Should you buy now or wait?

The Samsung Galaxy S21 series marks a notable departure from the company’s previously expensive flagship hardware. While the Galaxy S21 Ultra still comes with a hefty price tag, the standard model can be picked up for a rather reasonable $799. That’s still not exactly cheap, but it’s Samsung’s most affordable core flagship in years. It will undoubtedly take the sting out of flagship killer-style Chinese launches this year.

Few have thrived on undercutting Samsung in previous years more than OnePlus. The company’s OnePlus 9 flagship series is expected to make its debut in mid-March. With prices creeping up and a selection of sub-par releases recently, the pressure is on the OnePlus 9. It needs to offer a compelling hardware package without breaking the bank.

If you’re in the market for a 2021 flagship smartphone, should you grab the Samsung Galaxy S21 today or hold off until the OnePlus 9 arrives? Let’s find out by comparing what we know of the Galaxy S21 series already with all the swirling OnePlus 9 rumors.

Samsung Galaxy S21: Key specs and features

Samsung’s Galaxy S21 series spans a wider range of price points than previous years. Its portfolio offers something for everyone. The standard model starts at $799, the Galaxy S21 Plus at $999, and $1,199 for the Ultra. There is also a range of memory configurations adding a few extra dollars on top.

All three entries share Samsung’s revamped design and key features that underpin the Galaxy S series. The handsets are powered by Qualcomm’s cutting-edge 5nm Snapdragon 888 processor or the Exynos 2100 outside of the US. The Galaxy S21 and S21 come with 8GB RAM and either 128GB or 256GB of storage. The Galaxy S21 Ultra, on the other hand, has 12 or 16GB RAM and 128, 256, and 512GB storage capacities. Performance won’t be an issue with any model, though unlike previous entries in the Galaxy S series they don’t support expandable storage.

Our verdict: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

Picking any of the variants also nets you 25W wired and 15W wireless charging, as well as reverse wireless charging. Additionally, you get an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance, NFC, an ultrasonic in-display fingerprint reader, an HDR10+ 120Hz display, and 5G connectivity with Sub-6GHz and mmWave technology in tow. Most of these features will feel familiar to Galaxy S20 owners, but it’s pretty much everything you’d want from a flagship phone. Oh, and the Ultra model supports Samsung’s S Pen for the first time too, though unlike the Galaxy Note series it’s sold separately.

Samsung Galaxy S21 back in hand 1 1

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

There’s a bit more variation between handsets when it comes to displays. The Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus offer flat 120Hz AMOLED panels with 2,400 x 1,080 resolutions, at 6.2- and 6.7-inches, respectively. This is a minor step back from last year’s flagship, but some prefer the flat panel. The Galaxy S21 Ultra sticks to a more familiar curved 6.8-inch AMOLED display with a denser 3,200 x 1,440 resolution.

Differences extend to the camera setups too. The triple cameras of the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus are virtually unchanged from the Galaxy S20’s setup, offering plenty of flexibility. Those after cutting edge camera capabilities may fancy the Ultra. It includes a revamped 108MP main sensor, a wide-angle lens, laser auto-focus, and dual telephoto cameras with up to 10x optical zoom.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S21 versus older Galaxy handsets — should you upgrade?

While the Galaxy S21 series offers improved performance, Samsung has kept a lot the same. It has even made a few cuts to bring prices down this year. The list includes lower FHD+ display resolutions, less RAM, and a “glasstic” chassis for the vanilla Galaxy S21. The Ultra model is the exception. It sports the very best technology that Samsung has to offer, with a price tag to match.

  Samsung Galaxy S21 Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Display 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED
Flat FHD+
2,400 x 1,080 at 421ppi
Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate
HDR10+ certified
6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED
Flat FHD+
2,400 x 1,080 at 394ppi
Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate
HDR10+ certified
6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED
Curved WQHD+
3,200 x 1,440 at 515ppi
Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate
HDR10+ certified
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or Samsung Exynos 2100 Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or Samsung Exynos 2100 Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or Samsung Exynos 2100
RAM 8GB 8GB 12 or 16GB
Storage 128 or 256GB 128 or 256GB 128, 256, or 512GB
MicroSD No No No
Battery 4,000mAh
Fast wired and wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging
4,800mAh
Fast wired and wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging
5,000mAh
Fast wired and wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging
Cameras Rear:
– Wide-angle: 12MP, ƒ/1.8, 1.8µm with OIS and dual-pixel AF
– Telephoto: 64MP, ƒ/2.0, 0.8µm with OIS and phase-detection AF
– Ultra-wide: 12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.4µm with 120-degree FoV

3x hybrid optical/digital zoom
30x “Space Zoom”

Front:
– 10MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.22µm, with dual-pixel AF

Rear:
– Wide-angle: 12MP, ƒ/1.8, 1.8µm with OIS and dual-pixel AF
– Telephoto: 64MP, ƒ/2.0, 0.8µm with OIS and phase-detection AF
– Ultra-wide: 12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.4µm with 120-degree FoV

3x hybrid optical/digital zoom
30x “Space Zoom”

Front:
– 10MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.22µm, with dual-pixel AF

Rear:
– Wide-angle: 108MP, ƒ/1.8, 0.8µm with OIS and phase-detection AF
– Telephoto: 10MP, ƒ/2.4, 1.22µm with OIS, dual-pixel AF, and 3x optical zoom
– Telephoto: 10MP, ƒ/4.9, 1.22µm with OIS, dual-pixel AF, and 10x optical zoom
– Ultra-wide: 12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.4µm with dual-pixel AF and a 120-degree FoV
– Laser AF sensor

