Samsung Galaxy S21 launch: the full Unpacked event as it happened

The Samsung Galaxy S21 series has been unveiled by the company, and you’re able to read exactly how the launch went down below with our live blog that is still here for you to read through below.

The Samsung Unpacked event is now over, but we’ve left this live so you can read through everything as it happened.

The rumors and leaks were all true: Samsung Galaxy S21 is paired with a Galaxy S21 Plus and a Galaxy S21 Ultra handset and we’ve also just seen the Samsung Galaxy SmartTags and Galaxy Buds Pro headphones.

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Samsung Galaxy S21 launch live blog

All times in Pacific Standard Time (PST)

8:10am: So there you have it. The Samsung Galaxy S21, S21 Plus and S21 Ultra have been announced in full, along with the Galaxy Buds Pro (which seem strong enough to take on the AirPods Pro) and the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag tracker. A solid lineup – all arriving more than a month earlier than anyone expected. Be sure to check out our many updates coming through the next week, as we test this devices day in and day out. Thanks for joining us.

8:05am: Samsung Unpacked is still going on, and we’re keeping up with the live blog, but the press conference has turned over to Samsung partners, touching on Microsoft and doing a deep dive Google integration.

8:03am: Also, have you noticed? There’s no mention of a microSD card slot. That’s because there isn’t one on the three new phones. Samsung has toyed with this before in select entry-level Note phones (Note 10 and Note 20).

8am: No, you won’t get a charger or earbuds with the Galaxy S21 phones. Like Apple before it, Samsung is reducing e-waste. There’s still a USB-C cable inside.

7:56am: It’ll come in two colors: the matte Phantom Black and White. Phantom Black is the one to get. It’s so good looking Samsung spent about 8 minutes of Unpacked talking about how great it is. After seeing it in person, I don’t disagree.

7:53am: January 29 for the the S21 Ultra, too, and this one goes for $1,199. Again, $200 cheaper than last year’s launch price for the S20 Ultra. Amazing.

7:50am: The Super AMOLED display on the S21 Ultra is the 25% brighter than the S20 and it can do Quad HD + 120Hz at the same time. That’s something we didn’t see from Samsung in all of its 2020 phones (S20 series and Note 20 series). That’s an advantage over S21 and S21 Plus, but we’re sure most people will be fine with the latter two phones in 1080p.

Samsung Galaxy S21

7:45am: “With this phone, you don’t need a DSLR…”

This marketing line used to be a joke. We’ve been hearing it for almost a decade. Now… it’s reality. Smartphone cameras are that good. The Ultra has four rear lenses, including a 108MP camera sensor (now with laser autofocus), two 10MP telephotos lenses, and a 12MP ultra-wide camera (the latter is unchanged from last year). One telephoto is 3x and 10x optical. Extreme low light uses AI for night mode, 12-bit HDR by combining two 10-bit HDR images

Space Zoom: uses dual-zoom to blend between 3x and 10x optical zooms. 10x uses periscope style like Huawei. 100X zoom combines a bunch of captures. Zoom lock holds the image in place to cut out shake and keep subject in frame

Macro – ultra wide automatically used for under 30cm, and lens works from 5cm away. There are 12-bit RAW photos in pro mode (most people may miss that, but our upcoming Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra camera review will go in-depth with it).

7:41am: The S21 Ultra specs are being touted right now, and it’s the Samsung phone to get if you want the best Samsung phone. It’s not the Note, but it’s compatible with an S Pen (there’s one sold separately) and fits into a new folio case.

7:40am: Here are the S21 prices: $799 (S21) / $999 (S21 Plus) and S21 Ultra ($1,199). Samsung is tying the iPhone 12 mini price, but giving you a display that’s much larger (6.2 inches vs Apple’s 5.4) and a camera that zooms (3x hybrid optical vs … Apple’s no zoom camera whatsoever).

Samsung Galaxy S21

7:38am: In Director’s View there’s also a way to record using both the front and back cameras simultaneously. This is going to make reaction videos a cinch to pull off without editing.

7:36am: Brand new is Directors View – you can see preview thumbnails from all cameras as your shoot, so you know which view you’re going to switch to before it happens. You’re kind of… like a director. Hence the name I guess.

7:34am: Somewhat new in the camera space is Single Take (what Samsung is calling Single Take 2.0 internally), and again it can shoot photos and videos all at once, and, now, boomerangs and slow motion video, which is didn’t incorporate before.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

7:33am: Returning is 8K video, again at 24fps, but it does require cropping in quiet a bit. So 8K is here and at the same time it’s not. You can read all about this in our Samsung Galaxy S21 hands-on right now.

