I Welcome the Rumored Demise of the Samsung Galaxy Note

Illustration for article titled I Welcome the Rumored Demise of the Samsung Galaxy Note
Photo: Sam Rutherford/Gizmodo

Thanks to phones like the Galaxy S20 Ultra, a new segment of devices with flexible screens, and lite versions of the Note 10 and Note 20, Samsung’s flagship phone portfolio has sort of ballooned out of control over the last couple of years. So in an effort to streamline its offering, a new rumor is claiming that Samsung might do away with the Galaxy Note line entirely starting next year. But don’t worry, the S-Pen may survive.

According to an industry source that spoke to Korean news site Ajunews, next year Samsung is planning to add support for its signature S-Pen stylus to the Galaxy S21 Ultra and the Galaxy Z Fold3. A move like this would make the Galaxy Note line redundant, which is why the source claims Samsung will discontinue the Galaxy Note line altogether in 2021.

While killing off the Galaxy Note might seem a bit drastic since the original Galaxy Note is basically the grandad of all modern big-screen phones, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard similar rumors. Earlier this year, noted leaker Ice Universe tweeted (and later deleted) that the era of the Note was over, and then just last week he added that there is no information regarding current development of a Galaxy Note 21 series. Additionally, Max Weinbach followed up on that development by posting the expected lineup for Samsung’s 2021 flagship phones which will consist of the Galaxy S21, S21 FE, S21+, S21 Ultra, Z Fold3, Z Flip 3, and Z Fold FE.

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Just going off that list, it’s clear that even without the Note, Samsung won’t have any shortage of fancy premium phones. But more importantly, as Samsung’s portfolio has expanded and we’ve grown more accustomed to big phones the need for a dedicated phone line whose sole reason for existing is to include a stylus, simply doesn’t make sense anymore.

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Photo: Sam Rutherford/Gizmodo

The original idea behind the Galaxy Note was to create a phone made for power users or hard-core mobile fanatics who want a very powerful but still pocket-friendly (or at least portable) device. However, with the Galaxy S20 Ultra having a similarly sized 6.9-inch screen and arguably better cameras, this year’s Note 20 Ultra didn’t have the same sort of technical superiority that the Note line has enjoyed in previous years. And while it is very expensive, even without stylus support, I’d argue that the Galaxy Z Fold2 is a much better device for mobile power users than the Note 20 Ultra, as its foldable 7.6-inch display allows the Z Fold2 to replace a number of other gadgets like an ereader, tablet, and more. And if the rumors are true and Samsung adds stylus support to the Z Fold3, it’ll be a slam dunk win in 2021.

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In some ways, a Samsung phone with a huge flexible display and stylus support could be the ideal “do everything” phone. You’ll be able to jot notes or sketch pictures with the S-Pen, flip between the smaller exterior screen and the large interior foldable screen depending on the situation, and possibly even use the phone as a mini laptop.

But it’ll take some work from Samsung to make that dream a reality, as support for Flex Mode, which gives apps special features or adaptive UIs when used while the Z Fold2 is half-open, is currently somewhat limited. Also, while Ajunews says Samsung has worked with Dowoo Insys to create a new generation of flexible glass that’s pliable enough to bend but still durable enough to resist being scribbled on by a stylus, it’s important to remember this is still very much cutting edge technology, which means like past Galaxy Folds, the Galaxy Fold 3 will probably be extremely expensive.

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Meanwhile, by adding stylus support to its top-end Galaxy S handset, Samsung can still give stylus fans a more traditional Galaxy Note experience while also doing a better job of delivering on that Ultra branding.

So as long as you’re not super attached to the Galaxy Note name, killing the Note line and bringing the S-Pen to a wider range of Samsung phones is sort of a win for everyone. The Note had a great run and the OG Note remains one of the most important devices and smartphone history, but now, almost a decade later, we just don’t need it anymore. And that’s ok.

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Senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.

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DISCUSSION

I had a Galaxy Note 5. I loved it. Big screen, great camera. I had it 2 years and was hoping for 2 more, but it died a death when I tripped, it flew in the air (in an Otterbox), and fell to the ground, with the Otterbox doing a great job protecting the screen and shell, but resulting in abstract art (digitizer separated from screen).

But as I debated about going for the Note 8 (Note 7 was a “bomb”) vs buying a Galaxy 8, I realized I rarely used my stylus, and it was a pain if for any reason it got lost or broke as you were stuck with the stylus menu. The new iterations allowed you to use the stylus as a remote, which is a nice touch, but personally I never found it essential to using the phone.

I ended up buying the Galaxy 8 (which my mom now uses and held up well), but I have no reason to buy the Galaxy Note series again.  Samsung will be wise to kill it off and have the S Pen with software available for those who actually need it.