OLED Adoption by Smartphones to Slow Down in 2022

LCD, which once used to dominate smartphone displays, is now gradually giving way to OLED. Widely recognized as a more advanced display, OLED has steadily increased its share in the small panel market for the past several years. However, in 2022, the pace of OLED’s growth is likely to slow down. According to Counterpoint Research’s Smartphone Sales Forecast by Display Type, the share of OLED in smartphone display types globally is expected to increase only by 2% points YoY in 2022 to 44%. It had risen by 10% points YoY in 2021 to 42%.

counterpoint research Display Panel Types of Smartphones, 2020-2022(F)

This slowdown in OLED penetration is directly connected to the downward pressure on the average selling price (ASP) of 5G smartphones. Although prices of key components such as chipsets are rising due to supply shortages, OEMs have been forced to lower the shipping prices of finished products due to intensifying competition in the market and stagnation in consumption caused by the ongoing global economic slowdown. Therefore, manufacturers desperately looking to cut costs appear to be compromising on the display. According to Counterpoint’s Handset Model Tracker, the OLED adoption rate for 5G smartphones in Q4 2021 was 80%, a YoY decrease of 2% points. This is particularly noteworthy considering that 5G models have mainly driven the expansion of OLED adoption so far.

counterpoint research Average Selling Price & OLED Ratio for 5G Smartphones, Q4 2020 vs Q4 2021

The recent demand-supply and price trends of OLED panels themselves have also become obstacles. OLED is divided into relatively inexpensive ‘rigid OLED’ and high-end ‘flexible OLED’ that has increased flexibility and strength. In the low-end to mid-end smartphones, the panel that can directly replace LCD is rigid OLED, but its global supply has now reached its limit. This is because display makers are focusing their investments on flexible OLEDs instead of the low-margin rigid OLEDs. On the other hand, the price of flexible OLED, which is preferred for premium models, dropped so much around 2020 that its adoption rate soared. Recently, however, even this downward trend in prices has come to a standstill.

Still, from a long-term perspective, the trend of OLEDs taking the place of LCDs in smartphones does not seem to change. This is closely related to the 5G market growth. Since 5G phones consume battery faster than LTE phones, OLEDs are preferred for them as they are more power-efficient than LCDs under normal conditions. Comparing smartphones sold during Q4 2021 by network type, the adoption ratio for LCD and OLED panels in LTE smartphones was 82:18, but for 5G smartphones, the ratio was 20:80.

counterpoint research Display Panel Types of Smartphones by Air Interface, Q4 2021

In conclusion, the shift to OLEDs in smartphones will continue in the long term, but its pace will depend on various factors — recovery of the consumer economy, supply stabilization of key parts and reduction of flexible OLED prices. As the above conditions are unlikely to be met in 2022, it will be difficult for many smartphone manufacturers to aggressively expand OLED adoption in the near term.

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POCO F3 Long-term Review: Attractively Priced ‘Flagship Killer’, But Some User Experience Compromises

  • The POCO F3 is powered by the 7nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 SoC.
  • It features an AMOLED 6.67-inch screen with a 120Hz refresh rate.
  • Price starts at $350, making it the most expensive POCO model to date.

POCO was carved out of Xiaomi as an independent brand in early 2020. As Xiaomi seeks to expand its product coverage, it has now defined the Xiaomi (previously named Mi) series as the one meant for the high-end market. Then comes the Redmi series with its focus on budget options. POCO attempts to fill the gap between Xiaomi and Redmi series by offering ‘affordable premium’ models.

Similar to other smartphone manufacturers’ practices, POCO has its own management to deal with product development, P&L, sales and marketing. However, it shares resources with Xiaomi for R&D, supply chain, manufacturing and after-sales service. This reliance on Xiaomi for supply chain and manufacturing is especially important given the current industry-wide semiconductor shortages, as without the entire parent group’s weight, it would have been difficult and uneconomical for POCO to source ‘Tier 1’ components.Xiaomi Global Smartphone Sales by Sub-brand Share, 2020 & 2021 (Jan-Aug)

POCO now has four product series — F as the most premium, C and M for budget models and X for the gap between F and C-M. The POCO brand has always identified itself with one target audience – tech enthusiasts looking for premium specs at affordable prices. The POCO F3, which was launched in March 2021, is the most expensive POCO model to date. While cheaper variants are mainly being sold in India now, wider availability, along with more premium models, is expected in international markets in the coming days. The device is already one of the best-selling models in China, though, as a caveat, it is marketed there as the Redmi K40 along with two enhanced versions – Redmi K40 Pro and Redmi K40 Gaming.

