At Galaxy Unpacked 2021, Samsung virtually launched the new Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+, Galaxy S21 Ultra, and the Galaxy Buds Pro and Galaxy SmartTag. I attended the event alongside Moor Insights & Strategy analyst Anshel Sag, and you can read my full take here.
I recently spent a few weeks using the Galaxy S21 Ultra as my primary business device, mainly using a mix of productivity and collaboration applications like Teams, WebEx, and Zoom and testing out new security features. Last year, I talked about how Samsung produced an incredible enterprise-ready device with the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. I expected the Samsung S21 Ultra Enterprise Edition to be a strong follow-up to last year's device. Over the last year, Samsung has set the standard for the ultimate enterprise smartphone, and I wanted to evaluate the new S21 Ultra from a pure enterprise perspective.
There's no doubt that the Galaxy S21 line makes for incredible, premium consumer devices, but the coveted enterprise market comes with some different, additional device requirements. Let's take a closer look at the new lineup of devices as Samsung released the Galaxy S21 Ultra Enterprise Edition and what Samsung has done to optimize it for enterprise customers.
Every flavor of 5G
The launch of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G – Enterprise Edition marked another major milestone on the march towards 5G ubiquity. It has been two years since most major carriers have announced plans for a 5G network, and in the U.S. now, every major city and carrier has 5G in some form or fashion with a web-based mmWave, Sub6 GHz, or both.
Last year, I mentioned that I consider the S20 the first "5G world phone" to support every flavor of 5G. This year, I feel the S21 is the first "Fully-capable 5G world phone". 5G networks being up and running worldwide is essential for enterprises in that if it sends its employees on work trips domestically or internationally, workers will have access to 5G coverage overseas. With the S21 Ultra, enterprise workers will have a phone that can take full advantage of the speedy networks. Carriers have been advancing to support this, and the S21 is more ready than ever to take office wherever you are. Another benefit of 5G is speed and low latency, which, with mmWave networks, is faster and much more secure than Wi-Fi. Speed, of course, benefits workers in that they have a higher probability of having a good collaboration experience and if tethered to their notebook, an office experience making collaboration and simple file cloud-sharing much easier.
As more businesses go wireless with remote work and hybrid arrangements, congested and saturated networks become inevitable. One major plus to the Samsung S21 Ultra Enterprise Edition is that unlike the standard S21 that only has Wi-Fi 6, the flagship device has Wi-Fi 6E, which adds value in various ways. Wi-Fi 6E means less congestion, less fighting for Wi-Fi, and getting enormously better Wi-Fi speeds on your smartphone device for little to no interruptions from daily duties.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra offers the latest and greatest connectivity technologies, ultra-wideband along with Wi-Fi 6E and 5G. With ultra-wideband, you can share files easily or access buildings or office spaces saving money on key cards for yourself and employees. The Galaxy S21 is the first smartphone ever to support the network giving it more capacity and lower latency. If 5G is in your area, which it most likely is, then the Galaxy S21 Ultra enables you to be more collaborative and practical with a plethora of 5G coverage options.
The S-Pen and Dex
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is also the first S-series device ever with S-Pen support. Sure, there isn't a place to put your S-Pen unless you buy a case that holds it, but don't let that stop you just yet. Considering the S-Pen is an add-on, it is nice to have, niche feature on the S21. I could see enterprise users using the capability for creativity and also collaboration to streamline workflows. I would personally use the S-Pen to sign documents, edit forms, or clean up a quick PowerPoint presentation.
The new Dex (desktop experience) application is a welcomed addition. Samsung launched Wireless Dex with the Samsung Galaxy S21 to improve its Dex desktop environment, and it works great. The Wireless Dex application allows your phone to wireless mirror onto a compatible display using screen share, screen mirroring, or Miracast. The unique desktop experience is more comparable with the Chrome OS but is quickly and arguably the best way to exchange files from your smartphone to your desktop of choice, whether it's Windows, Linux, or macOS. There are a few compatibility requirements to use Dex. First, you need to find a compatible display. Samsung is a global leader with its Smart TVs display technology, so if you are uncertain of which TV is compatible with DEX, you can either go to the Samsung website or click your Dex application on your S21 phone then click the more information link. If you have a TV that supports screen mirroring, screen sharing, or Miracast, try that before investing in a new TV.
