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Samsung has backpedaled pricing on its Galaxy phones, as many consumers balk at rising prices. The company's latest model, the S21, will start at $800, significantly less than the $1,000 for its predecessor.
At its Galaxy Unpacked event Wednesday, Samsung introduced the Galaxy S21, S21+ and S21 Ultra at $800, $1,000 and $1,200, respectively. The phones should be available Jan. 29.
Last year's S20 and S20+ debuted at $1,000 and $1,200, respectively. But pandemic-fueled high unemployment and economic uncertainty lessened people's appetite for pricey phones. Instead, buyers turned to the used phone market in larger numbers, finding cheaper models with good-enough features. Simultaneously, new phone sales have fallen.
Gartner analyst Tuong Nguyen said a $1,000 starting price is high for a single person, never mind someone with a family.
"Even prior to the pandemic, I felt we were hitting the price ceiling of value versus cost," Nguyen said. "The [Galaxy S21's] price makes it slightly more acceptable to a slightly larger portion of the population," he said.
Unlike Samsung, Apple has kept starting prices for its iPhone substantially less than $1,000. In October, it introduced the standard-model iPhone 12 at $800, about $100 more than the iPhone 11.
Samsung vice president of product management Drew Blackard said the company noticed a split in the market in 2020. Some of its customers prioritized less-expensive phones with standard features, while others demanded premium devices.
Samsung hopes to appeal to both groups this year, offering the Galaxy S21 and S21+ at lower prices and adding premium features to the S21 Ultra. The S21+ has a bigger screen and battery than the lower-end model.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip powers all the Galaxy S21 phones, which also feature AMOLED displays with a 120-hertz refresh rate. The phones have new privacy features, giving users the ability to remove location metadata from pictures. When users share photos, they can set how long the images are available to recipients.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra has a 6.8-inch display with a higher resolution than screens on the lower-end models. It also has additional cameras, Wi-Fi 6E support and compatibility with Samsung's S Pen styluses. The S21 and S21+ sport 6.2- and 6.7-inch screens, respectively.
Mike Gleason is a reporter covering end-user computing topics such as desktop management. He previously covered communities in the MetroWest region of Massachusetts for the Milford Daily News, Walpole Times, Sharon Advocate and Medfield Press. He has also worked for newspapers in Central Massachusetts and Southwestern Vermont and served as a local editor for Patch. He can be found on Twitter at @MGleason_TT.