From stardom to lessons learned, a look back at the Samsung Galaxy Note line

Looking across the smartphone landscape, there are few lines that manage to remain relevant each and every time a new model is announced. You could argue that there are three major lines that take priority. Apple's iPhones have continually been trendsetters, while Samsung's Galaxy S line has somehow managed to keep equal space. However, there's another line in Samsung's stable that completes the trifecta – and that's none other than the Note series.

Ever since its inception back in 2011, a long six years ago when you think about it, the Note line has grown incrementally with each release. There's no shortage of surprises with this line, as the evolutionary improvements and added features have diversified its portfolio. Impressively enough, too, it popularized the notion of owning a "big" smartphone – while also somehow resurrecting the stylus in the process as well.

Several current trends can be attributed to the Note series, but as we've seen, there have been highs and lows for this prestigious line. As we near the inevitable arrival of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, there's a heightened level of importance with this release, given the Note 7's battery design issue, resulting in the subsequent ban of the smartphone. To put it bluntly, you could say it was a disastrous crash and burn for the company. 

Time heals all wounds, right? That might be the case as more and more leaks of the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Note 8 make it one of the phones to beat this coming holiday season. Before we get to that, however, we need to revisit the previous phones to see exactly why this line will continue to thrive. So with that, let's take a look back the Samsung Galaxy Note line!

Samsung Galaxy Note

Larger Than Life

When it comes to making an impression, the original Samsung Galaxy Note from 2011 ensured that it wasn't going to be easily forgotten. That's partly because it popularized the new form-factor that it somehow managed to establish in the process, the "phablet," which blended qualities of a phone and tablet.

There was no denying that it was a conversation starter when it was first released, due to the fact that few phones at the time dared to venture into uncharted territory with a screen size that eclipsed 5-inches. Well, that's partly what made the Note so memorable, as its 5.3-inch display really put to shame everything else before it. Size alone wasn't the only thing going for this phablet!

Complementing the size was none other than the reintroduction of the stylus, or in this case, the S Pen. In an era where capacitive screens seemingly spelled the end of the stylus, the Galaxy Note re-purposed it to do significantly more than being just another pointing device. Instead, the S Pen added to the interaction experience with the phone, and since then, we haven't looked back. 

Samsung Galaxy Note II

Iterative Improvements 

No one really knew how the Note was going to play out for Samsung, since it was regarded as a gamble. Apparently, though, it seemed like consumers were digging these so-called phablets. And of course, Samsung continued the trend as they delivered its successor in the Samsung Galaxy Note II in the fall of 2012.

While they continued the trend with its larger-than-life status, the Note II seemingly received just the typical iterative improvements you’d expect with any successor. Well, Sammy managed to somehow push the boundaries more with its display, which now stretched out to a larger 5.5-inch 720p Super AMOLED display. Beyond that, the Note II received all the usual hardware upgrades in the process – like its larger battery capacity, newer chipset, double the RAM, and much more.

The biggest changes weren't necessarily cosmetic or related to the hardware, but rather, it was the iterative software improvements that made the S Pen even more functional than before. The new arsenal included the new Air View functionality, which made it mimic the functions of a mouse cursor as the S Pen was hovered above the display – allowing it to preview messages, images in the gallery, and much more!

At the end of the day, though, you could say that the Note II was nothing more than your typical successor. That's not bad at all, especially given its popularity at the time. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Moving towards a more sophisticated design

Samsung's reputation in the design department during the time paled in comparison to some of its rivals, seeing that the company heavily favored plastic more so than other materials. And by the time the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 arrived on the scene, they decided to change things up a bit. More specifically, they sprinkled just a smidgen of premium to the design of the phone – making it a departure from the normal plastic constructions that Sammy was known for.

Looking at the Note 3, the biggest change to the design came in the form of a faux-leather pattern on the rear cover, complete with faux stitching. Even though it wasn't real leather, it did produce a somewhat more sophisticated look that complemented the Note 3's productivity value, but beyond that, the phone also saw some firsts in the series. For one, the screen size grew to a whopping 5.7-inches, bringing along 1080p resolution as well! Its rear camera also packed in more pixels as it featured a 13-megapixel snapper. And lastly, it was also the first time we saw an IR blaster and a microUSB 3.0 port in the series.

