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Phones to expect in 2021: Galaxy S21, iPhone 13, and more

It’s time to jump right in and look ahead to another year of smartphone releases. 

To start, we will see the Samsung Galaxy S21, in various configurations, announced at a Jan. 14 Unpacked event, and it is sure to earn a place on the best phones to buy list. Most phones are on a fairly regular release schedule now, although Samsung shifted left on the calendar with its S21 event. We may see more of this happen, as events move to virtual venues in 2021. 

No matter when they may launch, we can expect to see the following phones in 2021.

Samsung’s flagship S series

Galaxy S21 series

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The Galaxy S21 is likely to launch with Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon processor, 5G, improved cameras, and high prices. Rumors are strong that the S series will now include support for the Note’s S Pen, but where to store the stylus, how much functionality from the Note it supports, and other questions remain to be answered.

It will be interesting to see the pricing of the Galaxy S21 devices too, given that the Galaxy S20 FE was an affordable flagship that reportedly is very popular with Samsung smartphone buyers.

Also: Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus review

Stay tuned to ZDNet for the official release and extensive coverage on Samsung’s latest S series devices.

Samsung’s foldables

Galaxy Z Flip 3 and Galaxy Z Fold 3

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Samsung is the leader in foldable phone tech and hit it out of the ballpark with the Galaxy Z Fold 2 last year. It continues to improve the hardware and software experiences — so we can expect more of the same in 2021.

The big question, especially for ZDNet’s Larry Dignan, is: Will the Galaxy Z Fold 3 support the S Pen? Given that the S series may support it we could see Samsung enable the S Pen for all of its flagship devices in 2021.

Also: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review

The Galaxy Z Flip line of devices may not be best for the enterprise, but it appeals to many consumers and is also likely to see an updated model with internal improvements and software enhancements.

OnePlus’ next flagship

OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro

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OnePlus released its 8T device a few months ago and just launched its affordable Nord phones in the US this month. It will likely release new flagships to succeed the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro sometime in the first half of 2021.

Also: OnePlus 8 Pro review

OnePlus phones are gorgeous, affordable, and extremely powerful. Maybe we’ll see official dust/water resistance included in 2021 so I can carry one as my daily driver through various environments. We may also see continued carrier partnerships with T-Mobile serving as a regular customer for OnePlus.

LG’s V series

V70 or something unique

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LG had an interesting 2020, with some updates to its phone naming schemes and a strategy to release phones with unique form factors and use cases. The LG Velvet was a solid mid-range phone that was well designed and worked with the Dual Cover screen accessory. The LG Wing offered a fresh take on phone designs, with a rotating front display that revealed a small secondary display.

Also: LG Velvet review

The V series has always been built for videographers, and we expect to see a V70, or maybe some kind of V series with a unique name released in the first half of 2021.

Google’s phones

Pixel 5A and Pixel 6

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Google shifted to a mid-range strategy in 2020 while still offering the best still image photography in a smartphone. This approach appeared to be well-received, but it also helped that the company released phones with affordable prices, long battery life, limited options, and industry-leading Android software support.

Also: Google Pixel 4A 5G review

The Pixel 6 and Pixel 5A phones are likely launching in mid-2020, around the time of the Android 12 rollout.

Apple’s phones

iPhone 13 series

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Apple released four new phones, with its iPhone 12 series in October 2020. It had an interesting release with two phones at launch and two others released the following month. While there are already rumors of the iPhone 13 series, we likely won’t hear more details on these phones until fall 2021.

Also: iPhone 12 Pro Max full review

The iPhone SE 2020 was released in April 2020, so it is possible we could see another SE model soon. However, the first SE was released in 2016, so it is unlikely a new SE model will be released one year after the SE 2020.

Microsoft’s Android phone

Surface Duo 2

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The Microsoft Surface Duo was an interesting device with limited appeal to those who need to multitask on two screens at once. With the coronavirus sending people home to work, the timing for the Surface Duo was not the best. The first generation also used older internal specifications, lacked 5G, and had a terrible camera.

Also: Microsoft Surface Duo review

We have seen regular software releases from Microsoft, including some significant improvements in the launcher and user interface. We haven’t heard rumors of a next-generation device, but hopefully, the Surface Duo doesn’t model itself after the Kin and end up being a one-off product release.

Huawei’s phones

P50 likely, but not in the US

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Last year, Huawei took the lead in smartphone sales over Samsung and Apple, even without being available in the US. With a new US administration, maybe we will see some changes in restrictions on Huawei and be able to test out its latest devices. Given the restrictions from 2019 and 2020, Huawei moved from Android to Harmony OS, so it will be interesting to see how far this OS has developed over the past year. 

Also: Huawei Mate 40 Pro, hands on

We could see the P50 line of Huawei phones announced in early 2021. Huawei has some amazing mobile technology, and I can’t wait to see how it pushes the smartphone world forward.

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