What future is there for the Samsung Galaxy Note range if the Galaxy Note 21 isn't happening this year? Originally, a wild take on the smartphone, modern phones seem to have adopted pretty much every once-unique feature the phones had.
Even the S Pen isn’t exclusive to the Galaxy Note anymore. The Galaxy S21 Ultra is compatible with Samsung’s stylus, and the company just confirmed at MWC that future flagships will get S Pen support as well. With all that going on, what good is the Galaxy Note really?
Here's how Samsung could reinvent the original phablet for a new era of mobile computing.
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What the Galaxy Note was
The Samsung Galaxy Note launched back in 2011,in a time when the majority of smartphones were pretty small devices. For comparison, the original Note had a 5.3-inch screen, while the Galaxy S2, which was released earlier that same year, was 4.7 inches. The iPhone 4S’s screen was just 3.5 inches in size.
It was the Galaxy Note range that helped popularize the idea of the phablet, and led to phone screens getting larger as the years progressed. Now the vast majority of flagship phones have screens over 6 inches in size. The Note series also saw the launch of curved Edge; displays, something Samsung still uses to this day. Albeit, not quite as often as it did just a few years ago.
The Note was also one of the few smartphones to continue using a stylus, long after Apple popularized the idea of a touchscreen-only interface. As such, a lot of the Galaxy Note’s features and software were built around the S Pen. Features Included the ability to handwrite digital notes, and draw in a more natural way than using your finger.
As the Galaxy Note line matured, the S Pen also came with newer features like air gestures, Bluetooth shutter control and more.
However, as years passed the rest of the Galaxy S range caught up to the Galaxy Note in terms of size and performance. The S Pen was always the one thing the Galaxy Note had going for it. Now, that’s not going to be the case going forward.
The Galaxy Note as it is should die
Without the S Pen, there’s no need for a Galaxy Note range as it stands. If anything, Samsung has made its own Note devices obsolete by allowing the Galaxy S range to catch up to the Note, with Galaxy S Ultra models essentially taking the Note’s place in the company’s portfolio.
Think about it this way. The Galaxy S21 Ultra has a 6.8-inch display, which is fractionally larger than the 6.7-inch Galaxy Note 20 and fractionally smaller than the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. From a display size perspective there’s little difference between them, though the Notes have a much blockier rectangular design than the smoother curves of the Galaxy S.
The S21 Ultra even has S Pen support, and while it doesn’t have the same dedicated stylus slot as a Galaxy Note, it can nearly all the same pen-based functions. It can be used to write, draw, and annotate, as any good stylus should be, but that's about it.
More advanced features like air gestures and Bluetooth shutter control are still exclusive to the Galaxy Note range right now. Though Samsung has suggested this may change in the near future.
But despite those few differences, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is still very much a Galaxy Note in everything but name.
Obviously, these are not new points. The demise of the Galaxy Note range has been rumored for months. Long before Samsung confirmed that the S21 Ultra would indeed have S Pen support. And the fact that it looks like the foldable Galaxy Fold 3 will support the S Pen, and rumors of a larger 7.7-inch interior display, means the Note range might as well be dead in the water.
Rumor is that there will be one final Galaxy Note phone coming out later this year (or early next year) as a kind of “final hurrah” for the range. But there’s a different way, one that doesn’t involve Samsung releasing one final generic phone and saying “that’s all, bye”. In fact, it’s an opportunity for Samsung to totally reinvent the Galaxy Note, and ensure it still has a place going forward.
A new Galaxy Note for a new age
There’s no reason to keep the Galaxy Note around as it currently is. Instead Samsung should focus on reinventing the lineup into something that it doesn’t already have. Samsung has been slowly positioning the phone as the ‘enterprise device’ over the past few years, and now is the time to go all in.
The Samsung Galaxy Note should be the go-to phone for business users. Back in the day that role fell to BlackBerry, but these days it seems as though the iPhone has become the de-facto "work phone."
There’s no reason why Samsung can’t try to claim some of that territory for itself. After all, it's already tried to do that with previous Galaxy devices, even going so far to develop software (DeX) that lets people use their phones as desktop machines when they’re at their desk.
The Galaxy Note already has almost a decade of brand awareness to build on, and it’s naturally fallen out of place in the Samsung portfolio. That would make this the perfect opportunity to do something like this.
Samsung could take the Note and stop worrying about having to create something new every year — that’s what the Galaxy S and Fold ranges will be for after all. Instead it can focus on developing a phone that’s built primarily for business rather than pleasure.
You wouldn’t necessarily need the latest and best chipsets, just as long as the hardware it did have was good enough. Likewise, there could be a much bigger emphasis on security, much like there was during Blackberry’s heyday. Samsung could take data security to the next level in terms of protecting sensitive corporate data.
As for the S Pen? It can keep doing what it was always meant for: functions and features that require the fine input you can’t really mimic with a finger or a mouse. Note taking, annotations and so on.
The alternative is to just kill of the brand and let it fade into obscurity. Which is, frankly, a huge waste.
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Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.