These were definitely big improvements for the series, which some would argue to be a bigger leap over its predecessor. However, it was the attention to adopting a more sophisticated design that made showed Samsung's 


Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Evolution at its finest 

As the Note 3 showed Samsung's willingness to change in the design department, the arrival of its successor in fall of 2014 brought forth the biggest evolutionary changes to the series, which some proclaim to be the best handset in the Note line. Following after the radical design change that came along with the Galaxy Alpha, Samsung brought the same new, premium design language to the Note 4. And boy was it a stunning looking phone!

Sporting a new metal frame with a soft touch matte casing, the Note 4 was undeniably stunning the moment it was announced. It honestly showed that Samsung could go beyond just the usual plastic bodied phones it was producing for years, but even better, the specs of the Note 4 were pushing the boundaries more so than its contemporaries at the time.

As if 1080p resolution wasn't enough, the Note 4 was one of the few phones at the time to boast a higher resolution of Quad-HD – making it well above the curve. In addition, it also saw the arrival of the finger print sensor, which was integrated into the home button. This was without question the phone to beat during the holiday season of 2014, and for many people, it's still widely viewed as the best smartphone in the series! 

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Samsung Galaxy Note Edge

A curvy experiment 

Introduced alongside the Note 4, the Note Edge's distinctive feature was none other than its one-sided curved screen, which offered some additional multi-tasking features and notifications. From a visual perspective, it definitely seemed odd at first, but it still exhibited the same premium design language of its sibling. Considering that it fetched for a couple hundred more dollars than its sibling in the Note 4, the Note Edge's pricey cost prevented it from reaching the same achievements obtained by the Note 4.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 5

Finally, metal in the design 

By the time 2015 rolled around, Samsung showed the world earlier in the year that it wasn't afraid to experiment with premium materials. Sure, the Note 4 proved to be a more premium looking handset than anything else previous in the line, but the Note 5 ended up taking it to an even higher level with its glass and metal construction – the same design language that was introduced by the Galaxy S6 line earlier in the year.

Yes, the Note 5 was a gorgeous looking phone thanks to the new facelift, but the 5th generation model also saw much-needed improvements as well – like a tweaked fingerprint sensor that made it easier to unlock the phone, and a tweaked S Pen that mimicked the 'clicking' sound of a pen. Much like its predecessors before it, the Note 5 was a specs powerhouse that made it the most cutting-edge device at the time of its release. It even added new features like wireless and rapid charging! And throw in the fact that it performed handsomely in several areas, it didn't take a rocket scientist to believe it was a force to be reckoned with. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

A hard lesson learned 

Things were riding smoothly by the time the Note 7 was announced, and once again the phone proved to be a big hit amongst the tech community – garnering extremely favorable reviews! And it was deserving, naturally, due to its even better-looking design, powerhouse specs, raw performance, and new features. In particular, it boasted an iris scanner, a first in the series, which gave users an alternative form of unlocking the phone.

On the software side, the latest version of Samsung's Galaxy UI, formerly called "TouchWiz," featured a significantly cleaner and streamlined look than before – while also leveraging the same edge screen features seen in the two previous phones before it. And the love extended to the S Pen, bringing along features that allowed for magnification and the ability to produce gifs from almost any kind of video.

However, things quickly took a turn for the worse after reports started surfacing about phones randomly exploding. Consequently, the phone was eventually banned on all US flights, leading to the eventual recall that some regarded to be a slow response from Samsung. This was undeniably a hard lesson learned, as the phone seemingly was wiped out of existence. 

So, now that we know what has transpired through the years, all eyes will be on the announcement of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. Without question, this should be a pivotal point for the company after the crash and burn of its previous phone in the Note 7. Considering that there's a reputation to uphold here, we're confident that Samsung will be taking all matters about the phone very seriously.



1. Derekjeter

Posts: 1479; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

The only good thing to ever come out of the Note series is that it pushed Apple and the other OEMs to build larger screen phones. So thanks Samsung for pushing it, I love my Nexus 6p and 7 plus.

11. darkkjedii

Posts: 31004; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Wow dude lol! That sounded like a total hater comment man. Notes are awesome, and pack some sweet tech, but to each his own. I'd take a note over an iPhone any day...and I use both...I know.

