This story was originally published and last updated .
There is no denying that the Galaxy S21 series took some heavy inspiration from the current Note handset – both in form and function. Unlike last year, there is a stronger distinction between the three Galaxy S21
Honestly, we saw this come a mile away when Apple took the step and dropped the standard in-box charger with its latest iPhones. For the new Galaxy S21 series, everything Samsung gives you is a USB-C cable, and gives you the option to either use an adapter you already own, or buy a new one. Although it will be an extra purchase, at least with Samsung we do not also have to deal with the headache of a proprietary charging port.
In terms of charging technology per se, the S21 Ultra has lost support for faster 45W charging and settles for the same modest 25W speeds of the S21 and S21 +. With last year’s S20 Ultra, you can possibly get a 45W adapter separately, but honestly the included 25W brick turned out to be quite capable at the time.
The ideal resolution for a screen on the phone has long been a polarizing theme, and it gets more intense here with Samsung’s decision to switch QHD panels to FHD on the S21 and S21 +. The company’s flagship (including the S21 Ultra) is standard at 1080p anyway, and none of them (except the latest Ultra) can handle high refresh rates in top QHD resolutions – providing a strong argument for lower FHD resolution.
Monitors have long been a highlight feature on Samsung phones, so this lower resolution of the latest flagships could start a disturbing new trend – one where we will see the lines between budget flagships and genuine flagships are becoming increasingly blurred.
Lower RAM capacity
Samsung probably realized that the call to make 12GB of RAM on the base line for the entire Galaxy S20 line was a bit overkill, and has since gone back to cover it to 8GB this time. Once again, the S21 Ultra gets preferred treatment and is able to retain the more spacious 12GB and 16GB options, with this change only for the two cheaper models.
Although there is a big drop in paper, the lower RAM capacity should probably still be sufficient, considering international S20 models that are standard 8 GB without noticeable bottlenecks – our thorough review of the S21 and S21 + should give you a more complete picture.
Ok, so plastic backs are another polarizing theme even for us here at Android Police, possibly even more than 1080p screens. While we actually liked the implementation on the standard Note20, it still felt like Samsung was just squeezing pennies on its $ 1000, supposedly premium phone. Taking a page out of its own book, Samsung has thrown a plastic back on the non-S21, while the other two models still use glass. At least the frame is still carved out of metal, so the durability has not beaten.
Whether you prefer a plastic back (Samsung uses a fairly high quality, for what it’s worth), can be very subjective, but what the switch says for sure is that the Galaxy S21 is now one step closer to the S20 FE.
No storage extension or MST
Apart from all the major ticket changes, Samsung has also excluded the microSD card slot from the entire S21 line. Galaxy phones have so far been among the last few flagships that still allow you to plug in a card to add another terabyte of extra storage space – but no longer. With all these new phones you are limited to only their built-in storage: for the S21 and S21 + it means 128 GB and 256 GB options, while Ultra lets you choose between 256 GB and 512 GB.
Samsung has also dropped MST, which helped define Samsung Pay by supporting existing payment terminals that lacked explicit NFC support by mimicking the magnetic stripe on a physical credit card. With the growing ubiquitous presence of NFC-enabled payment infrastructure, it threatens to leave MST obsolete. However, this change does not apply to all markets, and some international S21 models still retain the MST functionality.
Separately, we learned that the base S21 does not support UWB for future applications such as Digital Key, while the other two phones do. Although probably not that big, it makes the cheapest Galaxy S model feel like a second-class citizen in Samsung’s top 2021 series.
Many of you must be willing to point out that these so-called downgrades do not really matter that much when you consider the lower entry price and all the other new features we get this year – I hear you loud and clear. While it’s true that these regressions actually have a role to play in bringing that price down, some of them come across as Samsung’s way of forcing its will on buyers, for which Apple is similarly criticized. With these choices, Samsung is either taking the options you already had, or pushing you to upgrade to Ultra.