Friday, 15 January 2021 11:12

MUST WATCH: Samsung's new S21 models and Galaxy Buds Pro seek smartphone supremacy from A$1249 to $2149 Featured

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The annual battle for the best smartphone technology continues, with Samsung exerting its power as the maker of the most advanced Android-powered smartphones with Google Play on planet Earth, with three new S21 smartphones (with the Ultra getting S-Pen support), upgraded new Galaxy Buds with ANC - and new Tile-like Galaxy SmartTags and SmartTags+.

Even as Huawei continues creating smartphones that have astonishingly awesome photo and video cameras with the most advanced curved screens that are able to run a surprisingly large number of Android apps from app stores that are alternatives to Google Play, Samsung has no such problems.

Indeed, if Samsung does have a problem, it is that Samsung sells vastly more of its mid-range and sub-$1000 A-series smartphones than it does its ultra-premium flagship S series, which this year are its most advanced yet, with 5nm processors, an iPhone 11-style rounded corner look, 8K video recording and plenty more, ranging in price from A$1249 to A$2149.

If the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE "Fan Edition" is anything to go by, there will likely by an FE edition of the S21 series later this year too, which brings S-series features at a lower price, but any such launch is likely months away, and for those Samsung fans who want the absolute latest and greatest, the three S21 models now are it.

Prices start in Australia at $1249 for the 128GB Galaxy S21, with a 6.2-inch screen, starting at $1549 for the Galaxy S21+ with a 6.7-inch screen and starting at $1849 for the Galaxy S21 Ultra with a 6.8-inch screen, all in 128GB sizes, with 256GB at $100 more for all three models, and a 512GB S21 Ultra with a whopping 16GB of RAM for $2149. Prices from Telstra, Vodafone and Optus are at end of this article.

There are incredible cameras as per usual, and Samsung even restored the ability to record video from the front and back cameras at the same time, something earlier Samsung models were able to do, and then which Samsung removed with, from memory, the update to Android 10 on capable devices, but thankfully, this is a feature Samsung has brought back - albeit after Apple previewed such a capability with the iPhone 11 using third party apps.

There’s also no MicroSD slot, which is annoying some previous Samsung owners who use them to store large amounts of photos and videos, and just like Apple, there’s no charger in the box, and apparently no headphones either. Samsung famously hassled Apple about not including a charger with the iPhone 12 but has then gone on to do the same thing - which saves the company money and saves millions of chargers ending up in yet another drawer in the future.

The super-ultra premium "S21 Ultra" features S-Pen compatibility for the first time. You will have to purchase an S-Pen separately, unlike their inclusion in the Note series of smartphones, but if you have an S-Pen from a Note or Galaxy Tab, you can use it with the S21 Ultra.

For the last few years I've wondered when Apple would bring Apple Pencil compatibility to iPhones, and while years of Samsung Note devices not yet prompting Apple to make iPhones Pencil-compatible, there's no guarantee the S21 Ultra with S-Pen support will either - but maybe 2021 will be the year we see it happen - not that Samsung Note and S21 Ultra users are worried about that.

Samsung has also launched its new One UI 3.0, which seems to have gained some inspiration from iOS 14, but Samsung getting inspiration from Apple is nothing new - and iOS has had plenty of inspiration from Android, too.

So, let's take a look at the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2021 video, and then let's see what Samsung says about its new devices.

Samsung Electronics Australia's Senior VP of IT & Mobile, Garry McGregor, said: “The events of 2020 have changed us fundamentally. Mobile technology specifically, has been critical in facilitating connectedness, stability of work, education and foster self-expression. Mobile devices are today, more critical than ever.

"It is Samsung’s responsibility to rise to that occasion with new innovation that responds to this need. Now, more than ever.

"With the Galaxy S21 range, there are three models that meet a multitude of personal preferences. With an advanced, pro-grade camera system, an exceptionally smooth, immersive display and the S21 Ultra with the most powerful battery of any S series device.

"The Galaxy S21 and S21+ deliver everything you expect from a Galaxy device and have been designed for Aussies who want a sleek, bold and premium smartphone experience. Along with the incredible new design, there is an incredible camera experience - with pro-grade camera capabilities and new video innovations that will let you capture what matters most, with unbelievable ease and spectacular results.

