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What the Tech: The Samsung Galaxy S21 isn’t much of an upgrade at all

Samsung revealed its new flagship phone this week, but there’s not much to get excited about if you’re considering an upgrade.

When a new phone launches it’s often a time to fight back your feelings of envy as your eye works its way down the specs sheet. Suddenly your own device feels inferior or insignificant by comparison, even if it was just as enticing a year or two ago. However, plenty of Samsung fans won’t be feeling like that this year. Instead, I think they’ll feel a bit nonplussed.

If you’ve already got the Samsung Galaxy S20, or it’s Plus-size big brother, you might even feel that the new phone would even be a bit of a downgrade in some respects.

To start with are some of the hardware changes you might notice before even switching on the phone. Disregarding even the fact that neither a charging brick nor headphones are included in the box, when you pick up the phone you might feel the difference in quality before you see it; the S21 and S21 Plus have plastic rather than glass backs, which detracts from the “premium” quality of the device.

On top of that, there’s no tray for a MicroSD card, which always comes in handy if you want to expand the available storage of your device, and was one of those key differences which generally make Android flagships that bit more customisable than their Apple counterparts. In fact, a few of these changes — the aforementioned lack of accessories in the box, the lack of this Micro SD card storage expansion, and the long-lamented lack of the 3.5mm headphone jack — can be attributed to Samsung chasing Apple’s design choices.

But less forgivable is the display downgrade inflicted on the Samsung Galaxy S21 range. Screen quality was one of the hallmarks of a top-flight Samsung device, but now the Galaxy S21 Plus has a resolution of just 1080×2400, rather than the 1440×3200 sported by its direct predecessor. That means it’s left with an pixel density of just 394 ppi; to put that into context, the iPhone 6+ had an estimated pixel density of 401ppi when it was released in 2014.

To boot, the camera specifications have hardly shifted at all even after a year of development; a year in which Samsung was widely judged to have been second-best compared to the iPhone 12 range.

Samsung has even, perhaps acknowledging this overall shortfall of quality, issued a very rare drop in price for this new range when compared to the launch price of the S20 series. It’s hardly fair to charge the same price for a smartphone which has, by several metrics, actually regressed compared to its forerunner.

So if you’ve already got a Samsung Galaxy S20 – or even better, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE – it seems like a year to skip the upgrade and send a message to Samsung that it’s time for some serious improvement.



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