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Samsung Galaxy S21 buyer's guide: Everything you need to know

Welcome to your Galaxy S21 guide that contains all the info you need, including specs, pricing, release dates, and more.
By
June 1, 2022
Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S21 Plus vs S21 Ultra 3
David Imel / Android Authority

The Samsung Galaxy S21 series is the 2021 flagship family from the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer. In 2020, Samsung tried to mostly appeal just to the ultra-premium buyer, but the 2021 Galaxy S21 series is a bit more well-rounded.

Since the launch of the Galaxy S22 series, though, Samsung has ceased production of the Galaxy S21 series. You’ll still be able to find brand new models from third-party retailers, but the stock will continue to dwindle throughout 2022. Regardless, we’re here to help you navigate the series and find the phone that’s best for you (and your wallet). We’ve compiled all the info you could ever want to know about the Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21 Plus, and Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Editor’s note: This Samsung Galaxy S21 buyer’s guide is current as of June 2022. We will update it with new content regularly.


Samsung Galaxy S21, S21 Plus, and S21 Ultra at a glance

Samsung launched the Galaxy S21 series on January 14, 2021. That’s a much earlier date than usual for a Galaxy S launch. This is perhaps partly because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Pre-orders for the three phones in the series opened on January 14, and the devices hit store shelves on Friday, January 29, 2021, in the US and across Europe.

On February 9, 2022, Samsung launched the Galaxy S22 series, which signaled the end of the Galaxy S21 series. Going forward, Samsung will focus on the S22 series and cease new productions of Galaxy S21 models.

Galaxy S21 Ultra

If you want the most powerful phone in the series, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is for you. It comes with the largest display at 6.8-inches, the biggest battery at 5,000mAh, and the best camera setup with a primary 108MP sensor. It also comes with as much as 16GB of RAM. However, it’s also the most expensive with a starting price of $1,199 (€1,249 / £1,149). Note that this phone received our Editor’s Choice award and was selected by our readers as the best phone of 2021.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Samsung's best-ever camera system on one of its best-ever phones.
If you want the most powerful phone in Samsung's Galaxy S21 series, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is for you. It comes with the largest display at 6.8-inches, the biggest battery at 5,000mAh, and the best camera setup with a primary 108MP sensor. It also comes with as much as 16GB of RAM. However, it's also the most expensive with a starting price of $1,199.

Galaxy S21 Plus

The Galaxy S21 Plus is the middle child. It features a slightly smaller 6.7-inch display and a 4,800mAh battery. It has three rear cameras instead of five and only 8GB of RAM. However, because you’re losing out on some of those high-end features, the entry-level price comes down significantly to $999 (€1,049 / £949).

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus Press Image
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus
The middle child in the Galaxy S21 family.
The Galaxy S21 Plus is the middle child of Samsung's Galaxy S21 series. It features a 6.7-inch display and a 4,800mAh battery. It has three rear cameras and 8GB of RAM.

Galaxy S21

Finally, the vanilla Galaxy S21 is the smallest and weakest of the three. On the plus side, you get a more palm-friendly 6.2-inch display and basically the same specs as the Galaxy S21 Plus. You do need to sacrifice battery capacity by a bit, though, as the Galaxy S21 only has a 4,000mAh cell. The rear is also made out of “Glasstic” rather than true glass. Your wallet will be happy, however, because the starting price of the phone is just $799 (€849 / £769). Also, this phone received our Recommended badge.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Press Image
Samsung Galaxy S21
One of the best affordable flagships of 2021
The vanilla Galaxy S21 is the smallest and most affordable of the three Samsung Galaxy S21 series phones. You do get a palm-friendly 6.2-inch display and basically the same specs as the Galaxy S21 Plus. You do need to sacrifice battery capacity by a bit, though, as the Galaxy S21 only has a 4,000mAh cell. Your wallet will be happy, however, because the starting price of the phone is just $799.

Are the Galaxy S21 phones worth buying?

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus back camera macro
David Imel / Android Authority

Because Samsung is no longer making Galaxy S21 phones, buying one won’t be as easy as buying a Galaxy S22 model. Since the Galaxy S22 series is the same price as the Galaxy S21 series, we recommend most buyers grab a Galaxy S22 model instead.

However, there are a few reasons you could want a Galaxy S21 model over the 2022 devices. First, the batteries in the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus are bigger than those in the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22 Plus. Second, a Galaxy S21 from a third-party vendor will likely be cheaper than a Galaxy S22 — especially if you buy one used. Third, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has a variant with 16GB of RAM, while the Galaxy S22 Ultra maxes out at 12GB of RAM. With all that in mind, the Galaxy S21 devices could still be of interest to certain buyers.

