The S21 Ultra is Samsung’s second launch on a flagship S Ultra series, and here’s something interesting we’ve discovered about the company. More often than not, it seems to have a stronger second act than the first. Remember the first Galaxy S. It was a good phone. But the S2? Excellent phone, huge success. The first Galaxy Fold? He had his problems. The Fold2? Much better, much easier to recommend (if you have the money).
We’re not saying we’ve spotted a trend or theme that has been elusive to everyone, but we’d be remiss not to mention the above as it’s so perfectly related to the S21 Ultra and its relationship with the S20 Ultra. Call the first paragraph foreshadowing, if you will, but we can just hit you with the spoiler itself – the S21 Ultra is a much better product than its predecessor. It’s more polished, more refined, and it doesn’t fear any of the fundamental principles of the smartphone – quite the contrary, in fact.
So maybe it’s not fair to generalize and say that you should always wait for the second-generation product when it comes to a Samsung, but wait, we just remember another example, the original Galaxy Buds versus the Galaxy Buds+. Same general idea. Well, that may not be fair, but it might be a good rule to keep in mind.
All that aside, the S21 Ultra is now old enough for us to share with you our thoughts on what it was like to live with it for an extended period of time, much longer than what we usually get for our normal reviews. On paper, this one is a monster – and, as you’ll see in the next section, it’s also a monster in your hand.
But the specs only tell a very small part of the story, and the purpose of this long-term review is to bring you the rest of that story, with more subjective opinions and less cold objective figures. It’s not about whether it surpasses its closest rival by 1% in a synthetic reference, it’s about whether this phone was a pleasure to use or not, day after day, as our one and only smartphone. Does it have what it takes to be easy to recommend, or is it more hype than substance? Join us in the next few pages to try to find out.