The top stories of 2021: Q1

Welcome to our recap of the top news articles of 2021. We’ll start with the main events of the first three months of the year and we’ll cover the next quarters in the following episodes of the series.

The first quarter of the year was transformative and shaped a lot of 2021. Qualcomm had just announced its Snapdragon 888 in the last month of 2020, and the first phones with the new flagship chipset came out at the turn of 2021.

The Xiaomi Mi 11 pioneered the SD888, but notable phones with Qualcomm’s new silicon included the Mi 11 Pro, the Redmi K40 Pro+, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, Mi Mix Fold, vivo’s X60 Pro+, Oppo’s Find X3 Pro, the Asus Rog Phone 5, 5 Pro and 5 Ultimate, the nubia Red Magic 6 and the Realme GT.

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra made big waves thanks to a new design that featured a massive camera bump on the rear. It turned out the size was warranted by the imaging hardware Xiaomi crammed in – the largest sensor used in a smartphone (to this day), as well as capable 5x zoom and ultrawide cameras.

Samsung’s flagship chip came out in Q1 as well and powered some of the regional versions of the Galaxy S21, S21+, and S21 Ultra, which were also officialized in this quarter. The Ultra brought refinement to the Galaxy Ultra formula with an LTPO AMOLED that was able to dynamically change screen refresh rates, ultimately leading to stellar battery performance.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra also more than doubled the optical zoom reach of its predecessor with a 10x periscope.

Top stories of 2021: Q1

Samsung’s extremely-popular Galaxy A52, A52 5G, and A72 were all unveiled in Q1, bringing high refresh rate displays (120Hz for the 5G, 90Hz for the others), a colorful and simple matte design, big batteries, and solid cameras.

Xiaomi’s sub-brands Poco and Redmi had popular releases in Q1 – the Poco X3 Pro and F3 came out with Snapdragon 860 and 870, respectively, while the Redmi Note 10 series were popular throughout 2021.

Xiaomi’s first foldable, the Mi Mix Fold was very promising, but ultimately never made it out of China. Huawei also revealed its second foldable – the Mate X2 combined a fresh new in-folding design with powerful cameras, but ultimately its lack of Google apps made it a poor showing outside China.

OnePlus stuck to a single flagship for the entire year. The OnePlus 9 Pro and 9 arrived in Q1 with Hasselblad-branded cameras. But despite the strong name recognition that came with the new cameras, their performance was at the time subpar to the competition from Samsung and Apple. OnePlus has made strides in image quality through firmware updates in the months since.

While Q1 was early for iPhone 13 solid rumors, there was one that aged like wine – brought on by Japanese blog MacOtakara, it said that the iPhone 13 Pro would have the same design as the 12, but be thicker (thanks to larger batteries) and have a smaller notch. That rumor materialized in Q3.

Those were the key stories of Q1. Below you can find the entire list of major announcements, rumors, and other articles. Next up – Q2.

Samsung announces Galaxy A52, Galaxy A52 5G and Galaxy A72

The A52 5G has a 120Hz display, the other two get 90Hz ones. 

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra brings massive camera sensors and two screens, Mi 11i also announced

The phone features 67W wireless fast charging developed in house, which can fully fill the battery in 36 minutes.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra stars in a hands-on video: 120X zoom and secondary screen revealed

It’s powered by the Snapdragon 888 SoC, packs a 120Hz screen, and features a periscope camera.

Poco X3 Pro and Poco F3 debut with Snapdragon 860 and 870

Both phones come with 33W fast charging and the proprietary charger in the box.

Global Redmi Note 10 series debut - Note 10 Pro, Note 10, Note 10S and Note 10 5G

Three phones with AMOLED screens and one that makes 5G attainable.

Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21+ bring new design, modest upgrades

Same between the two models that is, but not far from the S20 triple setup either. 

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra announced with S Pen support, dual telephoto lenses

The display can do 120Hz at the full 1440p+ resolution for the first time on a Samsung phone. The two tele cams are 10x periscope and 3x lens.

Xiaomi unveils Redmi K40 Pro+ with 108 MP camera and  S888 chipset, K40 Pro and K40 follow

The three phones have the same display – a 6.7″ Samsung E4 AMOLED with 120Hz refresh rate and 360Hz touch sampling rate.

Xiaomi's foldable Mi Mix Fold brings the first liquid lens with 3x magnification

The internal OLED display measures 8″ in size (4:3), the external display is 6.5″ (27:9). The phone is powered by the S888 and has a desktop mode.

Oppo Reno5 Pro+ announced with SD865 and 50MP main camera

Hopefully, the handset will go outside of China because it looks really nice.

Xiaomi Mi 11 arrives as the first phone with Snapdragon 888

There is no charger in the retail box but Xiaomi will give one for free if you ask nicely.

Vivo X60 and X60 Pro announced with 5nm Exynos 1080 chipsets

The vivo X60 Pro offers better cameras, more RAM, but smaller battery.

Snapdragon 480 is the first 4-series 5G chipset from Qualcomm

It will power the budget 5G Androids of 2021.

Exynos 2100 unveiled with Cortex-X1 CPU, 40% faster Mali-G78 GPU and integrated 5G modem

The CPU promises a 30% boost in multi-core performance compared to the Exynos 990, 40% on the GPU and a more efficient NPU.