Samsung Galaxy S21 may get this serious downgrade

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Samsung displays appear in a wide variety of smartphones from the company's competitors. Interestingly, though, they could skip some of the South Korean tech giant's future flagships.

In an effort to keep prices down, Samsung is negotiating with BOE, a Chinese display manufacturer, to supply OLED screens for one of its upcoming devices, The Elec reports (by way of SamMobile). Given the timing, there's a fairly high chance the phone in question is the Samsung Galaxy S30 (or Galaxy S21), which is a bit of a surprise.

In theory, Samsung wouldn't use BOE panels for every Galaxy S21 or S30 variant; this primarily extends to the entry-level model, and potentially the Galaxy S30 Plus. The Galaxy S30 Ultra will continue to employ a Samsung-built screen, as it should if it's going to cost anything near the $1,399 price tag of the current Galaxy S20 Ultra.

However, don't worry about this initiative affecting the upcoming Galaxy Note 20. At this point, those devices have been finalized, and Samsung will embed its own panels into each and every Note.

The Elec reports that Samsung's request to BOE concerns only 90Hz panels, which also tells us Samsung may choose to reserve the smoothest 120Hz refresh rate for the Ultra line. That seems as though it'd be a smart move; the difference between 90Hz and 120Hz is negligible depending on who you ask, and a higher rate obviously bears a more adverse affect on battery life.

Nevertheless, it's unexpected that Samsung would look to outsource panels — perhaps the company's most core strength — for a marquee premium product like the Galaxy S30 or S21. SamMobile even suggests that it's quite possible this is all a strategy by the firm's mobile arm to coax Samsung Display into lowering its prices.

On the other hand, this news could be the first tacit admission from Samsung that its play to move upmarket with the Galaxy S20 series didn't pan out, and the company is looking to reel those prices back in going forward.

Additionally, reports surrounding the Pixel 4a and Pixel 5 suggest Google is looking to reduce prices of its own smartphones, and Apple of course introduced its $399 iPhone SE 2020 last month. In other words, Samsung isn't alone in this trend, especially considering the interest in more affordable products in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Adam Ismail is a staff writer at Jalopnik and previously worked on Tom's Guide covering smartphones, car tech and gaming. His love for all things mobile began with the original Motorola Droid; since then he’s owned a variety of Android and iOS-powered handsets, refusing to stay loyal to one platform. His work has also appeared on Digital Trends and GTPlanet. When he’s not fiddling with the latest devices, he’s at an indie pop show, recording a podcast or playing Sega Dreamcast.