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Galaxy S21 vs. Galaxy S20: Every difference between Samsung’s flagship phones

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Editors’ note: An earlier version of this story misstated the storage capabilities of the Galaxy S21 line. The S21 phone line does not include a microSD card slot.
Samsung’s Galaxy S21 phone line is the latest version of Samsung’s flagship Galaxy phone, released earlier this year (here’s where to order one.) It’s also the successor to the Galaxy S20 line, which came out in 2020. If you’re in the market for an upgrade, you may be wondering: What exactly are the differences between the two Galaxy phones? Is it worth the $800 for an upgrade? (Or maybe you should go with a Galaxy Z Fold 3 or Z Flip 3, or wait for the rumored Galaxy S22?)

IMAGE CREDIT: GOOGLE

Design, screen size and weight
The Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S20 are extremely similar when it comes to displays. Both feature 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED screens, a 120Hz refresh rate and an in-screen fingerprint sensor. The differences are relatively small: The S21 has a pixel density of 421ppi, compared with the S20’s 563ppi. The S21 is also slightly heavier, at 6.03 ounces, while the S20 weighs 5.75 ounces.
The two phones also appear to be close to identical in design. The only major difference in appearance is the rear camera module — on the S21, it has a metal overlay. Both phones are IP68-rated for water and dust resistance. Neither phone has a headphone jack.
In terms of colors, the Galaxy S21 comes in pastels called phantom violet, phantom gray, phantom pink and phantom white (other colors are available for the S21 Plus and Ultra models). The Galaxy S20 is available in cosmic gray, cloud blue, cloud pink and cosmic black.
Processing speed
Two of the biggest upgrades to the S21 are the phone’s processor and the software it runs — it’s now on Android 11 with a Snapdragon 888 processor, which should lead to increases in speed and performance. The S20 was originally released with Android 10 and has a Snapdragon 875.
Winner: Galaxy S21
Battery life
The base Galaxy S20 and S21 models have the same battery size of 4,000mAh. The battery size rises to 5,000mAh in both the S20 Ultra and S21 Ultra. The only difference between models is in the Plus versions: The S21 Plus gets a battery size increase to 4,800mAh, compared with 4,500mAh in the S20 Plus.
Winner: Tie (except in the case of the S21 Plus, which wins over the S20 Plus)
Read more: Samsung Galaxy S21: What to know about battery life and battery sizes
5G connectivity
All S21 and S20 models support 5G connectivity, so no difference there.
Winner: Tie
Stylus support
One of the bigger differences between the two phone models comes at the Ultra level. The Galaxy S21 Ultra includes support for the S Pen stylus (sold separately for $40), whereas none of the S20 models do. That means S21 Ultra owners will soon be able to use the small digital pen to jot notes, take better screenshots, sign documents or draw in their favorite apps.

IMAGE CREDIT: GOOGLE

Price
Outside of the processor, perhaps the biggest difference between the base S20 and S21 is the price tag. The Galaxy S21 is now on sale, starting at $800 for the 128GB model. (Buy the S21 here.) By comparison, the Galaxy S20 started at $1,000. Though the price on the S20 has fluctuated since the Galaxy Unpacked event, Samsung didn’t say whether it would get a further decrease, and thus far it doesn’t seem to have done so. For international pricing see the chart below.

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