The writing on the wall for the Galaxy Note has been rumored for years now, even before we got to the point that there would be viable replacements for it. Still, that day never came close to happening, at least not until the day that there was no Galaxy Note phone for just a year. Given how things are moving in Samsung land, it might actually be high time to retire the venerable brand, if only to give Samsung a better drive to actually push its S Pen technology and ecosystem forward.
Samsung always portrayed the Galaxy Note as a professional’s companion, a tool for productivity and serious work. It was an image created back in the day when smartphones were mostly seen as leisure products for browsing the Web, using social media, and portable entertainment. Of course, these days, smartphones are used for almost everything, including work-related activities, that the Galaxy Note’s target audience now seems to be “everyone.”
On a technical level, however, the Galaxy Note was also defined by a few hardware features. Aside from the S Pen, the Galaxy Note was also credited and blamed for starting the phablet trend of having large screens. It would often also include new or experimental features that would be included in next year’s Galaxy S flagship after being tested in the real world.
None of those reasons hold water today in a world where small phones have become almost extinct. Of course, the stylus remains the one remaining part of the Galaxy Note’s DNA that hasn’t been replicated yet, at least until the Galaxy S22 next year. When that inevitable change happens, it’s really curtains for the Galaxy Note.
To be fair, the Galaxy S21 Ultra this year already supported the S Pen, though as an additional and external accessory. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 also made its new and incompatible S Pen a selling point of the third iteration of Samsung’s foldable device. Despite those, the consensus has been that these are not the Galaxy Note replacements you were looking for.
The biggest factor holding back these two from being considered successors to the Galaxy Note throne is that the S Pen are optional accessories and additional expenses. They aren’t just afterthoughts, considering the design and engineering that Samsung put into the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s digitizer, but people feel otherwise because the company didn’t make it convenient to carry the stylus along with the foldable phone. As long as it doesn’t come as part of the package, including the design of cases, the S Pen will continue to be something that Samsung could throw out at any given moment.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra could change that with a silo for the S Pen, and that change sends a very strong message. It says that the S Pen is now part of the Galaxy S DNA, that it is a core feature of the phone rather than an addon. Some people might not like it and might not appreciate the added cost that it brings, but it sends a signal to everyone that the S Pen has finally come of age and has become a standard Samsung flagship feature.
Back to the Fold
Making the S Pen a standard feature of the Galaxy S22, even if the more expensive Ultra model, could also mark a new beginning for the stylus itself as well as the ecosystem surrounding it. Presuming Samsung continues it through the future Galaxy S iterations, it will make the S Pen a core part of the Samsung experience, be it on smartphones, tablets, or even foldables. This will hopefully give Samsung the drive it needs to push the technology forward beyond what it already supports.
There’s definitely a lot of room for improvement, especially when it comes to supporting foldable phones. The success of the Apple Pencil definitely changed the game a bit, making it an important part of the company’s message, especially when it comes to iPads. Just as with the original Galaxy Note, Samsung has the opportunity to define and shape this niche market, but only if it makes the S Pen a built-in feature rather than an extra.
As a long-time Galaxy Note user since the Galaxy Note 3, seeing and calling for the retirement of the brand is a bitter pill to swallow. But for this particular user, it isn’t really just about the brand anyway. It has always been about its defining features: the large screen, productivity focus, and especially the S Pen. Those get to live on in the Galaxy S series and the Galaxy Z Fold, and if it means making the S Pen a mainstream and staple feature of Samsung’s flagships, then it’s all for the best in the end.