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There’s still a place for the Note in Samsung’s Galaxy

For the first time in a few years, August will come and go with out the introduction of a new Galaxy Note smartphone from Samsung. As an alternative, with their decrease costs and improved sturdiness, the firm is giving its newest foldables — the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 — a agency push into the mainstream cellphone market. With the Z Flip promoting for a penny below $1,000, it’s sure to face out from the iPhone and Samsung’s personal Galaxy S21 gadgets that value a comparable quantity (or extra).

However for repeat consumers of Notes previous and current, it does really feel like there’s one thing lacking. We’re speaking about the model that established Samsung as the main producer of giant telephones. But the firm has fully skipped producing a new Note this 12 months and has tried to elucidate it away with a easy “not this time round.” For now, the lineup isn’t gone; final 12 months’s Note 20 and Note 20 Extremely will stay for sale in 2021. The latter stays a legitimately wonderful cellphone right now, so even with Samsung hitting pause for a 12 months, no less than there’s that.

Samsung’s stance on the Note’s future is obscure sufficient that it leaves room for an eventual return if foldables don’t become the next big thing. However I’d argue that no less than one conventional Galaxy cellphone with a stylus ought to stay in the firm’s plans regardless. It’s too quickly to maneuver on from all the things that Samsung was doing so proper, and tacking S Pen assist onto its different flagship telephones doesn’t fairly dwell as much as the Note’s legacy. And there are a number of causes for the firm to present it one other go.

The Note is little doubt the de facto stylus smartphone, however different firms have additionally discovered success. Motorola has mentioned the Moto G Stylus rapidly grew to become the hottest system in the G-series after its launch, and that was sufficient for the firm to produce a 5G-capable sequel this 12 months. And earlier than LG’s full exit from the smartphone market, its Stylo phones had been a few of its extra standard cellular gadgets.

You’ll be able to’t overstate the significance of a built-in silo for storing the stylus away when it’s not getting used. On the Note, the S Pen is there if you want it — for drawing, signing a PDF, or no matter else — after which it’s gone and fully unobtrusive if you don’t. No add-ons or particular cellphone instances required. These latter options solely add friction that may take away from the entire enchantment. Utilizing a cellphone case is completely fantastic, and most of the people do, however making an attempt to include a stylus slot there may be removed from best for those who’ve bought normal-sized fingers.

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra was true to the line’s typical recipe of stellar construct high quality, high-end specs, and a large display. However the common Note 20 was a poorly executed misfire. Samsung’s technique of pursuing a barely lower cost level made sense, however there have been sufficient compromises with final 12 months’s common Note that it was tough to suggest.

Most evident of all was that it had a 60Hz show, when even cheaper Samsung telephones like the Galaxy S20 FE had developed to smoother refresh charges. The cameras had been worse, it had a plastic again, and all of those tradeoffs had been made to succeed in a still-expensive value of $999.99. In the eyes of many Note followers, it was a irritating mismatch, they usually rejected the Note 20 for it. Marques Brownlee went as far as to call it the “Nope 20.”

This was notably disappointing after Samsung got it right the year prior with the Note 10, which wasn’t saddled with the similar variety of disappointing concessions. That system felt prefer it was meant to be a mini model of the bigger, flagship Note 10 Plus. However the Note 20 got here off extra for instance of what occurs when a firm cuts too many corners.

Samsung hyped the addition of S Pen assist when it introduced the Galaxy Extremely S21 earlier this 12 months. And the expertise of utilizing the stylus appears to be on par with a Note. However then you definately’ve bought to put it someplace, and that’s the place there’s no substitute for an precise Note. With out a designated slot on the cellphone itself, Samsung’s answer was to make a case that would hold the S21 Extremely and S Pen collectively.

Nonetheless, it got here with a draw back: worse ergonomics. As Dieter wrote in his S21 Ultra review, the cellphone can really feel extra manageable in your fingers than an iPhone 12 Professional Max as a result of it’s taller and narrower. That easier-to-hold benefit is diminished considerably by Samsung’s silicone case for the S Pen. Since there’s a everlasting holding spot for the stylus on the case’s left facet, the system is noticeably bigger.

For the Z Fold 3, Samsung got here up with a case design that locations a holster at the hinge. I feel it will work out higher, since the Fold is extra slender than most smartphones (together with the S21 Extremely) when closed — so it received’t really feel as unwieldy even with the added area.

However until third-party case makers give you their very own choices, you’ll be restricted to that one particular Samsung case if you wish to carry the S Pen with minimal danger of it being misplaced.

Regardless that it went to the bother of making a “Fold Version” S Pen with a retracting spring tip, Samsung received’t be bundling that with its newest flagship foldable. Somewhat, you’ve bought to purchase it (or the pricier S Pen Professional) individually. The Fold Version comes bundled with its specifically designed case for $79, whereas the S Pen Professional is offered standalone for $99.

An S Pen still comes included with lots of Samsung’s newest tablets and laptops. However making it an added buy on high of the $1,800 Z Fold 3 will in all probability lead some individuals to go on it fully. If the Fold is supposed to usher in a new period of smartphone productiveness, why not toss the Fold Version stylus and case in the field? Possibly that’d ease the sting of not getting a cellphone charger, no less than.

I hope that final 12 months’s fashions received’t be the finish of the line for the Galaxy Note. Samsung still hasn’t give you another that matches the coherence and comfort of a cellphone designed with the stylus in thoughts from the very starting. However the place ought to the firm go from right here?

I may see Samsung selecting the “particular version” route (suppose Apple’s iPhone SE, however excessive finish) and releasing a new, top-spec Note each few years for the diehard followers that can pay high greenback for their large slab of glass and S Pen.

However an excellent higher growth could be if the stylus trickled right down to no less than one in all Samsung’s standard A-series telephones and introduced extra individuals into the expertise — for a lot much less cash. That’d be a clear signal that Samsung is dedicated to the S Pen, even when the Galaxy Note itself stays on hiatus. The advantages of a stylus shouldn’t be reserved for the $1,000-and-up tier. You’d need a excessive refresh show since that does genuinely enhance the responsiveness of drawing and note-taking. The Galaxy A52 already checks off that box, so we all know it’s doable even when the firm desires to maintain prices down.

A part of the drawback with the Note 20 was Samsung’s messaging: it tried to go off midrange {hardware} as one thing extra premium. The pushback and so-so opinions shouldn’t have come as a shock. However Samsung wouldn’t have to over-sell a Galaxy A-series cellphone with a stylus: it may very well be a hit all by itself deserves.

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