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Evan Blass

This story is part of CES, where our editors will bring you the latest news and the hottest gadgets of the entirely virtual CES 2021.

Samsung’s Galaxy S21, the follow-up to last year’s Galaxy S20 flagship, is almost here. Today, on the last day of CESSamsung will host a virtual Galaxy Unpacked event (here’s how to watch live), where the latest Galaxy S smartphone is expected to be unveiled, about a month earlier than last year’s announcement. Rumors have been circulating for months now about the new device, fueled by leaks galore. Will the Galaxy S21 come with a stylus? Will it sport a sleek new design? Will it replace the Galaxy Note line

And the perennial question: Will it include a headphone jack? All we can say right now is, probably not. But if we learned anything in the time since Samsung released its last Galaxy S flagship (the very same day the novel coronavirus was officially christened COVID-19), it’s that anything is possible.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S21 colors: Get ready for pastel pink, if rumors are true

Leaked teasers for the Galaxy S21 show a similar design to the S20 lineup, with an in-screen fingerprint reader and a centered hole-punch front camera. But one thing you won’t see in the leaked images is a headphone jack, which tells us it’s probably not in the cards for the S21. More recent leaks showing Samsung’s specs for all three models of the S21 also did not include mention of a headphone jack. 

There has been some unsubstantiated conjecture about Samsung reintroducing the headphone jack as a sort of experiment in 2021. The thinking here is that a headphone jack could be enough to differentiate the Galaxy flagship from other premium phones from the likes of Apple and Google, which have also forced users to convert to either the wireless earbud or dongle lifestyle in recent years.

It’s an interesting theory, especially if you remember Samsung’s initial reaction to Apple’s original removal of the headphone jack from its 2016 handset, the iPhone 7. Apple’s move became a punchline at Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 launch event that same year. And ads for the Galaxy Note 8 went a step further, mocking the iPhone’s unwieldy dongle setup. But the tide changed and, when Samsung unveiled its Galaxy Note 10 in 2019, it, too, left the headphone jack on the cutting room floor. Last year’s Galaxy S20 also lacked a headphone jack, the first of the Galaxy S line to nix it.

Read more: iPhone 12’s Lightning port may be the next thing Apple kills

History may repeat itself with the Galaxy S21. When Apple decided not to include a charger or earphones in the box with its iPhone 12, Samsung mocked that decision as well. But now rumors suggest that Samsung may follow suit. A leak from tipster Evan Blass shows a “what’s in the box” page from Samsung that only lists a USB-C cable (sans charging brick), ejection pin and Quick Start Guide, citing environmental reasons. And not including headphones in the box is yet another piece of evidence against the inclusion of a corresponding headphone jack.

One reason phone makers love to lose the jack: thinner bezels. Thin is in, and a smaller bezel footprint allows for a larger screen without adding to the phone’s overall size. 

Galaxy Buds Pro leaked image

The purported Galaxy Buds Pro.


Voice

Another, perhaps more cynical reason: The company’s own wireless earbuds ought to sell better when its phones lack a wired headphone jack. Apple’s AirPods have gone like gangbusters, likely thanks in no small part to the iPhone’s excised jack. And Samsung’s got its own line of wireless earbuds, the Galaxy Buds, Galaxy Buds Plus and Galaxy Buds Live, with an equally prolific rumor mill hyping the allegedly forthcoming Galaxy Buds Pro. So it would make sense for Samsung to stick to its decision to bid the headphone jack adieu. Plus, if the latest leaked promotional slides are accurate, Samsung may be offering a pair of wireless earbuds along with the S21 as a preorder bonus, though it’s not clear whether this offer will be available in the US.

We expect to get our answer later today at Samsung’s Galaxy Unpacked event, but in the meantime, here’s everything else we’ve heard about the Galaxy S21 so far.

More Samsung Galaxy S21 rumors:





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