5 things we've learned about Samsung S21 this week

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
(Image credit: Future)

For whatever reason, this week has been rife with Samsung Galaxy S21 rumors and leaks, previewing what we can expect from Samsung's next flagship smartphone in February 2021.

From radical design departures to camera overhauls, this flurry of Galaxy S21 news is surprisingly sudden – and hints at features that could distinguish the phone from the pack. Rumors have been dripping out on a much slower scale, of course, but given the rapid increase, we might be entering a more intense phase of the pre-launch cycle. 

Given the last Samsung flagship, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition, launched in September and the now-seven-month old S20 series is on sale ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s not too surprising to see news flare up for the next set of top-tier phones.

Without further ado, here’s all we’ve heard about the Samsung S21 in the last week.

iPhone 12 Pro review

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Samsung Galaxy S21 could get an iPhone 12-like boxy design

Samsung Display, the aptly-named screen subsidiary of Samsung, has patented a new bezel design that may be headed for the Galaxy S21 – and bring a new design that could look like the flat-sided metallic frames seen on the new iPhone 12 range of phones. While we don’t have more information than the design’s name – ‘Blade Bezel’ – that could mean the S21’s frame could be minimized and even flattened.

‘Blade Bezel’ could end up being a very different look, of course, but it does suggest we’ll see a different design than the rounded edges we’ve come to expect on the S-series of flagship phones. The Note series, including the recent Note 20 Ultra, has adopted flat tops and bottoms in the last couple, and even the recently-launched Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 has a much boxier-edged look, so we could see more abrupt design changes in the S21 phones.

ZTE Axon 20 5G

(Image credit: ZTE)

The Samsung S21 could get an under-the-screen camera

The ‘Bezel Blade’ patent interestingly described a ‘digital camera display,’ according to LetsGoDigital, which interpreted that as meaning the S21 may get an under-display camera. We’ve seen very few examples of this feature in mainstream phones – notably in the ZTE Axon 20 5G, as seen in the photo above – but Samsung’s S-series phones have debuted new features before.

This is pretty thin evidence, though, and more conjecture based on industry trends combined with the vague patent hint. But it could be a perk that distinguishes the S21 line of phones from the pack.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

(Image credit: Future)

The Samsung S21 could pack five rear cameras

A rumor has suggested that the S21 phones could pack a penta-camera system on the back with the 108MP ISOCELL HM2 image sensor. Just what the fifth sensor would be – assuming the first four are main, ultra-wide, telephoto, and depth cameras – is unclear.

A penta-camera system is also rumored to come to the Samsung Galaxy A72, which may be a more likely candidate for the first phone to get a five-rear-camera system. Samsung does experiment with its A-series phones, like the flip-up camera on the Samsung Galaxy A80

The Samsung S21 Ultra could pack a colossal camera block

A set of leaked renders suggests the Samsung S21 Ultra will have a gigantic rear camera block that looks like it will take up an entire corner of the back of the phone. Notable leaker OnLeaks released the renders, and the image speaks for itself:

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra leak

Image credit: @OnLeaks (Image credit: @OnLeaks / Voice)

Last year’s Samsung S20 Ultra had its own impressively large camera block, but this S21 Ultra render suggests an even more massive area with commensurately larger lenses. These are still early renders, but it’s interesting – stylistically, anyway – that Samsung could just throw up its hands and extend the glossy camera block to the phone’s edges.

Samsung Galaxy S21 leak

Image credit: @OnLeaks (Image credit: @OnLeaks)

That wrap-around design may not just be on the S21 Ultra – OnLeaks released a render for the standard Samsung S21 and it, too, has a camera block that extends to the sides.

The Samsung S21 could launch way earlier than usual – in January

The Samsung Galaxy S-series has been launched in late February for years, but we could see the Samsung S21 line officially revealed a month before in January – and it might be soon after New Year’s Day, according to another rumor.

The phones could launch in ‘early January,’ sources told SamMobile and 9to5Google, but there wasn’t any indicator for why the phones would come out earlier. There are several reasons why Samsung might speed up their reveal, like being free from the usual February launch window given the low probability that Mobile World Congress 2021 happens. 

Samsung could simply be trying to get ahead of the competition. Of course, so are all the people who are eager to leak the Galaxy S21 before the official announcement.

David Lumb

David is now a mobile reporter at Cnet. Formerly Mobile Editor, US for TechRadar, he covered phones, tablets, and wearables. He still thinks the iPhone 4 is the best-looking smartphone ever made. He's most interested in technology, gaming and culture – and where they overlap and change our lives. His current beat explores how our on-the-go existence is affected by new gadgets, carrier coverage expansions, and corporate strategy shifts.