7:31am: The screen sizes are in: 6.2, 6.7 and 6.8 inches on the S21, S21 Plus and S21 Ultra respectively. The camera software has actually changed a bunch thanks to more advanced chipset and photo-enhancing AI capabilities. It still has a portrait mode (no longer called Live Focus) and can add bokeh effect. What’s new? Studio mode adjusts lighting and AI can change background to match color of something in your shot. AI-based face enhancements, white balancing intended to get accurate skin tones, etc.

Samsung Galaxy S21

7:30am: It’s a great looking phone, even if the camera doesn’t appear to have been given a big overhaul for 2021 (the camera hardware the same). There’s a new matte finish on back and edge-to-edge AMOLED screen with a dynamic 120Hz refresh rate. It’s adaptive to save battery life, going from 48-120Hz and has a peak brightness of 1,300 nits (S21 and S21 Plus) opt 1,500 (S21 Ultra).

7:28am: Samsung is going over basically camera spec. Want to cut to the chase? Check out our Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus and Galaxy S21 Ultra. 

7:26am: Colors include Phantom Violet, Phantom Pink, Phantom Gray, Phantom White for the S21 and Silver, Black, Violet for the S21 Plus.

7:22am: The Samsung Galaxy S21 is official, with the company touting that it has the fastest chip ever on a Galaxy (Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 in the US and Exynos 2100 in the UK and elsewhere). There’s a triple lens camera and punch hole front camera. Just wait for the Galaxy S21 Ultra, which will have a quad-lens camera on back. Samsung has yet to announce that.

Samsung Galaxy SmartTag

That’s more like it.

7:19am: The coin battery can last months, according to Samsung. Tag sends bluetooth signals to other Samsung devices to nearby users, so you better hope you live around other Samsung users. SmartTag Plus has UWB (ultra wide-band) tech for spatial and directional tracking, so you can use UWB and AR Finder on your phone to hunt it down. So opt for the Plus version, naturally. The regular Tag is coming January 29.

Samsung Galaxy SmartTag

Don’t worry, it’s not that big!

7:16am: Next up with the leaked Samsung Galaxy SmartTag tracker, which is a like a Tile Bluetooth tracker, but uses the Smart Things Find app. This app can now find buds, tablets smartwatches and, of course, phones. 

7:13am: Other things that struck me about the Galaxy Buds Pro: there’s a 2mm vent on inside is meant to relieve pressure and says they’ll stay on even when you’re taking your mask off (big new problem for everyone). Samsung trying to say those buds can block out construction equipment from 10 feet away in that little sizzle reel.

7:10am: Samsung is touting the fact that these earbuds have 360 audio and Dolby Atmos and can track head movements. The ANC uses outer and inner mics that eliminates up to 99% of background noise. Intelligent Active Noise Control: detects your voice and vibration to confirm you’re in a conversation and let external sound through. There are 2 outer mics with beamforming for picking up your voice. It’s Designed with more closed fit, mesh, and a chamber to help cut down on wind noise and can auto switch between devices.

7:08am: When designing the Galaxy Buds Pro, Samsung was inspired by speakers, being influenced by the woofer and tweeter design. Funny thing is, we’re listening to this live stream to live blog the event (no in-person attendance) and Samsung is uses the stereo speakers to simulate moving on-screen subjects using the left and right channels of our (non-Samsung) headset. 

7:06am: The Buds Pro come in a violet color and have a rounded case. Samsung calls this its “Most immersive sound experience”. Intelligent Active Noise Canceling confirmed, so this is Samsung’s way of competing with Apple’s AirPods Pro. “The goal is sound experience. Period.”

7:04am: Samsung says it’ll introduce “Groundbreaking ways to personalize your devices.” First up? The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro – yet another pair of earbuds. These aren’t shaped like little beans like the last pair (the Buds Live).  

7:00am – The Samsung Galaxy S21 live blog is officially on, and we’re ready for the first announcements. Of course, it begins with a recap of how Samsung is helping change the world through its technology. “Samsung gives freedom to live life without borders, without boundaries…” From this video, you’d think Samsung has the best, most enjoy software ecosystem. It is getting better, we’ll say that.

06:50am – Right, couple of minutes left to go. What are you most excited to see? It’s highly likely you’re here to learn about new phones, and we’re hoping Samsung has some surprises up its collective sleeve.

After all, 2020 did see Samsung unveil the Galaxy Z Flip in a surprise move at the end of its Galaxy S20 launch. Could we see a similar move this year? Perhaps it’ll be the Galaxy Z Flip 3, or maybe something totally different.

