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Samsung has unveiled its latest flagship phones, the Galaxy S21 line, that cost less than last year’s models.
In a nod to the economic hardship created by COVID-19, the new S21 with a 6.2-inch AMOLED screen starts at $800, and the S21+ with a 6.7-inch screen goes for $1,000, both $200 less than last year’s equivalent models. Meanwhile, the S21 Ultra with a 6.8-inch display starts at $1,200, also $200 cheaper.
Samsung is also, initially, offering a discount, giving customers who preorder the S21 a $100 credit, the S21+ a $150 credit, and the Ultra a $200 credit. Credits can be used to pay for Samsung merchandise, including TVs, tablets, and other gadgets. Preorders for the phones begin on Jan. 14, and the phones arrive in stores and for delivery on Jan. 29.
The moves, announced Thursday, come after Samsung’s S20 line, introduced in February, fell flat with consumers. The phones had higher prices just as the pandemic decimated economies worldwide and caused layoffs. Global smartphone sales plunged 20% in the second quarter of 2020 and another 6% in the third quarter, according to Gartner.
Additionally, the S20 Ultra model had new zoom lens technology that suffered from glitches with focusing. Samsung had to rush out a lower-price model in September, the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition at $700, to bolster sales.
In addition to lower prices, Samsung’s new 2021 phones have had their external designs slightly tweaked from last year’s models. Instead of a rectangular camera bump in the middle of the phone’s reverse side, the camera bump now blends into one of the device’s upper corners, creating a smoother appearance. The phones also come in a new color for 2021, violet with gold trim, in addition to the usual silver, black, and pink models.
(The Galaxy S21 Ultra, in black, compared to last year’s S20 Ultra, in silver.)
All three new phones are powered by Qualcomm’s latest mobile processor chip, the Snapdragon 888, and have 5G capable modems. They also run Android 11, the latest version of Google’s mobile software. Like last year’s models they include extreme zoom cameras that can magnify an image in size by 30 to 100 times, but Samsung says the phones have improved focusing technology, including a laser-assisted focus on the Ultra model.
In a feature that will help mask-wearing users, Samsung included a fingerprint reader under the display screen for unlocking the phone in addition to using facial recognition via the camera and a traditional PIN code.
The Ultra is also compatible with Samsung’s stylus, the S-Pen, for the first time. That feature on phones had previously been available only for Samsung’s Galaxy Note line. But unlike the Note, the S21 Ultra does not come with an S-Pen.
Samsung is following Apple’s lead by shipping its new phones without a power charging brick or wired headphones in the box. The two larger S21 models incorporate a wireless technology used in the latest iPhones called ultra-wideband that can be used to unlock cars and control other nearby devices.