Galaxy S21 FAQ and buyer’s guide: Where, why, and how to buy Samsung’s latest flagship

Everything you need to know about the Galaxy S21 before you decide to buy.

galaxy s21 series
Samsung

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It’s barely February and Samsung has a brand-new phone to sell--three, actually. The Galaxy S21, S21+, and S21 Ultra hit shelves on January 29, and they are Samsung’s cheapest 5G flagship phones in years. But before you jump into a long-term commitment, check out our recommendations and advice.

galaxy s21 camera array Michael Simon/IDG

Galaxy S21 review

The Galaxy S21 is a fantastic phone at a fantastic price. Unless you absolutely want the best of the best—in which case you’ll want to get the S21 Ultra—you’re getting everything you need in a 2021 smartphone. Read our full review.

Our sister publication, TechAdvisor, also wrote a Galaxy S21 review. Here’s Alex Walker-Todd's review.

Galaxy S21 vs iPhone 12

The Galaxy S21 and the iPhone 12 both cost $800, so how do they stack up? Here's our in-depth comparison.

Galaxy S21 Processor Tests: Snapdragon 888 vs Exynos 2100

The Galaxy S21 in the U.S. ships with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, but the international models use Samsung’s own Exynos 2100 chip. Here’s how they stack up.

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galaxy s21 pink Samsung

Galaxy S21 FAQ

What do the three phones cost?

The Galaxy S21 costs $800, the S21+ costs $1,000, and the S21 Ultra costs $1,200.

What am I getting with each phone?

Before we get into what’s different, let’s talk about what the three phones have in common. For one, they all have the latest Snapdragon 888 processor as well as 128GB of base storage. They also all have a 120Hz refresh rate for super-fast scrolling and come equipped with One UI 3.1 based on Android 11.

What are the differences between the Galaxy S21 and S21+?

On a simple level, the Galaxy S21 has a 6.2-inch screen and the Galaxy 21+ has a 6.7-inch screen. But there are a few deeper differences. Most notably, the S21 has a plastic back and the S21+ is made of glass. You’ll also get an ultrawide-band chip with the S21+ for precise location mapping, and a larger 4,800mAh battery compared to a 4,000mAh battery in the S21.

galaxt s21 back Michael Simon/IDG

What about the S21 Ultra?

The Ultra has an even bigger screen than the S21+ at 6.8 inches, but the differences go deeper than that. The S21 Ultra packs way more features, including more RAM (12GB vs 8GB), a bigger 5,000mAh battery, 1440p display (versus 1080p), more cameras), and S Pen support, along with Wi-Fi 6E.

Can you tell me more about the cameras?

The Galaxy S21 and S21+ have triple-camera systems, while the S21 Ultra has four cameras:

Galaxy S21/S21+

Camera 1: Wide 12MP, f/1.8

Camera 2: Ultra wide 12MP, f/2.2

Camera 3: Telephoto 64MP, f/2.0

Galaxy S21 Ultra

Camera 1: Wide 108MP, f/1.8

Camera 2: 3X Telephoto 10MP, f/2.4

Camera 3: 10X Telephoto 10MP, f/4.9

Camera 4: Ultra-Wide 12MP, f/2.2

As you can see, the S21 Ultra’s camera array is superior to those on the S21 and S21+, with a pair of telephoto lenses to aid with portraits and zooming (which can go up to 100X), as well as a 108MP main lens. It also has a better selfie camera, with a 40MP resolution versus 10MP on the other two models.

galaxy s21 ultra s pen Samsung

Is it true that there’s no longer a microSD card slot?

Unfortunately yes. Samsung decided to remove the microSD card slot from the entire S21 line, so you’ll need to decide how much storage you want when you purchase it.

What colors do they come in?

The S21 phones come in a variety of colors, depending on which model you buy:

S21: Gray, White, Violet, Pink

S21+: Violet, Black, Silver, Gold (Samsung.com exclusive), Red (Samsung.com exclusive)

S21 Ultra: Black, Silver, Titanium (Samsung.com exclusive), Navy (Samsung.com exclusive), Brown (Samsung.com exclusive)

galaxy s21 colors Samsung

When can I buy one?

The Galaxy S21 phones hit shelves on January 29. You can find them wherever smartphones are sold, including Amazon.com, Best Buy, and carrier stores.

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