Samsung Galaxy S21 debuts with two big missing features

Galaxy S21 Plus
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

You never know what you've had until it's gone. And with the Galaxy S21 lineup that Samsung just announced, there are two glaring omissions.

It's not that Samsung didn't pack a lot into its trio of new phones. All three Galaxy S21 models feature the Snapdragon 888 system-on-chip in the U.S. along with new camera features and 120Hz displays that adjust their refresh speed on the fly. The Galaxy S21 Ultra offers even more features with S Pen support, a pair of telephoto lenses and a better sensor for improved low-light photography.

Still, the chatter around the Galaxy S21 lineup is about what isn't there. The phones will ship without a charger in the box, and there's no microSD slot for expanding storage.

Galaxy S21 missing features: No charger in the box

The missing charger may not be much of a surprise, as rumors had long suggested that Samsung was going to follow Apple's lead and not include a charger in the box with its new phones. Still, it might have surprised a few would-be Galaxy S21 shoppers, especially after Samsung poked fun at Apple when its phone-making rival dropped the charger from the iPhone 12 models this past fall.

Samsung 25W Travel Charger

This 25W charger won't be found in your Galaxy S21 box. (Image credit: Samsung)

Companies have increasingly been shipping their phones without a charger — Xiaomi made a similar move with the Xiaomi Mi 11 — citing environmental reasons. No charger reduces the amount of packaging needed for each phone, and it also means less e-waste if you've got a spare charger lying around.

What a charger costs: If you don't have the charger, though, you're on the hook for supplying one with your Galaxy S21. And with Samsung's new phones supporting 25W wired charging, that extra accessory can run you up to $17 — small potatoes in the greater scheme of things, but a bit grating if you're already putting up $799 or more on a new phone. (As of this writing, Samsung is currently selling a 25W charger for $17, discounted from its normal $19 price.)

Galaxy S21 missing feature: microSD card

The microSD omission may be more of a surprise, though Samsung has priors here, too. Both the Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy Note 20 shipped without a microSD slot, so it's not as if Samsung hasn't skipped the feature in the past. This time, though, all three new Galaxy S21 models are dropping microSD instead of just the entry-level phone.

That's a problem if you're used to maxing out the storage on your phone, and it may require Galaxy S21 shoppers to opt for a model with more capacity so that they have extra headroom on storage space.

The cost of adding more storage: Jumping from the base 128GB of storage to 256GB means tacking on another $50 to the cost of your phone.

Why Samsung dropped those features

Samsung didn't disclose they the microSD slot is a gone, choosing instead to focus on the features that are available. But it's possible that money was a deciding factor in this design decision.

It's very clear Samsung wanted to keep costs down on the Galaxy S21 lineup, given the economic uncertainty surrounding the current coronavirus pandemic. And it's very clear Samsung met that goal by cutting $200 off the price of its Galaxy S20 lineup to introduce cheaper Galaxy S21 models. The standard S21 starts at $799 while the tricked-out Galaxy S21 Ultra is available for $1,119. Even if you get the Ultra model with 512GB of storage and 16GB of RAM, you're still paying $20 less than the what the base Galaxy S20 model cost a year ago.

Keeping prices down means dropping certain features. And the microSD card slot looks like it was a victim of that.

Will it ultimately matter? You certainly don't have to look too hard on Twitter to find grumbling about Samsung's twin omissions on the Galaxy S21. But then again, people had similar complaints when the 3.5mm headphone jack stated disappearing from high-end phones. People may still be sore about that move but it hasn't hurt wireless earbud sales.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.