Will Samsung end up killing the Galaxy Note line, or not? Reports saying it’s the end of the road for the Note series have spread for several months, along with contradictory stories saying completely the opposite. Only Samsung knows for sure what its intentions are, but some official feature hints about the Galaxy S21 suggest Samsung may end up making the Note series redundant, effectively dooming it anyway.
I don’t really want the Note series to be put out to pasture. It has been Samsung’s best smartphone for the last couple of years. But I’ll accept an honorable retirement on one condition — one standout device takes its place at the top of Samsung’s phone tree.
Will it, or won’t it?
When did all this start? Rumors of the Galaxy Note’s end have spread for years, but the most recent have gained a lot of traction, somewhat fueled by Samsung through early feature teases for future devices, and its extensive range of big, pricey phones.
At the beginning of December 2020, a report quoting anonymous sources stated Samsung was considering the discontinuation of the Galaxy Note series, and would add S Pen stylus support to the soon-to-be-announced Galaxy S21 series. A few weeks later another report, this time quoting an official (but still unnamed) Samsung source, said a new Galaxy Note-series phone will come out in 2021.
This came just as Samsung dropped some very heavy hints about S Pen stylus support being added to the forthcoming Galaxy S21 series. While we don’t know if any of the Galaxy S21 phones will actually come with an S Pen stylus in the box, assuming support is added, the very fact the inevitably massive Galaxy S21 Ultra will work with a pen takes away the Note’s big differentiating feature.
Why it should live
The Galaxy Note 10 Plus was the Note smartphone which changed my opinion of the Note series. Before that, I didn’t much care for the giant phone, which sacrificed looks for sheer size, and because I’m not an artist, the stylus held absolutely no appeal. The Galaxy Note 10 Plus was different. It did everything you could want, was (just about) manageable to hold, introduced new S Pen features, and crucially looked fantastic especially in the Aura Gold color.
I liked it so much I bought one as my personal phone, and the Digital Trends mobile team eventually declared it the best Android smartphone of 2019. It went from ugly, productivity-focused duckling to best-of-everything stunner in the space of one generation. It certainly overshadowed the Galaxy S9 series that was current at the time, and even those considering a Galaxy S20 phone months after would also have their heads turned by it.
The Galaxy Note was always supposed to be the “power user’s” choice, but this didn’t really become true until the Note 10 Plus. Samsung evolved the phone, in exactly the same way Huawei did a year or so before with its similar Mate series of phones. The Galaxy Note instantly became hugely attractive to tech fans who simply want the best, highest spec smartphone available, demanded style, and didn’t care about the price.
Why it should die
Here’s where it started to go wrong for the Note. There was significant overlap between the S and Note series when Samsung introduced the Galaxy S20 Ultra, a top-spec phone with a big screen, which ultimately missed out only on the Note’s S Pen and unusually for the S series, the Note 10 Plus’s pretty design too. At launch, it was also very expensive, costing as much as $1,400, a giant price tag that meant the superior Note 10 Plus could be picked up for less.
Samsung has said its research showed people loved flagship, expensive smartphones, and for that reason, it committed to making multiple models costing upward of $1,000. While it has not stated anything publicly, things inevitably changed once the coronavirus pandemic took hold globally, and people’s financial priorities shifted. Even a small change in buying habits could make it difficult for Samsung to justify so much overlap in its range.
If the S Pen is going to be a feature of other high-end Samsung phones, and fewer people are considering spending so much on a new device so often, then having three S-series phones and two Note-series phones, along with the pricey versions of the A series and a growing folding smartphone range, may not play well with Samsung’s accountants.
What should take its place
The thing is, we’ve already been introduced to the Galaxy Note’s true successor, which until now has been an extremely expensive plaything for the early adopter with plenty of spare cash — the Galaxy Fold series. Financial considerations aside, if the Galaxy Note is losing its edge (pun intended) with the people who traditionally flocked to it, it’s because of the Fold.
Let’s face it, if you want a mobile device with a massive screen, plenty of power, and the party trick to end all party tricks, then a folding screen is going to win over a stylus. If Samsung adds the S Pen to a future foldable phone and drops the price, as it’s rumored to do, then it’s game over Galaxy Note. The feature hints for the S21 suggest those who don’t want a foldable will be able to buy the Ultra version of the current S series, and get almost the same experience.
If you want a mobile device with a massive screen and a party trick, a foldable beats a stylus.
There is one question mark over this turn of events, and that’s where everyone will keep the S Pen stylus. No other Samsung phone apart from the Note keeps the S Pen safe inside its body and ready for use at all times, and if such a thing was built into an S Series Ultra phone, surely it would just become a Galaxy Note? It’ll be interesting to see how Samsung handles all this, and also see how many opt to buy and regularly use a stylus on a non-Note phone.
Everything changes, and the Note’s time may have come. It changed the smartphone world when it launched, and now folding smartphones have the potential to be as transformative in a smartphone world that has moved on. I haven’t used a smartphone that has got me quite so excited for the future as the Galaxy Fold and the Galaxy Z Fold 2, and it’s exactly the successor the Galaxy Note deserves, if the bell truly tolls for Samsung’s best phone of the last few years.