POCO Smartphone Sales by Geographical Share, 2020 & 2021 (Jan-Aug)

According to Counterpoint Research’s Model Sales Tracker, sizeable market penetration has been witnessed for the POCO brand in APAC, Europe and MEA regions over the past year, reducing reliance on the India market at the same time. We think this move is meaningful and unlikely to be a blip because the increase in penetration in these regions coincides with Xiaomi’s overall strategy during the past year, which is to broaden both the portfolio and brand footprint. In fact, POCO has more than exceeded Xiaomi’s own lofty performances in the past year and half – with sales achieving a 123% increase in the first eight months of 2021, as compared to 73% for the entire group.

Looking at the price range and sales channel of POCO products, they were found to be closely matching Xiaomi’s overall numbers in different regions. As such, it is not difficult to imagine POCO actually following Xiaomi’s overall strategy, despite lower volumes as compared to the Mi and Redmi series. Notwithstanding the varying degrees of sophistication across markets, the POCO brand seems to have captured a sizeable niche market. Having four product series also helps the brand cover a wider range of price points and needs of customers.

POCO F3 Long-term Review

We have been using the POCO F3 for about five months, giving us a closer look at how the device would fare on a day-to-day basis and after systems updates.

Impressive specs

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 5G (7 nm) processor
  • Sub-6GHz 5G support but no mmWave
  • 6GB/8GB RAM, 128GB/256GB storage (no expandable storage)

Positioned in the tightly contested mid-range 5G segment, the POCO F3 is packed with noteworthy features at an equally eye-catching price point. This compares favorably with models in the range.Sub $400 Smartphone Comparisons

Looking at the POCO F3’s features, the one thing that stands out is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 5G chipset, which makes regular appearances in rival flagship models such as the vivo X60, OPPO Reno 6 Pro and Motorola Moto G100, all priced above $500. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 5G chipset has a prime core that can achieve up to 3.2GHz of clock speed. With the Adreno 650, it also packs one of the most powerful GPUs around. With a polished design, fast-charging battery and a 6.67-inch AMOLED display featuring 120Hz refresh rate, the POCO F3 appeals to tech enthusiasts looking for all-round entertainment, particularly gaming experience.

Slick, Mirror Finish but A Fingerprint Magnet

  • Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection on both front and back
  • IP53, dust and splash protection
  • Glossy finish

The most immediate first impression of the POCO F3 is the curved glossy back, which looks impeccable. It is clear that the design tries to woo tech-savvy and demanding gadget players. We obtained the Night Black version (Arctic White and Deep Ocean Blue are also available), and the strong reflection from the back almost makes it double up as a mirror when the surface is clean. However, this super-glossiness is a magnet for fingerprints and looks terrible when not clean. This also goes against the prevailing trend of major OEMs mostly opting for a matte finish.

POCO F3 BackPOCO F3 Back Fingerprint

The POCO F3 uses Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on both sides, with a not-so-thin curved plastic frame, sprayed with grippy paint that feels metallic. We were delighted with the side-mounted fingerprint sensor that is built into the power button. It is extremely fast compared to the mixed experiences we had with other models opting for under-display sensors (optical). These are mature designs, a clue that the device isn’t a premium flagship model. But it has a fairly pleasurable hold and manifests design character.

POCO F3 Side

Good camera performance for its price

  • Triple rear camera setting
    • 48MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/2″, 0.8µm, PDAF
    • 8 MP, f/2.2, 119˚ (ultrawide)
    • 5 MP, f/2.4, 50mm (macro), 1/5.0″, 1.12µm, AF
  • Selfie camera: 20 MP, f/2.5, (wide), 1/3.4″, 0.8µm

For a device in the sub-$400 range, the POCO F3 cameras perform fairly well. They can capture some stunning shots under the right conditions.

POCO F3 Camera

Below are some photos shot from the primary camera in daylight conditions. Overall, the sensor seems to have captured enough detail, and the contrast is also crisp. However, upon closer inspection, high-frequency detail such as the hair on the teddy bear and the pores on the fried chicken skin look sullied and over-processed.



The following photos were taken during strong daylight (around mid-day). No AI function was used (though the camera app comes with the AI function, which can automatically detect objects such as grass, flowers, trees and buildings). The photos look decent under the right settings, and qualify for most social media purposes.



We then took some close-up shots, with mixed results. In the samples below, while colors are well preserved, the same cannot be said of the details. In particular, edge detection looks weak. The algorithms that are supposed to separate the background from the foreground seem to be off.



