Yes, we’re in the middle of CES 2021, but we’re also on the eve of the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S21. Let us be honest with ourselves, the rising frustration from a disgruntled journalist at not being able to physically attend a major tech show often results in a moody post and ramblings which will most probably be of little interest to you readers.
And the idea of writing yet another article on the response of the tech giants exhibiting at CES 2021 in the post-Covid “new normal” era makes my hair stand on end as I feel like I’ve been harping about this theme for months. No, this week, there will be no introspection, no diary excerpt. Instead, I’m going back to what interests me: technology.
On Thursday, January 14th, Samsung will unveil its new high-end smartphone, the Galaxy S21. Whatever people say across the entire fanboy spectrum, the Samsung Galaxy S21 is the first flagship of 2021 and probably the most eagerly awaited Android smartphone in the technosphere as of right now. But that’s the case every year. “Come on, Antoine, a little originality please”, you think, and the tapping of keyboards has already begun. Hold your horses, I’m getting there!
I don’t want any more boring, generic Samsung flagships
The reason I’m beating around the bush so much is to illustrate how boring the high-end smartphone market has been to me. I don’t have another word for it. And the smartphone that has epitomized this ‘boring-ness’, by not being outstanding in any way is the Samsung Galaxy Note 20.
You already know the song, you’ve probably been able to read through many of my articles what I think of this device. “Lack of ambition/20” or “Galaxy Nothankyou 20”, that’s how I titled review test at the release of its pedecessors
For the Samsung Galaxy S21, I don’t want the base model to dare to show off an ugly plastic back. It doesn’t matter how sophisticated the plastic or polymer alloy is, and it doesn’t matter how wonderfully matte and elegant the upholstery is. I want glass, I want an original and daring design, I want curves and not a flat screen, I want to see some risks taken, period! And the design teased by the leakers and Samsung itself has so far made me optimistic.
For the Samsung Galaxy S21, I want the S-Pen to be a default option on all variants, and not just the possible Plus, Ultra or GigaProMax versions. Please don’t blackmail me into choosing the most expensive models if I want to take advantage of a key feature. If the Galaxy S lineup is going to absorb the Note in the future, I want the Galaxy S21 to make a clean break and not a quiet transition. Samsung can’t do things in halves, especially not this year.
Speaking of smartphones in its standard format, when it comes to the Samsung Galaxy S21, I don’t want the most innovative device manufacturer on the market for years now to bend to the naive and unbearably self-righteous position of Apple by selling its charger separately. This is not an ethical choice or a sincere effort to save the planet. It’s an insidious and dishonest marketing technique to increase one’s margins by playing on the consumer’s emotions and blackmailing them at the expense of one’s carbon footprint.
Finally, for the Samsung Galaxy S21, I don’t want to feel like I’m being fooled with my European version of the Exynos compared to the Americans and their Snapdragon version. I understand Samsung’s insistence on its proprietary chip and I respect it. In fact, the manufacturer has listened well (in a way, at least based on leaked benchmark results) to the complaints of testers and users.
Samsung knows that it cannot continue to market two different versions with different performance levels but at the same price. The Samsung Galaxy S21 must once again mark a clear and unquestionable breakthrough. The Exynos vs Snapdragon debate must no longer exist and Samsung has no choice but to reverse the trend and create a surprise.
— Samsung Exynos (@SamsungExynos)
January 12, 2021
But even if all of these demands, which I present in the manner of a spoiled child, come true by some miracle, they will be in vain if the Samsung Galaxy S21 remains unaffordable.
I want a Samsung Galaxy S21 that makes all of my dreams come true and is accessible.
I’ve been bitching about it a lot in this article, as usual. But I would also like to remind you that the smartphone that made me dream the most this year and even rekindled a hint of hope in my now-numb heart is also a Samsung model: the Galaxy Z Fold 2.
But as beautiful as the few weeks I spent with this jewel in my hands were, I always knew full well that this was an above-ground product, one that was not made for me, which was even designed so that I could not afford to own one.
With the Samsung Galaxy S21, I want a REAL flagship. What I mean by that is, I don’t want an unattainable technological showcase that holds out the prospect of a trickle-down of an innovation that will take 5 years to become commonplace.
Nor do I want a flagship that slaps a €2,000 price tag in my face so that I can hope to feel even a little emotion, excitement and wonder about a product. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hoping for an affordable flagship, the lockdown and self-quarantine measures have not made me go completely out of my mind yet. But I want a flagship that makes me dream while being accessible to the average consumer.
I am all right with a four-digit price tag. I am cool if I need to resell my current handset and iPad 2019 to raise some funds. But I’m not going to spend the equivalent of two months’ minimum wage to buy a high-end smartphone. On the other hand, I don’t want to totally lose sight of this market segment either. I don’t have an “ideological” rejection of flagships. I’m not opposed on principle to the idea of a smartphone being more expensive than others simply because it is in a different ‘class’.
Seriously, I can’t see myself staying sane if the only smartphones available to the average person are the 25 mid-range versions of Realme and some other rebranded Redmi handsets. No, I still want to be interested in flagships, but only if they’re interesting enough. Why focus everything on one product, make it the cornerstone of its annual balance sheet, the standard bearer of its know-how, if it is reserved for only 1% of consumers?
A smartphone is not a luxury product. It is even considered as an essential good today. I tolerate the traditional gold-plated or diamond-encrusted versions that retail for a mind-boggling €10,000 (Vertu, anyone?) simply because they don’t pretend to be more than what they are: bling-bling toys for wealthy customers.
But a flagship should have a philosophy of being accessible to everyone. Not a populist agenda, but popular by choice and is by no means elitist. And, despite the reputation of being anti-Samsung that I’ve reaped since I joined NextPit, I remain optimistic and believe in Samsung to break the routine of the high-end or flagship market.
The Galaxy S21 could not only mark a revival at Samsung, but it could also resurrect the very concept of a flagship smartphone. At the very least, I hope so.