Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

The Wrap – Phones & Headphones at CES 2021

On this episode of The Wrap, we’re looking at phones and headphones, diving into the new Galaxy S21 range, earphones, speakers, and more. It’s a year of sound and media playing goodness in five minutes.

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It’s another day of CES, the world’s biggest technology show, and you’re tuned into The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup, and we’re nearing the end of the biggest technology show, virtually anyway. While we’re normally live from Las Vegas for these CES shows, this year, we’re not.

We’ve instead been spending it at home, nestled up to our computer, an endless cup of coffee, with our eyelids open and our brains switched on for the past few days. In short, it’s been something like the proper CES, but with less walking and talking, and yet more writing. Turns out when you’re not walking between the various halls and rooms of CES, you can actually get more writing in. Who knew?

One thing we do know is that 2021 is going to be big for gadgets that we rely on for sound, be it your phone or even your headphones.

In the category of the former, there were two sets of phones that saw announcement this week, with TCL and Samsung both kind of beating everyone to the punch for the first mobile announcements of the year.

TCL was first, and there are two of them in the TCL 20 series, with the 20 5G and the 20 SE. They’re fairly sizeable devices, but different, with the 5G pitching that 5G tech for a mid-range sort of price, while the SE cuts the 5G tech out of the picture and focuses on several cameras for a budget market.

Samsung’s phones got a little more attention, and that’s because of what they are. While we typically expect to see new Samsung flagships in February or so, they’re early this year, as Samsung gets in ahead of everyone else for the Galaxy S21 range. There are three of them, ranging from a comfortable 6.2 inch S21, a bigger 6.7 inch S21 Plus, and a bigger and more capable S21 Ultra.

All three include 5G, because that matters more than ever now that 5G is in reach of more people, something Telstra confirmed this week with connection in reach of half the population, and the three Samsung S21 models also have an emphasis on cameras and 8K, because that matters, too.

But the S21 Ultra appears to be the one built to impress, sporting a very strong protective glass, four cameras ranging from wide to 10x close, and even support for the Samsung S-Pen. If you’ve come from a Galaxy Note, you should know what this is, because it’s largely the reason you probably bought one. The S-Pen is Samsung’s active stylus, and it’s coming to the Galaxy S phones for the first time, though it’s not in the box.

In fact, the extras you might expect to find with a phone aren’t in the box at all. For its new phones, Samsung is dropping the wired charging brick and the pair of earphones, despite including AKG wired earphones for a few years. Now it’s just nothing but phone and cable, and a pin ejector tool to help you throw your SIM in.

Talk about the basics, though it’s a move that might make sound companies happy, because it means more chance of buying a pair of earphones from someone else.

And this year, there are a lot of earphone and headphone choices.

One of our expected trends for the year included more choice in wireless sound, and after a week of CES, there’s already a lot of that. We’ve heard about Belkin, TCL, HP, and plenty of other brands joining the likes of Sony, Apple, Bose, Sennheiser, BlueAnt, Jabra, Oppo, Audio Technica, and others. There are loads of earphones coming out in 2021, there’s even a mask with earphones, plus Samsung has a new pair alongside its Galaxy S21, coming in the Galaxy Buds Pro, a pair of noise cancelling earphones made to be water resistant and deal with the noise of the outside world.

They’ll also support 360 sound, though to what level, we’re not quite sure. That’s something Sony is actively talking up in 2021, and looks set to release a speaker to take advantage of sound elements in music positioned in space to make it appear as if the music is happening all around you.

This special approach to sound will also work in movies, we’re told, typically when it’s paired with a Sony TV, but other TV makers are working on a similar concept, with many a TV able to play audio in 3D sound through Dolby Atmos, which is built as a 3D sound format for movies and the odd music track, too.

Essentially, the year 2021 is revealing that you’ll have options when it comes to listening to sound, possibly more than ever. Headphones big and small and speakers to go or stay home, you’ll find plenty to let you play your sounds, and devices to let you play those sounds on.

As for when most of this will come out, it’s a bit of a question mark, but our guess is you won’t have to wait too long to see new headphones and speakers start to pile out.

For now, you’ve been listening to The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup. You can find out about these stories and more at The or at the Pickr website. An episode of this show goes online at least once a week at Podcast One, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts, though for CES, this is our third entry, because there’s so much news. Until our next show, stay safe, stay sane, and take care.

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