One year later: Is the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra still worth buying?

Basically, all three phones are still great. They still have very fast processors, great cameras, elegant designs, and terrific software. Granted, the hardware inside the Galaxy S22 series is slightly better across the board, but that doesn’t mean the Galaxy S21 series is suddenly no good. If you can get one at a decent price, it would be a good buy.

Also, do keep in mind that Samsung has launched a “Fan Edition” in the Galaxy S21 series: the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE. Although this phone arrived much later than expected, it is still worth a look, especially if the $799 entry price for a Galaxy S21 is still a bit too high for your budget.


Samsung Galaxy S21 series specs

Samsung Galaxy S21Samsung Galaxy S21 PlusSamsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Display
Samsung Galaxy S21
6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED
Flat FHD+
2,400 x 1,080 at 421ppi
Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate
HDR10+ certified
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus
6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED
Flat FHD+
2,400 x 1,080 at 394ppi
Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate
HDR10+ certified
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED
Curved WQHD+
3,200 x 1,440 at 515ppi
Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate
HDR10+ certified
Processor
Samsung Galaxy S21
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or Samsung Exynos 2100
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or Samsung Exynos 2100
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or Samsung Exynos 2100
RAM
Samsung Galaxy S21
8GB
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus
8GB
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
12 or 16GB
Storage
Samsung Galaxy S21
128 or 256GB
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus
128 or 256GB
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
128, 256, or 512GB
MicroSD
Samsung Galaxy S21
No
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus
No
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
No
Battery
Samsung Galaxy S21
4,000mAh
Fast wired and wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus
4,800mAh
Fast wired and wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
5,000mAh
Fast wired and wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging
Cameras
Samsung Galaxy S21
Rear:
- Wide-angle: 12MP, ƒ/1.8, 1.8µm with OIS and dual-pixel AF
- Telephoto: 64MP, ƒ/2.0, 0.8µm with OIS and phase-detection AF
- Ultra-wide: 12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.4µm with 120-degree FoV

3x hybrid optical/digital zoom
30x "Space Zoom"

Front:
- 10MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.22µm, with dual-pixel AF
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus
Rear:
- Wide-angle: 12MP, ƒ/1.8, 1.8µm with OIS and dual-pixel AF
- Telephoto: 64MP, ƒ/2.0, 0.8µm with OIS and phase-detection AF
- Ultra-wide: 12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.4µm with 120-degree FoV

3x hybrid optical/digital zoom
30x "Space Zoom"

Front:
- 10MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.22µm, with dual-pixel AF
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Rear:
- Wide-angle: 108MP, ƒ/1.8, 0.8µm with OIS and phase-detection AF
- Telephoto: 10MP, ƒ/2.4, 1.22µm with OIS, dual-pixel AF, and 3x optical zoom
- Telephoto: 10MP, ƒ/4.9, 1.22µm with OIS, dual-pixel AF, and 10x optical zoom
- Ultra-wide: 12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.4µm with dual-pixel AF and a 120-degree FoV
- Laser AF sensor

10x optical zoom
100x "Space Zoom"

Front:
- 40MP, ƒ/2.2, 0.7µm, with phase-detection AF
Connectivity
Samsung Galaxy S21
4G LTE support
5G (sub-6GHz, SA and NSA, mmWave)
Wi-Fi 6E support
Bluetooth 5.0
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus
4G LTE support
5G (sub-6GHz, SA and NSA, mmWave)
Wi-Fi 6E support
Bluetooth 5.0
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
4G LTE support
5G (sub-6GHz, SA and NSA, mmWave)
Wi-Fi 6E support
Bluetooth 5.2
S Pen support
Samsung Galaxy S21
No
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus
No
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Yes
Operating System
Samsung Galaxy S21
One UI 3.1
Android 11
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus
One UI 3.1
Android 11
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
One UI 3.1
Android 11
Water resistance
Samsung Galaxy S21
IP68
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus
IP68
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
IP68
Security
Samsung Galaxy S21
Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, face unlock
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus
Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, face unlock
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, face unlock
Color
Samsung Galaxy S21
128GB in Phantom Violet, Phantom Gray, Phantom Pink, and Phantom White

256GB only in Phantom Gray

Future colors: Phantom Gold and Phantom Red
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus
128GB in Phantom Violet, Phantom Silver, and Phantom Black

