Samsung’s yearly Unpacked event kicked off a little earlier than usual this year. The showcase of the new phones and accessories usually takes place around the Mobile World Congress, but with that event being postponed Samsung have taken matters into their own hands and decided to launch their new flagship line a whole month early. We were watching along live to bring you all the latest news and updates!
Galaxy Buds Pro
Samsung’s new earbuds are up first. Touted as the next generation of in-ear devices, they are presented to us in a sleek charging pod that has the same exterior as last year’s Buds Live case. A new sleek silver sheen on a more rounded form factor really sells these as being the earbud of the future. Intelligent Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) is the real focus here, something that’s been absent from the Samsung Earbuds ecosystem until now with an updated interior, boasting two speakers in one (a tweeter nestled inside a woofer) the Buds Pro promise a richer sound than ever before.
The addition of Smart 3D audio promises to adjust the sound you’re hearing in each bud depending on how you move your head relative to the device you’re playing your media on. It will certainly be interesting to see how this is implemented and whether it can be turned off to prevent any interruptions you may see if you’re on a plane or public transport.
The new ANC feature apparently eliminates up to 99% of external noise, with the option to allow voices to cut through any sound you may be listening to for those important everyday conversations. This is a big step up from the current Ambient Sound feature as it seems to isolate voices specifically, not all other sounds like the current earbuds. Design choices as well as intelligent software promise to cut out any wind or traffic noises that may interrupt any phone calls too.
Smart Switch is back so you can seamlessly jump from device to device so there’s no messing around with settings if you get a call while watching something on your tablet.
Boasting IPX7 these offer the highest level of water resistance in the whole Buds line. Always a nice feature to have so there’s no fear of a sweaty workout, or a run or walk in the rain!
These new earbuds will set you back €239 and will be available from January 15th. However, Samsung will throw a pair in for free if you order their top of the line phone (more about that device later!).
Galaxy Smart Tag
The newest smart device in Samsung’s lineup, Smart Tag will work with the new Smart Things Find app on Galaxy devices. This will allow you to find any manner of things if they go walkabout from your keys to your beloved family pet! The tag will even emit sound to enable it to be found easier by you or even passers-by. The app also uses advanced AR to offer you a point-of-view map to your missing devices as well!
If your valuables are out of your phone’s range though don’t worry, Smart Tag will use other Galaxy devices around it to pinpoint its location and help you to be reunited as quickly as possible!
The tags even have a button that’s compatible with Smart Home routines. You could, for example, use your smart tag on your keys so they never get lost, but also so they can be used to turn off the lights as you leave the house. Nifty or what?
Smart Tag isn’t available for purchase on its own right now but, like the Buds Pro you can get one for free if you pre-order the S21 or the S21+
The New Samsung Galaxy S21 Series
S21 and S21+
Here we come to the real stars of the show. The new Galaxy S21 and S21+ are up with the “fastest chip ever in a Galaxy product”. A cool new “Contra-cut” camera design is the distinguishing feature here, along with a far wider offering of colours for the back plate too. First impressions? This thing looks stunning! Almost a shame to put a case on it. The new matte finish even promises to prevent the inevitable build-up of fingerprints on the back. The new camera design also promises to make the camera more durable and more robust than ever before. These two features, along with an even tougher glass screen means that a case is nearly unnecessary for many people.
As always Samsung’s best-in class display is being shouted out here. AMOLED is the name of the game once again, now offering an intelligent adaptive refresh rate that will offer 48 and 120 frames per second depending on the task at hand for an optimum experience. Eye Comfort Shield, A new intelligent blue-light filter also promises to keep our eyes in good shape too, cutting out some of the harsher light shades as we’re scrolling.
The Camera’s AI has been updated as well to offer even more professional looking photos from the 12 and 64 megapixel lenses (a wide, ultra-wide and telephoto lens as in the S20 range). New subject separation capabilities offer to enhance your portrait taking experience too, making your snaps feel even more true-to life, regardless of lighting. The AI even seems to be optimised for our four-legged friends as well as people, so your pooch will be just as stunning on Instagram as they are in real live. The Selfie camera has also been given a boost to ensure the white balance is uniform regardless of lighting. So, whether you’re on a sunny beach, or a dimly lit restaurant you’re sure to look your best.
Single take is back, using AI to create a multitude of the best shots from a single point-and-shoot mode. This has been one of my go-tos for my mobile photography on my S20+ and I’ll be very excited to see how it performs on the new hardware!
On the video front, Director’s view offers multiple feeds from all your cameras at once so you can choose the one you want to record on the fly. This is sure to keep any amateur directors very happy!
As for security, you can remove location data and even set expiry dates on any files shared between devices.
One UI 3 offers a feature on the new hardware that we probably all wish we had. Object Eraser. This will allow you to erase people, stray objects, or animals from all your snaps at a tap! Who needs photoshop?
You can get yours from January 29th from €879 for the S21, or €1089 for the S21+. Pre-orders are open now and you can even trade in your old device to get a discount!
This is our final piece of hardware for the day and it was introduced as an altogether more formidable beast! Offering a more powerful processor, a more vibrant screen and an incredible camera setup that promises studio quality photos from the 4 lenses. As usual, the S20 Ultra offers everything one step above the S21+ with an extra emphasis being on the incredible camera to provide a truly remarkable photography experience.
The returning “Space Zoom” has been upgraded to offer much crisper, more lifelike image quality than its predecessor. 10 times optical zoom, working in tandem with sophisticated AI promises the clearest photos possible with 10X digital zoom on top of that, again offering 100X zoom overall. The camera will now use its advanced laser sensor to automatically focus and select the appropriate lens depending on the distance to your subject. For example, if the subject is detected within 30cm, the Macro lens will jump to the head of the queue without you having to do anything.
Two new S pens on display with a standard and a pro model available, both compatible with the S21 Ultra only. These are going open source as well so expect to see a variety of pen devices compatible with your S21 Ultra in the future!
The S21 Ultra will set you back €1299 (or more if you go for the higher memory options) and is available from January 29th. Though you do get free Buds Pro if you pre-order so the hardcore among you may be tempted by it!
Something we’ve suspected (or feared) for a while is that these new phones won’t ship with a charging block in the box, meaning you’ll have to use an old one (if you even have one) or buy one separately. This has a particular sting to it seeing as Samsung lambasted Apple for it when they did something similar before sneakily deleting their tweets about the subject a few months ago.
Some great news on the smart device front, Google Nest devices are now fully compatible with your Smart Things app! Something we’ve been waiting on for a while! Even cars have been added, through Android Auto. A new interface allows you to use the full Google Nest suite right from your car, a new “Heading Home” command will signal your smart devices to get to work to make your house warm and clean when you arrive!
To close, Samsung reiterate again how closely they work with Google to ensure they can deliver the best experience to their users. This also goes to show they for some users, Samsung may be the only name in the market now that Huawei have been forced to move away from the Android ecosystem.