(Pocket-lint) - Samsung has announced the Galaxy 21 series, with the S21 Ultra still sitting at the top of the pile as the premium flagship for 2021. At the same time, Samsung is making all these devices a little more affordable, bringing down the prices slightly.
That also see some changes to the S21 and S21+ that might seem uncharacteristic for Samsung. The big move here is that the Galaxy S21 and S21+ now have Full HD+ displays, rather than the Quad HD+ that Samsung has been packing in for a while.
That might not bother some: Full HD+ is the default setting on Samsung devices anyway and it's questionable whether there's any real benefit to a higher resolution, especially on the smallest device, the regular S21, with a 6.2-inch display. The S21+ will get a 6.7-inch display, only slightly smaller than the Ultra, but arguably, you could get some benefit from a higher resolution in some situations.
The good new is, however, that all the S21 models have adaptive refresh rate on their displays, with the S21 and S21+ able to switch between 48-120Hz to suit the content on the screen, which will save battery life, while delivering smoother scrolling around apps and supported games.
But at its heart, the Samsung Galaxy S21 is a flagship refresh. Samsung says it has a new 5nm chip and that's the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or the Exynos 2100, depending on where you live. This is common to all the S21 devices, but the RAM sticks to 8GB, with 128 or 256GB storage options, slightly below the Ultra.
The camera arrangement also isn't as complex as the Ultra, sticking to a similar solution to 2020, with a triple camera consisting of a 12-megapixel main camera, 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera and a 64-megapixel telephoto, also offering 8K video capture. There's 30X Space Zoom, with a new Zoom Lock function using AI to reduce the shake for better images. The front camera sticks to 10-megapixels, so you can see on the spec sheet how it sits under the Ultra in terms of the camera.
However, the S21 models all benefit from new software features on the camera, so the experience will be broadly the same - that will include more options in Single Take mode, a Director's View and Vlogger View, as well as 4K 60fps video capture from all of the cameras. The adoption of fewer cameras is likely to show in the overall zoom performance compared to the Ultra, but we wouldn't expect too much of a difference in the overall experience from the other cameras.
Premium features will stay in place, such as IP68 waterproofing and the stereo speaker experience, but the big shift in design - apart from the new camera housing that's integrated with the display, will be the move to a flat display.
For a number of years, Samsung has pushed the curved edges to the display as its signature. Now widely copied, Samsung is moving back to flat for the S20 and S21+. That might make the phones look less premium than before, but some will appreciate the practical benefits it brings - it's better for gaming, giving more reliable touch space at the edge of the screen.
There's a 4000mAh battery in the S21, while the S21+ gets a 4800mAh battery; the S21+ also gets UWB - ultra wide-band - which is expected to work with SmartThings Find and the new SmartTag, as well as allowing you to use the S21+ as a digital car key.
Certainly, there's a feeling that the S21 and S21+ continue what the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE started and that puts them in an interesting position. The S20 FE was widely praised for offering a flagship experience at an affordable price; the question is whether people will opt for the new Galaxy S21 models, or wait to see if there's a Galaxy S21 FE in Samsung's future that will save them some money.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 will be available from £769/€849, the S21+ will be available from £949/€1049. Both will be on sale on 29 January, with preorders starting on 14 January.