Samsung’s rumored Galaxy S21 phone lineup is starting to make sense

The crush of new hardware to review and discuss is beginning to wind down, but there are a few more gadgets to talk about over the next week. Believe it or not, though, it’s also time to start talking about 2021’s consumer tech. No, not CES, but Samsung. The company is widely expected to hold its Galaxy S21 event in January instead of the usual March.

How come? I don’t have any good guesses, but I think I’d be skeptical about COVID-related reasons. Samsung can move remarkably fast in bringing new products to market, but I bet its flagships are planned much earlier than things like the Galaxy S20 FE.

Since our perception of time has become cattywampus, I do want to remind you that Samsung’s Galaxy S20 and S20 Plus were two of the best Android phones released this year. (The S20 Ultra not so much.) Samsung was early out of the gate with 5G, had excellent battery life, few problems, and in general felt wholly under-appreciated by people who pay attention to gadgets here in the US.

I only bring it up because the timing of the next version is likely to accelerate the trend of taking Samsung phones for granted, since they’ll be eight months old by the time the next iPhones come around.

In any case, today we got a cache of details on the specs of the Samsung Galaxy S21 from Max Weinbach at Android Police. Most of the details aren’t especially surprising — Qualcomm will continue to make new versions of its chips and Samsung will do the same with Exynos. The screens will continue to be huge.

There are three S21 models expected— a standard, a Plus and an Ultra. According to Android Police, the S21 will have a 6.2-inch display, the Plus will be 6.7 inches and the Ultra will reportedly have a 6.8-inch display.

One notable rumor is that the Galaxy S21 Ultra model will support the S Pen. The S21 Ultra apparently won’t have a silo for the stylus, though — users will need to figure out another way to carry it, likely in a case.

Meanwhile, Weinbach tweeted that Samsung’s 2021 lineup will include the S21 line, two Z Folds, and a Z Flip — implying that the Folds would also have S Pen support. That last part is not really a surprise as Samsung said that it wanted to add stylus support to the Fold 3 at the launch of the Fold 2. Samsung also said that it would continue to bet heavily on foldables and 5G.

Notice what device isn’t on that list? The Galaxy Note. It’s led to speculation that Samsung will retire the Note line and instead have its high-end devices be the Fold and the S21 Ultra. There is a lot of overlap between Samsung’s Galaxy Notes and Galaxy S phones, so this wouldn’t be the wildest idea. The Note is also beloved, however, and I’m not sure asking people to buy a separate stylus is likely to endear them. Then again, if you want a stylus, where else will there be to really go?

The Note has been in a lot of odd positions over the last few years. It went from being the absolute flagship that led with specs to exploding and being recalled to being just another version of the Galaxy S line but with a stylus.

In 2020, Samsung began to redefine what its flagship, halo devices would be, focusing on the Fold and the new Ultra phones. In 2021, I think that will become even more clear. I just hope that Samsung will find a way to bring the cost down on its folding phones.

I also hope the Note line continues, though, even though we don’t particularly need it to be the most powerful Android phone anymore — we just need a place to put the stylus.