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Missing in action: The smartphones we didn't see in 2021
2021 played host to some fantastic phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S21 series, Google Pixel 6 duo, Xiaomi Mi 11 family, third-generation Galaxy foldables, and OnePlus 9 series. Other great devices also went under the radar this year.
In saying so, there were several phones we were expecting to see at the start of 2021 that never materialized. Whether they were heavily-rumored devices that were canceled or delayed, or just phones we expected to see based on the usual annual release schedule, these were the biggest missing phones of 2021.
Google Pixel Fold
One foldable phone we thought we’d see in 2021 was the Google Pixel Fold, as leaks and code commits pointed to it multiple times. Serial tipster Evan Blass and Korea’s The Elec outlet even claimed a launch before the end of the year.
See also: The best foldable phones you can get
This clearly hasn’t happened, but we at least expected a tease or product demo from Google at its Pixel 6 series event in October. That didn’t happen either. So what actually transpired? We don’t know for sure, but one source claimed that the device has been canceled.
A smaller Google Pixel
Google offered the Pixel 5a and Pixel 6 series in 2021, but they’re all rather large phones. The situation is unprecedented for the company, as it’s the first time it hasn’t offered a more compact device in a long time.
Whether it’s a Pixel 5a 4G, a smaller Pixel 6 than the one we eventually got, or even making the Pixel 5a the XL model and releasing a smaller Pixel 5a, we would’ve welcomed another compact offering. But we hope Google has something in the works for next year.
HUAWEI Mate 50 series
The HUAWEI Mate line has been an annual fixture for years now, dating back to the likes of the Ascend Mate and Mate 7 days. The US trade ban couldn’t stop 2019’s Mate 30 series and 2020’s Mate 40 line from launching either, albeit without Google support.
Additional reading: The best HUAWEI phones you can buy
However, we haven’t seen any Mate 50 devices from the company in 2021. A report out of China suggested that this is due to a shortage of Kirin chips for the family, although we saw HUAWEI offer the Snapdragon 888 (albeit a 4G variant) in the P50 Pro.
What does this mean for 2022 then? A HUAWEI executive reportedly said that the Mate series would see a launch next year. This also comes after the company confirmed that the P50 series, which launched in China earlier this year, would be released globally in early 2022.
LG Velvet 2
LG made the decision to exit the smartphone business earlier in 2021, bringing to an end a respectable run in the industry. The decision came as the company was putting the finishing touches on a follow-up to the LG Velvet. This phone was purportedly codenamed Rainbow and was tipped to be called the LG Velvet 2 Pro upon its release.
Related: The best LG phones you can still buy
An image of the device by Twitter tipster FrontTron showed a phone with a rainbow-like shimmer on a white back, along with rear cameras that bring to mind the LG Velvet’s raindrop rear cameras. They further claimed that LG sold roughly 3,000 units to employees in Korea.
So what kind of phone would we have ended up with if it saw the light of day? Well, the device would’ve reportedly featured a Snapdragon 888 SoC, 6.8-inch 120Hz OLED panel, a 4,500mAh battery, and a versatile triple rear camera system (64MP main, 12MP ultra-wide, 8MP 3x zoom). Pretty good for a 2021 flagship, then.
The other major launch that LG was forced to cancel in 2021 after its exit was a rollable phone. Yes, this device’s existence was first teased in late 2020 before the firm gave us a fleeting look at it during CES 2021. Its main selling point was a rollable screen that extended from the right, giving users a tablet-sized display to work with.
Rollable coverage: Oppo’s rollable phone is pure magic, and I can’t wait to buy one
At the time of the reveal, LG’s Ken Hong was quoted as saying that it would launch later in 2021. This of course would not happen due to the company’s exit from the smartphone business. But much like the LG Velvet 2 Pro, it was later reported that LG sold the rollable phone to employees.
It’s a real shame this was added to the missing phones pile, as we’ve yet to see a commercial rollable phone on the market. Sure, for all we know it might have been awful, but we would’ve loved to find out.
OnePlus 9T series
OnePlus has offered a T series flagship ever since the OnePlus 3T launched back in November 2016. It later expanded to a vanilla T series phone and a T Pro device in late 2019. So color us surprised when the OnePlus 9T series was missing in action, with the OnePlus 9RT coming instead (albeit as more of a sequel to the OnePlus 9R).
We first heard about a T series phone being skipped when leakers claimed there wouldn’t be a Pro T-series model. But this was followed by OnePlus co-founder Pete Lau saying there wouldn’t be any T-series phones at all in the second half of 2021. Lau didn’t give a reason for this turn of events, although we imagine that the global chip shortage likely played a role.
realme 9 series
realme traditionally launches two mainline numbered phone families each year, such as the realme 1 and 2 in 2018, the realme 3 and 5 in 2019, and the realme 6 and 7 last year. We got the realme 8 series earlier in 2021, but what happened to the realme 9 family?
Unfortunately, realme confirmed back in September that the realme 9 range was postponed to 2022 due to the global chip shortage. There’s no word on what these missing phones would look like, although our own Dhruv Bhutani thought the brand should’ve delivered plenty more polish in his realme 8 Pro review, so perhaps some extra time in the oven is a good idea.
Samsung Galaxy Note 21
Arguably our biggest absentee of 2021 was the Galaxy Note 21. The first hints that the Note would go missing this year actually came in August 2020, when The Elec claimed that Samsung didn’t have confirmed plans for a Galaxy Note in 2021 yet.
This saga evolved over the months, as tipsters and additional news outlets asserted that the Galaxy Note might not appear in 2021. Finally, it was reported in March this year that Samsung’s DJ Koh told shareholders the Galaxy Note would skip a year and launch in 2022 instead.
Ultimately, when Samsung held its Unpacked event in August/September 2021, the Galaxy Note 21 was nowhere to be found. And between reports of its foldables selling well and Galaxy S22 Ultra renders showing a phone with an S Pen slot, we aren’t holding our breath for a Note next year either.
Which phone did you want to see most in 2021?
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