If you just got a new Android phone this Christmas, there’s a pretty good chance it has a Samsung logo on it. The Galaxy S20 and Note 20 phones among the very best of 2020, and with Samsung’s very aggressive end-of-year pricing, your secret Santa likely saved a bundle to boot. But you might want to return it while you still can.
I’m not here to tell you that your new phone is flawed or busted—in fact, you’re probably going to love it. Samsung’s flagships have been leading the Android pack for years, and the displays, cameras, and designs of the S20 and Note 20 are among the best you can get right now.
But if you can squeeze just a couple more weeks of life out of your old phone, there’s a new one on the way much earlier than usual. Samsung has confirmed that the new Galaxy S21 will land on January 14, barely a week from today and more than a month earlier than usual. By the looks of things, to, you’re going to be getting a lot more than a slightly updated S20. From the processor to the pricing and the lineup, there are more reasons than ever to wait for the new S21 to arrive before settling in with your new Galaxy phone.
A better Galaxy in every way
Like the iPhone in September, Samsung’s new Galaxy phones represent the unofficial start of the Android year. That usually happens in February or March, so a reported launch in January likely means that something bigger than usual is on the way. Based on what I’ve seen from leaks, the S21 is shaping up to be one of Samsung’s nicest phones in years, with super-slim bezels, a unique camera array that has a much smaller bump, and some very nice color options.
Samsung will likely launch three models again in very similar sizes to the S20. Beyond that, quite a bit will reportedly be changing. Rumors suggest a better camera system that utilizes the Note 20’s laster autofocus, which would go a long way toward fixing one of the S20’s biggest issues. Also expected to get a boost are night mode and zoom, two categories that fell into the good-not-great column on the S20.
A new processor making its debut in the Galaxy S isn’t a surprise, but the type of processor might be. Samsung is due to launch its next Exynos chip on January 12, and this year it might be ready to ship an Exynos-powered Galaxy S phone in the United States for the first time. But even if it doesn’t, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 is shaping up to be a huge leap over the 865 that could rival the tremendous speed and power efficiency that Apple brought with the awesome A14 Bionic in the iPhone 12.
With the new chip might come a feature that Samsung has traditionally reserved for its Note phones: S Pen support. Earlier this month, president TM Roh confirmed rumors that Samsung will be bringing some of the Note’s “most well-loved features to other devices in our lineup.” That basically means that the Galaxy S21 is almost certain to gain S Pen support, a feature that has sorely been missing from Samsung’s flagship phone.
With the Note 20 Ultra, Samsung reduced the S Pen’s latency and added some impressive translation and fun gestures that bring it to a new level of productivity. Even if it’s not bundled like the Note, the S Pen will be an excellent accessory for the Galaxy S21 that will instantly make it superior to every Galaxy phone that came before it, including the brand-new one you just got.
An extra year of updates
Even if the Galaxy S21 doesn’t have any new features you care about, there’s still one more reason to return your S20 and wait a couple of weeks: Android.
It’s no secret that the Galaxy S21 will be the first phone to ship with Samsung’s Android 11-based OneUI 3. You may also download it to your Galaxy S20 right now if you decide to hold onto it. But while the Android version is usually an afterthought on Galaxy devices, that changed this year. Now Samsung promises to support three “generations” of Android updates. That means you’ll get two more on the S20 (Android 12 in 2022 and Android 13 in 2023), while the S21 will get updates all the way through to Android 14 in 2024.
That might not seem like much now, but it’ll mean a lot in two years. Basically, you’re giving up a full version of Android and a year of security updates just to get an extra few weeks with your new phone. It might not seem like much, but those couple of weeks will be very important in August 2024, when Android 14 lands and your S20 doesn’t get it. Basically, waiting a month or so will get you an extra year of updates. That’s a pretty compelling tradeoff.
Don’t get me wrong: You have a very good phone in your possession. But if you return it and wait just a little longer, you can get a much better one. Don’t worry, I won’t tell the person who bought it for you.
Update 1/4:Samsung has confirmed that the Galaxy S21 will launch on January 14
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Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.
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