Portrait selfies, however, do a much better job. The first shot had AI and HDR off while the second one had them on. Curiously, while the AI has smoothened the skin, details on facial hair and the shirt have become sharper. There were also no problems with recognizing the background from the foreground. Overall, the selfie quality is surprisingly good.

We then took photos at night. The pairs of photos below were taken with default settings and low-light mode. In short, the low-light mode is able to capture much more details without unnecessarily distorting the contrast. The quality of details takes a noticeable hit in the default mode, but no such issue is observed in the low-light mode.

Therefore, we conclude that the POCO F3 cameras perform as expected and are in line with similarly priced competitors. However, under the right conditions, they can take good photos, such as the one below, which was taken with default settings.


Superb display enables smooth gaming experience

  • 67-inch AMOLED, 120Hz refresh rate, HDR10+, 1300 nits (peak)
  • 1080 x 2400 pixels, 20:9 ratio (~395 ppi density)

The POCO F3’s display is probably the biggest selling point. At 6.67 inches, this AMOLED screen is huge but necessary these days for a prime gaming experience. At 1300 nits peak, the screen is very bright (sometimes too bright at night), and the color saturation is decent at all brightness levels. The screen resolution is the typical extended 1080p. But with better positioning of the punch-hole camera, the visual ‘real estate’ has not been compromised.

The POCO F3 supports 120Hz refresh rate and 360Hz touch sampling. The refresh rate does automatically adjust between these two frequencies depending on the app, but for the sake of saving battery, we manually had it on 60Hz default for most of the day except for games and videos.

POCO F3 - Refresh Rate Settings
In the video below, we played Honor of Kings under 90Hz refresh rate at 60fps frame rate – the top video quality available for this game. Overall, the quality of the video was great, able to reflect finer details such as the flapping movement of our character’s robe and the movement of the minions. Most encouragingly, video quality consistency is on display at the 0:35 mark, where our character performs a rushing move when multiple objects are in view, and the 0:45 mark, when multiple characters are performing dynamic actions. The performance was stable throughout the game as the display rarely deviated from the targeted 60fps frame rate (seen at the top right of the screen).

For comparison, we played Call of Duty: Mobile. The game was played under 60Hz as the higher 120Hz is only available on the Sony Xperia 5 II. While we did fairly well and killed four opponents in the sample, you can see that the smoothness of the video quality takes a dive compared to the previous sample, especially in near-field dynamic environments, such as nearby objects when moving the cursor and zooming in to shoot.

Another interesting gaming feature is the Game Turbo mode. It allows the device to automatically detect ongoing gaming sessions, and can stop notifications and calls. Additionally, one can slide open the menu the top left of the screen to see further features. Useful ones include GPU, CPU and FPS performances, as well as memory boost, screenshot and video recording. One can even access other apps through a pop-out screen – useful for filling moments of inactivity when playing ‘idle’ games. POCO F3 - Game Turbo Mode

POCO F3 - Game Turbo Mode, WhatsApp

Perhaps one drawback of the POCO F3 screen is that it can dim unexpectedly under very bright sunlight, probably due to overheating and subsequent thermal throttling. However, it can be fixed by manually adjusting the brightness. We experienced this issue 3-4 times in the first month but much more frequently in subsequent months.  This is consistent with the complaints seen on Xiaomi forums.

Dual speakers with Dolby Atmos add to entertainment value

The POCO F3 has a pair of decent speakers in the earpiece and at the bottom of the phone, with Dolby Atmos surround sound solution providing the loud audio experience of true stereo. While a hand may cover the speakers when playing a game or watching videos in the landscape mode, we found the speakers doing a good job at projecting sound. We tested the phone in the shower (tightly sealed of course as the phone comes only with an IP53 rating) and even received calls on the speaker in busy shopping malls – with positive results.

There is a range of equalizer options (see below) for those with particular tastes in audio experience. We streamed a range of music from Spotify and concluded that the POCO F3’s speakers projected a decent range, especially at mid-tones. However, the sound seems to be slightly distorted at the highest volume.

POCO F3 - Audio Settings

Reasonable battery and charging performance, more would be nice

  • 4520mAh battery
  • Fast charging 33W, 100% in 52 min (advertised)

The POCO F3 has a battery of 4520mAh, which is decent at its price range. We saw about eight hours of screen-on time on 60Hz and five hours on 120Hz on 4G connectivity (numbers based on the Screen Time App). However, the apps used were somewhat less ‘intensive’ than what one would find in a typical product review test, and more representative of one’s general daily usage. In our view, the battery will probably be just enough for a day’s average usage, but a power bank or charging wires are a must if one plays games or watches videos during the day.