"The S21 Ultra is for those who demand the ultimate premium smartphone experience with cutting-edge technology. The S21 Ultra takes productivity and creativity up a notch by extending the incredibly popular S Pen experience to the Galaxy S series for the first time.

"The S21 introduces new camera features that make it easier than ever to capture share-ready moments. The innovative new Director’s View lets you shoot video with different lenses at the same time. And you can use Vlogger Mode to capture content with the front and back cameras simultaneously. For the first time, you can also record 4K video at 60fps with all camera lenses, and even record 8K footage in low-light environments with incredible quality.”

"Additional colours will be available exclusively on samsung.com including Phantom Gold and Phantom Red on S21 an+ and Phantom Titanium, Phantom Navy and Phantom Brown on S21 Ultra".

All of the info you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro can be seen at Samsung Australia here and in the Unpacked 2021 video above.

All of the info you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy S21, S21+ and S21 Ultra can be seen at Samsung Australia here and also in great detail in the Unpacked 2021 video above - definitely worth watching.

Samsung's media release talks about the S21 and S21+, and quotes TM Roh, President and Head of Mobile Communications Business, Samsung Electronics stating: “We are living in a mobile-first world, and with so many of us working remotely and spending more time at home, we wanted to deliver a smartphone experience that meets the rigorous multimedia demands of our continuously changing routines.

“We also recognise the importance of choice, especially now, and that’s why the Galaxy S21 series gives you the freedom to choose the best device for your style and needs.”

Samsung adds: "For over a decade, the Galaxy S series has delivered groundbreaking, flagship mobile experiences for people who rely on their smartphone for expression, connection and entertainment. The new Galaxy S21 series builds on this legacy to offer the premium flagship experience and make every day epic. Galaxy S21 will be available in a variety of models, so you can find the perfect complement for your personal style and needs. For users who demand a flagship mobile experience, with pro-grade camera innovations and top-of-the-line performance, at various price points, Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+ deliver in every category — and then some".

Bold new style

"With a bold new style, Galaxy S21 is built for expression. Galaxy S21 was designed for those who want a light design and compact 6.2-inch display1. Galaxy S21+ sports an expanded 6.7-inch display and a larger battery, perfect for marathon gamers and binge-watchers.

"The Galaxy S21 series introduces an all-new, iconic Contour Cut Camera housing that seamlessly blends into the device’s metal frame for a sleek, yet striking, aesthetic. S21 and S21+ will be available in a range of eye-catching colours, including a new signature colour: Phantom Violet. And each device is coated with a luxurious haze finish on the back for a sophisticated look and feel."

Display

"Galaxy S21 touts an intelligent, edge-to-edge Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity-O display with adaptive 120Hz refresh rate for smoother scrolling and viewing3. It automatically adjusts the frame rate based on the content whether you’re swiping through your social feeds or watching shows. The display is also easy on the eyes. To help reduce eye fatigue, the new Eye Comfort Shield4 automatically adjusts the blue light based on the time of day, content you’re viewing, and your bedtime."

Camera

"Galaxy S21 continues Samsung’s legendary camera heritage with pro-grade enhancements and video innovations that enable users of every skill level to get the best shot. Whether you’re recording your puppy’s first encounter with a mirror, chronicling series game night antics or documenting spectacular views on a week-long road trip, Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+ have you covered. Just point, shoot and let Galaxy S21 do the heavy lifting — so you can capture the moment before it’s gone.

"Improved 8K Snap lets you grab crystal clear images from your 8K video footage, so you can capture all the live action and get standout still shots every time you hit record. Even in fast-moving or bumpy conditions, your footage will be buttery-smooth with Super Steady video at an improved 60fps5. New Director’s View lets you see, switch, and select the best shot to tell your best story. Capture video with the front and rear cameras at once for real-time reactions with Vlogger View, and preview or change the angle, zoom or go wide without losing any action with Live Thumbnails.

