Samsung Galaxy S21: Everything you need to know about Samsung’s flagship phone series

The Samsung Galaxy S21, Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus, and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra are the latest 5G flagships from Samsung. They represent the pinnacle of consumer-ready technology in the conventional smartphone form factor. These phones come with class-leading technologies, and for the first time ever, a phone outside of the Galaxy Note lineup is offering the coveted S Pen experience.

  • Let’s start with the display on the Galaxy S21 series

  • As the screen size differs between the three phones

  • Overall, the phones have an otherwise clean and understated look

  • Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus: Front and Rear Camera Setup

  • Galaxy S21 Ultra: Front and Rear Camera Setup

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      SOC, RAM, and Storage

      Camera & Camera Features

      Battery & Charging

      5G & Connectivity

      S-Pen support

      MST Support and Samsung Pay

      One UI 3.1 and Android 11

      Cases & Accessories

      Price & Availability

      Third-Party Cases and Accessories

      Case Reviews



      Let’s start with the display on the Galaxy S21 series. All three devices in the series get a Dynamic AMOLED 2x display, with a 120Hz variable refresh rate, a 20:9 aspect ratio, and HDR10+ support. All three devices have an Infinity-O display, which is just Samsung’s marketing term for centered hole-punch displays. You also get the latest Gorilla Glass Victus on the front across all three phones for scratch and drop protection. And as with previous Galaxy S models, the Galaxy S21 series also gets Always-On Display functionality.

      The primary difference between the three phones is the size of the display, going from 6.2″ on the regular Galaxy S21 to 6.7″ on the Plus and 6.8″ on the Ultra. Additionally, the regular and Plus variants have a relatively lower-end flat FHD+ panel. The Galaxy S21 Ultra is where things get a little interesting, as its display gets a subtle curve on the edges and a bump up to QHD+ resolution.

      It’s also the first time that a Samsung Galaxy flagship is not only getting QHD+ resolution and 120Hz refresh rate, but also 120Hz refresh rate with QHD+ resolution as the option. There’s also a difference in peak brightness, with the Ultra getting as bright as 1500 nits, while the other two are restricted to a still-respectable 1300 nits.


      As the screen size differs between the three phones, the dimensions are bound to be different and so is their weight. The weight difference is further compounded by the change in build materials as well. All three devices have an aluminum mid-frame, but the Galaxy S21 gets a polycarbonate back much like the Galaxy Note 20. The Galaxy S21 Plus and Ultra get a Gorilla Glass Victus back.

      The other obvious change in design is the rear camera module. It’s got a much more unique look this year, with the camera module flowing over the corner instead of being an island. The camera bump is still present, but it has a larger surface area extending all the way to one corner. Therefore, the phones should have a lesser tendency to wobble when placed down on a table. The Galaxy S21 Ultra has the largest camera module because of the additional camera hardware.

      Overall, the phones have an otherwise clean and understated look. The Samsung logo on the back is the only branding (coupled with other mandatory certification brandings as mandated by regional law). The devices have a USB 3.2 Type-C port and a speaker grille on the bottom, and the usual power button and volume rockers on the left. If you are waiting on the headphone jack making a return, you’ll be disappointed as it’s not present this year either. But on the bright side, the entire lineup is IP68 rated for water and dust protection.For biometrics, Samsung has once again opted for an ultrasonic in-display fingerprint scanner on the series, skipping out on both optical in-display and side-mounted fingerprint scanners. The ultrasonic fingerprint scanner used is the second generation 3D Sonic Sensor from Qualcomm, which is 1.7x larger and 30% faster than the previous generation ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. This ensures that you get a much better unlocking experience than ever before on a Samsung flagship.

      Some of the RAM and storage variants may not be available in all colors. Further, the options are likely to be tweaked according to your region as well.

      Further, some colors are exclusive. These include Phantom Red and Phantom Gold for the Galaxy S21 Plus, and Phantom Brown, Phantom Navy, Phantom Titanium for the Galaxy S21 Ultra. These colors are available in limited quantities only and are likely to be available only through the pre-order period.

