Has Samsung discontinued the Note for good in 2022?

At first glance, you could easily mistake the new Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra for the new Galaxy Note. The latest and greatest in Samsung's flagship Android line-up has shifted closer to what we've come to expect from the pen-enabled phones, not only growing in size and functionality, but now intentionally matching its aesthetic, too. Question is, where does that leave the Note?

The co-existence of the two series has seemed an increasingly odd act of duplication in recent years. Originally, the Galaxy Note was Samsung's oversized "pro" device: promising the most performance, and the most flexibility, for those willing to accommodate its size in their pockets and its hit on their bank account.

The Galaxy S Series, in contrast, was resolutely focused on consumers. High-end cameras, sure, and Samsung's latest screen technology, but packaged up in something with a little more style. Thing is, as the years went on, consumer demands started to look a whole lot like what Samsung kept telling us professionals' demands were.

As a result, the overlap has been growing through the most recent generations. The newest Galaxy Note might bump up the screen size, or grab some new camera technology, but then the next Galaxy S flagship would cherry-pick those too a handful of months later. With screen sizes close to identical, and Samsung adding S Pen stylus support to the Galaxy S21 Ultra in 2021, the questions around why both phone series continued to exist grew in volume.

Samsung has fueled rumors of a discontinuation itself, of course, though traditionally punctuated them with statements insisting there has been no official plan to discontinue the Note line. The closest we saw to an outright confirmation was in July 2021, when TM Roh, Samsung's President and Head of Mobile Communications, said that there'd be no new Galaxy Note in the company's traditional late 2021 event.

"Instead of unveiling a new Galaxy Note this time around," Roh revealed, "we will further broaden beloved Note features to more Samsung Galaxy devices." While that didn't conclusively shut the door on any future Note, today the Galaxy S22 Ultra seems to put a lid on that discussion, both in terms of its hardware and Samsung's attitude toward what once was billed as the Note phone experience.

While last year's Galaxy S21 Ultra had S Pen support, in practical terms it felt like an afterthought. One of the charms of the Note line has ben that the stylus can slot neatly into a silo in the phone itself: that way, you always have it with you. The Galaxy S21 Ultra might've worked with its S Pen, but you needed a special case with a pocket for the pen in order to carry it with the phone.

Fast forward to today, and the Galaxy S22 Ultra addresses that omission. The design is a stark departure from the evolutionary aesthetic of the Galaxy S22+ and S22, which still feel resolutely consumer-centric with the same Contour Cut camera aesthetic as last year's predecessors. Their Ultra big brother, though, takes its cues from the Note: sharper corners, blunt edges top and bottom, and most importantly a nook for the S Pen to store inside.

"We see the Note as an experience these days," Drew Blackard, Vice President of Mobile Produce Management for Samsung America, explained ahead of today's big Galaxy Unpacked launch. "We've put the Note experience in our PCs, our tablets, our foldables ... From a device perspective, we see the S22 Ultra as the natural next step for a Note owner."

Certainly, it's not hard to see the practical advantages for Samsung here. The ongoing supply chain crisis has left shortages across many verticals, not least constraining phone production. Being able to focus on ensuring adequate supplies for just one top-tier device this year, rather than two, seems like the removal of at least one headache for Samsung management.

At the same time, it paves the way for further Note expansion, now that the branding is divorced from a specific phone. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 already added S Pen support in 2021, and it seems likely that Samsung's focus will be on bolstering that for the folding phone-tablet expected to launch as the Galaxy Z Fold 4 later in 2022. Samsung is already talking up the cross-device functionality of the Galaxy S22 Ultra and the new Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra: the same S Pen works on both phone and tablet, while software enhancements allows the S22 Ultra to act as a second screen for apps running on the slate.

The reality is, Galaxy Note enthusiasts have always protested about the discontinuation of the brand, and at the same time known this day was coming. The main problem with such a strategy has always been that the Galaxy S series hasn't quite managed to encapsulate the hardware, design, and software functionality that its Note counterpart so appealing. With the Galaxy S22 Ultra, though, those final burrs spoiling the experience seem to have been ground away.