POCO F3 - Battery

Luckily, the POCO F3 comes with a 33W adapter, which charges around 66% in 30 minutes and 100% within an hour. However, the slight drawback is that playing games on 120Hz while charging can lead to overheating, as seen below when the battery reached 44°C. Inevitably, we experienced some lags while using heavy payload apps like gaming or AI photography.

POCO F3 - Battery Temperature

Software is a huge drag on performance

Now we come to the biggest disappointment in the POCO F3. The device runs on Android 11 with the MIUI 12 skin. The customization is pretty thorough, and the POCO launcher uses a fairly distinct system theme, which can be changed. One of the key alterations is a redesigned app drawer, which has fewer rounded corners and automatically sorts apps into different categories. The first page still displays a vertical list of everything you have installed, but it takes a bit of getting used to. We have avoided navigating for apps in the categories view (Communication, Entertainment, Photography, etc.) as much as possible, due to the confusing sorting of some of the apps.

Compared with other Android competitors, the MIUI takes a fair amount of effort to get its settings sorted out. This may not be an issue for tech-savvy users or those with previous experience of using MIUI, but it is an unnecessarily high barrier for average users looking for a simpler experience. Furthermore, the range of bloatware is alarming. The POCO F3 also has its own clock, calculator, voice recorder and music player – none of which can be uninstalled. The system frequently pushes notifications to update these, which we strongly advise against.

Xiaomi users are fairly active on online forums, and MIUI bugs tend to be quite frequent. Disappointingly, this is a legacy issue that works hugely against the brand, which it seems unable to rectify. With the POCO F3, there is the possibility of upgrading to Android 12, but we do not expect a major boost to the phone’s performance.

In summary, while the hardware in the POCO F3 packs a punch, the bottom line is that software does not do the hardware justice, and the phone is powerful only on paper.

Conclusion: A value-for-money smartphone for tech-savvy users and gamers

The POCO F3 inherits the brand family DNA with top-notch design, excellent display and gaming performances, which will no doubt attract techy-savvy customers who know exactly what they are looking for. Its flagship chipset, the Snapdragon 870 5G, and the AMOLED screen with 120Hz refresh rate will be especially popular among its targeted buyers. While we have found the phone to be fairly reliable in terms of day-to-day general usage, the software weakness can be frustrating for the average user. Despite this, if one can bear with the fidgety initial setting-up processes, the phone is capable of doing its job.


Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Long-term Review: Smooth Performance, Refined Software Offer Best Android Experience

  • The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is the first S-series smartphone to support the S Pen stylus.
  • The smartphone has a 108MP primary camera with 100X space zoom capabilities.
  • It flaunts a stunning WQHD+ Dynamic AMOLED display with refresh rate between 10Hz and 120Hz depending on the on-screen content.

Samsung launched the Galaxy S21 series in January 2021, which was well over a month earlier than its usual February launch schedule. The new smartphones bring key improvements like slightly brighter display, faster chipset and storage, and improved software. However, all this and more come at a starting price of $799 for the Galaxy S21, which is $200 lower than the Galaxy S20.

The flagship smartphone of the series, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, carries a price tag of $1,199, which is also $200 less than last year’s Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G. According to Counterpoint’s Component Practice Research, the S21 Ultra costs 7% less to produce compared to its predecessor. This cost reduction is also due to the removal of the charger and headphones from the box.

As Samsung is skipping the flagship Note series this year, the S21 Ultra gets support for the S Pen stylus (sold separately), which is coming to the S Series for the first time. With all these upgrades, has Samsung done enough to offer the absolute best of Android experience? Here is our long-term Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G review after using it for over six months.

Elegant Design, Phantom Black Color Give it a Classic Look

  • Gorilla Glass Victus protection front and back.
  • IP68 water and dust resistant.

Samsung has always focused on the CMF (color, material, finishing) for both the Galaxy S and Note lines, and the new S21 line-up is no exception. At the launch event, Samsung spent some time explaining the lengthy process involved in creating the perfect black color finish. It finally settled on a black film with haze glass (Gorilla Glass Victus) on top.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review cmf

The result is a clean and smooth black finish which not only offers a good grip when holding the phone but also keeps smudges and fingerprints at bay. Even after six months of usage without a case or screen guard, Gorilla Glass Victus holds up well and there are no scratches so far.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review matte black

The camera module bump at the back still exists and the phone wobbles when kept face up on the table, but that is not a deal-breaker. The module perfectly curves into the phone’s body.