      SoC, RAM, and Storage

      Samsung is following its usual pattern of splitting up device SoCs for the USA and some other selected regions, and for the rest of the world. The USA and regions like Hong Kong and China get the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC, while the rest of the world gets the Exynos 2100 SoC. We have dedicated coverage on these SoCs, and we encourage you to check them out for more details.

      As is the general theme with the lineup, RAM and storage options on the Galaxy S21 Ultra are more in the overkill territory (12GB + 128GB, 12GB + 256GB, 16GB + 512GB), while the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus get more practical amounts (8GB + 128GB, 8GB + 256GB) to work with. Unfortunately, there is no microSD card support on any of these phones, so pick the right storage amount for you right off the bat.


      The camera setup is one of the more defining differences between the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus on one hand, and the Galaxy S21 Ultra on the other. The Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus have the same camera setup, while the Galaxy S21 Ultra changes things up a bit.

      Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus: Front and Rear Camera Setup

      For the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus, you get a triple rear camera setup comprising of a primary camera, an ultra-wide-angle camera, and a telephoto camera.

      The primary camera is a 12MP f/1.8 shooter with a 1/1.76″ sensor producing images with 1.8µm large pixels. You get Dual Pixel AF as well as OIS on the primary camera.

      The secondary camera is a 12MP f/2.2 shooter with a 1/2.55″ sensor producing images with 1.4µm large pixels. The field of view is 120°, which isn’t the widest out there but also not a bad option per se.

      The tertiary camera is a 64MP f/2.0 telephoto lens with a 1/1.76″ sensor producing images with 0.8µm large pixels. You get PDAF and OIS on this camera, and its primary use case is for capturing images with 3x optical zoom.

      The front camera on both the phones is a 10MP f/2.2 shooter that produces 1.22µm pixel size images and has Dual Pixel AF.

      Galaxy S21 Ultra: Front and Rear Camera Setup

      The camera setup offers one of the highlighting experiences on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Only the secondary ultra-wide-angle camera is shared over from the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus. All the other cameras are different.

      The primary camera is a 108MP f/1.8 shooter with a large 1/1.33″ sensor producing images with 0.8µm large pixels. The phone then combines nine of these pixels into one pixel (nona-binning), giving you an output of 12MP with 2.4µm large pixels.

      The other two cameras on the back come with telephoto lenses, each projecting into a 1/3.24″ sensor with large 1.22µm pixels. Using two telephoto lenses essentially provides optical zoom at two different levels. The first is a 10MP f/2.4 shooter that provides 3x optical zoom, while the second is a 10MP f/4.9 shooter that provides 10x optical zoom. Both come with OIS capabilities. Combined with digital zoom, Samsung can provide a seamless optical zooming experience from 1x to 10x, while also promising hybrid zoom capabilities up to 100x, which is marketed as 100x Space Zoom.

      The Galaxy S21 Ultra can also shoot 4K video at 60fps across all cameras. If you need even more options, you can click photos in Pro mode to output to a 12-bit RAW file.

      The front camera on the Galaxy S21 Ultra is a 40MP, f/2.2 shooter with 0.7µm pixels and PDAF.

      OnePlus 9 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Battle of the Super-Phones!

      What are the new Camera Features?

      These new camera software features form a part of One UI 3.1 based on Android 11, but they are worth mentioning on their own as they are quite substantial to the camera experience on the new Samsung Galaxy S21 series:

      Improved 8K Snap: Grab still 33MP photos from your 8K video recording

      Vlogger View: Capture videos with the front and rear cameras simultaneously.

      Director’s View: Capture video with the front and rear cameras simultaneously, while retaining the ability to quickly switch between the multiple rear cameras while accessing a live preview of all the camera outputs.

      Multiple mic recording: Use paired accessories like the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro to record ambient sound while also recording using the phone’s microphone.

      Single Take: Added new pro-style video settings like Highlight Video and Dynamic Slow-Mo.

      Zoom Lock: Minimize shaky hands and capture clear zoomed images by locking focal point in the center of the frame.

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