Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note 20 series today, and not surprisingly, the new phone are everything you’d expect them to be. They’re over the top in specs, sport capable cameras, and enthrall with their mesmerizing displays. They’re undoubtedly going to be on wish lists this holiday season, but despite the hoopla and showcase, I don’t think they’re worth buying. In fact, you’re better off saving for next year.
We all know that Samsung puts out two flagship-caliber lines each year, the Galaxy S and Note. Even though that format hasn’t changed, the company threw a wrench with the two foldables that were introduced the last couple of years. One can argue that they took the spotlight away from the Note series, but part of the reason why I’ve been less than enthused about the Note line the last couple of years is because the fundamental appeal about the Note is gone — it’s just like every other phone out there.
What do I mean? Well, the original Samsung Galaxy Note launched in 2011 and it was a very different smartphone. Samsung’s intention was to bridge the gap between smartphones and tablets, which it did by introducing the term “phablet” into our vocabulary. What made the Note immensely popular was its size compared to other phones at the time, which was a conversation starter in its own right. Today, however, the Note 20 Ultra’s size is a smidgen larger than its contemporaries. If Samsung wants to make a serious statement, like it did with the original, it would be a wise move to garner attention with something bigger and more grand in size.
Another fundamental feature that has lost appeal is the S Pen. I personally don’t have too much use for the S Pen, which is in need of a significant upgrade beyond improved accuracy and precision. Frankly, it’s been largely neglected and is in desperate need of attention. Updates have been iterative through the years, but it deserves more of a primary role in the Note’s experience instead of being supplementary.
Next year will mark a full decade of the Note, and that’s important to remember. As with most grandiose gadgets, it’s a milestone that should generate substantially more fanfare. For Samsung, it’s a ripe opportunity to take a leap toward being the next defining gadget in the portfolio. Just look at what Apple did when the iPhone hit the ten-years milestone.
While I love to speculate on what can happen, a return to a focus on the fundamentals would steer the series in a new direction. What if it follows the Galaxy Fold series with a foldable display, one that can transform the powerhouse smartphone into a formidable tablet? Or perhaps, leverage the S Pen in a new way where it has more of an integral role in the day-to-day use of the phone?
I often think back to the potential of Continuum on Windows Phone, which was introduced with the Nokia Lumia 950. It basically delivered a true, desktop-like experience of Windows when the phone was connected to a television or external display. Samsung technically has something similar with DeX, but the next Note could integrate the S Pen in a way that it becomes an integral part of interacting with the platform — instead of a mouse connected to the phone.
Competition is always fierce, and Samsung knows it. From keeping up with Apple, to staving off old and new rivals, it’s a never-ending battle. The Note series has been relatively tepid the last few years, with nothing more than iterative upgrades to the hardware and design. Knowing that the decade milestone is ahead, Samsung needs to swing for the fences with its next Galaxy Note. Better yet, if you skip this year’s models and opt for next year’s Note, you’ll be in a better position to shell out for what will no doubt be an even more expensive Note.
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