Samsung is going after Huawei and not Apple with the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G camera system


While Samsung still has one fairly interesting high-end smartphone left to be released this year, most Android power users unbothered by the prospect of spending north of a thousand bucks on their next big thing are probably already looking ahead to the tech giant's first true flagship of 2021.

Although it remains unclear if the largely mysterious ultra-high-end handset family will carry the Galaxy S21 or S30 branding after all, some of its key puzzle pieces are starting to fall into place thanks to a number of recent reports from trusted publications and reliable leakers.

The latest such story originates in South Korea (where else?), tackling the potential camera specifications of the S21 (S30) lineup in general and the Ultra model in particular. Given all the previous rumors hinting at an iterative update of this year's S20-series designs and features, it's relatively unsurprising to hear (translated here) that the imaging sensors are not expected to change much. But there is one crucial alteration in the pipeline, according to industry sources, and it's inspired by Huawei.

Goodbye, 3D sensor, hello, second telephoto lens

In line with speculation from roughly a month ago, the no doubt 5G-enabled Galaxy S21 Ultra is today tipped to ditch its predecessor's 3D Time-of-Flight sensor on the back. This was already snubbed by both the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra after debuting on last year's special Galaxy S10 5G edition and expanding to the Galaxy Note 10+, Note 10+ 5G, S20+ 5G, and S20 Ultra 5G.

The reason why Samsung might be planning to kill off this feature is not mentioned this time around, but based on the previous report (and common sense), we assume it has something to do with the near-total absence of actual 3D ToF use cases.

Samsung may have also realized it can't keep up with the super-advanced technology behind the iPad Pro LiDAR scanner expected to make its way to the iPhone 12 series soon as well, so instead of fighting a losing battle, the company is likely to go after Huawei with not one but two different telephoto sensors mounted on the rear of the Galaxy S21 (S30) Ultra 5G.

The first of these two should look a lot like the 48MP periscope-style telephoto lens on the S20 Ultra 5G, upgrading however the 4x optical zoom capabilities to "more than 5 times" the magnification, while the second such shooter might be in charge of mid-range zoom photography.

Basically, Samsung is trying to catch up to the state-of-the-art Huawei P40 Pro+ 5G, which comes with an 8-megapixel periscope telephoto camera capable of snapping crystal clear pics at a lofty distance thanks to its 10x optical zoom support, as well as a 3x optical zoom-equipped secondary 8MP telephoto lens.

Pretty much everything else could stay the same

While Samsung is all but guaranteed to be working on photography improvements and refinements that might be harder to notice at first glance yet prove far more consequential in real-world scenarios, the rest of the camera specs are rumored to look awfully familiar on paper.

We're talking the same insane-sounding 108MP primary shooter, presumably capable of producing the same old crisp 12MP snaps, paired with a 12MP ultra-wide-angle lens on the S21 Ultra that's likely to reside on the back of the "regular" S21 and the S21+ too.

The Galaxy S21 and S21+ are also expected to retain their forerunners' more run-of-the-mill 12MP main imaging sensor and 64MP non-periscope telephoto lens, but even though The Elec's inside sources predict "no significant change in terms of pixels except for the missing ToF" on the S21+ and S21 Ultra 5G, "some modules" might still improve, adding optical image stabilization or other important new features.

Today's report seems to corroborate gossip of S Pen support being added to "the top model of the Galaxy S21", which curiously enough is never actually mentioned by the S21 Ultra 5G name. Meanwhile, the version likely to be called the S21+ 5G could pack a gargantuan 4,800mAh or so battery, compared to the 4,000mAh cell capacity tipped for the S21 5G. 

Other rumored specs and features include a maximum of 16 gigs of blazing fast memory, Snapdragon 875 or Exynos 1000 processing power (depending on the region you live in), 3D Sonic Max in-display fingerprint recognition technology, and a 40MP hole punch selfie camera. 

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