David Imel / Android Authority
Samsung’s Galaxy S line is perhaps the most recognizable Android flagship series around, serving as the unofficial face of Android in many ways. From simple, iPhone-inspired beginnings in 2010 through to the juggernauts like the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the series has only grown more impressive over the years.
It hasn’t always been a case of upgrades across the board, though. Yes, there have been times when Galaxy S series flagships actually received downgrades instead. Today, we take a look at some of the more prominent downgrades in the family’s history.
1. The Galaxy S6 series ditches a lot
Do Samsung’s early 2015 flagships host the most downgrades in Galaxy S history? It’s tough to argue against this, as the Galaxy S6 series gained premium designs at the expense of three major features. For starters, the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge dropped the previous phone’s IP67 rating and microSD card slot.
More Samsung coverage: How the price of Samsung Galaxy S phones changed over time
Another big downgrade was the move to a fixed battery compared to the previous device’s removable battery. To make matters worse, Samsung went from the S5’s 3,000mAh capacity to 2,550mAh and 2,600mAh for the S6 and Edge models respectively.
2. Galaxy S7: Say goodbye to the IR blaster
Samsung offered the IR blaster on its Galaxy S series since the Galaxy S4, but the company quietly abandoned the feature when it launched the Galaxy S7 series in 2016.
It’s not a huge deal given the increased push towards smart home devices at the time (and the even wider adoption right now), but IR blasters are a great way to control non-smart appliances and gadgets like TVs and air conditioners.
We still see plenty of budget (and flagship) phones shipping with an IR blaster, suggesting Samsung didn’t cut the feature for cost reasons. Still, this is probably one of the least controversial downgrades on our list.
3. Galaxy S10 series ditches notification LED, iris scanner
Ryan-Thomas Shaw / Android Authority
Samsung’s 2019 phones marked the first time since the original Galaxy S that the company ditched the notification LED. Yes, this feature was actually available on everything from the Galaxy S2 to the Galaxy S9 series, flashing a different color to denote notifications from different apps (e.g. calls, texts, WhatsApp, Facebook).
The Korean company notes on its support page that owners of newer devices can set their Edge Lighting up so that it fulfills the same role as a notification LED. This is a great alternative to the LED, but it is a little overkill.
More Samsung coverage: Samsung’s Galaxy S flagships ranked from worst to best
Another feature missing from the Galaxy S10 series was the iris scanner, which debuted on the Galaxy S8 series alongside the rear fingerprint scanner. Instead, Samsung adopted an ultrasonic fingerprint scanner that turned out to be very finicky. Iris scanners have made way for 3D face unlock as the alternative, secure biometric authentication method for most brands. But it would’ve probably been a welcome alternative to the S10’s unreliable fingerprint scanner.
4. Galaxy S20 series: No more 3.5mm port, heart-rate sensor
Eric Zeman / Android Authority
It feels like a lifetime ago but Samsung’s decision to ditch the headphone jack actually came with 2020’s Galaxy S20 series. This came a couple of years after Samsung posted videos that mocked Apple for, among other things, removing the headphone port. The only thing more awkward than this turn of events was Samsung pulling said videos.
More coverage: The best phones with a headphone jack
The Galaxy S20 family also saw another downgrade as Samsung decided to ditch the heart-rate sensor for the first time in years. Since this had been a fixture since 2014’s Galaxy S5, it marked the end of an era in some small way. Still, this is one of the few downgrades that make sense, as heart-rate tracking is more suitable for wearables.
Finally, one more interesting change is the move to ditch dual-aperture main cameras on the Galaxy S10 range. This feature, introduced from the Galaxy S9 onwards, allowed you to switch between a wide f/1.5 aperture or a narrow f/2.4 mode. Going wide enables brighter shots in low light as well as a shallow depth-of-field while going narrower ensures that the entire scene is in focus. This was a neat feature for photographers, but its exclusion wasn’t exactly a big deal at the time.
5. The Galaxy S21 series drops plenty of features
David Imel / Android Authority
A more recent downgrade took place with last year’s Galaxy S21 series, as all three Galaxy S21 series phones ditched the microSD card slot. It’s disappointing as microSD support was a fixture n Samsung’s phones for years (aside from the Galaxy S6 series dropping it). It helped the phone stand out from the iPhone line.
This wasn’t the only downgrade, as the standard Galaxy S21 switched from a glass back to a plastic one instead. More specifically, Samsung used “glasstic,” which is its fancy term for plastic that feels similar to glass. Sure, plastic is more durable and I personally prefer it, but it’s definitely a cheaper material and makes for a less premium feel compared to glass.
Another major downgrade is Samsung’s decision to abandon MST technology for payments on all three phones. MST allowed Samsung Pay to work with older point-of-sale terminals by effectively mimicking the magnetic waves of older swipe-based cards. This means that you’ll have to take out your actual card if the terminal lacks NFC functionality.
The Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus also ditched the S20 and S20 Plus’s QHD+ screens in favor of FHD+ panels. Finally, all three phones ditched the in-box charger that’s been a fixture since the start.
Which Galaxy S series phones were the biggest downgrade in your book? Take the poll below to give us your answer.
Which Galaxy S series phone was the biggest downgrade?