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Samsung Galaxy Note's future in question amid Galaxy S21 Ultra launch

Here are some thoughts on the future of Samsung's Galaxy Note and where it needs to go in the future. Think foldable Galaxy Note.

Samsung Galaxy S21's new S Pen opens up business uses cases

The launch of Samsung's Galaxy S21 Ultra along with its two siblings left one big unanswered question: If the S Pen goes well with the Galaxy S21 Ultra, do you need the Galaxy Note?

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Samsung hinted in recent weeks that the Galaxy Note may not be refreshed. I've been a Galaxy Note fan for years and have had multiple versions through the Galaxy Note 10. I reviewed the Galaxy Note 20 and found it to be a strong device that I'll be happy to purchase depending on the discounts following the Galaxy S21 launch.

What I liked most about the Galaxy Note is that the S Pen is an ingredient of the device. Samsung appears to be moving toward the S Pen as an accessory to be used across the product line. In addition to the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the S Pen also rides shotgun with the Galaxy Tab S7.

In addition, Samsung said that it will have two S Pen models with the base S Pen and S Pen Pro to be launched later. Samsung also said it is working with pen makers to expand S Pen technology and reach. In other words, Samsung's portfolio is going to become broadly Note-ish. 

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It's unclear what happens to the Note. TM Roh, president and head of Samsung's mobile communications business, said: 

We are committed to innovating new mobile experiences that flow seamlessly and continuously to make our consumers' lives easier and better. We've made the bold decision to expand the S Pen experience to Galaxy S21 Ultra, and plan to expand the S Pen experience across additional device categories in the future. We remain committed to providing the best mobile experience to our consumers and will continue to actively listen and consider consumer feedback in our product innovations.

Now there are some nuances with the Galaxy S21 Ultra and the S Pen. For instance, the Ultra doesn't have a built-in dock to house the S Pen. That reality means that Galaxy S21 Ultra will need some sort of case to hold the S Pen and make an already massive 6.8-inch display device bigger. In addition, support for all S Pen functionality found on the Galaxy Note S20 will arrive in an update.

Also: Galaxy Note: Samsung might ditch premium phone for 2021 over falling high-end demand

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra works with S Pen. 

Samsung

Add it up, and if you're really an S Pen fan, the Galaxy Note S20 will likely offer a more integrated experience. Here are some thoughts about the potential end of the Galaxy Note and where the product needs to go in the future.

The end of the Note wouldn't be surprising

In recent years, Samsung had a cadence that featured a Galaxy S launch early in the calendar year and then a Galaxy Note rollout in the summer. That Galaxy Note launch, which usually included a tablet introduction, enabled Samsung's product cadence to front-run Apple events in the fall.

That cadence became a bit confusing as Samsung launched foldable devices and the Galaxy Note lost some of its luster as it became an incremental upgrade to the Galaxy S line.

In 2020, I wondered about the role of the Galaxy Note because it started to look like an appendage to the product line instead of a headliner. The Galaxy foldable lineup is clearly the future.

Simply put, the Galaxy Note had a strong fan base, but not a big one. In addition, the business use cases for the Galaxy Note rhymed too much with the Galaxy S line. I began to wonder whether I'd want to buy a Galaxy Tab with S Pen instead of a Galaxy Note and save some money.

As highlighted previously, the new Samsung product cadence is likely to feature foldable devices in the summer with the Galaxy S launch earlier in the year. You can also expect Samsung to bring mid-priced devices out throughout the year given the demand for the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition (FE).

Should the Note go away, it would have given Samsung a good run, but don't be surprised if it returns in the future.

How the Note can 'fold' into the product line

While the Galaxy Note in its current form has probably run its course, Samsung's S Pen is a competitive advantage. The S Pen won't go anywhere, but devices specifically catering to the note-taking crowd may be left to the inexpensive Moto G Stylus, which is a value that's good enough.

If I'm Samsung I'd bench the Galaxy Note for a bit, but later return it as a foldable device. Executives have noted that Samsung's plan revolves around offering more foldable devices at various price points to make them more mainstream. Today, Samsung's foldable lineup -- Galaxy Z Fold 2 at $2,000 and Galaxy Z Flip and Z Flip 5G are $1,300 and $1,450, respectively -- are in the premium space. 

Samsung's foldable devices have made good strides, but there's more engineering to be done. For instance, prices need to come down to make foldable devices mainstream. Cameras in foldable devices need to match Samsung's premium tier. And it wouldn't hurt if a future Samsung foldable device included an S Pen as an ingredient.

The benefits of a foldable Samsung Galaxy Note would be the following:

  1. A smaller footprint.
  2. A more natural integration between pen and "paper."
  3. And the capability to truly bridge a smartphone and tablet for business and creative pros.

The specifications and pricing would dictate how this foldable Galaxy Note would do, but rest assured there would be interest. There are also multiple business use cases that would make a foldable Galaxy Note a solid enterprise device.

Bottom line: Should the Galaxy Note go away, it's goodbye for now but not forever. The Galaxy Note brand is strong for Samsung, and some foldable innovation would put it back on its summer product cadence.

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