20. SupermanayrB

Posts: 1188; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

That's like when these idiots say the only thing good about Jordan is that he made players like Kobe & LeBron. No. Mike > players after him. Note > phones after it.

31. sgodsell

Posts: 7321; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Derekjeter you love iPhone and we all know. But it's a well know fact Apple hasn't been innovative in years. They continue to follow. The last note 7 had Iris unlocking, plus face unlocking. Which face unlocking is going on the new iPhone 8. For that matter Android has had face unlocking since jelly Bean. Also it's rumored that Apple will be stealing Samsung's smart stay. Which Apple will be calling it something else of course. I remember a number of zealots we're saying those features are gimmicky. Yet when Apple implements them, now they are great, right?

48. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

DCI-P3 APFS W chips Those are Apple's innovations since iPhone 7 appeared; they are enough to show people the lack of value of your statement (or, in your case, the foul play).

35. darkkjedii

Posts: 31004; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Damn...yep yep.

54. chenski

Posts: 765; Member since: Mar 22, 2015

Nope, newer flagships are pretty much better than older flagships

22. Derekjeter

Posts: 1479; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

Come on bro! Of course it’s not a hate comment but you know I don’t like Samsung phones specially that horrible UI. Stock Android is the way to go, they might be boring to you but I don’t have a heavy UI phone lagging more than any other. If you lie to me about all Samsung phones lagging more than others than I’ll know you’re just a fan boy. All phones lag, my Nexus and iPhone lag but not as much as my bothers S8+. That “Sweet tech” you’re Notes pack, 95% of features are gimmicks and go unused. I have seen maybe one person ever use the Spen or the hand gestures, or even try the split screen. I don’t even use the all the features on my phones (not like they have many). The hardware of the S8 is cool but also a gimmick. Flat, edge to edge looks and works a lot better than those gimmick rounded edges. You choose Samsung and that’s great for you, but outside this website, the rest of the world doesn’t care for all that tech. Fast processing, large storage, great looking hardware, and great camera is all that’s need it.

25. darkkjedii

Posts: 31004; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Like I each his own. As tech advances, it fits into our lives differently, and changes how we do things. I never thought about split screen, but when I got it, it changed how I use my phone forever. I used to hate the stylus, but the S-Pen changes my mind and I use it all the time. I've seen much more applicable tech changes in the Note, than I have in iPhones, and that's made them the better phone for me. I wish Apple would take more chances, and try more gimmicks, like Samsung does. Taking chances took us from the horse and buggy, to the car. The conservative approach (Apple) is cool and all, but the risk approach (Samsung) tends to push the innovation further. Both approaches have their place, and Apple and Samsung both do great. I'll take Samsung's approach though, cause it's always something new, and has a learning curve to challenge my tinker urge. Changing the look is also a good thing too, humans like eye candy. Apple doesn't give enough of it.

29. Derekjeter

Posts: 1479; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

I totally agree on the eye candy and right now that Essential phone is the best looking phone out. If they advertise that phone like they should, it will be a great step forward for other future phones to come. I know Samsung pushed innovation but you can’t deny Apple pushed further than anyone with the first iPhone.

32. darkkjedii

Posts: 31004; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

I can agree with that, but Apple also got a little lazy for a while resting on its laurels. They've picked it up a bit lately, but more can't hurt. What I like, is that there's something for everyone. I'm not hating on anyone for using what they use, cause obviously they like it. If I didn't use Apple products, I'd never speak on em. I don't criticize that which I don't purchase. I think the current tech landscape is great, and can't wait to see what's coming.

37. Mr.Pussy

Posts: 348; Member since: Feb 16, 2017

Apple got lazy for a while? No they probably take a rest waiting to see if more others going to sue them for copying. Once it's slow down then they will speed up the copy again lol.

49. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

Nobody does anything new in mobile world; everything is better soc, now ram, more memory, other kind of corners. Not even the new line of almost edgeless phones is something new. Every phone is the same as the phone of 1-2-3 years ago, just more powerful. So nobody is getting those laurels you're talking about.

