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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

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 9 hours ago - Technology

A dark view of the future of autonomous weapons

A still from the video "If Human: Kill ( )." Image: Future of Life Institute

A new short film warns of the coming risks posed by the development and proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons.

Why it matters: Drones with the ability to autonomously target and kill without the assistance of a human operator are reportedly already being used on battlefields, and time is running out to craft a global ban of what could be a destabilizing and terrifying new class of weapon.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine — Pfizer could have vaccine data for children under five by end of 2021, CEO says.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Updated 14 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

The latest: Lawyers for James and Jennifer Crumbley told the Detroit News they are "returning to the area to be arraigned," after law enforcement officials announced a search for the Crumbleys had been initiated.