The dilemma of the Galaxy Note 10: Get out of the shadow of the Galaxy Fold

The Galaxy Note 9 of 2018 was very similar to the Galaxy S10 Plus this year.

Sarah Tew / CNET

When Samsung introduced the first Galaxy Note in late 2011, the device was something never seen before. The Note of that time luca a screen of 5.3 inches, which was much larger than the screen of 3.5 inches of Iphone 4s, and includes a pencil to write on the screen. As the line evolved, Samsung was including its most risky and innovative technologies, such as a curved screen and iris scanner, in the Note before expanding them to other devices.

The Note marked the beginning of a new category of devices that merged a phone and a tablet (tabs). Many critics wondered if someone bought a smart phone with such a large screen. But people did it. Anyone who would like the most innovative technologies and Samsung's largest screen looked for a Note, and thus was born a fervent fan base.

Very soon, all other companies in the mobile industry launched large-screen smartphones, including Apple. And that's exactly where part of the fight for the next is Galaxy Note 10.

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What we expect from the Galaxy Note 10


Today, the tablfonos category (phablets, in English) no longer exists, because essentially all phones are tabbonos. While 5.3 inches looked huge in 2011, it is now a small size compared to the iPhone XS Max 6.5 inches, not to mention the OnePlus 7 Pro 6.67 inches or the Huawei Mate 20 X 7.2 inches. Samsung's Galaxy S Plus models are essentially the same size as the Note line (the S10 Plus and Note 9 have 6.4-inch screens), and the designs are similar. So are the prices, since both have an initial price of US $ 1,000.

The Note family, who will receive a new member when Samsung presents the Note 10 at an event on Wednesday in Brooklyn, New York, no longer has Samsung's most innovative technologies. That title belongs to the Galaxy Fold, the company's next phone that is displayed on a tablet. Even the Galaxy S line has received new technologies before the Note, including three camera lenses, the ultrasonic fingerprint sensor on the screen and the ability to wirelessly charge other devices on the back of the Galaxy S10. The Galaxy S10 It was also the first Samsung phone with a 5G option.

The Note is no longer the leader in innovation, nor is it Samsung's largest phone (although it will be able to recover that crown with the Note 10). Its main differentiator is the S Pen pencil, and that is not something that all Note owners really use. With the Note 10, Samsung has to find a way to make the device obvious to advanced users. Otherwise, there may no longer be a clear need for that phone.

"The design of the Note is actually very close to the S line, so the differentiation has disappeared," says Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies. "The question is, do you need both lines?"

Samsung declined to comment for this article.

The discomfort of smartphones

Samsung, and almost all other manufacturers, is having difficulty selling high-end devices. Telephone prices continue to rise and people are updated less frequently. If someone is buying a $ 1,000 phone with all the features and news they can imagine, they tend to hold it longer than before. In the United States, consumers now upgrade to a new model every three years instead of every two. At the same time, software updates make old phones feel new, hardware designs do not change much from year to year and less expensive devices get features that were previously only found in the most expensive flagship devices.

Global sales of smart phones have declined for seven consecutive quarters. In the second quarter of 2019, shipments fell 3 percent to 341.4 million units, according to Strategy Analytics, although the company said the general market is showing signs of stabilization.

"The outlook for the second half of this year is improving," said Linda Sui, an analyst at Strategy Analytics.

Last week, Samsung and Apple reported earnings for the June quarter that reflected a weak demand for their more expensive phones. In the case of Apple, iPhone sales fell 12 percent over the previous year, and its total net income fell 13 percent. Samsung's total device sales increased approximately 7 percent to 24.3 billion won (about US $ 20,000 million), and the company increased its leadership in global smart phone market share by two percentage points to 22 percent, according to Strategy Analytics. But the gain was due in large part to the cheaper Samsung Series A devices.

"The sales of emblematic models fell (from the first to the second quarter) due to the weak momentum of sales of the Galaxy S10 and stagnant demand for products premium"said Samsung.

To help change things, Samsung said "focus on the successful launch of innovative new products: the Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy Fold" in the third quarter, as well as presenting more 5G phones and A-series devices.

Changes to Note 10

But the innovative Note 10 is not expected to receive major updates. It is rumored that the device has three camera lenses on the back, the same as the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus earlier this year. You can get rid of the headphone jack, a controversial change for a major Samsung phone, and probably come in two screen sizes. That could once again be the largest smart phone on Samsung's line. It is also likely that there is a version with 5G connectivity to take advantage of the fast mobile networks that are being launched worldwide.

The Note has a great benefit over the Galaxy S: its synchronization. Apple usually introduces its newest iPhone in September. At that point, Samsung's Galaxy S line already feels old. But a Note that arrives in August, is completely new and offers people an alternative to the next phones of the block.

The Note is also the only smart phone from Samsung and one of the few in the market that has a optical pencil. Samsung has continuously improved its S Pen and added new features. Last year, the Note 9 optical pencil could act as a remote control for the camera selfie of the phone. Samsung is likely to improve the S Pen again this year.

But those adjustments do not solve the biggest problem underlying the struggles of the mobile market: it is difficult to make big changes every year and make people get excited about the phones again.

That's where innovations like folding screens and 5G come into play.

In the shadow of the Galaxy Fold

Samsung's response to the malaise of smartphones has been the Galaxy Fold, which integrates the company's Infinity Flex screen and can be folded and unfolded. The US $ 1,980 device, one of the first important smart phones to incorporate a folding screen, has positioned itself as the future of the mobile industry. I surprised critics and consumers and generated many rumors after Samsung made it known.

But the Galaxy Fold has faced all kinds of problems since its announcement. Samsung initially planned to launch the device on April 26, but it was delayed when the test phone screens of some journalists who were analyzing it were broken. Some took off a thin top layer of the screen, which was an essential protective layer, not a removable screen protector. Others had debris under the screen, causing bumps and bumps. Samsung cancel the launch date to explore what happened.

At the end of July, 89 days after the Galaxy Fold went on sale, Samsung said it had addressed the problems experienced by those reporters and that the device reach the market in September, five months after its original sale date, and only a few weeks after the Note 10 goes on sale.

The Fold is basically for those users who want to play with cutting-edge innovations in mobile devices. Eventually, the folding screens will move down the line and lower in price, becoming an option for more of us.

When that happens, the Note's time as a separate smart phone line may be limited.

"It's a fair question, 'at what point will these lines merge?'" Says Technalysis Research analyst Bob O'Donnell. "It could be said that at some point, that makes sense."

Until the Fold becomes more massive, the Note has the potential to be the best of the best for the rest of us. But that we will discover on Wednesday if that is the case with Note 10, or if we should hold on longer to our old devices.