06:40 – Time to grab yourself a drink and get prepared to watch Samsung’s big launch, or at least follow along here with exactly what is happening directly at Unpacked. If you do want to watch, you’ll find a live stream below:

06:26 – Olivia Tambini, Audio and Music Editor for TechRadar, says “The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro have been rumored for a while now, and we’ve seen a few leaks that suggest they could be the brand’s best wireless earbuds yet. Those rumors include support for Dolby Atmos and active noise cancellation, putting them in direct competition with the Apple AirPods Pro. 

“We’ve also heard that the new buds will come with AKG-tuned audio, a longer battery life than their predecessors, support for Bluetooth 5.1, and USB-C charging. Those specs all certainly sound promising, but Samsung has a somewhat mixed history when it comes to audio devices, so we’ll have to wait and see what the company pulls out the bag later today.”

05:45 – What is the most exciting element of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra camera? Mark Wilson, Camera’s Editor for TechRadar, says “I’m particularly excited about the rumors of dual telephoto cameras for the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. We’ve seen similar setups on the Huawei Mate 40 Pro and Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra, but neither of those phones have been widely available – and Samsung’s bound to sprinkle some extra software stardust on that camera hardware. 

“Last year, the S20 Ultra launch was all about resolution, but for me optical zoom (rather than ‘Space Zoom’) is the most exciting thing in smartphone photography right now. So the S21 Ultra could be a big moment for camera phones.”

04:55 – We’re going to take a quick look at the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and the rumors we’ve seen so far. As Samsung did in 2020, we’re expecting the Galaxy S21 Ultra to be the company’s top-end handset.

The rumors so far suggest you’ll even be able to use an S Pen stylus on the phone’s display, which until now has been an exclusive feature to the Galaxy Note series of smartphones.

The Galaxy S20 Ultra was a solid smartphone, but it was remarkably expensive. The rumors suggest the Galaxy S21 Ultra will be a touch cheaper, but it still looks expensive with that price leak we saw today suggesting it’ll be £1,200 in the UK. It’s not long until we know for certain though as we hope to hear about prices alongside specs and features at Samsung’s big event.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra leak

A leaked GIF on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

03:50 – So what else can we expect today alongside the new smartphones? Samsung is likely to reveal its new Galaxy Buds Pro headphones that have leaked multiple times from a variety of different sources.

We’ve also seen lots of rumors about Samsung making its own rival to Tile trackers that you can attach to your car keys and other belongings so you can track them down when you can’t find them.

They’re rumored to be called Samsung Galaxy SmartTags, and if you press on that link you’ll find everything we know about them so far ahead of the launch.

02:55 – Leaks of the Samsung Galaxy S21 don’t stop just because it’s launch day. Even Samsung has leaked the products itself today with the company posting a press release on one of its websites.

You can read about the three final big Samsung Galaxy S21 leaks here.

02:12 Want to watch Samsung’s big launch as it happens? You can do so, and the good news is that it’s easy to tune into the event this year. It’s being hosted on YouTube below:

Samsung Galaxy S21

01:44 – Launch day is almost always the most exciting day for leaks. One of the few things we hadn’t heard for the Samsung Galaxy S21 series – the UK price – has now leaked ahead of the big launch.

What do you think about the pricing below? If this leak is correct, that means the Galaxy S21 will be much cheaper than the Galaxy S20. It’s a similar situation through the entire series of devices, actually.

01:30 – The Samsung Galaxy S21 isn’t the only phone Samsung will have unveiled this week; it also has a brand new cheap phone called the Samsung A32 5G. It arrived on Wednesday, January 13, just before the big launch event day.

Will it be for you? The specs aren’t as impressive as what we’re expecting for the S21 series, but it’s also likely to be much cheaper. It features a MediaTek Dimensity 700 chipset, starts with 4GB of RAM, and there’s a 6.5-inch 720p display.

Samsung Galaxy A32 5G

The new Samsung Galaxy A32 5G What we know about the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G

01:02 – It’s Samsung Galaxy S21 reveal day, and welcome to the start of our coverage for the big event. Leaks suggest we’ve got a lot to see from Samsung, which only just unveiled a whole bunch of new technology and gadgets at CES 2021.

Now it’s the mobile division of the company’s turn with the Galaxy S21 series set to be unveiled at 10am EST / 7am PST / 3pm GMT (that’s 3am AEDT on Friday for those in Australia).

Stay with us here throughout the day while we run you through all the last minute rumors as they come in, and when the event officially starts we’ll be talking you through everything here.

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