Samsung may be planning a major shift in its smartphone strategy in 2021. According to a recent analyst report, Samsung may drop the popular Galaxy Note family in favor of a foldable with a stylus. The problem, it seems, is that the Note series isn’t as popular as it once was. The stylus functionality could remain, though, as part of the upcoming third-gen Samsung foldable phone.
The Galaxy Note series launched in 2011, and it seemed extremely silly at first. Who would want a phone with a humungous 5.3-inch screen? It turns out Samsung had a hit on its hands. It has released a Galaxy Note every year since, and only one of them has shown a propensity to explode. Even the Note 7 fires didn’t stop people from buying these phones.
However, reports now claim Samsung was disappointed with sales of the Note20 and Note20 Ultra. The company is allegedly considering ending the Note line and focusing on stylus features for the Z Fold line. This makes sense on the surface — the Z Fold3 will have a lot more screen real estate to make an S Pen useful, and it will fold like a real notebook, which will be a fun bit of skeuomorphism.
The Note series has been a proven winner for Samsung, and any suggestion that Samsung is making this decision spur of the moment strikes me as improbable — there’s a lot of engineering work that needs to happen before you can add an S Pen to the Fold. Currently, foldable screens are made of soft plastic. Even Samsung’s panels with ultra-thin glass (UTG) have a plastic layer on top that is softer than human fingernails. Stabbing it with a stylus of any sort would almost immediately destroy the screen, so Samsung would need to come up with a vastly improved foldable display to make this workable.
So if the Fold stylus happens, this was probably on the roadmap for a long time. Whether or not Samsung kills the Note is another matter. I suppose it depends on how bad Note20 sales have been and how much that can be blamed on the obscene MSRP of $1,300 for the Note20 Ultra. Samsung also got roasted in early 2020 for selling the S20 Ultra for $1,400, and that phone has sold poorly by all accounts. The Galaxy Z Fold2 costs $2,000, and there’s no reason to expect adding an S Pen to the loadout would make it any cheaper. On the flip side, the Galaxy S20 FE is a mere $700, and it’s getting very good reviews.
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