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Samsung Galaxy S21 event: Everything to expect at Unpacked

Galaxy Unpacked event preview
(Image credit: Michael Short/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Samsung isn't waiting around to get the Galaxy S21 and other new products into our hands. In normal times, the company holds its first Unpacked event of the year in mid- to late February, using that event to show of its latest flagship phone along with any other supporting devices it plans to release in the first few months of the year.

But these aren't normal times, in case you haven't noticed. And to kick off 2021, Samsung has moved up its Galaxy Unpacked event by a month, scheduling a Jan. 14 launch event to show off those products you've been hearing rumors about.

So which products can you expect when Samsung executives take to their virtual stage on Thursday? Here's a closer look at what to expect from this week's Galaxy Unpacked event and how you can live stream the event.

Samsung Unpacked: Start time and how to watch

Samsung is hosting a Galaxy Unpacked virtual event on Thursday, Jan. 14. The live stream begins at 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT.

With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to make large press events a non-starter, Samsung is going online with the product launch, just as it did in August to show off the Galaxy Note 20 family. You'll be able to live stream the event from Samsung's website.

Samsung.com isn't the only place where Samsung puts the Galaxy Unpacked live stream on Jan. 14. There's a YouTube page where you can watch the announcements, or you can follow along in our Galaxy Unpacked live blog

Samsung Galaxy S21, S21 Plus, S21 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

(Image credit: WinFuture)

It's widely expected Samsung will release three Galaxy S21 models on Thursday — a 6.2-inch Galaxy S21, 6.7-inch Galaxy S21 Plus and a 6.8-inch Galaxy S21 Ultra. All three phones will likely be powered by the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 silicon and offer displays with 120Hz refresh rates.

Only the Ultra is expected to feature a dynamically adjusting refresh rate similar to the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, though.

The S21 Ultra could stand out in other ways, such as gaining support for the S Pen stylus previously limited to just the Galaxy Note lineup. Samsung's largest S21 model could also offer two telephoto lenses (3x and 10x) and a 108-MP main shooter. The S21 and S21 Plus look like they're going to sport similar triple camera setups, according to the rumor mill.

Some rumors suggest that the Galaxy S21 will cost less than the $999 debut price of the Galaxy S20, with the S21 Plus also seeing a price drop. The S21 Ultra could cost a little more than last year's model, however. It's expected that the Galaxy S21 lineup will ship before the end of the month, with some people pointing to next week as the release date.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

(Image credit: Evan Blass)

Outside of the Galaxy S21, the Samsung product we know the most about despite the fact that it's never been announced is the Galaxy Buds Pro. These wireless earbuds are expected to adopt more sophisticated features to better challenge Apple's AirPods Pro.

Specifically, the next set of wireless earbuds from Samsung are likely to offer active noice cancellation, a smart voice detection feature that enables ambient listening once you start talking and a 3D audio mode. That latter feature would compete with the AirPods Pro's spatial audio, even though Samsung's Pro earbuds are said to cost less.

Samsung Galaxy SmartTag

The Samsung Galaxy SmartTag tracker

(Image credit: 91mobiles)

There had been rumors kicking around that Samsung was working on a key finder product of its own, but that rocketed up the list of potential Galaxy Unpacked announcements when the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag certification popped up online followed by leaked images of the trackers.

Samsung's version would use Bluetooth apparently, much like the best key finders we've tested. Releasing SmartTags now would also let Samsung get in front of a more advanced Apple AirTags product that will apparently launch in the spring. Apple's device would use ultra-wideband for even better accuracy than Bluetooth.

New foldable Galaxy phones?

Samsung Electronics president TM Roh promised last month that Samsung would continue offering foldable phones. "We’ll be expanding our portfolio of foldables, so this groundbreaking category is more accessible to everyone," Roh said.

Most people have interpreted that to mean that Samsung will come out with more affordable foldable phones, though it's unclear if any of those will be ready in time for this week's Unpacked event. It's more likely that we would see updates to Samsung's existing foldable phones, especially since we know those devices are in the works.

Galaxy Z Flip 3

(Image credit: Meeco)

We have the most details about the Galaxy Z Fold 3, which is rumored to be a potential replacement for the Galaxy Note lineup. However, rumors suggest that phone won't arrive until the second half of the year. That leaves the next version of the Galaxy Z Flip, which will reportedly jump ahead to become the Galaxy Z Flip 3. The original Flip debuted alongside the Galaxy S20, so introducing a new model wouldn't be out of place.  

Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom's Guide. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics and old movies. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.