I know that when most of you read reviews about any type of device or gadget, most of the time it’s a review of an item that’s only been evaluated for about a week or two. If it’s a more in-depth review, maybe it’s been used for about a month. I know for my smartphone reviews here, I try to use them for at least a month or so before putting my final thoughts down on paper. Also, I usually don’t get to do many really long-term reviews because I usually have to return those phones back to their respective PR teams. That’s not the case however with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G because I actually bought my own after evaluating it and am able to give a realistic, long-term view of it after using it day in and day out as my daily driver. It’s been roughly 5 months now so has anything changed since my initial reviews? Let’s find out.
Mainly, I’m only going to write about issues I’ve had so you can assume that everything else I don’t talk about has been great still. I will also note again that I’m on the AT&T version of the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G so some experience with it may be different from the unlocked version and other carrier versions.
I can’t really be 100% sure about the long-term durability of the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G because I run my phone with a case every day and a screen protector. What I can say is that with the case and screen protector on, my Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is near mint and looks just as good now as it did when it was brand new. The only part that isn’t protected is the camera bump on the back and the camera lenses and so far, they’ve held up quite well. No visible scratches that I can see on the matte finish or the lenses.
I will note that my original Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G review unit I received from Samsung did get scratched on the screen from something on the very first day of getting it. It’s possible that I had scratched it on some kind of debris when taking photos of it while it was face down. That pretty much convinced me to get a screen protector for the one I bought as well as a case.
Unless you have the stickiest hands known to man and an iron grip, I suggest picking up a case at least.
You’ll be happy to note that Samsung is really on top of its game here. I’ve been getting consistent security updates every single month since purchase, even on my carrier-locked device. Different carriers get them at different times, but from what I see, it’s been fairly consistent with all of them. My only issue is that AT&T likes releasing these updates with no information so you never know what is in these updates whereas I believe the unlocked versions and some other carriers show what is being updated.
For the most part, the camera has been fantastic. I’m pretty happy with all the images it takes, though there are some minor things here and there. The optical lengths are fine. It’s not until you start using the 30x and 100x that image quality really drops and that’s understandable since these are basically digital zooms. I wouldn’t really use 100x for anything other than moon photos or trying to see what something really far away is. Don’t expect crystal clear shots here.
Nighttime photography can get a bit muddled at times with the colors, but you can still make out some fine details.
My only real issue with the camera is the video mode. While the Galaxy S21 Ultra does take some amazing video, long periods of use make the phone super hot to the point where it overheats and needs to shut the camera off. You won’t be able to use the camera again until the phone cools down. From what I hear, recent updates should have fixed this issue and I haven’t had a chance again since the latest update to try this out. Anyways, this happened to me on vacation over the summer and I had to drop my phone into a cooler of ice to make it cool down faster.
I should also note that because there is no expandable storage on this phone, I do need to dump my photos to my computer every now and then just to free up space. I still have plenty of space, I just do this to be on the safe side.
I know a lot of media sites have been complaining about how Samsung places first-party ads in their first-party apps and while it is true that they do this, it is so simple to disable them all. You just need to go into the settings of each app and disable the marketing junk and the notifications for them. You can also do this in the phone settings to disable the targeted marking stuff. I did all of this in the first couple of days of getting the phone and I haven’t seen any pop-ups or notification style ads since. You will however still see some ads inside the apps.
With that said, Samsung did recently announce that it would be getting rid of all the ads, period, on all their apps very soon so this is really going to be a non-issue now.
ODDS AND ENDS
What else would I consider little issues? The fingerprint reader can be a little finicky, especially with a screen protector on. I’ve tried it with an all-glass protector and it didn’t work at all so I got rid of that. The TPU protectors seem to work fine.
The battery seems to hold up and I’m getting about a full day of usage per charge and I use my phone a lot. Social media apps eat up a ton of battery as does playing certain games. I really haven’t gotten to the point where I’ve needed to recharge in the middle of the day yet.
Learn to use Bixby Routines. It can automate so many little things here and there. I use it to manage when my WiFi and NFC turn on and off based on location and when I need them. This helps with battery consumption. I also use it to turn off all the fast charging settings during the night because I don’t need it to fast charge overnight. I hear this might help with battery conditioning and it keeps the battery from wearing out quicker. Anyways, I”m just saying that there are tons of things Bixby Routines can automate so give it a try.
Lastly, I know we all complained about the lack of an included charger. This didn’t really affect me much since I had a ton of extra charges on hand from previous devices. To get optimized charging, just make sure you have one that can put out 24W for super-fast charging, otherwise, it’s 18W for just fast charging. Also for wireless charging, you’ll want something with 18W as well.
Despite some of these little wrinkles, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is one of the best phones I’ve ever used as my daily driver. Am I still a bit cross that they got rid of expandable memory? Yes because while I still have plenty of space available, expandable memory allowed for me to transfer all my files and photos easily between devices by just swapping out the SD card. I can’t do that anymore. I’ll just have to see what happens the next time I have to swap devices.
The other issues haven’t been so bad where I want to chuck my phone out a window. They’re manageable and Samsung seems to know about them where they’re willing to fix those issues through software updates. I’ll mention again that we do get consistent updates with the Galaxy S21 line. I’m very happy about that.
Aside from that, everything else has been great. Games all run smoothly and with little to no lag and so far the phone has been able to handle anything I’ve thrown at it. Dex mode is a cool little bonus mode if you try to use it and the display is super nice. Honestly, there isn’t really much to complain about which is probably why I decided to make this my main go-to daily device this year.
- SAMSUNG Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Factory Unlocked (128GB)
- SAMSUNG Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Factory Unlocked (256GB)
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