Samsung's recent fiasco regarding the Galaxy Note 7 inevitably left people with little choice when it comes to keeping the device or not. What started out as a mere suggestion to return the new flagship quickly turned to a mandatory recall as it became clear that something was terribly wrong with the Note 7. As if the situation couldn't get any worse, even the replacement devices had to be recalled, and thus the new Note 7 eventually became the no Note 7.
With as many flagships as we have available to us, it wouldn't initially seem like a big deal to have one of them pulled from shelves. However, the Note 7 happens to have a key feature that's unrivaled throughout the entire smartphone industry: the S Pen.
The thing that makes the S Pen so great is its design and digital precision. The S Pen allows users to draw and write more precisely than any run-of-the-mill capacitive stylus will, even allowing for pressure sensitivity. Couple that in with the device's flagship specs, and you have a smartphone that's quite the powerhouse for productivity.
But it feels kind of pointless to talk about how great the Note is considering that we can't buy one anymore. Well, not the 2016 version anyway. However, there are a still couple of alternatives.
If having the latest and greatest in regards to specifications isn't as important to you as having a proper stylus on hand, then there are a couple of options that people can turn to in lieu of the Note 7, the first being last year's Galaxy Note 5. A taboo suggestion, I know, but I strongly feel that smartphones have gotten to a point where it's safe to recommend them even a year after the fact. Old smartphones don't necessarily mean they're completely useless, particularly in the case of the Note.
Even when you factor in its age, the Note 5 still offers good specs. The Note 5 features the same 5.7-inch 1440 x 2560 display and 4GB of RAM as the Note 7 does. It has a 16-megapixel rear-facing camera, 5-megapixel front-facing camera, Exynos 7420 Octa-core processor, and a 3,000 mAh battery.
The Note 5 does have its shortcomings. 2015 was, unfortunately, a year that Samsung decided to experiment with some of its defining features, including the removal of both the removable battery and the microSD card slot; the Note 5 features 32, 64, and 128GB tiers of internal storage, but offers no way to expand. The Note 5 is also running Android Marshmallow, which isn't a bad thing, per se, but if having the latest Android version is a big deal for you then this might complicate things a bit - although apparently not for long, as it appears that Samsung will have a beta release of Nougat beginning on November 9th for selected applicants for the Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge, and the Note 5.
If you're still not sold on the Note 5 (it is still kind of on the expensive side, even after being out for a year – mostly because of that S Pen we love so much) there is one significantly cheaper option on the table: the LG Stylo 2.
The LG Stylo 2 puts a focus on the stylus, but the cheap price comes with some trade-offs (and, surprisingly, some trade-ups) in the spec department. The LG Stylo 2 features a 5.7-inch 720 x 1280 display, a Snapdragon 410 processor, 2GB of RAM, 13-megapixel rear-facing camera, and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. While those specs are on the underwhelming side, the Stylo 2 excels in a couple of areas where the Note 5 doesn’t: it features 16GB of internal memory, but also has a microSD card slot that supports up to 128GB of expandable storage. The device also features a 3,000 mAh removable battery and comes with a capacitive stylus.
The key word for the Stylo there is that it's a capacitive stylus. A capacitive stylus isn't much to write home about because it works on a smartphone's touchscreen the same way that your finger does. The Stylo 2's stylus won't have as many features as the S Pen, but it is remarkably thinner than many capacitive styli you come across in the wild, and, similar to the Note series, the Stylo 2 also features a special storage space within the phone for the stylus, so you're less likely to set it down and lose it.
If you're not the type to turn your nose up at the prospect of even older hardware, the Galaxy Note 4 appears to still be going strong with security updates, and it's a Galaxy Note that still has both the removable battery and microSD card. If the Note 7's dual-edged display seemed appealing to you, you might consider the Galaxy Note (4) Edge, which features one sloped edge (Samsung's first foray into the edge design). Additionally, the Galaxy Note 3 is also reported to receive an Android Nougat update alongside the Note 4, but I think the 4 is probably my cut-off point for recommendations.
So there are still some options for the stylus fans out there. They may have their drawbacks, but between the fact that one of them is only a year old and still offers pretty great specs, and the other being considerably cheaper but offering a decent stylus experience, there... could be worse outcomes. Clearly, the preferred situation would be that this wasn't a situation at all, but them's the breaks.
Note 7 fans who returned their devices, which phone did you end up going with after all was (eventually) said and done? Let us know your recommendations in the comments below!