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Galaxy S21 will steal a Note 20 feature that no one wants

Updated Jan 1st, 2021 6:58AM EST
Galaxy S21 Specs
Image: LetsGoDigital

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  • The Galaxy S21 will be the first model in the series to support a feature seen so far only on the Galaxy Note and certain tablets, the S Pen stylus.
  • The stylus will work only on the S21 Ultra, but the S21 series will also steal another feature from the Note 20 series.
  • According to a new leak, the Galaxy S21 phones will not support microSD cards.

It’s January 1st, 2021, and while we’ve escaped the horrific 2020, the fact remains that the novel coronavirus pandemic will still dominate everything we do for the foreseeable future. Life, as we knew it before COVID-19, will not come back right away, and the pandemic will continue to impact the seasonality of tech events. Samsung seems to be the first company ready to make a big change to adapt to the new normal. The Galaxy S21 will be unveiled in less than two weeks, about a month ahead of schedule. The launch event will probably be an online Unpacked experience, as in-person press conferences are out of the question.

Samsung has to adapt its strategy, considering what happened in 2020. The company launched formidable but expensive devices that stood no chance against the competition. The sky-high price tags of the Galaxy S20 and Note 20 prevented these devices to really compete against any iPhone, be it the 2019 iPhone 11 series or the brand new iPhone 12. All the statistics showed that Apple, itself a seller of premium devices, beat Samsung and everyone else — look at what happened over Christmas when it comes to smartphone activations. Samsung wants to make up for that by offering buyers cheaper new handsets featuring brand new hardware. The S21 rumors we’ve seen so far indicate that the cheapest model will be a lot more affordable than last year’s S20, while the most expensive version will feature a few tricks previously unseen on Galaxy S phones.

The S21 Ultra will come with a brand new camera system that will house a brand new 108-megapixel lens and great zooming capabilities. The new Ultra seems to build on last year’s Ultra’s camera system. But the phone will also steal the Galaxy Note’s remaining signature feature. The Ultra will be the only model of the S21 series to support the S Pen stylus without actually housing the gadget. Those buyers who want S Pen functionality will have to buy it separately. The word on the street is that Samsung will also sell a case that provides storage for the stylus.

The S Pen might be a welcome addition to the Galaxy S series, but that’s not the only Note trick the S21 phones are borrowing. A well-informed leaker who usually releases official Galaxy S and Note images, specs and prices before Samsung announces the devices is back with an important detail about the S21 series. The phones will not support expandable storage, which means your existing microSD cards will not work with the new flagship.

Samsung had experimented with this particular feature before and was almost always criticized for dropping a staple of Android phones. The iPhone never supported expandable storage, but Android always offered fans a microSD slot. Samsung then brought microSD storage back to its flagships, only to remove it again. The Note 20 is the latest example, as the phone does not support microSD cards. Roland Quandt says the S21 will not get microSD support either.

Unlike Apple, Samsung was among the first companies to bump up base storage on its devices, and the Galaxy S21 will come with at least 128GB of fast flash storage on board. That might not be enough for people who need more space for apps and files, especially those who already own large-capacity microSD cards.

On the other hand, there are plenty of reasons to ditch expandable storage. First of all, microSD cards aren’t as fast as the built-in storage, which could lead to some performance issues. Then there’s the matter of internal space. MicroSD cards might be small, but they still need some internal space, which might get in the way of Samsung’s needs. One way to fix the storage problem is using USB-C SSD drives or flash drives with the Galaxy S21.

Quandt also said in his quick Twitter update that the S21 might ship with accessories in the box in some countries. That’s not surprising, given what happened with the iPhone 12. Countries like France and Brazil have laws that require smartphone makers to include certain accessories in the box, and they apply to any handset vendor who wants to sell new products in those markets.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.