"Paired with Samsung’s new Galaxy Buds Pro, you can capture both ambient sounds and your voice at the same time using multiple mic recording. That means you can set up Galaxy S21 in Pro Video Mode on a tripod and use Buds Pro as your voice mic, so you can step away and record speech, movement and background sound in crisp quality. With the power of AI, the popular Single Take8 feature allows you to capture a variety of still and video formats with one tap. It has been enhanced with new pro-style video settings like Highlight Video and Dynamic Slow-Mo, which lets you focus on the most compelling action in stunning stills and highlight reels.

"Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+’s AI-powered triple-lens pro-grade camera is designed for those times when you want to be more intentional and have more creative control. The camera system intuitively assesses and adjusts to your scene to ensure you can perfectly capture any environment.

"In Portrait Mode, the AI-powered camera leverages an improved 3D analysis that more accurately separates the subject from the background. It also brings in options for virtual studio lighting and AI background effects to make sure the subject pops from the frame. It also works for selfies too.

"For elusive faraway shots, whether you’re on a hike or sitting in the back row, improved Space Zoom helps you get clear and steady shots. The new Zoom Lock minimises shaky hands and captures clearer images at 30x zoom on Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+, by leveraging AI to keep your focal point in the centre of the frame.

"Plus, enhanced processing power means bright pictures, even in the dark, so you can do proper justice to gorgeous sunsets and skylines".

Connectivity and Performance That Delivers

"Samsung is committed to helping you stay connected, and keeping your data secure, in more convenient and personalised ways. Galaxy S21 delivers next-generation performance and seamlessly connects you to the Galaxy Ecosystem to give you more flexibility, no matter your routine, so you can do more with confidence.

"Galaxy users love and expect powerful experience. The Galaxy S21 features the latest and most advanced smartphone chipset yet in a Galaxy for greater speed, energy efficiency9, and advanced computing capabilities to support 5G connectivity and on-device AI10. Galaxy S21 packs all the power you need to process photos, record 8K videos, enjoy a cloud gaming marathon and make the perfect video clips.

"We rely on our smartphones more than ever, which is why protecting sensitive information is more important than ever. Galaxy S21 is secured by Samsung Knox Vault, Samsung's own proprietary chipset level (SoC) security platform. By adding tamper-resistant secure memory to our secure processor, Samsung Knox Vault enables S21 to add a new layer of protection.

"Galaxy S21 also introduces a new tool to protect and monitor your privacy. You can safely remove location metadata from photos before sharing. With Galaxy S21’s all-new Private Share function11, you can also control who gets access to the content you send, and how long it’s available – so you can share content worry-free.

"Galaxy S21 is designed to be used with other Galaxy devices and with SmartThings Find, it can help you quickly and easily locate your compatible Galaxy devices even when they’re offline. Whether you left your device in another room, under the seat of your car or in a completely different city, SmartThings Find will send you in the right direction. You can now locate non-connected devices, with Samsung’s new Galaxy SmartTag12 Bluetooth locator. Simply attach a SmartTag to your keys, a bag or even your pet’s collar and you can use SmartThings Find to find the item or your pet".

Then there’s Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra, which the company says is “a flagship device that pushes the boundaries of what a smartphone can do. The S21 Ultra pulls out all the stops for those who want Samsung’s best-of-the-best with our most advanced pro-grade camera system and our brightest, most intelligent display. It takes productivity and creativity up a notch by bringing the popular S Pen experience to the Galaxy S series for the first time”.

TM Roh, President and Head of Mobile Communications Business, Samsung Electronics said: “Galaxy S21 Ultra is another example of how Samsung is driving meaningful innovation forward to give people personalized experiences that enrich their lives and empower them to express who they are.

“Given how indispensable technology has been to our lives during these times, we wanted to take another leap forward and push the boundaries of what a smartphone can do.”

You can read the press of Samsung’s S21 Ultra press release here.

You can also read the full Galaxy Buds Pro press release here. 