Phantom Black on the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the best black finish we have seen so far.

Display: One of the Best Smartphone Screens

  • 8-inch Dynamic AMOLED display, 120Hz refresh rate (LTPO), HDR10+, 1500 nits.
  • WQHD resolution (1440×3200 pixels, 515ppi).
  • Qualcomm second-generation ultrasonic fingerprint scanner.
  • 9ms latency for S Pen support.

Samsung has gone with a slightly brighter display (1500 nits) compared to the S20 Ultra (1400). Wide viewing angles and vibrant colors let you enjoy HD content with stunning clarity. Whether you are playing games or binge-watching content on Netflix or YouTube, the viewing experience is fantastic. There is a center-aligned hole-punch cutout on top of the display for the front camera, but that doesn’t cause much of a hindrance when watching videos or playing games.

Unlike the Galaxy S20 Ultra, you no longer need to choose between the highest resolution and highest refresh rate. Instead, you now get an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate at WQHD resolution. The interesting highlight of the display is that it uses LTPO (Low-Temperature Polycrystalline Oxide) technology to ensure optimum battery usage. This allows the screen to intelligently switch between 10Hz and 120Hz depending on the screen content.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review screen

For instance, in the case of static wallpapers or when you are reading e-books, the refresh rate can go down to as low as 10Hz. When playing graphic-intensive games or watching videos and movies, the screen refresh rate automatically increases to reach a maximum of 120Hz. There is an option to lower the refresh rate to a constant 60Hz, but you won’t be able to force it to run at 120Hz all the time, and that is not a problem at all.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G comes with a gorgeous screen and quick-touch response time.

For security, Samsung is using Qualcomm’s second-generation ultrasonic under-display fingerprint scanner. It comes with a 1.7x more surface area, and over 50% faster recognition. In my six months of usage, I did find the scanner to be faster and accurate in recognizing the fingerprint and unlocking within a second.

Performance: Blazing Fast Yet Efficient

  • 5nm Snapdragon 888/Exynos 2100 (region dependent).
  • 5G support for both mmWave and Sub-6GHz.
  • 8GB/12GB/16GB RAM, 128GB/256GB/512GB storage (no expandable storage).
  • 5,000mAh battery; 25W wired, 15W wireless and 4.5W reverse wireless charging.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is the first smartphone to be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC in the US. The global variant (like my Indian review unit), on the other hand, is powered by the Exynos 2100 SoC. Both chipsets are fabricated on Samsung’s 5nm node. (We are reviewing the SKU with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage.)

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review front

Performance-wise, the smartphone is a powerhouse. During my long-term usage, I did not notice any stuttering or slowdown. Whether it is using everyday communication apps or web browsing or gaming, the apps do not feel sluggish at all. Samsung seems to have worked on improving memory management.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra does all the heavy lifting without breaking a sweat.

With a few apps minimized in the background, the system is not aggressive in killing background apps, even when running demanding games. It allocates enough resources for the game to run smoothly. Samsung clearly has done a good job optimizing the software and hardware.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review gaming

However, the thermal management could have been better. After playing graphic-intensive games like PUBG Mobile, the back of the phone gets considerably warm in just under 10 minutes. While this was at 120Hz, lowering the refresh rate to 60Hz did make the phone warm, though it took a little longer at about 25 minutes. Similarly, the thermal management is good when recording videos at 1080p, but the moment you switch to 4K 60fps, the phone gets too warm in about two minutes of recording.

Gaming experience is smooth, but the back of the smartphone gets warm when the refresh rate is set at 120Hz.

Another area of improvement could be the earpiece. The in-call volume is too low. I had to hold the earpiece too close to the ear to hear what the recipient was saying. But when playing media on stereo speakers (with the earpiece acting as the secondary speaker), the audio output was loud enough.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review battery life

Lastly, the battery life of the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is pretty good. With the refresh rate set at adaptive 120Hz and general daily usage including social media apps, listening to music over Bluetooth TWS, and smartwatch connected all the time, it lasts a workday. In terms of screen time, I got just a little over five hours. Switching to the standard 60Hz refresh rate, the battery life with the same usage came close to six hours.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra battery lasts a typical workday without breaking a sweat, but Samsung needs to catch up with competitors to offer faster charging capabilities.

