Samsung has released a new Galaxy Note smartphone every year for the last decade, but this might be the first time Samsung skips the stylus-packing flagship. According to the company’s mobile chief DJ Koh, Samsung is rethinking its strategy of releasing multiple flagship device families in a single year. While the Note isn’t dead, as reported by Bloomberg, Samsung is preparing investors for the possibility Samsung won’t have a major phone release in the second half of the year.
Rumors have percolated in recent months, claiming Samsung was going to ax the Galaxy Note family. And indeed, the stars did seem to align — the S21 Ultra has S Pen support, a first for the S family. Numerous sources also claimed Samsung would offer S Pen support with the upcoming Z Fold3. Samsung almost doesn’t need the Note series in 2021, but it has been an important part of Samsung’s portfolio over the years.
After downplaying the likelihood of a 2021 Note on the recent earnings call, Koh stressed Samsung is working toward releasing a Note next year. While Koh stopped short of saying there would definitely not be a 2021 Note, it’s a little late in the game to hem and haw when it comes to building millions of smartphones. I’d be surprised if Samsung changes course and launches a Note this year. Samsung also fretted over the impact of the ongoing semiconductor shortage but Koh says that’s separate from its desire to streamline its product portfolio.
Samsung has gotten along fine without a Note phone in the past, although it wasn’t voluntary. In 2016, Samsung launched the Galaxy Note 7, which had a battery defect that caused the phone to occasionally burst into flames. After trying and failing to address the issue, Samsung canceled the Note 7 just two months after its announcement. And yet, Samsung’s mobile business and the Note brand survived the fiasco.
This could give Apple a nice boost in late 2021. That’s usually when it launches new iPhone models, and it probably won’t have to complete with a new Samsung flagship this cycle. The recently released Galaxy S21 series will be old news by then, and the Z Fold3 will almost certainly be far too expensive to compete directly with the iPhone.
The Note series pioneered the phablet form factor, and it’s the only modern smartphone with a fully integrated, pressure-sensitive stylus. Despite the high price tag, some smartphone buyers wait for the Note refresh with bated breath every year. Even when the Note 7 burned so many, Samsung’s sales bounced back a year later with the Note 8. Will they wait around until 2022 or just bite the bullet and buy the S21 Ultra? I’m sure Samsung would be happy with either.
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