Samsung unveils Galaxy S21, S21+ and Ultra phones

Samsung has unveiled its Galaxy S21, S21+ and Ultra phones at CES 2021.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra, S21+ and S21. Photo credit: Samsung

Samsung has revealed its latest range of flagship mobile phones in the Galaxy S21 line-up.

The Galaxy S21, S21+ and S21 Ultra all feature new camera tech, 5G capabilities and an elegant new design - but won't come with a charger or headphones in the box.

Compared to last year's S20 range, the new phones are cheaper at launch, starting at around $1400 in New Zealand.

The latest Samsung phones were revealed during the Korean tech company's latest Galaxy Unpacked livestream.

A feature designed to appeal to vloggers in all S21 models is 'Director's View', which lets you cut between multiple camera views on the fly - including picture-in-a-picture with the front camera, for things like reaction videos.

A feature designed to appeal to vloggers in all S21 models is 'Director's View', which lets you cut between multiple camera views on the fly - including picture-in-a-picture with the front camera, for things like reaction videos.
The Galaxy S21 range's Director's View in use. Photo credit: Samsung

In terms of tech specs, both the S21 and S21+ feature Dynamic AMOLED 2X screens with an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate, 8GB RAM (LPDDR5) and 256GB internal storage. 

Both also have a 10MP front camera and a rear triple camera with a 12MP ultra wide, 12MP wide-angle and 64MP telephoto lens.

The differences between them are the display and battery size - 6.2-inch vs 6.7-inch, and 4000mAh vs 4800mAh.

The more expensive S21 Ultra comes in either a 256GB model with 12GB RAM, or a 512GB model with 16GB RAM, with a 6.8-inch display and a 5000mAh battery.

The Ultra's front camera is 40MP, while on the back it has a quad camera: 108MP wide-angle, 12MP ultra wide and two 10MP telephoto lenses. It allows filming in 4K at 60fps across all lenses and the capturing of 12 bit RAW file photos.

Compared with the Galaxy S20, the S21 Ultra also offers a 25 percent  brighter picture with 1500nits of peak brightness - the brightest on a Galaxy smartphone. 

The Ultra will also integrate S Pen usage - a first for a Galaxy. An existing pen from a Note or Tab device will work, or a new one can be bought as an additional purchase either on its own or with a carry case.

Last year Samsung phone colours were all about 'cloud', 'cosmic' and 'mystic', but in 2021 'phantom' is in. Most of the devices come in phantom black, phantom silver and phantom violet, with a few other options available.

The new design sees the camera bump moved closer to the edge of the phone than the S20 range, seemingly wrapping over the side and top of the device's upper rear left corner.

Samsung is not going to include a charging adaptor with the new Galaxy phones in their boxes - they'll come with a SIM ejector and USB-C to USB-C cable only.

Last year, Apple did away with charger bricks in the iPhone 12 range, also just providing a USB-C cable. The move was controversial and while a Samsung charging brick is cheaper than an Apple equivalent - you're said to be able to pick them up for $35 from the Samsung website - not providing them with a new phone may annoy some customers.

What may soften that blow is in New Zealand the S21 and S21+ models are retailing for $100 less than the S20 equivalents did at launch. The Ultra costs the same as last year's model at launch, but has double the memory - 256GB instead of 128GB as the lowest option.

The Galaxy S21 range will be released in Aotearoa on January 29 starting at the following prices:

  • S21: $1399
  • S21+: $1799
  • S21 Ultra: $2199

Pre-orders are open from today with a pair of Galaxy Buds Pro being given away free with some options. 

The latest edition of Samsung's earbuds were also announced at CES and come with an 11mm woofer and 6.5mm for what the company calls its "best audio experience yet - a dynamic, balanced sound".

They also have a new feature called Auto Switch, which is said to intelligently switch between devices automatically, even pausing and restarting media on one device to allow you to take a call on another.

The 2021 Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro range.
The Galaxy Buds Pro range. Photo credit: Samsung

The noise-cancelling earbuds feature other new technology to amplify voice while reducing other noises like wind, similar to competitor products from the likes of Huawei and Sony.

Each bud has two outer mics and one inner mic, a wind shield and a 'Voice Pickup Unit', and they feature Dolby Head Tracking technology for 360-degree audio.

Samsung says they'll give five hours of battery time with ANC or Bixby voice wake-up on, bumped up to 18 hours by using the charging case.