Galaxy Unpacked is always an exciting event for Samsung fans and especially for industry analysts like myself. Samsung takes the event as its own platform to share its latest enterprise and consumer smartphones, tablets, and plenty of different wearable solutions. Last year's event brought us the Note20 and Note20+, the Galaxy Z Fold 2, the Galaxy tab S7 and S7+, and the Galaxy Buds Live. It will be hard to top last year's Galaxy Unpacked event, but I don't think that will stop Samsung from trying.
Let's dig into the announcement. I’ll be following up later with a B-to-B focused analysis later.
Galaxy S21 5G and Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
The first announcement I want to touch on is in an all too familiar category. Ultra-premium smartphones isn't a new market for Samsung, and it shows. I spent a ton of time last year using the Galaxy S20. At this year Unpacked, I was excited to see how the Galaxy S21 lineup could build on the successes of the previous generation. For those unfamiliar, the S20 and Note20 line of smartphones represent the ultra-premium, best of the best smartphones that Samsung can offer. These phones come with bright, ultra-responsive displays, blazing fast chips, and long battery life to top it off.
The star of Galaxy Unpacked was the three new configurations of the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G and Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, which use the latest Android 11 OS. The three arrangements of the device are the Galaxy S21 5G with a 6.2" FHD (2400x1080), a 6.7" FHD (2400x1080), and there is a single 6.8" (3200x1440) WQHD Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G model. All of the Galaxy S21 5G systems come with an adaptive 120Hz display. I used the 120Hz display on the last Galaxy S20 models, and it was extremely responsive, so I expect a similar experience. You really need to use a 120Hz display to appreciate how different the experience feels.
Each one of the systems comes standard with a Snapdragon 888 5nm 64-bit octa-core processor. Both Galaxy S21 5G models are outfitted with 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM and can be purchased with128GB or 256GB of internal storage. The RAM and storage is an area where the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is a big step up from the other models. The Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G comes in two configurations: the first comes with 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM with 128GB or 256GB of storage, and the second comes outfitted with 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM with 512GB of storage. I love that we live in a world where a premium smartphone can hold nearly as much RAM and as much SD as a gaming PC. The 6.2" S21 5G model comes with a 4000mAh battery, the 6.7" S21 5G model comes with a 4800mAh battery, and finally, the S21 Ultra 5G comes with a 5000mAh battery.
The cameras that Samsung manages to squeeze into these smartphones are always top tier in the smartphone category, including photo and video performance.
Galaxy S21 5G Cameras –
The Galaxy S21 5G uses a singular front-facing camera and rear-facing three-camera system for photo and video.
- Front-facing camera: 10MP dual pixel AF, F2.2, 80-degree FOV
- First rear camera: Ultra-Wide 12MP, F2.2, 120-degree FOV
- Second rear camera: Wide Angle 12MP, F1.8, Dual Pixel AF
- Third rear camera: Telephoto 64MP, F2.0 Phase Detection AF, Hybrid Optic 3.0
- In addition to these specs, the Galaxy S21 5G supports 30x Space Zoom.
Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Cameras -
The Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is a good step up in camera performance compared to the Galaxy S21 5G. The Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G uses a singular front-facing camera and a quad rear camera system.
- Front-facing camera: 40MP Phase Detection AF, 80-degree FOV, F2.2
- First rear camera: Ultra-Wide 12MP Dual Pixel AF
- Second rear camera: Wide-angle 108MP Phase Detection AF, F1.8
- Third rear camera: Telephoto 1: 10MP Dual Pixel AF, Optical 3x, F2.4
- Fourth rear camera: Telephoto 2: 10MP Dual Pixel AF, Optical 10x, F4.9
A significant differentiation point from the Galaxy S21 5G compared to the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is the better camera solutions, including 100X Space Zoom, Laser AF Sensor, and dual telephoto lenses. Another differentiator with the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is using the S Pen via Wacom technology. The S21 Ultra 5G is also one of the first smartphones to support Wi-Fi 6E. The smartphones will be available in Phantom Black, Phantom Titanium, Phantom Navy, and Phantom Brown. Pre-orders for the systems will start on January 14th.
Galaxy Buds Pro
Samsung claims that the new Galaxy Buds Pro is its most premium earbuds it has ever released. I have to say, after reading the specs and watching the promotional video, I must agree initially. The Galaxy Buds Pro's new design looks a little sleeker than the last generation while keeping a similar quality design. I didn't think the design needed to change much, but it seems like the Galaxy Buds Pro internals got an upgrade from the Galaxy Buds Live. In my opinion, what makes a set of wireless earbuds great is substantial noise cancellation, excellent treble and bass, and a reliable microphone.
The new earbuds have an 11-millimeter woofer for enriched bass and sport a 6.5-millimeter tweeter for richer treble. What that means in laments terms is this audio experience is going to have better bass, clearer, and louder audio. With a large workforce still working remotely or in a hybrid environment, a good microphone on earbuds is essential. In general, earbuds are historically bad at microphone quality, so I wasn't expecting a significant improvement from Samsung on the Galaxy Buds Pro vs. Galaxy Buds Live. Samsung did add some new features to improve the microphone quality of the new earbuds. The additions include three microphones and a Voice Pickup Unit (VPU). The external microphones also use a signal to noise ratio rating of SNR, which also will help reduce background noise. Furthermore, Samsung also integrated its new Wind Shield technology, which should alleviate some issues while using the earbuds outdoors.
One interesting thing to point out is that the earbuds can detect when a user is speaking, and the earbuds will automatically cancel the noise cancellation capabilities and switch to ambient sound. The device allows the user to keep the earbuds in when talking to someone. I could have used this feature at the post office today when I got called into another line, and my noise-canceling earbuds blocked me from hearing the person behind me alerting me.
With the new Galaxy Buds Pro, you can expect 5 hours of battery life on a single charge with ANC enabled. You can also get an additional 13 hours of battery life from the charging case so effectively that 18 hours of uptime would charge the charging case. The new Galaxy Buds Pro will be available in 3 color waves, including phantom violet, phantom black, and phantom silver. Starting on January 14th, the earbuds will be available starting at $199.
With Galaxy Unpacked 2021 officially behind us, many devices launched that I can't wait to get my hands on. Samsung doubled down and shifted more chips into the table by launching its new S21 line of 5G capable devices. The smartphones have incredible displays, and I can't wait to test the new camera options with this lineup. The Galaxy Buds Pro could not come at a better time. With audio and video conferencing remaining white-hot as we still navigate through Covid-19, the need for premium noise-canceling earbuds with an excellent microphone remains steady. At $199, the starting price, I could see these replacing Apple Airpods Pro earbuds for many users, especially at 20% cheaper. But it’ll have to perform as I’m willing to pay more for better. We’ll see.
Galaxy Unpacked 2021 was another exciting event executed well by the team at Samsung. I will be following up with more of a B-to-B take later looking more cloesly into pen capabilities, new security chip and memory encryption.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.