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Will Samsung finally ‘kill’ the Galaxy Note?

Published Nov 13th, 2020 6:50AM EST
Image: Samsung

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  • The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra will support the S Pen stylus, the only feature that makes the Note series unique among Android handsets.
  • An insider says he can “100% confirm” the phone will support the stylus, without saying whether the S21 Ultra will come with a built-in stylus or just work with the S Pen.
  • The move will further blur the lines between the Galaxy S and Note families and might help Samsung phase out the Note in the coming years.

Samsung may owe its tremendous success in the mobile business to the decision to make devices that mimicked the original iPhone. Still, the South Korean giant does have a few accomplishments of its own in the mobile business. The first-gen Galaxy Note is widely seen as the “phablet” that inspired everyone else in the business to keep increasing the display size, even though the Note wasn’t the first Android handset to feature a bigger screen. But as smartphones became more sophisticated, the display got bigger and bigger on all phones. Smartphone vendors discovered they could extend the phone’s screen significantly without increasing the handset’s footprint. It wasn’t long until the Galaxy S came with all-screen displays that matched the Note’s screen size. Just like that, the phablet concept disappeared, as all phones had large screens. And, just like that, one of the two iconic features of the Note line evaporated. Androids and iPhones all feature all-screen designs of various sizes, and the Note no longer offers the bigger smartphone display you can buy.

The Note does have a second identifying feature that no other device replicated. And it looks like Samsung is already planning to “kill” the Note.

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The Note’s days seemed numbered when the Galaxy Note 7 started exploding left and right. Samsung recalled the handset, attempted to repair it, and was then forced to cancel it. The battery safety oversight was a huge blow for Samsung, but the company managed to save the Note brand. Every once in a while, a new rumor would claim that Samsung was considering merging the Galaxy S and Note lines. But that never happened, even though the newest Galaxy S and Note phones are almost identical. The only thing that allows the Note to stand out from the crowd of Android phones is the built-in S Pen stylus.

Come early 2021, Samsung will launch the Galaxy S21 series. Well-known Samsung insider Ice Universe claimed on Twitter that he could “100% confirm” the S21 Ultra supports the S Pen.

It’s not immediately clear whether the S21 will work with the Note stylus, which could be purchased separately, or whether the S Pen is built into the phone, as it happens with the Note. In case it’s the latter, then Samsung will effectively “kill” the Note. There would be no point in waiting for Note 21 if the best version of the Galaxy S21 would come with a stylus.

From the looks of it, it’s just the S21 Ultra that will get S Pen support, which is also somewhat confusing. It’s also an indication that the S21 Ultra might come with an S Pen slot. The Ultra will be the largest phone in the S21 series and would offer Samsung enough space to add a stylus to the list of default specs.

Rumors earlier this summer also claimed that at least one S21 phone would come with a stylus. The closer we get to the Galaxy S21 launch, the clearer Samsung’s plans will be. All the previous Galaxy S and Note models leaked in full before their respective launches, so the S21 Ultra’s S Pen support will not remain a secret if the feature is real.

As for the Note series, the Note brand is one of Samsung’s best mobile assets. It would seem unthinkable to see Samsung discontinue it. But there’s no clear indication as to what Samsung’s plans for it are. However, in a series of tweets this summer, the same Ice said that Samsung is prioritizing its foldables over the Galaxy S and Note phones.

Phones like the Z Flip and Z Fold should become the real flagships of the year, the leaker said. In such a case, compromises for the Galaxy S and Note lines might be expected. The regular Galaxy Note 20, with its plastic design, is the best proof that Samsung is willing to make compromises about a flagship. And that phone isn’t exactly a best-selling device.

According to recent reports, Samsung should unveil the Galaxy S21 on January 14th and launch it in stores on January 29th.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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