The saga of the Samsung Galaxy Note is an interesting one in this industry. The first Note was introduced back in 2011, and with a then-massive 5.3-inch display, speculation was all over the place on whether the phone would ever have more than one appearance. As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20, and clearly the Note didn’t fail at all. In fact, it started a revolution.
Presently, it’s hard to find a flagship that features anything less than a 5-inch display. Almost nothing seems taboo about a large screen anymore; “bigger is better” has become the unofficial slogan for the smartphone industry. Samsung’s crazy idea to sell a phone with an appallingly large display (at the time) left a lasting and overwhelmingly positive impression on consumers.
This year marks the fifth year that the Galaxy Note has been around. With rumors flying ablaze about the new Galaxy Note 5 (and Note 5 Edge, presumably), I’ve started to wonder exactly where the Note stands these days. With so many flagships now equaling – and even surpassing – the size of the Note (one of the main initial selling points of the device) is it really that big of a deal anymore?
The short of it: Yeah, it’s still a pretty big deal.
I think out of all of Samsung’s devices, the Note happens to be my favorite. I’ve never owned one personally, and I probably never will. However, I can appreciate that the device is more than just a large piece of screen real estate; at the end of the day, the Samsung Galaxy Note ends up being a pretty great device for a lot of reasons.
There’s the obvious reason: The stylus. The stylus is a mobile phone feature that I feel should have never gone out of style. Sure, without pressure-sensitive touchscreens the sheer necessity of the stylus may be obsolete, but sometimes I would must prefer to use a stylus than my hands. Note-taking, Action Memos, Smart Select, and all of the other myriad of features that Samsung has included with the S-Pen are fairly remarkable advancements for the stylus. Instead of tossing styli by the wayside, Samsung managed to modernize it for the better. The precision of the S Pen over, say, a stylus with a rubber tip is also immaculate. And if you don’t feel like using a stylus? Stick it in the dock, and voila; no worries. It’s there if you need it, and not when you don’t.
Another obvious reason that the Note is a great choice is the battery life… well, barring there aren’t any potential updates that ruin it. There’s no doubt that larger phones generally equals more room for a larger battery, and the Note has typically taken advantage of that. Coupling that with Samsung’s focus on software-induced power saving solutions, such as Ultra Power Saving Mode, the Note can easily last longer than a lot of flagships even with moderate to heavy usage. In the past, the Samsung Galaxy Note has also had the benefit of having a removable battery, so keeping a spare around is also a notable feature given how often removable batteries are forgone. (However, with the absence of a removable battery in the Galaxy S6 one has to wonder whether Samsung will do away with it in the Note series as well.)
And although this wouldn't seem like a positive thing to say about the phone that sparked the very demand for larger displays, I have to commend Samsung for keeping the large screen of the Note to a minimum lately. Other devices may have surpassed it, but in several instances it feels like certain devices have overshot the sweet spot that those interested in “larger displays” have wanted to see – even other devices from Samsung itself. 6.3-inch, 6.5-inch, and devices that have nearly 7-inch displays (the size of many small tablets) haven’t typically been top sellers in this industry, so it’s nice to see that Samsung has stuck with the 5.7-inch display for two years already, with a third possibly on its way.
I don’t think the Note has lost its luster, and I think it will continue to shine in a sea of phablets due to the amount of focus Samsung puts into its multitasking and S Pen features. Everything else about the Note – the specs, the camera, the battery – are all things that are easily replicated by other flagships. But until somebody else decides to challenge the Note not only with its multitask-friendly user interface, but also with its conveniently included S Pen along with all of the nifty S Pen features, I feel like the Note still stands strong in this phablet saturated market four years later.