Cameras: Excellent Shooter in Every Light Condition

  • Quad rear cameras, including two telephoto lenses.
  • 108MP wide (24mm), f/1.8, OIS, PDAF, Laser AF.
  • 10MP, f/4.9 periscope telephoto (240mm) with OIS for 10X optical zoom.
  • 10MP, f/2.4 telephoto (70mm) with OIS for 3X optical zoom.
  • 12MP, f/2.2 ultra-wide (13mm) with PDAF.
  • 40MP, f/2.2 wide (26mm) for selfies and video calling.

Samsung has made major improvements to the camera system on the Galaxy S21 Ultra over last year’s Galaxy S20 Ultra. The primary camera now has the in-house 108MP ISOCELL HM3 image sensor (1/1.33″, 0.8µm) which brings improved auto-focus, low-light and HDR performance. It uses Nonapixel technology with 9×1 pixel-binning to produce 12MP photos by default. You can click full 108MP resolution photos too by turning on that feature in settings. Photos shot in full res are about 30MB in size, whereas pixel-binned images are around 7MB.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review cameras

The Pro Mode also lets you click RAW photos that you can edit later. These files are about 24MB in size. There are other interesting modes, such as the Single Take, which records a 5-15 second video clip. The AI then analyses the video clip and picks the best moments in the form of photos with filters, portrait mode, short video clips such as boomerang, dynamic slow motion, and more. I tried it a couple of times, and the results were impressive.

Talking about the quality, the camera captures some stunning photos with great details and a wide dynamic range. The photo below was clicked on a rainy day. It captures the clouds, greenery, the water in the lake, barbed wire and the stones very well.


Close-up shots look detailed. The photos below are able to capture the dust particles on the leaf, water droplets on the flower petals, or the cupid that is well in focus and the background is blurred.





Daylight and close-up shots from the Galaxy S21 Ultra look stunning and detailed.

If you want more clarity in close-up shots, there is a “Focus Enhancer” mode that switches to an ultra-wide lens. The whole frame is in focus now instead of just the subject with a blurred background.

The night mode sees major improvements where it takes advantage of the large 108MP sensor in which nine adjacent pixels are combined into one pixel to absorb more light. The AI can intelligently select appropriate ISO settings between high and low. The result is a bright image with less noise. The photos below were captured around midnight in a pitch-dark environment, and they showcase the AI capabilities of the smartphone.

Night mode has vastly improved, and the photos look bright and sharp.

Now, while the Galaxy S20 Ultra featured 10X hybrid zoom using a 48MP telephoto lens, the new Galaxy S21 Ultra comes with two telephoto lenses with each sensor having 10MP resolution but different focal lengths (70mm to 240mm equivalent). This allows for 10X optical zoom, and up to 100X Space Zoom. Photos clicked with 10X zoom are sharp and detailed.

Even at 30X, the text on the trucks parked some 800 meters away was readable. The 100X ones are decent and usable, but that’s about it. What Samsung has done with the zooming capabilities of its S and Note series smartphones is commendable. Some shots are posted below (ultrawide, 10X, 30X, 100X).





The zooming capabilities are much improved now, with text readable even at 30X.

In the photo below, the parrots are sitting on a hanging cable about 100 meters away from me, and even at 10X zoom, the details are brilliant. The eyes look sharp, and the feather pattern and colors look crisp and clear too.



Samsung has had a lot of competition with the likes of Xiaomi, OPPO and vivo introducing smartphones with a periscope-style zoom. But one impressive thing that I have noticed about Samsung after also using the competitor devices, is the color consistency between ultra-wide, wide and zoom lenses. Below are three photos – in ultrawide, 1X and 10X – to show how good the camera system on Samsung is.




The space zoom works at night as well and I was able to capture some good shots of the moon. Below are some shots at 30X and 100X.



Lastly, the 40MP front camera is also able to capture good selfies. The skin tones look natural, and the AI is not too aggressive in smoothening the skin. Portrait mode is good too, and the edge detection works well in separating the foreground from the background.

The S21 Ultra also supports up to 8K (24fps) video and 4K (60fps) video recording. The 8K video quality is good, and it also lets you take high-resolution 33MP snaps from the video itself. Our Apple MacBook Air M1 first impressions video was shot in 8K on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, and the photos used in the blog are still screenshots taken from the video. 4K videos are quite stable. Below is a small cinematic footage to show how good the recording quality is.

S Pen Support: Great Add-on, Less Functionality

The Galaxy S21 Ultra is the first S-series smartphone to support S Pen functionality, and it makes sense as there will be no Note series this year. The move was inevitable as the screen size difference between the S and Note series has narrowed down. The novelty factor of the Note series has lost its sheen, with the only big difference between the S and Note series being the S Pen support.

