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Value repairability? You probably shouldn't get the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.

It seems $1,200 buys you a flagship phone and plenty of glue too.

Published onMarch 12, 2021

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra display held in hand over water
  • The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has landed on iFixit’s teardown table.
  • Although noting improvements, the teardown suggests the phone remains as tough to repair as its predecessor.
  • The vanilla Galaxy S21 remains the S21 model to buy if repairability is a chief concern.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra hasn’t changed much over the S20 Ultra it replaces, but Samsung has tweaked a few key features. One thing it seemingly forgot to do, though, is improve the device’s repairability.

Repair firm iFixit finally got hold of an S21 Ultra in its latest teardown, suggesting that the trend of hard-to-repair flagship Samsung phones continues.

For starters, the teardown does highlight a few improvements. For starters, the vibration motor and SIM tray swap places over the S20 Ultra, while the wireless charging coils are also thinner with more windings. This design could improve efficiency, iFixit notes. The S21 Ultra also sports a much, much larger fingerprint sensor beneath its screen — some 77% larger, in fact.

However, these tweaks don’t mean much for someone repairing the device, and that remains a tough task. Although Samsung uses the same Phillips screws in all the important places, it also employs lots of glue. This includes behind the battery, display, and along the phone’s rear panel.

Read more: To solve the smartphone e-waste problem we first need fewer disposable devices

Overall, iFixit gave the Galaxy S21 Ultra a three out of 10 for repairability. That matches the Galaxy S20 Ultra, but falls behind the Galaxy S21 by one point. The website praised the standard S21 for its plastic back and modular display cable.

It’s not a given that a phone will need repairs during the course of its life. But if required, easier to repair devices have a better chance of returning to your pocket. If you’re buying a phone for $1,199, repairing it is better than shelling out that figure for a second time.

Arguably, for some, repairability may not a factor in their buying decision. As far as specs go, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the Samsung to buy if numbers on a specs sheet are of utmost importance. It’s also a pretty solid phone, too, as our review details.

Which is more important to you when buying a phone? Specs or repairability?

530 votes

The Galaxy S21 Ultra undoubtedly packs an extended list of features over the standard Galaxy S21, but it’s the latter that’s seemingly the S21 phone you should buy if repairability is a key factor for you.

But what are your thoughts? Do you value specifications above repairability? Vote in our poll above!