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Courtesy: Samsung

There were few surprises as Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S21 family on Thursday, but it's always interesting to see where the Korean electronics giant puts its energy with each successive generation of flagship gear.

Why it matters: In the U.S. and many places around the world, Samsung is the single biggest phone rival to Apple and its Galaxy S family is the iPhone's most direct competitor.

Details: Samsung announced three models, all of which support 5G networks, wireless charging and IP68 water resistance. Unlike past models, the S21 won't support adding storage via an SD card.

  • The Galaxy S21 starts at $799 and comes with a 6.2-inch screen, a Qualcomm 888 processor (in the U.S.), a 10 megapixel front camera and three rear cameras (wide, ultrawide and telephoto).
  • The Galaxy S21+ starts at $999 and sports a 6.7-inch screen and a similar processor and array of cameras.
  • The Galaxy S21 Ultra starts at $1,199 and includes four rear lenses (wide, ultrawide and two telephoto lenses, one of which has a 10x optical zoom). The Ultra also supports (but does not come with) the S Pen that typically has been found on Samsung's Galaxy Note series.
  • All three models can be pre-ordered now and will be available starting Jan. 29 from Samsung as well as major carriers and retailers, many of which will have their own promotions.

The company also announced high-end Galaxy Buds Pro wireless earbuds and Galaxy SmartTags, for keeping track of household objects.

Between the lines: Two things stand out about the S21 family: the starting prices — coming in $200 below the starting prices of its predecessor line — and the enhancements Samsung has made to the camera.

  • Those include an improved night mode and a 10x optical zoom on the S21 Ultra, as well as software across the line that makes it easier to pull high-quality still frames from video footage.
  • Samsung has also added the ability to film from front and rear cameras simultaneously, as well as to use multiple microphones when paired with the Galaxy Buds Pro.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
57 mins ago - Technology

Epic's long game against Apple

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Epic's Apple lawsuit is costing the company dearly, but the game developer has its eye on a valuable long-term goal: prying tomorrow's virtual worlds loose from the grip of app store proprietors like Apple.

Between the lines: Epic isn't spending a fortune in legal fees and foregoing a ton of revenue just to shave some costs off in-app purchases on today's phones. Rather, it's planning for a future of creating virtual universes via augmented and virtual reality — without having to send a big chunk of their economies to Apple or Google.

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

The race to avoid a possible "monster" COVID variant

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Slow global COVID-19 vaccination rates are raising concerns that worse variants of the coronavirus could be percolating, ready to rip into the world before herd immunity can diminish their impact.

Why it matters: The U.S. aims to at least partially vaccinate 70% of adults by July 4, a move expected to accelerate the current drop of new infections here. But variants are the wild card, and in a global pandemic where only about 8% of all people have received one dose, the virus will continue mutating unabated.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
1 hour ago - Health

Democrats are still looking for a plan on drug prices

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Democrats have no workable plan to tackle the cost of prescription drugs, even with full control of Washington and after campaigning on the issue for years.

The picture: Voters still care about the cost of drugs, but Democrats don't have a feasible legislative strategy yet — or an agreed-upon policy to fit into a legislative strategy.