256GB only in Phantom Black

Future colors: Phantom Gold and Phantom Red
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
128 GB in Phantom Silver and Phantom Black

256 and 512GB in Phantom Black

Future colors: Phantom Titanium, Phantom Navy, and Phantom Brown
Dimensions and weight
Samsung Galaxy S21
71.2 x 151.7 x 7.9mm
171g
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus
75.6 x 161.5 x 7.8mm
202g
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
75.6 x 165.1 x 8.9mm
229g

What AA readers think of the Galaxy S21 phones

In October 2020, we saw our first leaked renders of the Galaxy S21 phones. We ran a poll asking our readers what they thought of those designs. Check out the results below:

Now, those answers are based on leaked renders, not the actual products. However, those leaked images very closely align with the real phones.

Once the phones actually launched, we ran a simpler “hot or not” poll for the series. Here’s how that data breaks down:

What can we glean from this info? It appears our readers liked the designs of the Galaxy S21 lineup, but then decided they weren’t as good as they were expecting once they launched. This could have to do with lots of other factors: specs, availability, and price, especially.

Overall, though, it appears a very large chunk of our readers love the designs of the phones and think they are a “hot” item.


How good are the Galaxy S21 cameras?

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra macro of back cameras
David Imel / Android Authority

In general, Samsung’s flagships have great cameras. If you want to own one of the best phones for photos and videos in the Android world, you can’t go wrong with the latest entry in the Galaxy S family. The 2021 series absolutely continues that trend.

We have reviewed the Galaxy S21 camera systems and have subjective opinions on how they stack up. We can also let you know what each phone has as far as hardware goes and give some insight on how that hardware has stacked up historically.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra cameras

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S21 Plus vs S21 Ultra back in hand 4
David Imel / Android Authority

There are five premium imaging sensors on the back of the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Combined, they create the most advanced camera phone Samsung had launched up until that point (now only surpassed by the Galaxy S22 Ultra). Check out what’s included:

  • 108MP wide — ƒ1.8, 0.8μm, with autofocus (AF) and optical image stabilization (OIS)
  • 12MP ultrawide — ƒ2.2, 1.4μm, with AF and a 120-degree field of view (FoV)
  • 10MP telephoto — ƒ2.4, 1.22μm, with AF, OIS, and 3x optical zoom
  • 10MP telephoto — ƒ4.9, 1.22μm, with AF, OIS, and 10x optical zoom
  • Laser autofocus sensor

In 2020, the Galaxy S20 Ultra boasted similar specs, including a 108MP primary lens. Unfortunately, in our testing with the Galaxy S20 Ultra, we found the focus to be unreliable as well as a few other problems. Thankfully, our testing with the Galaxy S21 Ultra shows that Samsung fixed almost all the issues we saw with the 2020 model.

In pretty much every situation, the Galaxy S21 Ultra impressed us. Zoomed shots are crisp and detailed thanks to the two telephoto lenses. Color accuracy across all the lenses is top-notch. And, most importantly, the focus is terrific.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra's camera hardware is terrific.

There are still some things to keep in mind. Samsung is still using the “Space Zoom” branding to describe its 100x digital zoom feature with the Galaxy S21 Ultra. In practice, 100x digital zoom results in horrible image quality. We recommend avoiding zooming in this much with your smartphone, even if it is capable of the feat.

See also: Galaxy S21 Ultra review revisited after six months

On the front, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has the same 40MP shooter as the previous model. That sensor has phase detection autofocus, an 80-degree FoV, an ƒ2.2 aperture, and a pixel size of 0.7μm. Just like in 2020, selfies look great with this phone.

Samsung Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus cameras

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus back on table macro
David Imel / Android Authority

For the first time since 2017, the regular and Plus variants in 2021’s Galaxy S lineup have identical cameras. Previously, the Plus model would offer something extra, such as more sensors, better-quality sensors, or even an extra entire lens. With the Galaxy S21 series, though, both phones will produce the exact same image quality.

Here’s what both the Samsung Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus pack:

  • 12MP wide-angle — ƒ1.8, 1.8μm, with autofocus (AF) and optical image stabilization (OIS)
  • 12MP ultrawide — ƒ2.2, 1.4μm, with AF and a 120-degree field of view (FoV)
  • 64MP telephoto — ƒ2.0, 0.8μm, with AF, OIS, and 3x “Hybrid Optic” zoom

Those three lenses are the trifecta of imaging sensors in smartphones. Your standard wide-angle sensor is used for basic shots. The ultrawide sensor helps you capture more of an image in your viewfinder without needing to physically move backward. And the telephoto lens gives you the ability to zoom in on your subject without losing too much fidelity.

The Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus won't be as versatile as the S21 Ultra, but the average person is likely to be happy.

When it comes to zoom, you get 3x “Hybrid Optic” zoom. This is marketing jargon that essentially means a certain percentage of the 3x zoom will be optical (i.e. lossless) while another percentage will be digital (i.e. lossy). We found this results in decent-quality photos when zoomed in at 3x. Even going as high as 10x still creates good-looking shots. But we advise against going past 10x. Regardless, zoom won’t be nearly as good as what you’ll see with the pure optics of the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

See also: What a pro photographer can do with a cheap Android phone

Essentially, the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus cameras should be a good fit for the average person. Even for professional photographers, the high-quality sensors here would likely enable them to produce some stunning pictures and videos. The Galaxy S21 Ultra will offer more versatility and slightly better quality, but it would also probably be overkill for the average person.

On the front, both phones have a 10MP shooter housed in a display cutout at the top center of the phone. That sensor has dual-pixel autofocus, an 80-degree FoV, an ƒ2.2 aperture, and a pixel size of 1.4μm.


Do the Galaxy S21 phones have good battery life?

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra back camera macro
David Imel / Android Authority

In our review period with the Galaxy S21 Ultra, we saw incredible battery life. Even on days of heavy use, we made it through the day and into the early morning of the next before needing to charge. With light use, we could handily get two days of battery life with no charging at all.

With the vanilla Galaxy S21, we also saw great battery life. We had one session with 8.2 hours of screen-on-time, which is pretty great. Similar to the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the regular Galaxy S21 could be a two-day phone with light use.

Related: A guide to everything that drains your phone’s power

In the case of the Galaxy S21 Plus, the story is the same: battery life was great.

Keep in mind, though, that none of these phones have a charger in the box. To charge up the devices, you’ll need to use an existing charger you already own or buy a new one. To get the highest charging speeds, you’ll need a 25W charger. We have a whole article on how to best pick a charger here.

Finally, the Galaxy S21 phones all support wireless charging. They are Qi-compatible so most any wireless charging pad will work. Also, all three phones support reverse wireless charging, so you can leech power off the phone to charge something like an earbuds case or a smartwatch.


Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S20 series: What’s changed since 2020’s models?

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra back next to S20 Ultra back
David Imel / Android Authority

As with any tech product, the Galaxy S21 phones are better in many ways than the previous year’s models. However, due to the lowered pricing, some aspects of the phones are actually weaker than the Galaxy S20 series.

Below you’ll find the most significant differences between 2021’s lineup and the 2020 devices. Please note that this is not every difference, just the highlights.

  • Designs: Samsung added a lot more design flair to the Galaxy S21 series. The rear camera module is more recessed into the side of the phone, giving it a distinct look. There are also more colorways from which to choose. The vanilla S21 is also made of “Glasstic” rather than real glass.
  • Displays: The displays might look the same as 2020’s, but they are different. The Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus have flat displays. They also have lower resolutions, clocking in at 1080p instead of 1440p. The Galaxy S21 Ultra, though, keeps the 1440p curved display from 2020.
  • RAM: The Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus have less RAM than in 2020 (8GB as compared to 12GB). The Ultra model, though, stays the same with 12 or 16GB.
  • Storage: Each phone starts at the same level as 2020: 128GB of internal storage. However, the vanilla and Plus models have 256GB versions in 2021, which didn’t happen in the previous year. Unfortunately, only the Ultra model has a 512GB option.
  • microSD cards: None of the Galaxy S21 phones have microSD card slots. This is the first time the entire lineup has lacked this feature since the Galaxy S6 line.
  • Cameras: The Galaxy S21 and Galaxy 21 Plus both have the exact same front and rear camera setups. This hasn’t happened since the Galaxy S8 series. The Galaxy S21 Ultra has a slightly new setup with two more sensors as compared to the others.
  • 5G: In the United States, all three phones have both Sub6 and mmWave access. The vanilla Galaxy S20 did not have mmWave access.
  • S Pen: For the first time ever, a Galaxy S device can support Samsung’s S Pen. Usually reserved for the Note series, the S Pen works only on the Ultra variant of the Galaxy S21 family. There is no S Pen included in the box, though. If you want your S Pen integrated into the phone, you want the Galaxy S22 Ultra.

