First, the FCC confirms the Galaxy S21 has S-Pen support. Rumors have been swirling that the Galaxy Note line would be killed to focus on Samsung’s ballooning foldables lineup, and farming out the Note’s one unique feature would certainly fit that narrative. There is still some dispute about whether the Note is actually dead. Reuters cites an anonymous source claiming the Note is dead, while Yonhap, South Korea’s biggest news agency, cites an anonymous source claiming the Note is alive.
What’s not in dispute is that the Note is no longer the only Samsung phone with stylus support. As a tester of all things wireless, the FCC says the S21 Ultra has “two different inductive coupling modes of S-PEN motion detection (Hover and Click).” The Ultra sounds like it will work just like the Note, but remember, there’s nowhere to store the S-Pen on a Galaxy S21. We know what the phone looks like, and it does not have a giant chasm for pen storage like the Note did. Like an Apple Pencil or Surface Pen, you’ll probably have to buy the pen separately and figure out where to store it.
Another tidbit in the report is confirmation of Wi-Fi 6E compatibility for the Ultra model. The FCC seems just as excited about Wi-Fi 6E as we are: it wrote a 23-page report dedicated entirely to the support for the new Wi-Fi standard on the S21 Ultra. We could talk forever about the new tricks and optimizations in the 802.11ax/Wi-Fi 6 standard that hit phones starting in 2019, but Wi-Fi 6E is easy to understand: it just adds a big chunk of 6GHz spectrum to the 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrum we use today. More spectrum means more bandwidth for you and your neighbors.
With the Galaxy S21 rumored to launch mid-January (during virtual CES?), the S21 Ultra will be one of the first Wi-Fi 6E clients, of any kind, to hit the market. You’ll also need a new access point to make Wi-Fi 6E work, and so far none has hit the market. Asus announced the “world’s first Wi-Fi 6E gaming router” in September, the incredibly named “Asus ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000 Gaming Router,” but there’s no release date, and it’s still not for sale yet. A perpetually out-of-stock Newegg listing has it priced at $550.
We know almost everything else about the Galaxy S21. In the United States, it will be the first phone with the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC. It has a bigger in-screen fingerprint sensor. The Ultra model should have a 5000mAh battery and a 120Hz OLED display sized somewhere around 6.8-inches. Official pictures have already leaked, showing the usual front all-screen design and a rear camera block that makes the questionable decision to wrap around the side and corner of the phone. I wonder what will happen if you drop it on the corner!
Nothing is official yet, but the phone is expected to be announced on January 14.
Listing image by Evan Blass