It’s been rumored for years, but now even Reuters is claiming that Samsung is killing off the Galaxy Note. Samsung’s large stylus-packed screen has struggled for years to differentiate itself from the Galaxy S line, and with the rise of foldable phones, Samsung apparently has run out of room for redundant flat phones. Reuters says “the South Korean tech giant has no plans to develop a new version of the Galaxy Note before 2021” and “development efforts that would normally have focused on the Note would now be channeled into its foldable phone range.” ” That would mean the 2020 Galaxy Note 20 is the last of Samsung’s Note line.
In the early days, the Note line led the charge towards ever-expanding screen sizes, but for many years now the Note has struggled to justify its existence compared to the regular Galaxy S series, which will be released earlier this year. Usually the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note have similar specs, similar screen sizes and similar designs, leaving only a stylus as the Note’s defining feature. We usually skip reviewing the Note line because there’s nothing to say compared to the S phone released earlier this year and every year you see calls from different outlets to kill the Note because it just doesn’t do anything news to offer.
Reuters claims that the Galaxy Note’s one defining feature, stylus support, will actually carry over to other devices. The report says the S21 “will have a stylus” and that the “next version of Samsung’s foldable phone” (we assume that means the Galaxy Z Fold 3) “will be compatible with a stylus.”
It is important to understand the difference between a stowable stylus and “stylus compatible”. The Galaxy Note line famously comes with a storable stylus, which means a large portion of the body is hollowed out so that the pen can be stored inside the phone. There are already renderings of the Galaxy S21 based on the CAD files sent to the case manufacturers, and there’s no hole in the phone for a stowable stylus. If we’re to reconcile Reuters’ reporting and renders, it looks like Samsung will be selling a compatible stylus alongside the Galaxy S21, but you’ve got no place to store it.
The advantage of not having stylus storage is that gutting the phone costs a bit in the runtime department, as any free space in a phone is usually filled with a battery. Recall that this year’s Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and Galaxy S20 Ultra both have 6.9-inch displays, but the S20 Ultra has a 500 mAh battery advantage over the Note (5000 mAh vs 4500 mAh), as there are no stylus storage is required.
The Note launches towards the end of the year mainly only make sense from a marketing point of view: the Galaxy S line will come out at the beginning of the year, once Qualcomm’s new SoCs are ready, and by the time the holiday season rolls around with new Samsung doesn’t want to send a nine-month-old phone into battle with iPhones and other competition. Producing a new phone model, even if it’s nearly identical to the one from nine months earlier, gives the tech giant another round of coverage, promotions and other attention it wouldn’t have received otherwise.
With the rise of foldable smartphones, Samsung’s “flagship” lineup doubled in size last year. In addition to the usual Galaxy S20 and Galaxy Note 20, there was the phone/tablet hybrid, the Galaxy Z Fold 2, and a foldable flip phone, the Galaxy Z Flip. These two new models offer real differentiation from the Galaxy S lineup, and with the busier lineup it makes sense to kill off the Note line in favor of elevating the Galaxy Fold as the main holiday phone.