10x optical zoom
100x “Space Zoom”

Front:
– 40MP, ƒ/2.2, 0.7µm, with phase-detection AF

Connectivity 4G LTE support
5G (sub-6GHz, SA and NSA, mmWave)
Wi-Fi 6E support
Bluetooth 5.0
4G LTE support
5G (sub-6GHz, SA and NSA, mmWave)
Wi-Fi 6E support
Bluetooth 5.0
4G LTE support
5G (sub-6GHz, SA and NSA, mmWave)
Wi-Fi 6E support
Bluetooth 5.2
S Pen support No No Yes
Operating System One UI 3.1
Android 11
One UI 3.1
Android 11
One UI 3.1
Android 11
Water resistance IP68 IP68 IP68
Security Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, face unlock Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, face unlock Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, face unlock
Color 128GB in Phantom Violet, Phantom Gray, Phantom Pink, and Phantom White

256GB only in Phantom Gray

Future colors: Phantom Gold and Phantom Red

128GB in Phantom Violet, Phantom Silver, and Phantom Black

256GB only in Phantom Black

Future colors: Phantom Gold and Phantom Red

128 GB in Phantom Silver and Phantom Black

256 and 512GB in Phantom Black

Future colors: Phantom Titanium, Phantom Navy, and Phantom Brown

Dimensions and weight 71.2 x 151.7 x 7.9mm
171g
75.6 x 161.5 x 7.8mm
202g
75.6 x 165.1 x 8.9mm
229g

OnePlus 9: Rumored specs and features

OnePlus 9 Pro Renders 4

We don’t yet know how the OnePlus 9 will compare to the Samsung Galaxy S21 exactly. However, we do have a few rumored specifications to go on for the standard and Pro models.

Based on previous launches, it’s almost a given that the OnePlus 9 will be powered by the Snapdragon 888, a hefty helping of RAM, and at least 128GB of storage. The brand has already adopted a large 120Hz display with QHD+ resolution, which will likely stick around. OnePlus phones have always performed well, so it’s the other features that will determine whether the phone offers enough value for money.

Rumors point to 65W fast charging, with 45W wireless charging, and reverse wireless charging capabilities for the 9 Pro. That’s up from 30W last generation and a huge leap over the Galaxy S21 series. An IP68 rating also seems likely, although rumors suggest this will remain exclusive to the Pro model. Other existing features we saw on the OnePlus 8 series like an in-display fingerprint scanner, NFC, and Gorilla Glass protection should remain in place too. If true, the OnePlus 9 Pro would be very competitive with what Samsung has to offer.

OnePlus buyer’s guide: Everything you need to know about the brand

However, cameras have been OnePlus’ Achilles heel in recent years. OnePlus is already talking up its camera improvements this year and rumors suggest that Leica will be partnering with the company to help out this year. Leica has previously worked with Huawei to deliver great results. Specifications are expected to include 48MP primary and wide-angle cameras, with a third yet-unknown sensor. OnePlus has previously employed gimmicky extra cameras, like monochrome and macro shooters on its more affordable model. Hopefully, the company can up its camera game to better compete with the flexibility of Samsung’s increasingly affordable flagships.

Price is likely to be the most contentious issue. OnePlus’ costs have been creeping up closer to the $1,000 barrier in recent years. Nevertheless, the baseline OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro started at $699 and $899, respectively. We expect the OnePlus 9 to debut between the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro’s price band, which could put it within just $50 of the Samsung Galaxy S21.

Samsung Galaxy S21 or OnePlus 9: Which should you buy?

Samsung Galaxy S21 display on straight on 1

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

While the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra remains the choice for ultra-high-end consumers, the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro will realistically go head-to-head with the Samsung Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus. It’s never been trickier to pick between the two brands and it’ll be especially tricky if there turns out to be less than $100 price difference between the phones.

If the rumors are true, the OnePlus 9 could be the better option for performance junkies and gamers. It could offer cutting-edge performance, tons of RAM, and ultra-fast charging to keep power users topped up. This argument is even more compelling in regions where the Exynos Galaxy S21 is the main competition. The Samsung processor is expected to lack the gaming performance of its Snapdragon counterpart.

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However, the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus may again win out in the camera department, especially in the lower end model. Based on past history, OnePlus has its work cut out to level the playing field with Samsung’s triple camera setup at $800. Nevertheless, it remains possible. The more affordable Galaxy S21 models have paused photography innovation this generation. Then there’s the question of software, as Samsung’s One UI 3.0 and 3.1 seem steady and stable compared to OnePlus controversial change of direction with OnePlus’ OxygenOS 11.

Of course, you can order the Samsung Galaxy S21 range today (shipping on January 29). The OnePlus 9 is anticipated to arrive in mid-March. It could take even longer to go on sale in some regions around the world. Given the likelihood that these two phones will be tougher to tell apart than ever before, both in terms of hardware and price, it might be hard to justify the wait. Especially if you’re in need of an upgrade.

Samsung Galaxy S21

The vanilla Galaxy S21 is the smallest and most affordable of the three Samsung Galaxy S21 series phones. You do get a palm-friendly 6.2-inch display and basically the same specs as the Galaxy S21 Plus. You do need to sacrifice battery capacity by a bit, though, as the Galaxy S21 only has a 4,000mAh cell. Your wallet will be happy, however, because the starting price of the phone is just $799.


What are your thoughts? Are you eager to pick up a Galaxy S21 as soon as possible or do you plan to hold off and see what the OnePlus 9 has to offer?

https://www.androidauthority.com/oneplus-9-vs-samsung-galaxy-s21-1193928/

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