However, the S Pen for the Galaxy S21 Ultra has a few things missing when compared to the Note series:

  • It does not come bundled with the smartphone.
  • No dedicated slot for keeping the S Pen.
  • No support for Bluetooth functionality.

Before I talk more about the S Pen features, I would like to recall the first iPhone launch in 2007, where Steve Jobs shared his thoughts on phones with styluses: “Who wants a stylus? You have to get ’em, put ’em away, you lose ’em. Yuck!” Four years later, Samsung addressed this concern by introducing the Galaxy Note with a dedicated slot for the S Pen stylus. Since then, Note smartphones have been popular among power users. Now, in the current scenario, you need to buy the S Pen separately. To ensure you don’t lose it, you will have to buy Samsung-built or third-party cases.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review s pen

The S21 Ultra display comes with the same 9ms latency as the Note 20 Ultra for the S Pen to work smoothly. Air Command features work perfectly, and the note-taking experience is like the Galaxy Note series. But you miss out on the Bluetooth feature that lets you remotely control the camera shutter, media, presentations, and more. These also include gesture controls to increase/decrease the volume or to zoom in and zoom out.

The S Pen works fine, but you will miss the gesture control features from the Note series.

Software: Closer Integration with Microsoft Services and Galaxy Ecosystem

The Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G boots Android 11 with One UI 3.1 skin on top. The new One UI skin heavily focuses on optimizations and bringing the connected ecosystem within Samsung devices even closer. It is also closely integrated with Microsoft services.

Samsung has been promptly pushing out monthly security updates, which is a good thing. But it could improve the experience by adding support for seamless updates which Google introduced with Pixel devices in 2016. Some Nokia, OnePlus, Sony and Sharp smartphones also support this feature. The benefit of this feature is that updates are installed on a secondary partition while the system is still running. This eliminates the downtime while updates are installed, especially the annoying “Optimizing Apps” process that takes a little longer.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review ui ads

Moving on, the other complaint is “Ads in UI”, which is not something you would expect in a top-of-the-line premium Android smartphone. Although it is not as bad and aggressive as seen in some affordable smartphones, these ads are visible in the weather app. You also get push notifications from the Galaxy Store about offers and deals on Samsung products.

Samsung offers timely security updates, but ads in UI are a little intriguing.

There is the DeX mode which lets you transform your phone into a PC by connecting it to a monitor or a TV using the HDMI cable, Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. You can view and edit your Word and Excel files, run presentations, browse the internet, access emails, and more.

Connected Ecosystem Makes Handoff Between Devices Easier

Major smartphone brands are now heavily focusing on the 1+x+n connected ecosystem strategy. But unlike other brands, Samsung has a big advantage with its wide range of portfolio, which includes smart home appliances, TVs, audio products, laptops, and much more. SmartThings, which is baked right within One UI, makes using these devices easier.

For instance, I can easily control my Samsung Smart TV and Wi-Fi-enabled soundbar from the smartphone itself. You can do all this from an iPhone app or any Android smartphone too, but the close integration with Samsung smartphones means these features are available right within the Quick Settings and Notification Shade as a part of the UI.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra connected ecosystem

Devices such as Galaxy Buds series TWS, Galaxy Watch and Galaxy Tab models are all closely integrated too. Say you are watching a video or listening to music on your Galaxy Tab and you get a phone call, the video/music will pause, and once the call has ended, it will resume playback. All this happens in a hassle-free manner.

Microsoft Integration Allows Running Android Apps on Windows PC, and More

The YourPhone companion app enables seamless and wireless connection between the PC and smartphone. For this to work, both the phone and PC need to be on the same Wi-Fi network. This integration allows replying to notifications right from the PC. You can also see your text messages and reply to them from the PC. But that’s not all, you can also access the photo gallery to wirelessly export photos to the PC and delete them as well. Sadly, you can only download one at a time.

counterpoint - galaxy s21 ultra your phone notifications

But the most interesting aspect of the YourPhone app is that you can access and run Android apps on the PC. You can browse your Instagram, Twitter or Facebook feed, or even order food from delivery apps. You can also run games, but there is too much lag.

counterpoint - galaxy s21 ultra your phone apps

YourPhone companion app allows you to check and reply to notifications from PC, rather than constantly unlocking the phone to do so.

