Samsung debuts 3 Galaxy S21 smartphones at competitive prices to take on Apple

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Samsung Galaxy S21 Image
The three new 5G-enabled models –S21 Ultra, S21+ and S21 launched by Samsung

Samsung, the South Korean electronics company, has unveiled three Galaxy S21 smartphones, upgraded earbuds and a gadget to track physical items, setting out to compete with iPhone maker Apple’s existing and future device range.

The multinational company’s new flagship handsets are $200 cheaper than last year’s lineup. The Galaxy S21 starts at $799.99, matching the iPhone 12, while the larger S21 is $999.99 and the upgraded S21 Ultra costs $1,199.99. The price drops are an acknowledgement of the current pandemic-affected economy where consumers are holding off on non-essential purchases as well as a move to ward off rising competition from the likes of China’s Xiaomi.

Samsung said it sees a “bifurcation” in the smartphone market, between consumers wanting the very latest tech and more cost-sensitive shoppers, which has motivated its new strategy. It’s a similar approach to Apple’s split of the iPhone line into standard, Pro and Pro Max models that differ in cost, materials, size and camera specs.

Galaxy S21 series

The Galaxy S21 series come in roughly the same dimensions as last year, going from the 6.2-inch S21 to the 6.8-inch Ultra, though Samsung has reduced the resolution and memory of the two smaller phones, moves likely made to accommodate the lower prices.

This year, Samsung is emphasizing its cameras both in the design and function of its new devices. The rear camera module dominates one corner of each handset and adds enhancements like steadier video recording, better depth measurement for portrait shots and a smattering of artificial intelligence enhancements to make functions like digital zoom more effective.

Google’s Android 11 serves as the default operating system and Samsung offers 5G wireless connectivity and IP68 water resistance across all its new devices. The pricier S21 Ultra adds support for Samsung’s S Pen digital stylus, marking the first time Samsung is offering that compatibility for its non-Note phones. The model also differentiates itself with bigger screen and battery, higher-resolution display and cameras and more memory and storage options.

Wireless earbud

The new $199.99 Galaxy Buds Pro expands Samsung’s lineup of true wireless earbuds, marking an upgrade from the Galaxy Buds of 2019 and Buds from last year. The new earphones are more discreet, along with improved water resistance and audio quality. The company said the Buds Pro can automatically switch between noise-cancelling mode and letting exterior sound in based on whether their user is speaking.

Bluetooth dongle

Samsung’s $29.99 Galaxy SmartTag Bluetooth dongle attaches to valuables such as keys, bags or pet collars and makes those items trackable via a mobile app. This device is set to compete with Apple’s long-in-the-works AirTags accessory, which is expected to add similar locator functionality for iPhone users.