Samsung’s top-of-the-line smartphone this half the year has so far been better received than last year’s Galaxy S model. That may be partly thanks to interest in the S Pen functionality but also thanks to the evolutionary, not revolutionary, improvements that the Galaxy S21 Ultra offers. iFixit unsurprisingly took that phone apart to take a closer look inside and while it does show Samsung’s trying to perfect its art, it also reveals some unfortunate decisions the manufacturer took this year.
The Galaxy S21 series introduced a new back design that is both eye-catching and potentially more pleasing than large camera bumps. Unfortunately, that comes at the price of making it harder to pry the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s glass back off, as if the inordinate amount of glue weren’t bad enough. The contours of the camera bump, which ironically is also just glued to the rest of the back, make opening the phone already more difficult right from the start.
Inside, the phone tells a mostly positive story, with modular components that are fortunately easier to replace. It also shows places where Samsung changed things to improve the overall experience. That includes not only a larger fingerprint scanner but also mixing the cameras up a bit.
Unfortunately, Samsung also made an odd step back compared even to the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+. The display cable is unfortunately not modular in the top-end model, which means screen replacement will be riskier and more costly.
All in all, the Galaxy S21 Ultra gets a 3 out of 10 from iFixit, a grade lower than the cheaper Galaxy S21. That’s not really surprising, though, and shows that even upgrades can be downgrades in some aspects as well.