Besides YourPhone, other integrations include the ability to sync photos from your Gallery to OneDrive, and sync and back up reminders from Samsung Reminders to Microsoft To Do. You can also sync Samsung Notes to the OneNote app. Outlook emails and calendars can also be synced with the Samsung Calendar app and vice-versa.

The Xbox integration allows you to stream and play games from your console to your Galaxy phone using the Xbox controller. This feature is offered in those countries where the Microsoft XCloud cloud gaming service is available.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Galaxy S21 Ultra offers the best premium Android experience, thanks to powerful hardware and a more refined software that closely integrates Microsoft services and the connected ecosystem experience.
  • The high-resolution primary camera, coupled with an ultra-wide lens and two telephoto lenses for zoom, offers a versatile photography and videography experience.
  • Elegant design, classic black finish, stellar display and a battery that lasts a day, all make the Galaxy S21 Ultra a fully loaded smartphone for power users.

Also Read: Strategic Reviews and Insights on Latest Smartphones

Smartphones With AMOLED Displays Are Set to Surpass 600 Million in Unit Sales in 2020

  • AMOLED Smartphone sales will grow 46% YoY in 2020 driven by an increased mix of Flexible OLED smartphones in $300-$500 price tier
  • Top five smartphone brands will account for more than 80% of the total AMOLED smartphone sales


New Delhi, Hong Kong, Seoul, London, Beijing, San Diego, Buenos Aires –

Dec 24th, 2019

Global sales of smartphones with AMOLED panels are set to surpass 600 million units by the end of 2020 with a YoY growth of 46%, according to the latest research from Counterpoint’s Display Market Outlook service. The growth will be coming from the diffusion of AMOLED into mid-tier price bands, driven by Chinese brands like Huawei, Vivo, OPPO, realme, and Xiaomi, as they seek to differentiate their offerings.

Commenting on the market dynamics, Tarun Pathak, Associate Director, said, “Displays drive a major part of the overall smartphone experience. In 2019 smartphone displays gained a lot of attention in a bid to attract users to upgrade their smartphones. Some notable supply chain efforts included reducing the screen to body ratio, increasing the refresh rate, changing the form factor (foldable) or innovating with other components to get more real estate for the display (smaller notch, punch hole camera, pop-up camera, in-display fingerprint sensor, image sensors). These innovations further drove the growth of AMOLED as the technology is best suited to leverage these trends thanks to superior image quality, reduced power consumption and flexible form factors, among other things. Hence, we believe that AMOLED-based smartphones will remain in demand with Chinese smartphone brands aggressively adopting them for their mid-tier portfolio. AMOLED panels are already a default choice in premium-tier smartphones

Commenting on brand performance, Jene Park, Senior Research Analyst at Counterpoint Research said, “Samsung remained the leading smartphone vendor, capturing 45% of the total AMOLED smartphone sales in 2019 followed by Apple with 16% share and OPPO with 11% share. However, all the leading brands have launched their flagships in 2019 with AMOLED panels. But Chinese players led by Huawei, OPPO, Vivo, and Xiaomi have now adopted OLED panels in their mid-tier portfolios ($300-$500) to differentiate their products. This is one of the key reasons for the growth of AMOLED smartphones. In future we expect these brands to further bring the AMOLED smartphones to the sub-$200 price tier in 2020. Apple is also likely to go for an all OLED portfolio in its next launch cycle. These factors will further lead to the growth of AMOLED based smartphones in 2020”.

Exhibit 1: AMOLED-based Smartphones Penetration within Key Brands’ Portfolios – 2020

AMOLED Smartphone share within OEM portfolio

Source: Counterpoint Research Display Market Outlook Dec 2019

Although AMOLED is a preferred choice for smartphone brands there are still some reservations that might lead to a slower transition from LCD to OLEDs. One factor being production capability. Samsung display currently accounts for close to 90% of the OLED panel market. Other brands that have LCD fabs like BOE, Tianma, CSOT are transitioning fast but might take some time to arrive with good volume. Additionally, the demand for AMOLED in other product categories like wearables, TVs will further put a supply constraint on existing OLED panel makers. Furthermore, the majority of the other smartphone brands in sub-$200 will continue to use LCD panels. Hence we believe that AMOLED’s growth will be upwards but a lot will also depend on the production capacity of the panel makers.

The comprehensive and in-depth Dec 2019 Display Market Outlook is available for subscribing clients. Please feel free to contact us at for further questions regarding our in-depth latest research, insights or press inquiries.

The Market Outlook research is based on Counterpoint research assumptions, historical data, supply chain checks, and secondary research.

Analyst Contacts:

Tarun Pathak

Jene Park

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