See also: A history of the Samsung Galaxy S series, the biggest name in Android


Samsung Galaxy S21 FE: Differences compared

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE Black White Olive and Lavender Propped Next To Each Other
Samsung

On January 3, 2022, Samsung launched the “Fan Edition” model of the Galaxy S21. The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is a lot like the vanilla Galaxy S21 but starts at a price that’s $100 lower.

Our review: Galaxy S21 FE

Below, we’ve rounded up the major differences between the two devices. Keep in mind these aren’t all the differences, but just the major ones.

  • Size: The Galaxy S21 FE is slightly taller and wider when compared to the Galaxy S21. The phones are exactly the same thickness, however. The Galaxy S21 FE also has a slightly larger display at 6.4 inches as compared to the Galaxy S21’s 6.2-inch display.
  • Battery: Thanks to its larger size, the Galaxy S21 FE has a bigger battery than the Galaxy S21: 4,500mAh for the former and 4,000mAh for the latter.
  • Weight: Of course, with a larger battery comes a heavier phone. The Galaxy S21 FE weighs 177g, slightly heavier than the 171g Galaxy S21.
  • Cameras: In general, the camera system on the Galaxy S21 FE is weaker than what you’ll get with the Galaxy S21. Note that even though the selfie camera is a 32MP shooter compared to the Galaxy S21’s 10MP sensor, this won’t necessarily result in better photos and video.
  • Security: The Galaxy S21 FE has an in-display optical fingerprint scanner. This isn’t the same as the ultrasonic sensor in the Galaxy S21 and could result in slightly slower and less accurate performance.
  • RAM: The Galaxy S21 has 8GB of RAM regardless of the internal storage capacity. The Galaxy S21 FE, however, starts with 6GB of RAM for the 128GB model. The 256GB model has 8GB of RAM.

Samsung Galaxy S21 series: Competition and alternatives

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max 2
Adam Molina / Android Authority

If the Galaxy S21 series seems cool but isn’t quite what you’re looking for, we have some other options for you here. Keep in mind that the only way to get a Galaxy S21 phone will be from third-party vendors, as Samsung is no longer producing or selling the phones. As such, the most obvious alternative is the Galaxy S22 series. If even those don’t interest you, check out these other options:

  • Google Pixel 6 series ($599$899): The Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are some of the best phones of 2021. The Pixel 6, in particular, stepped away with our coveted Editor’s Choice award for the best phone of the year. Although it lacks a telephoto lens, it’s $200 cheaper than the Galaxy S21 and offers a lot of the same specs and features. Meanwhile, the Pixel 6 Pro has a camera that can easily go head-to-head with the Galaxy S21 Ultra at a significantly lower cost. The big thing to keep in mind here is the software: Pixel UI is a very different experience compared to One UI.
  • OnePlus 9 series ($729$969): Like the Pixel 6, the vanilla OnePlus 9 lacks a telephoto lens. However, the rest of its specs are very closely aligned with the vanilla Galaxy S21. Meanwhile, the OnePlus 9 Pro has a great camera system that is less versatile than the Galaxy S21 Ultra but still strong. Either way, both phones offer faster wired charging speeds, come with chargers in the box, and cost less.
  • Sony Xperia 1 III ($1,198): If you want the best phone of 2021, the fight comes down to a very select few, and the Sony Xperia 1 III is one of them. Notably, the Xperia 1 III has two features missing from even the Galaxy S21 Ultra: a headphone jack and microSD card storage. Not bad! You’ll spend a lot on this phone, but power users are likely to love it.
  • iPhone 13 series ($699$1,099): If you’re OK with exiting the Android ecosystem, the iPhone 13 series is worth a look. The vanilla iPhone 13 starts at the same price as the Galaxy S21, and the iPhone 13 Pro Max starts at $100 less than the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Where to buy the Samsung Galaxy S21 phones

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra wide view of back
David Imel / Android Authority

Samsung is no longer selling or producing the Galaxy S21 series. Likewise, partner carriers — including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile — will sell their current stock and then stop sales. As such, the best way to get a Galaxy S21 is through third-party vendors. This will prove to get more and more difficult as time goes on. Eventually, you’ll need to buy used models.