Optional Samsung Care+ Coverage

Samsung also reminds us of its “Optional Samsung Care+ Coverage”, where we’re told that you can “experience total peace of mind and get the most from the new Galaxy S21 with Samsung Care+. Enjoy a personal set-up session with a Samsung Care+ Pro, 24/7 dedicated support via phone or chat, screen repairs, an extended warranty 13and coverage for accidental damage14. Add Samsung Care+ at checkout on samsung.com/samsung-care-plus/15”.

Conclusion (and Telstra, Vodafone and Optus pricing below)

So, Samsung has yet again thrown down the gauntlet to challenge not just Apple, but all of its Android-powered competitors with its most advanced smartphones yet, with obvious and genuine improvements and updates.

The big question in a post-COVID world where governments have printed trillions of dollars and the dangers of inflation, and the employment market cratering due to lockdowns and business shutdowns, the difficulty of flying internationally and the effect that has on the tourism and hospitality industries, the vaccine yet to be rolled out en masse around the world and everything else that caused 2020’s problems to spill into 2021, is just how much appetite there is, in the Android market at least, for an Android phone from $1249 to $2149.

Huawei’s expensive smartphones and Apple’s too suffer from the same issues, although as always, it is possible to get such most such phones on a plan with your telco to spilt the cost into much more manageable monthly chunks, and hey, that has always been the case.

It’s great to see Samsung pushing the boundaries as much as they can each year, because it forces its competitors to do the same, many of whom have brought flagship features into mid-range phones.

We even see this with phones like the iPhone SE 2020 edition, which at the time, had the most advanced Apple processor, although of course with the iPhone 12, a more powerful one is out.

As always, Samsung will upgrade its mid-range devices too, bringing its flagship features down the line, so all consumers do benefit in the end.

So, will you be upgrading to Samsung’s latest and greatest? Here’s what Telstra, Vodafone and Optus have as their deals, you can also find deals at JB Hi-Fi, Bing Lee and no doubt everywhere Samsung devices are sold.

Telstra:

  • Pre-orders for Telstra customers commence at 08:00am (AEST) today, 15 January 2021
  • Pre-orders placed prior to 11:59pm 28 January 2021 will receive Galaxy Buds Live (Mystic White) valued at RRP $319 on the Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21+ or Galaxy Buds Pro (Phantom Silver) valued at RRP $349 with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. Redemption criteria apply (Not available with outright pre-orders).
  • Customers choosing to purchase a Samsung Galaxy S21 Series handset on the $115 XL plan will receive a $50 bill credit for 12 months – A saving of $600! Telstra customers will receive 180GB of data a month for $65.
  • Trade In - Customers with an eligible Samsung device can trade it in for a credit of up to $600 bill credit (eligibility criteria applies)
  • Telstra offers 7 Day Price Match. Find a better price within 7 days of receiving your new, eligible phone from Telstra and we’ll credit the difference to your bill.

Details of Telstra’s pricing is here

Here’s Telstra pricing chart:

 

Here’s Vodafone’s pricing:

odafone is excited to announce the Samsung Galaxy S21 range will be available for pre-sale online and in Vodafone stores from 7am on Friday 15 January.

We will be offering a $500 trade-in bonus to customers who trade in an eligible device and pre-order a device in the S21 range, paired with a Vodafone Infinite plan, by 28 January 2021.

That means an eligible customer who trades in their old device by 5 February 2021 will receive the trade-in value of their old device plus a $500 bonus credit. Depending on the device and its condition, that could add up to huge savings for customers. For example, a customer who trades in a Samsung Galaxy S9+ in good working order will receive a total credit of up to $660.

Vodafone Infinite plan’s start at $35 per month with 50GB of Max Speed data. Vodafone Infinite plans include infinite data at speeds of up to 2Mbps, 10Mbps or 25Mbps (depending on your chosen plan) after Max Speed data is used and includes unlimited standard national calls and text.

12, 24 and 36-month interest free device payment plans are available. Monthly device payments start from $34.69 per month when you stay connected for 36 months with the Samsung Galaxy S21 128GB (total min cost $1,283.96).
We will be ranging the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G and Samsung Galaxy S21 5G.

Vodafone has several charts of its plans and pricing, so instead of publishing several of those charts here, you can find the details at Vodafone here.

Optus’ deals are here


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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