While CES 2021 is certainly different than usual, a lot of phones have been unveiled to store shelves this year – and a few futuristic concepts have also been teased. Here are all the phones at CES 2021, from today’s best to tomorrow’s most promising ideas.
Let’s limit your expectations in advance: many phonemakers have effectively passed CES 2021, so don’t expect any lineups or teasing from LG, Xiaomi, Huawei or others. But other brands have moved on undaunted, with Motorola and TCL unveiling new budget and mid-range handsets – including the cheapest 5G phones we’ve seen in the US so far.
And, of course, Samsung has gotten ahead of its typical release schedule to unveil its new line of flagship phones. While these may not be strictly according to the CES 2021 announcements, rumors suggest we are about to see the Samsung Galaxy S21, S21 Plus and S21 Ultra on January 14th. These will be the first top-tier devices of the year and set the tone for the best phones of 2021.
But there are also some handy phone concepts at CES 2021 – mostly in the form of roll-up devices, which extend the screen sideways to get the kind of screen real estate we’ve only seen in foldable models. Several phonemakers are showing off their retractable TVs at CES, and unsurprisingly, they’re the same brands that unveiled retractable full-size TVs years ago.
So here they are: the biggest phones at CES 2021, and despite this year’s all-digital show, we’ve got our hands on some of them.
Motorola’s full budget phone line
Motorola showed off this year’s G-series phones, some of which had already been released in some form as the G9 line in other regions. But we see the others for the first time, such as the Moto G Stylus 2021 and the Motorola One 5G Ace.
The latter is a refinement of the Motorola One 5G, but with a few trimmed features, the Motorola One 5G Ace comes in as one of the most affordable 5G phones we’ve seen so far with a starting price of $ 399 (about £ 294 / AU $ 514). With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G chipset, 6 GB RAM (in the US version), a triple rear camera (48 MP main camera / 8 MP ultra wide / 2 MP macro) and a 5000 mAh battery, this is the 5G phone from the middle segment.
The Moto G Stylus has some minor improvements over the 2019 model (which was Motorola’s first G-series stylus phone): a larger 6.8-inch Full HD Plus display (presumably LCD like its predecessor), Snapdragon 678 chipset, the same size 4000 mAh battery and a similar triple rear camera array (48 MP main, 8 MP ultra-wide, 2 MP macro). However, the software has been improved with more features (like splitting the screen to draw in half with an app open in the other half).
The other two models are different versions of phones released in other regions in late 2020: the Moto G Power, for example, costs $ 199 (around £ 146 / AU $), which is slightly cheaper than the more expensive Moto G9 Power’s £ 179 price point. Likewise, the Moto G Play costs $ 169 (around £ 124 / AU $ 217), which is less powerful but cheaper than the £ 159 (around $ 210, AU $ 290) price of the G9 Play.
TCL will release the first of its 2021 phones
TCL introduced its first line of branded phones at CES 2020 last year, and is following the new TCL 20 line of handsets – but only two out of five plan to announce in the near future. These two are the leading affordable model, as well as the new low-cost 5G phone, which is likely to compete with the Motorola One 5G Ace and other phones in an increasingly competitive mid-range 5G phone niche.
The TCL 20 5G has a 6.67-inch LCD Full HD display, Snapdragon 695G chipset, 6 GB RAM, 128 GB storage, a 4,500 mAh battery and a triple rear camera (48 MP main, ultra-wide and depth sensor). And of course 5G connectivity.
The TCL 20 SE also introduced is a budget phone with a Snapdragon 460, 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage, but the huge 6.8-inch display, triple rear camera (48 MP main camera, 5 MP wide angle with 117 degrees FoV and 2 MP macro) with a 2 MP depth sensor and 5,000 mAh battery make it a great affordable option.
Unfortunately, we don’t know how much the TCL 20 will cost 5G or 20 SE, nor what their release date is, and we have no idea when we’ll see the other phones in the TCL 20 lineup.
Here’s a real-life look at the TCL AMOLED Rollable Display (it’ll make you feel like you’re at a CES booth again!): # CES2021 pic.twitter.com/RRVM5QAqwcJanuary 11, 2021
CES 2021: the year of the rollable
Foldables are so passe; the new hotness that TCL and Oppo have been teased in concepts through 2020 retractable telephones, which roll out to expand a phone’s screen in a way that supposedly leaves no creases. At CES 2021, we didn’t just hear about new rollables – we heard that one could come year.
That is the LG rollable, which was featured in the brand’s CES video, and was narrated by sources CNET will be released sometime in 2021. LG itself would not confirm or deny the news, but only issued an official statement: “LG Rollable was previewed at CES 2021. Stay tuned for more details on LG Mobile’s exciting 2021 portfolio.”
During a preview of its TCL 20 series phones, TCL confirmed that its rollable phone is still in development – and at its CES 2021 presentation, the brand showed two new rollable concepts: one that rolls upwards to make the phone bigger and a wide scroll-like screen that unfolds into a 17-inch screen, which would reach the dimensions of a laptop.
TCL showed working technical demos of the can be rolled up vertically and the scrolling screen in tweets, showing that while not yet implemented in market-ready phones, they are definitely on the way.
And … no more technical shows for months
CES 2021 will be the last major tech show in months now that we know it MWC 2021 – which we expect to happen in a normal year in late February – won’t happen until the end of June. That means we won’t have another big event for phone makers for half a year to plan their device announcements.
Instead of the usual release window, brands will have to release phones on their own schedule. We’ve already seen that with the Moto G phones, which were previously unveiled during or after MWC, but shown at CES 2021 – and this could be a boon to smaller phone makers who typically fight for attention at Mobile World Congress. the biggest telephone event of the year.
Conversely, it could pressure brands to speed up their announcements and hook all the press instead of waiting for the usual February launch window. That appears to be what Samsung is doing this year as it is slated to unveil its Galaxy S21 phones on January 14 when CES 2021 ends. Which leads us to …
Samsung Galaxy S21: The first flagship phones of the year
Yes, the Samsung Galaxy S21 phones will be unveiled at CES. Although it is not Bee CES, or not specifically connected, it’s no coincidence that one of the biggest phone companies is releasing its new line of flagship handsets on the last day of the tech show … which is more than a month earlier than we expected.
We expect three phones to appear at the January 14 launch event: the standard Samsung Galaxy S21, the larger Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus and the top-of-the-range Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. Samsung’s own teases point to a new design that discards a camera block for a very glossy finished corner to house the rear cameras – in a vertical line for the S21 and S21 Plus, and a double column for the S21 Ultra.
Rumor has it that all phones cost less than last year’s Samsung S20 line, but may also compromise on some features – the S21 and S21 Plus in particular may have displays that max out at Full HD, with only the S21 Ultra having a WQHD resolution display. Conversely, the premium S21 Ultra may have even more features that justify its price, such as WQHD resolution and 120Hz refresh rate at the same time and packing a S Pen stylus.
We will know for sure what the S21 line will bring when it launches on January 14, making Samsung’s new phones the first flagships to arrive in 2021, setting the standard (and expected Prices) for the handsets of the year.