One of the most notable features for Samsung wireless text is that you can plug in a standard USB keyboard or mouse into one of the USBs into the back of the tv, and this allows you to use them as input devices, turning your phone into a computer or use a Bluetooth Keyboard and mouse. The wireless text helps business users multitask on multiple applications as they are all open simultaneously to work together to appear side by side and appear as applications do like on a Windows PC. If you prefer, you can use an adapter like a USB-C to type A adapter and plug it in your phone. The adapters would be most helpful if your TV only has one USB input, or you could turn on the 'use phone as touchpad' as a mouse and keep your USB input slot open.
I have had issues in the past, where some phones would be unusable when screen mirroring or plugged into a compatible laptop from your phone. The S21 Ultra is also fully functional while screen mirroring. That means you can call, text, and anything else without going in and out of the Dex app. Now, that sounds suited for the enterprise. You can even use applications like Snapchat to take photos of yourself and text back when taking a break or playing simple games like Candy Crush, which seems playable with no lag for me, but a game like Call of Duty Mobile isn't going to work via Dex.
When I was using the Dex application and playing back a random 4K video of nature, I did not find any stuttering, latency issues, or frame drop, even when playing around on my phone. Yes, that means you can even be on a video call on your phone and see yourself and the call participants on the monitor without encountering any latency.
So, that what a great sign, which means you can share photos and videos, slideshows, and other needed work for creators and enterprise duties. When you play the video or audio file, you will hear the audio from the TV you are screen sharing on, not the device. So, no need to pair it with a Bluetooth device unless needed.
With the addition of S-Pen support and a much-improved Dex experience, enterprise users will be happy with the useability of the new S21 Ultra. From no latency video calling to multiple applications up while still playing on your phone, all the way to using wired or wireless keyboard and mouse.
Enterprise-grade security and reliability
With distributed and remote work becoming the new standard, improving the functionality and security of teams scattered worldwide is essential. Many sensitive work streams run off our phones. These streams include sensitive information like company financials, product roadmaps, and more. The Samsung Galaxy S21 protects against fault and side-channel attacks using multilayered protection at the software and hardware levels. Samsung allows the secure memory to store sensitive data safely by inputting privacy features like private sharing to enable the user to have protected files. Whether that means sharing images, videos, documents with friends, colleagues, or clients without worrying about them getting into the wrong hands, this removes metadata and gives the users the option to set a timer for how long someone has an image, video, or document. As I mentioned before in my S21 base model review, please think of this like Snapchat; you can share photos and videos for a short duration until it disappears from the other user's device permanently.
Samsung's signature defense-grade security platform is called Samsung Knox Vault and integrated into the SoC. How Samsung does this is by adding tamper-resistant secure memory to enable the extra layer of protection. The tamper-resistant memory allows devices to be managed and secure throughout its life cycles to help organize Enterprise Solutions. If the device was to be lost, encryption enables the device's content inaccessible until it's found. If permanently lost, then you can disable the device using Knox. All these features make the Galaxy S21 Ultra one of the most secure smartphones. Knox uses the fingerprint reader, which has improved rather significantly with 1.7x more biometric data captured, 77% larger fingerprinted reader area, and 50% faster to read, and it shows. Samsung brought a better way of securing information for all businesses worldwide with the Galaxy S21.
