The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G – day one

Yesterday while trying to get another phone diagnosed for work, I fell victim to the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G’s supple design, proper heft, and really really nice screen. I’d been holding onto my Note 8 as it’s the first phone I didn’t bother rooting because it did everything I wanted. I was on the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 for 1,214 days minus a very brief S10+ adventure when Sprint screwed up the radio firmware.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

I’m a little less than 3.5 years on the Note 8, and honestly if it hadn’t been for some of the apps I like becoming total bloated losers that take a minute to open, I’d still be on it. I mean, I still might be. We’ll see.

Here’s a link that makes me money if you want to buy the phone. Here’s the same link without the tracking code.

Putting that link up there because damn, I need to be selling phones. But you know, I’m not going to make a fake review. So here we go with day 1’s notes.


Going from the Galaxy Note 8 to the Samsung S21 Ultra 5G (day 1)

First thing for you to Note 8 (notate, I crack me up,) is that the Samsung S21 Ultra 5G (from here on referred to as the S21 despite SEO impacts,) works with the S-Pen. If you’re a fan of that, the only thing the S21 doesn’t have is a convenient built-in storage compartment on the phone for it.

I picked up my S21 from a T-Mobile store in Madison. I’d been told they had more options than the T-Mobile store a mile from me so I took the 16 or so mile trek down there and their options were bleh or meh and not cool. All 128 gig onboard.

The T-Mobile associate tried selling me an SD card and I said if she could get one in there sure, but that was going to be a challenge as the S21 doesn’t have an SD card slot. Still, I figured 128 gig as I don’t record 30+ minute 8K videos should be enough (I really do treat any phone like it’s going to explode and transfer stuff off of it pretty quickly, so this works for me.)

Samsung Smart Switch

I asked if I could just take the phone home and activate it and was told no (T-Mobile rule,) so I was left with having to activate it in store and then be deprived of all my apps and stuff until I was able to set it up. I was a bit intrigued to try the Samsung Smart Switch app as it claimed to be able to transfer all my apps, data, and accounts.

It lied. But it took me a very very long time to find this out.

It claimed it needed 51 minutes to WiFi transfer from my Note 8 to the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. This was the first of many lies. I was out in rush hour traffic (which is evidently a thing again, wonder why we’ve got a pandemic?) and it took me about 40 minutes to get home. The Note 8 and S21 had chattered away over a direct WiFi connection that should have been able to push about 300mbit / 30mbyte per second.

At some point the transfer aborted. Not entire sure when or why, but when I got home I resumed it. At this point it claimed it was going to be in the neighborhood of 14 hours. OK, aborted that and decided rather than the WiFi I would try USB-C to USB-C. Awww yeah, suddenly that 14 hours went to 3 or 4 and… aborted.

I noticed that on this abort I was past where my apps and data should have been copied. There was nothing other than the proper account names at this point, Google knew who I was but required a login, that was it. No apps. No nada.

Checking again somewhere around 6th attempt to get Smart Switch done I discovered it was throwing an error up out of reading range because it wanted to copy 160GB from my Note 8’s SD card. OK, this explained some things. I needed nothing from that so away it went.

Data transfer with the cable now took about 18 minutes and included all the apps…

So after Smart Switch claimed it was done I went and looked and nothing. No apps, no accounts beyond what I’d seen. Nada. I opened the Smart Switch app back up and noticed it said it was organizing data. It did this for a few minutes and then said it was installing apps. It did this for about 40 minutes and then there were all my apps. Whoo hoo.

With one or two exceptions, none of them had any account data. No game data. My Samsung data didn’t transfer over. No biometric data. It was pretty much like Google’s backup and restore except as I recall Google did a slightly better job. Had I known how meh this was I’d probably have just fresh installed rather than going through fighting Smart Switch.


Messages, Messages, Messages, Messaging

The first big problem I encountered was the text messages had not transferred over. Or maybe they had and the messaging app got switched from Samsung Messages to Google’s Messages. I’m entirely unsure at this point what happened but I re-transferred them. I could see all my messages in the Samsung Messages app, but nothing in Google’s.

I went into App control, cleared Google’s data and cache, set default messaging to Samsung and then back to Google and it worked. Might have been able to do this just by changing default back and forth, don’t know. It was the first app hiccup I ran across.

T-Mobile’s 5G on the S21 Ultra vs LTE on the Note 8

This is entirely the South Nashville T-Mobile/Sprint experience so take it in your area as you may. There’s no difference. None. It may be that I’ve got a tower that’s max capacity on the backend, it may be I’m getting a 5G indicator and am on LTE. Who knows. It’s not bad, but it’s not one better.

My speed tests are pretty much the same 120, 80, 30 I was seeing with the T-Mobile transition so I’m guessing it wasn’t my phone.

The camera

That’s a lot of camera on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. Going to have to devise a test for 108 mpix. I mean that’s a lot of the pixels. Looks nice. Does 8K video. I spent so much time attempting to get things working yesterday it was dark and grainy shooting times. Low light appears significantly better than my Note, but I’ll get out and snap some test shots later.

It appears to go to 30X decently and 100X zoom sort of… quite the zoom. I’ll see what the pixelization looks like later.

I got a cheap case

Got this case off of Amazon as I didn’t want to blow $50 at the store for Otterbox meh – “oooh, I loves me my Otterbox, I’m on number 7 on this phone now it’s saved me soooooo many times… such quality… sure a few broke dropping it from 3 feet but oooooo.” Yeah, I’ve been on an Urban Armor Gear for 3.3 years and no… y’all get back with your Otterbox worshipping ridiculousness. I think I bounced an EVO in an $8 TPU case a few times with no issues.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra case
The front of this interferes with bottom up swiping and the side swipe

So yeah, I was looking at a different case, must have put this one into the basket and bought for overnight delivery.. I now have a sparkle case.

What the what?

I somehow missed there was no charger included with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. So forget about all that quick charging technology they’re touting unless you buy it separate. I mean for me this isn’t a huge deal, but there really needs to be a note for people who walk away from the stores thinking they’ve got one. Meh, just my two cents.

More to come

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts