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Don't buy a Galaxy S20 phone right now. Here's why you should wait

The Galaxy S21 is here, and is less expensive than the S20 was originally.

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Find out if you should go ahead and buy last year's Samsung Galaxy S20, or wait for the Samsung Galaxy S21 to hit stores this month.

Sarah Tew/CNET
This story is part of CES, where our editors will bring you the latest news and the hottest gadgets of CES 2022.

Update, Jan. 21: Here are CNET's reviews of the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Ultra.


If you're in the market for a new Android phone, you may be considering the Samsung Galaxy S20 5G -- last year's flagship phone from the Samsung Galaxy line. But with the Galaxy S21 revealed today at the Samsung Unpacked event on the last day of CES, you may be wondering: What are the differences between the two Galaxy phones? Should I buy a Galaxy S20 now, or is it worth it to wait for the S21 to arrive in stores on Jan. 29? 

We've broken down all of the different Galaxy S21 specs here, and compared them with the Galaxy S20's here. The base Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S21 are pretty similar on the surface: Both have 6.2-inch screens with a 120Hz refresh rate, a 4,000-mAh battery, 5G connectivity and similar camera features (including a 12-megapixel ultrawide lens). 

The bigger differences come when you upgrade to the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but even then, its features are very similar to those of the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Both premium phones include a more advanced camera and a huge 5,000-mAh battery. However, the S21 Ultra includes a higher-resolution WQHD Plus display, and, notably, support for the S Pen stylus. 

Read moreGalaxy S21: When, where and how to preorder Samsung's latest phones

Here are the major differences between the two Galaxy models, based on what we saw at Unpacked.

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Price

The Galaxy S20 started at $999, though its price has since dropped to $800 at Best Buy at the time of publication. The Galaxy S20 Plus started at $1,199 and the Galaxy S20 Ultra started at $1,399 (but they're now $900 and $1,100 at Amazon, respectively). 

The Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21 Plus and Galaxy S21 Ultra will start at $800, $1,000 and $1,200, respectively. The price decrease is likely due to a drop in mobile phone sales during the pandemic.

In the UK, the Galaxy S21 starts at £769, £30 less than last year's S20 -- a much smaller difference than in the US. In Australia, it starts at AU$1,249, which is AU$100 less than the S20's price last year.

Processor

The Galaxy S21 has a new Snapdragon 888 processor, which claims to offer faster 5G performance and extended battery life. The Galaxy S20 runs on the older Snapdragon 865 chip.

Display

While the Galaxy S20 features an HD Plus dynamic AMOLED display, the Galaxy S21 includes an FHD Plus LTPS screen, which has higher resolution and better picture quality. 

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The Galaxy S21 comes in a few new colors.

Samsung

Colors

You can buy a Galaxy S20 in cosmic gray, cloud blue, cloud pink and cosmic black (though not all models offer all colors). The Galaxy S21 comes in phantom violet, phantom pink, phantom gray, phantom white, phantom silver or phantom black (but again, not all models will offer all colors). 

How to decide which Galaxy phone to buy

As with any phone purchase, it depends on what you're looking for. Since the price of the base Galaxy S20 has dropped to $800, it's not a bad phone for the money -- especially if it drops lower, since it includes many of the same features as the new Galaxy S21. If the S20 price doesn't drop down after the S21 is released on Jan. 29, and if you're planning to spend around $800 anyway, you might as well get a Galaxy S21 for the starting price of $800, since that will get you a better processor and a different display.

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