abilities to be added while still keeping the basic shape and controls, as well as its responsive writing ability.

With the Galaxy S21 Ultra, other phones now support the S Pen, and the upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 3 is likely to add support as well, with one rumor suggesting the foldable will feature Samsung's announced but not released S Pen Pro. It's unclear if the foldable will scoop up the Note 21's advantage and feature a built-in slot for the stylus, rather than having it sold as a separate accessory like the S21's S Pen. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 21 battery and charging

The S21 series all charge at a maximum of 25W, with the option for 10W wireless charging and 4.5W reverse wireless charging to power up smaller accessories. Samsung has previously offered 45W charging capabilities on models like the Galaxy Note 10 Plus and Galaxy S20 Ultra, so we might see that on the Note 21, even if it's not an option on more recent phones.

Samsung galaxy note 21 concept

(Image credit: LetsGoDigital)

If the Note 21 does come out this year, it may arrive without a charger in the box. Samsung dropped phone chargers from the Galaxy S21, confirming that those models won't be the last to ship without a charger.

Samsung Galaxy Note 21: What we'd like to see

We'll be honest. Time is running out on the Galaxy Note 21, with most of the rumors surrounding Samsung phones these days focusing on new foldables or even next year's rumored Galaxy S22. But should Samsung surprise us and produce a new Note any time in 2021, we hope the future phablet delivers on the following features.

  • More unique S Pen features: The Note 21 needs a reason to entice users beyond just offering an S Pen, since you can now access this on the S21 Ultra. Samsung has historically had a problem of offering many overlapping phone models, and it could solve this by make the Note 21's inbuilt stylus more versatile, such as developing the air gesture controls we've seen on previous generations.
  • The best specs Samsung can offer: It's good that the basic Galaxy S21 is now able to match or even undercut rival phones on price, but to do this Samsung has dropped specs like RAM and display resolution. Since the S21 now has the entry-level flagship niche covered, it would be nice to see the Galaxy Note 21 act as a premium device with as much memory and as many pixels that Samsung can fit onto the phone.
  • Under-display selfie camera: This might be a longshot, but there would be no better way to steal its rivals' thunder, and wave goodbye to the Note series if that's going to be the case, than giving the phone a high-tech under-display camera.