It’s CES time, and that means one thing: Samsung will host its own event and keep its best stuff far away from CES. Once again the Korean giant of consumer electronics is hosting its own mini-event, and it’s due for a refresh of its Galaxy S flagship. The next “Unpacked” event is scheduled for Thursday, January 14th at 10 AM Eastern.
What can you expect to see? New Galaxy S phones are the obvious pick, and leaks indicate that the “Galaxy S21” will get a gentle redesign over last year’s models. But more interesting stuff appears to be happening in Samsung’s widening galaxy of accessories, including a stand-alone S Pen stylus and Tile-like nearby tracking tags. Let’s break down a few of the leaks and rumors so that you’ll have a good idea what to expect.
Galaxy S21 Phones
The one thing we’re just about guaranteed to see next week is new Galaxy phones, widely leaked as the “Galaxy S21.” Like the last several years, there will be variants in size, price, and capabilities. According to early leaks, we’re expecting a base Galaxy S21, a slightly upgraded S21+, and an all-out S21 Ultra that takes on the iPhone Pro.
Leaks indicate that Samsung is transitioning away from both curved screens and curved glass, with a flat front design and a matte finish on the rear material. There’s a curved band going around the entire edge of the display, reminiscent of some older iPhone designs. But the S21 has plenty of its own styling, with a distinct rear camera module that extends into the edge. Leaks indicate that the base model will use a plastic rear with the upgraded versions going for glass.
The rear cameras appear to be a focal point (no pun intended) of the new phones, with Samsung featuring them in the teaser video. The S21 and S21+ leaks indicate three rear sensors, main, ultrawide, and 64-megapixel telephoto. The S21 Ultra appears to be getting a 108 megapixel dual-sensor primary cam, a 12MP ultrawide, and 10MP sensors paired to both 3x and 10x zoom, for a whopping five total rear cameras. The new phones will keep the centered “hole punch” camera on the front, as well as a below-screen fingerprint reader. Naturally, all of these phones will feature 5G.
Leaks indicate that the phones will start shipping at the end of January, with prices starting at around $850 for the standard S21 and going up to $1400 for the S21 Ultra. (Naturally, you should take those prices with a lot of skepticism.) Samsung might want to do itself a favor and fast-track a cheaper alternative to its flagships, after the success of the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition.
A New S Pen, Now Available Sans Note
Samsung tends to update the Galaxy S in the late winter or early spring, then the stylus-packing Galaxy Note in the fall. At the moment the Galaxy Note’s future is a question mark, but it looks like Samsung is definitely bringing the S-pen stylus functionality to its other devices.
A stand-alone, sold-separately S Pen has been leaked, along with a deluxe phone case that can accommodate it. According to the leaks, this pen can be used as a remote shutter button for the camera, and it packs in a few new tricks like gesture controls. Prices for the add-on stylus are guessed at around $50.
Galaxy Smart Tag
Months of leaks indicate that Samsung is trying to bring a Tile-style finder gadget to the market. Samsung already has a GPS tracker, but that requires a separate mobile data connection. The “Galaxy Smart Tag” would use low-energy Bluetooth signals, giving it a year (or more) of battery life and relatively low cost.
Galaxy Buds Pro
Samsung’s true wireless headphones have been well-received, but it doesn’t have a true alternative to Apple’s AirPods Pro. The Galaxy Buds Pro has (have?) leaked on video, and appear to be that alternative. They have all the same bells and whistles as the latest Galaxy Buds Live (ANC, wireless charging) with improved audio quality and water resistance. They seem to have gone back to a more conventional earbud design, unlike the “beans” look of the Buds Live. Rumored price is a reasonable $200.
What else might we see? Samsung usually keeps these events focused on mobile tech, but the company seems to be dropping new Galaxy-branded tablets more or less constantly, so a new one wouldn’t be out of the question. Ditto for new smartwatches and/or fitness trackers. We’re expecting more foldable phones from Samsung this year, including some cheaper designs, but I wouldn’t expect to see an announcement for that before late spring.