In the meantime, use the links below:

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Samsung's best-ever camera system on one of its best-ever phones.
If you want the most powerful phone in Samsung's Galaxy S21 series, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is for you. It comes with the largest display at 6.8-inches, the biggest battery at 5,000mAh, and the best camera setup with a primary 108MP sensor. It also comes with as much as 16GB of RAM. However, it's also the most expensive with a starting price of $1,199.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus Press Image
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus
The middle child in the Galaxy S21 family.
The Galaxy S21 Plus is the middle child of Samsung's Galaxy S21 series. It features a 6.7-inch display and a 4,800mAh battery. It has three rear cameras and 8GB of RAM.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Press Image
Samsung Galaxy S21
One of the best affordable flagships of 2021
The vanilla Galaxy S21 is the smallest and most affordable of the three Samsung Galaxy S21 series phones. You do get a palm-friendly 6.2-inch display and basically the same specs as the Galaxy S21 Plus. You do need to sacrifice battery capacity by a bit, though, as the Galaxy S21 only has a 4,000mAh cell. Your wallet will be happy, however, because the starting price of the phone is just $799.

Samsung Galaxy S21 software updates

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Google Pixel 5 cameras
Adam Molina / Android Authority

Over the past few years, Samsung has really upped its game when it comes to software updates. There have been many times that Samsung’s flagship phones have seen the monthly Android security patch days before even Google’s own Pixel lineup sees them.

When Samsung launched the Galaxy S22 series, it announced that most of its flagship products would see four Android upgrades and five years of Android security patches. This applies to the Galaxy S21 series. This means the Galaxy S21 phones should see up to Android 15 and then get another year of patches after that. Currently, all Galaxy S21 phones are on Android 12.

The bottom line here is that if you value consistent Android security patches and timely Android version upgrades, the Galaxy S21 series is a very good choice.


Top Galaxy S21 series questions and answers

Yes, Samsung’s Galaxy S21 series remains a good buy in 2022. The design is similar to that of the Galaxy S22 series, and the Snapdragon 888 processor still offers excellent performance. You also get larger battery capacities on the Galaxy S21 series.

We always recommend a screen protector as a valuable accessory with your smartphone purchase. It can absorb impacts if you drop your device, and it keeps the daily scuffs and scratches at bay.

Since the Galaxy S21 series does not offer headphone jacks, the best way to connect earbuds is via Bluetooth. If you’d prefer to stick with wired earbuds, you may need to purchase a dongle or find a pair of USB-C headphones.

If you don’t want the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the choice between the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus is pretty simple: the Plus is bigger. Although the Galaxy S21 has a smaller battery due to its smaller size and doesn’t have a glass back, those two phones are more alike than they are different. If you want the best of 2021 (and have deep pockets), then you want the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Yes, all S21 devices are IP68-rated. This means they can be submerged in up to 1.5m (~5ft) of water for a maximum of 30 minutes.

Samsung’s Phantom finishes are some of the best in years, and any option is a good choice. However, we recommend tracking down a Samsung-exclusive version if possible. These colors include Phantom Red, Phantom Titanium, and more.

In the United States, all Galaxy S21 phones support all major 5G wireless networks. If you buy your phone unlocked, you will be able to get a 5G signal on all three of the biggest wireless providers.

No. You won’t find a power brick bundled with any of the Galaxy S21 devices. You’ll need to use an existing one or buy one separately.

No. For the first time since 2015, no Galaxy S phones in 2021 support microSD cards.

Unfortunately, no. You won’t find headphone jacks on any of the S21 models.

Only the Ultra variant supports the S Pen. Unlike the Galaxy S22 Ultra, the Galaxy S21 Ultra doesn’t come with an S Pen, nor does it have a built-in slot where you can store it. You can buy a specialized case for the phone that includes a spot to store an S Pen, though.

In most markets across the globe, the Samsung Exynos 2100 chipset powers Galaxy S21 phones. In certain countries — including the US, China, and South Korea — the handsets come with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset under the hood.

All of them. However, each phone uses “adaptive” 120Hz. This means the phone’s software will automatically choose the refresh rate of the display based on what you’re doing. For example, if the app you’re using only supports 60Hz, there’s no reason for the 120Hz feature to be on and needlessly draining the battery. The downside to this, of course, is that there will inevitably be apps and situations in which you would want 120Hz but the software prevents it.

Yes. The Galaxy S21 FE came out in January 2022.


Help other readers out

Do you own the Galaxy S21, S21 Plus, or S21 Ultra? Do you plan on getting one? If so, make your voice heard in our polls below, and then go ahead and post your own mini-review in the comments!

Would you recommend one of the Galaxy S21 phones to a friend?

1274 votes

Do you think the Galaxy S21 Ultra is overkill?

1182 votes

Will you upgrade from a Galaxy S20 to the Galaxy S21?

1077 votes