“Over the past year, mobile technology has taken center stage in everyday life as people work remotely and spend more time at home,” said Samsung. “The accelerated transition to a mobile-first world brings with it the need for devices that can transform everyday life into an extraordinary experience.”
Samsung will likely have three different models of the flagship phone: 6.2-inch S21, 6.7-inch S21 Plus and 6.8-inch S21 Ultra. The devices are expected to look large, but have larger camera modules, which increases their photo and video capabilities.
The company may also discontinue the Galaxy Note line this year and replace it with S Pen support on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Early reproductions do not show a visible location for a pen, which may mean that it must be placed separately from the phone when not in use. On Samsung’s popular – but niche – Note layout, the pen slides into the device for storage.
Samsung will also hold a press conference at CES on January 11. At this event, it is expected to focus on TV and household appliances, as has been done in recent years. Unpacked will be the last day of CES.
A January 14 date for unpacking comes earlier than normal for Samsung. In the past, the company typically unveiled its latest flagship phone in February, either just before or during the Mobile World Congress, and then released the device in March or even April.
Reclaim the ground
Samsung announced last year’s Galaxy S20 series and Galaxy Z Flip collapsible on February 11 in what was one of the technology industry’s latest personal events before the new coronavirus pandemic forced borders to close and governments to issue home orders. The Galaxy S20 devices, all of which came with 5G, began pre-ordering on February 21st and hit stores on March 6th.
The day after the unpacking, the organizers canceled the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, which was planned for later in February. At that time, COVID-19 had infected more than 42,000 people and claimed more than 1,000 lives. This number has risen to around 85 million infections and about 1.8 million deaths, as the world catches a crippling new wave of the virus.
Samsung, like most technology companies, has struggled to sell its expensive smartphones during the pandemic. While it was one of the first companies to release a 5G phone, it was surpassed by Huawei as the world’s largest phone manufacturer at the time, it would normally have received a boost from Galaxy S sales. The Chinese handset maker became the world’s largest smartphone maker in the second quarter, the first time in nine years that Samsung or Apple had not held that title. Analysts expected Apple to become the world’s second largest 5G phone provider by 2020 – with less than three months of sales. That put Samsung, once the leader with the new connection, in third place.
Losing its position at the top of the smartphone market has led Samsung to make changes, including keeping Unpacked about a month earlier than normal. Samsung has also changed its plans to deal with changing consumer preferences during the pandemic. In September, it introduced the Galaxy S20 FE, a cheaper model for its flagship smartphone series. The phone started at $ 700 – or $ 300 less than the usual S20 costs – and came when the pandemic called for demand for cheaper devices.
Samsung recovered overall in the third quarter to once again become the best smartphone provider as Huawei struggled to survive among US sanctions. Samsung in late October reported its highest quarterly revenue ever, thanks to a “significant increase in consumer demand” for smartphones, computers and other products.
Focus for 2021
Tae-moon Roh, Samsung’s president and head of mobile communications, published a blog post in mid-December detailing the company’s plans for 2021. Along with saying the company would share more in January, Roh said Samsung in 2021 would– probable code to lower prices – as well as put more emphasis on the camera and video options in the devices. The company will also bring features from the Galaxy Note devices to other phones in its portfolio, which will likely include S Pen support on its upcoming Galaxy S21 phones.
“We have never believed in a mobile experience that suits everyone, and we never will,” Roh wrote. He added that Samsung “is working on revolutionary advances in 5G,” artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things “that will redefine the parameters of what mobile can do and give consumers the freedom to tailor their mobile experiences to suit their lives – not the other way around.”
Along with new connectivity and AI features, Samsung plans in 2021 to make it “easier to quickly find the things that matter most, from the keys to your wallet – even your family’s pets.” The company is expected to introduce Tile-style physical smart trackers, possibly called Galaxy Smart Tags, to help people keep track of their assets using BlueTooth. Apple has long been rumored to be working on its own AirTags, but it has not yet unveiled anything in that arena.
Return to CNET for full coverage of Samsung’s event on January 14.