3 major changes Samsung made to the Galaxy S21 to get that $200 price cut

Drew Evans/CNET

Samsung's much-awaited Galaxy S21 lineup arrived in January -- and the standout feature isn't found on its software or hardware. It's its price tag. The next-gen flagship lineup starts at £800 (GBP769, AU£1,249) for the baseline Galaxy S21, rises to £1,000 (GBP949, AU£1,549) for the Galaxy S21 Plus, and maxes out at £1,200 (GBP1,149, AU£1,849) for the Galaxy S21 Ultra, representing a £200 price cut for the trio of models from last year's S20 family.

Samsung promises its new S21 lineup works better than its predecessors, despite its cheaper price tag.

But Samsung is a publicly listed business after all, and it needed to make a bunch of calculated compromises to allow the S21 to hit that lowered price, even if component costs are trending lower. Here are a few ways Samsung did exactly that. Read more: The best phone to buy for 2021

1.

Removed bundled charger and earphones

One of the most controversial omissions is the in-box wall adapter and earphones. Samsung is pushing its customers to reuse older accessories in the name of the environment, just like Apple did with the iPhone 12 family. Samsung has been using standardized USB-C type charging ports since 2017, so older chargers will still be compatible with the S21 phones.

3 major changes Samsung made to the Galaxy S21 to get that $200 price cut

Now playing: Watch this: We review the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G and its bonkers cameras

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2.

Memory, storage and resolution reduced or eliminated

The S21 line also lost expandable local storage, joining last year's Galaxy Z Fold 2 and Z Flip foldables in ditching the microSD card slot because "usage has markedly decreased," according to the company. One of the other trade-offs getting less attention is: a reduction in RAM on the base S21 (it has 4GB less RAM than the S20); the reduction of the screen resolution (by half) on the S21 and S21 Plus.

3. S21 phone loses glass backing

For its base S21, Samsung replaced the Gorilla Glass from the back with a high-end plastic called polycarbonate, going in the direction of its more pro Note 20 line.

The S20 Plus and Ultra however, each have Victus glass on both the front and back.  

If you need more details, read CNET's Galaxy S21 review for more or take a look at our specs chart below.

Samsung Galaxy S21 lineup vs.

S20 lineup


Galaxy S21 Galaxy S20 Galaxy S21 Plus Galaxy S20 Plus Galaxy S21 Ultra Galaxy S20 Ultra Display size, resolution Pixel density Dimensions (Inches) Dimensions (Millimeters) Weight (Ounces, Grams) Mobile software Camera Front-facing camera Video capture Processor Storage RAM Expandable storage Battery Fingerprint sensor Headphone jack Special features Price off-contract (USD) Price (GBP) Price (AUD)
6.2-inch Flat FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2x, (2,400x1,080 pixels) 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X; (3,200x1440 pixels) 6.7-inch Flat FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2x, (2,400x1,080 pixels) 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X (3,200x1,440 pixels) 6.8-inch Edge WQHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X, (3,200x1,440 pixels) 6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X (3,200x1,440 pixels)
421 ppi 563 ppi 394 ppi 525 ppi 515 ppi 511 ppi
2.80x5.97x0.31 inches 2.72x5.97x0.31 inches 2.97x6.35x0.3 inches 2.9x6.37x0.30 inches 2.97x6.5x0.35 inches 2.99x6.57x0.35 inches
71.2x151.7x7.9mm 69.1x151.7x7.9 mm 75.6x161.5x7.8 mm 73.7x161.9x7.8 mm 75.6x165.1x8.9 mm 76.0x166.9x8.8 mm
6.03 oz; 171g 5.75 oz; 163g 7.12 oz; 202g 6.56 oz; 186g 8.07 oz; 229g 7.76 oz; 220g
Android 11 Android 10 Android 11 Android 10 Android 11 Android 10
64-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (ultrawide) 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 64-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide) 64-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (ultrawide) 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 64-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), time-of-flight camera 108-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 10-megapixel (3x telephoto), 10-megapixel (10x telephoto) 108-megapixel (wide-angle), 48-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), time-of-flight camera
10-megapixel 10megapixel 10-megapixel 10-megapixel 40-megapixel 40-megapixel
8K 8K 8K 8K 8K 8K
Snapdragon 888 64-bit octa-core processor 2.8GHz (max 2.4GHz + 1.8GHz) 64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5GHz + 2GHz) Snapdragon 888 64-bit octa-core processor 2.8GHz (max 2.4GHz+1.8GHz) 64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5GHz + 2GHz) Snapdragon 888 64-bit octa-core processor 2.8GHz (max 2.4GHz + 1.8GHz) 64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5GHz + 2GHz)
128GB/256GB 128GB 128GB/256GB 128GB/512GB 128GB/256GB/512GB 128GB/512GB
8GB 12GB (5G), 8GB (LTE) 8GB 12GB (5G), 8GB (LTE) 12GB, 16GB 12GB, 16GB
None Up to 1TB None Up to 1TB None Up to 1TB
4,000 mAh 4,000 mAh 4,800 mAh 4,500 mAh 5,000 mAh 5,000 mAh
In-screen In-screen In-screen In-screen In-screen In-screen
No No No No No No
IP68 rating, 5G-enabled, 30x Space Zoom, 10W wireless charging 5G enabled; 120Hz refresh rate; water resistant (IP68) IP68 rating, 5G-enabled, 30x Space Zoom, 10W wireless charging 5G enabled; 120Hz refresh rate; water resistant (IP68) IP68 rating, 5G-enabled, 100x Space Zoom, 10W wireless charging, 10x optical zoom 5G enabled; 120Hz refresh rate; 100X zoom; water resistant (IP68)
£800 (128GB) £999 £1,000 (128GB) £1,199, £1,349 £1,200 (128GB) £1,399 (128GB), £1,599 (512GB)
GBP769 GBP799, GBP899 (5G) GBP949 GBP999 (5G) GBP1,329 GBP1,199 (128GB), GBP1,399 (512GB)
AU£1,249 AU£1349 (4G), AU£1,499 (5G), AU£1,549 AU£1,499 (4G), AU£1,649 (128GB), AU£1,899 (512GB) AU£1,849 AU£1,999 (128GB), AU£2,249 (512GB)

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