Has Samsung finally had enough of hearing me bitch, whine and whine like a capricious kid? No. He sure doesn’t care and he’s quite right. But it is clear that at least one of my complaints, formulated in this article before the release of the Galaxy S21, has been answered.
Sold respectively for 859, 1059 and 1259 euros, the Samsung Galaxy S21, S21 + and S21 Ultra are effectively cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy S20 5G (1009 euros), S20 + 5G (1109 euros) and S20 Ultra 5G (1359 euros) when they are released. . Especially since the S21s this year are all 5G compatible by default while Samsung applied a premium of 100 € on the 5G versions of its flagships at the time.
Particularly interesting, the drop in price on the base model, the Galaxy S21, which is the entry level of the high end of Samsung, prompts me to hope for a reversal of the manufacturer’s strategy on the flagship market.
Focus on the basic model
Even before the Galaxy Unpacked conference this Thursday, January 14, the serious South Korean tech media AND News reported on January 7 that Samsung would concentrate most of its production on the base Galaxy S21.
According to ET News, Samsung is reportedly hoping that the Galaxy S21 will be its best-selling model and that it will allocate 60% of its production capacity to its cheapest flagship. Samsung would also lower the price of this model to 990,000 won (about 745 euros before tax), lower than the Galaxy S20, which cost 1.248 million won (about 938 euros before tax).
A prediction that has come true, even in Europe, and which may leave one wondering about the reasons that pushed Samsung to agree to this price reduction. Has the manufacturer realized that offering increasingly overpriced smartphones is not a strategy appreciated by all consumers? Or, has the South Korean giant perhaps wanted to share its wonderful innovations and share its know-how with as many people as possible, in a surge of mercy and unconditional generosity?
Oh yeah, I always knew I had a future in stand-up if tech journalism didn’t work for me. But more seriously, Samsung is launching its Galaxy S21 at the right time. This is the first 5G flagship of the year and with the (temporary?) Vacuum left by Huawei, Samsung knows that it has all the cards in hand to impose its pace on the high-end market.
Especially since Apple has nevertheless struck hard with its iPhone 12 which, regardless of what their detractors say, have had the merit of not going up in price despite the switch to 5G compared to the previous generation. A price increase to which almost all Android manufacturers, on the other hand, had to bow to the forcing of Qualcomm and its new Snapdragon chips last year.
Perhaps also the success of the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, the most affordable semi-flagship or “flagship lite” that it has been able to market so far has given the manufacturer some ideas. So, then, how do consumers love high-performance smartphones with a good quality / price ratio? But it’s crazy!
More than a strategic choice, a real need to readjust prices
However, Samsung is not reinventing the wheel. The fact that for each range of flagship, the entry model is the one that sells the most is obvious. It is the cheapest model.
But the fact that the Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21 + are nearly identical, even more so than the S20 and S20 + were at the time, is quite telling. I will let you consult the comparative table of my colleague Ben to make sure (via the link at the beginning of this article). But apart from the material used on the back (plastic for the S21, glass for the S21 +), the dimensions of the smartphones, the size of the screen and that of the battery, nothing distinguishes these two models.
So we could say that the fact that Samsung reserves the S Pen for the Ultra model contradicts my brilliant theory. But honestly, does a plastic stylus, which does not connect via Bluetooth, does not have internal storage in the smartphone and which is deprived of buttons and gesture functions, really constitute a “killer-feature” whose exclusivity will push Samsung fans to opt for the Galaxy S21 Ultra?
Well it’s true, the Samsung Galaxy S21 retains other more interesting exclusives such as the WQHD + definition for its screen, a main sensor of 108 MP (against 12 MP for the other two models), an additional telephoto lens and its x100 zoom ( x30 on other models), among others.
But in fact, that absolutely does not call into question my argument. In reality, we can see a clear break within the Galaxy S21 range. On the one hand the S21 and S21 +, more affordable and on the other the S21 Ultra, still as premium and elitist (but also cheaper than the S20 Ultra despite everything).
This split is all the more noticeable when one takes into account that Samsung has abandoned the curved screens on the S21 and S21 + while reducing the amount of available RAM from 12 to 8 GB. Instead of boosting all its flagships and offering over-boosted data sheets throughout its high-end catalog, Samsung preferred to play the balance card this year.
Concretely, for customers who have the means and who swear by the high end of the high end, Samsung can rely on its Galaxy S21 Ultra. The last of the flagships, so to speak. And for the rest, for the masses, in short, the consumer base that brings the most to Samsung and that the manufacturer must seduce much more than its few rich followers, the Galaxy S21 and S21 + constitute a more accessible gateway in the high-end catalog.
If I really wanted to provoke you, I would say it’s a very similar strategy to Apple’s approach with its iPhone 12 Mini. But as for Apple, the question then arises as to whether the concessions necessary to offer more contained prices do not sacrifice “the premium user experience” that one might expect from a flagship.
In my opinion, this is not the case. But Samsung set the bar so high, for better or for worse, with its Galaxy S20s last year. The slightest concession on the Galaxy S21 this year runs the risk of being seen as a downgrade that is difficult to forgive. But this thorny question is for testers and users to answer. And personally, I applaud this risky choice by Samsung.
What do you think? Do you see this drop in the price of the Samsung Galaxy S21 favorably? Do you think this is a thoughtful choice by Samsung to make its flagships more accessible? On paper, does the base Samsung Galaxy S21 seem competitive to you against the Ultra model? According to you, is this a flagship “worthy” of the name? Let me know in the comments!
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