Credit: David Imel / Android Authority
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$200. That’s how much cheaper the new $799 Samsung Galaxy S21 is than the 2020’s $999 Galaxy S20. In fact, the swanky new flagship costs just $50 over 2019’s Galaxy S10e value proposition and just $100 more than last year’s affordable flagship — the Galaxy S20 FE. It’s an astonishing announcement from a company that has been pushing phone prices well above the $1,000 barrier for the past couple years, leaving them out of reach for most consumers. Finally, Samsung’s flagships are inclusively priced once more.
$799 is still far from an affordable mainstream price point, of course, but Samsung is selling a premium-tier product after all. Importantly, the entry-level model is a fully-fledged Galaxy S flagship. It’s not a cutdown “e” or “FE” variant. Customers still receive the full triple camera, 120Hz display, 5G, and wireless charging experiences that previously cost $1,000. In reality, we’re talking about a return to Samsung’s 2018 pricing strategy for a 2021 flagship smartphone. That’s a very appealing prospect.
With prices spanning $799 to $1,379, the Samsung Galaxy S21 has something for almost everyone.
Of course, the lower price tag has seen Samsung make a few compromises. The base model opts for a “glasstic” cover rather than full glass. The phone doesn’t offer much in the way of new camera or other feature improvements compared to the Galaxy S20 series either. Even so, these are worthwhile trade-offs for a substantially lower price tag. Samsung hasn’t abandoned its premium-tier customers either. The $1,199 Galaxy S21 Ultra, packing all of Samsung’s latest and greatest technology, is still the top pick for the smaller enthusiast market.
A closer look: How the price of Samsung’s Galaxy S series has changed
And that’s the key point: $1,000 ultra-flagships are a niche market. They’re a technological showcase for enthusiasts and journalists to fawn over. However, it’s the less expensive models, such as the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus, that always appeal to mass-market consumers and ship in bulk. Breaking away from the high-end obsession isn’t easy, but it’s definitely the right call for Samsung’s latest product launch. Eagle-eyed market observers may have spotted the signs that this trend was coming even last year.
The Galaxy S21’s $799 receipt is a return to sane pricing after two years of 5G inflation.
Reader interest, critical acclaim, and the commercial success that followed some of 2020’s more affordable smartphones highlighted the growing gap in the market for mainstream, affordable products. Just see the reception to the Apple iPhone SE, the Google Pixel 5, and Samsung’s own Galaxy S20 FE compared to ultra-premium Max and Ultra models. Business models based around $1,000+ flagships were unlikely to succeed in the long term. As a result, Samsung sales have taken a hit, especially as must-have 5G experiences failed to materialize in its early years. In some sense, the Galaxy S21’s $799 receipt is a return to sane pricing after two years of 5G inflation.
More commentary: Samsung Galaxy S sales are low, and that might be OK
Credit: David Imel / Android Authority
As we’ve seen from other brands, there’s a delicate balancing act between pricing and cutting the right corners. Samsung has never really nailed this with its flagship S or Note portfolios, which left room for the “flagship killers” to blossom. The Galaxy S10e and S20 FE showed increasing competence in these areas, but the Galaxy S21 finally nails a broad approach to pricing that has been missing.
There will be some that accuse the Galaxy S21 range of being too safe, too boring, and not enough of an upgrade from last year. However, we previously heard complaints that the Galaxy S range failed to provide value compared to the likes of OnePlus and Xiaomi, so you can’t please everyone. Technology shifts through phases of rapid development. We have seen this in the recent 5G and multi-camera arms races, followed by a quieter period where value becomes more important again.
With the Galaxy S21 series, Samsung has nailed the ideal price points for its flagship smartphones. The $799 Galaxy S21 strikes the right balance of specs and affordability. The $999 S21 Plus has a little more for the high-end crowd, and the $1,199 S21 Ultra is the ultra-expensive showcase model. There’s something for everyone. Whether this is Samsung finally listening to feedback or merely a temporary reaction to the current global economy, the Galaxy S lineup has never been more accessible. I suspect this year’s launch will go down rather well as a result.