The S21 line comes with three rear incredible cameras to pair with the device. The 12MP Ultra-Wide F2.2 camera, 12MP Wide-angle Dual Pixel AF F1.8 camera, and Telephoto 64MP Optic 3x F2.0 camera is unmatched when it comes to any other cellular device on the market. The camera gets an upgrade as the front camera is now a 40MP Phase Detection AF F2.2 camera joined with a quad-camera instead of a triple rear camera of the other two models. If you're like me, you may have Zoom, Teams, & WebEx meetings each day of the week, and the upgraded selfie cam will make for a sharper video conferencing experience. Other camera solutions include a 12MP Ultra-Wide Dual Pixel AF F2.2, 10MP Telephoto Dual Pixel AF F2.4 with Optical 3x, 108MP Wide-angle Phase Detection AF F1.8, and last but not least, a Telephoto 10MP Dual Pixel AF F4.9 with Optical 10x. The S21 Ultra also allows 100X Space Zoom and a laser AF Sensor for better stability. Samsung also made sure to call out its first-ever 4K 60FPS on all cameras. Additionally, the phone is 8K compatible at 24 fps.
With all, the ability to use so many options with zooming in 10x, 30x, and even 100x will allow the multiple AI cameras in real-time to record from the rear and front-facing cameras at the same time using the 'Directors View' and 'Vlogger view.' I could see this being used by many during the pandemic, such as electricians, plumbers, and others in an industrial-related field when needing to send recordings with an overlay to explain in detail about issues when social distancing at someone's home. Additionally, the ability to zoom in while using night mode to take photos or videos of machinery or fixing areas will be much easier. These capabilities help workers collaborate with their colleagues and whom they are helping. The many options that allow the enterprise worker to reach out through social media and their communities without a professional camera crew to deliver high-quality footage from their phone and the abilities to edit and deliver through self-promotion have never been more comfortable and cost-effective. Finally, social media influencers are all the rage these days and probably will be until the end of days. If you don't care about having 'blue' text and genuinely want to invest in your content production, this phone has it all made and ready for you.
Additionally, the new Multi-Mic Recording can utilize both the Galaxy Buds Pro to deliver precise and responsive video calls if you chose to go down that path. You need the best in noise cancellation and pair ability to go on your meetings or just sitting at your desk without others hearing any interruptions in the background.
Even though the S21 Ultra uses some power-hungry components like the WQHD+ 120Hz display and the big 5000mAh battery, this phone will last all day, even with Dex's occasional use and playing games. The S21 lineup offers a max charging of 25 watts, meaning within 30 minutes, you will have 50% battery life. The phones support wireless charging at 15 watts and reverse charging for Galaxy Buds on the phone's back at only 4.5 watts. As I mentioned in my previous consumer review of the S21 and S21 Ultra, the battery life will improve overtime as the phone optimizes based on how and when you use it.
The ability to charge your Galaxy Buds and charge your phone in less than an hour makes all the difference between being a sitting duck at work or blazing through the to-do list. Again, I can see many enterprise workers benefitting from using the S21 Ultra. Especially industrial workers using this phone for the battery's longevity while spending 12+ hours a day in the field.
In my opinion, the new Galaxy S21 Enterprise Edition is going to give enterprise users plenty of performance and features to improve their collaboration and productivity massively. Samsung is doing all it can to encourage more collaboration and continue to deliver connectivity to everyone's work experience by announcing the Galaxy S21 Enterprise Edition. The new device is agile enough to suit various enterprise users ranging from social media influencers, hybrid-working employees, those in the industrial settings, and even those who are starting up or maintaining a business to self-promote. The Enterprise Edition is a complete package of mobile technology and services. That's why Galaxy S21 offers the latest and most remarkable connectivity technologies like ultra-wideband, Wi-Fi 6E, and 5G.
The S21 Ultra allows you to carry your business in your pocket and work seamlessly. With Dex, you can complete an email you started on your phone or drag and drop files between your phone and PC. You can send files to your colleagues, may that be images, videos, or slideshows, without the thought of your files getting into the wrong hands with Samsung's signature defense-grade technology - Knox Vault. Additionally, with Enterprise Edition, you get a full year of Knox suite free at no additional or incremental cost with renewal discounts. A two-year product lifecycle with guaranteed SMR support for five years, four years of monthly updates one year of quarterly updates. The Galaxy S21 Ultra is a device that offers ultra-premium security, connectivity, and performance for an unmatched work experience.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy game reviewer Zane Pickett contributed significantly to this review.