SEOUL (Reuters) - Samsung Electronics Co Ltd on Thursday unveiled the first Galaxy S smartphone with a stylus for on-screen work called the S Pen, more than a month ahead of its usual annual release schedule for models of its flagship compact phone.
Analysts have said offering a stylus within the Galaxy S21 series might signal the South Korean tech giant will merge the S line with its other premium smartphone range, the Note, already equipped with a note-taking stylus. That could free up resources for Samsung to push its separate range high-end foldable phones as key mass products rather than niche devices.
Samsung is also looking to grab market share after China's Huawei Technologies was hit with U.S. sanctions that restricted its supply and hurt sales, analysts have said.
An early Galaxy S21 launch is a likely tactic to capitalise on Huawei's woes, said Counterpoint Research analyst Sujeong Lim. New iterations of the Note typically come in the second half of the year.
Lim said Samsung faces intense competition in the high-end category from Chinese vendors amid growing demand for devices that can be used for remote work amid the coronavirus pandemic, as well as play like videogaming.
In the United States, the Galaxy S21 price range starts at $799.99, the S21 Plus version at $999.99, and the S21 Ultra at $1,199.99.
The series will be widely available starting Jan. 29 through Samsung.com, carriers and retailers online, Samsung said.
With the most advanced processing chip in any Galaxy device, the S21 is 5G compatible and designed for shooting and viewing video and images as well as on-screen work. The top end of the range, the Ultra - the only version compliant with the S Pen stylus, which has to be bought separately - sports a four-lens rear camera that allows different angles and zoom shots.
Samsung plans to offer the stylus with other devices, said TM Roh, head of Samsung's mobile communications business.
The standard S21's screen size is 6.2 inches, with the S21 Plus at 6.7 inches and S21 Ultra is 6.8 inches, optimal for watching videos and gaming. The latter two are close in size to last year's Galaxy Note 'phablets' - a cross between a phone and a tablet.
The S21 series is powered by Qualcomm Inc's Snapdragon 888 chips or Samsung's own Exynos 2100 chips depending on the region, Samsung said. Qualcomm said last month the 5G chips will be manufactured by Samsung's chipmaking division.
(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Sayantani Ghosh, Kenneth Maxwell, Elaine Hardcastle)