50. SupermanayrB

Posts: 1188; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

"Every phone is the same as the phone of 1-2-3 years ago, just more powerful." Yea, that's not the same. If a 2016 Camaros' V8 was 415hp & a 2017 V8 is 445hp, that's not the same AND more powerful.

51. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

You are absolutely right: I have a brand new phone every second, because my battery losses some mAh.

52. darkkjedii

Posts: 31004; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

You just refuse to accept the obvious.

53. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

The obvious being the fact that a different soc makes for a new phone?

58. SupermanayrB

Posts: 1188; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

No. The obvious that you thought you had a point but I proved you didn't & that your battery analogy made no sense.

63. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

Dude, a new phone was the first iPhone; a new phone was the Note - even though it was just a larger phone - because it set a trend; a new phone could be a modular phone that would also set the trends (Moto and LG did not do that); a new phone was the 5s, because it started the biometric log-in trend. A new SoC, more RAM and bigger screens - which is exactly what every Samsung S (since the first one) is, every HTC One, every LG G, or every iPhone past 5s - don't make for new phones. PS: you proved shit, I made a chip tuning on my car, gaining 50 hp, and I put a new spoiler; it was still the same car, only the engine was able to put 50 hp more on the wheel and it looked a bit different

65. SupermanayrB

Posts: 1188; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

So according to you something is only new if it's the first. That's the most asinine thing I've ever heard. Something can be next & also new (even if it's used). New/next car, new or used. New/next girlfriend. New/next job...I really hope I didn't have to walk you through that one. " proved s**t, I made a chip tuning on my car, gaining 50 hp, and I put a new spoiler; it was still the same car..." That's called a modification & there's a difference between the word new & the word modification. Step your vocabulary game up.

66. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

Yes, "new” means never done before (in that form) and wanted by the users. That is exactly what all Note phones are: modifications of the previous Note; the next Note is just the old Note that got a spoiler, a new engine and that's it. What can you do with the latest Note and you couldn't with the first? Nothing new.

67. SupermanayrB

Posts: 1188; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

New n(y)o͞o/Submit adjective 1. not existing before; made, introduced, or discovered recently or now for the first time. "new crop varieties" synonyms: recently developed, up to date, latest, current, state-of-the-art, contemporary, advanced, recent, modern, cutting-edge, leading-edge More 2. already existing but seen, experienced, or acquired recently or now for the first time. "her new bike" What do you know?! Look who gave the 2nd manning of the word 'new' in his last comment before actually looking up the definition? (Hint: ME) Also, the synonyms after the first definition completely apply to cellphones, ergo, NEW. "What can you do with the latest Note and you couldn't with the first? Nothing new." To quickly copy/paste what darkkjedii typed: Split screen Picture in Picture Screen off memo Floating window Themes Edge panels Multi window edge panel Multi item clipboard Fully customizable keyboard Action memo Simultaneous front and rear camera use Great battery life Smooth fast performance Bixby (Note 8) Free placing widgets Customizable widgets Developer options Pin to top Schedule messages Iris scanner Secure folder Samsung pay (MST) capability Dial pad search S-NOTE GIF maker Smart select Scroll capture Swipe to call and text And so much more. So based on the actual definition of the word new & this list of new features, just go ahead & admit you were wrong. I already know I'm right.

71. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

To show you how dumb is your assumption, I will tell you that I installed Windows 10 on a 13 year computer; that pc did absolutely everything a brand new pc did (except fp scan), only slower. The same as first Note: it can do everything the last Note does (everything on that list) with a few exceptions, hardware related. The funny part is that you mentioned NOTHING regarding the purpose of a smartphone: communication; you haven't mentioned 4G, dual-sim capabilities, more bands, support for Galileo etc, but you found it important to mention themes and widgets (which are the least important things in mobile world). That tells me that you are thinking illogical and this conversation should end here. Whether you like the Note or you don't, you should be aware of the fact that Samsung did nothing new with the last iteration, it has only increased the RAM and put in a different Soc and pen.

73. SupermanayrB

Posts: 1188; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

"The same as first Note: it can do everything the last Note does (everything on that list) with a few exceptions, hardware related." That's because the old Note would need new hardware (processor). Again, you don't know the difference between new & moded so I'll just leave it at that. Hell, you probably don't know the difference between new & knew.

76. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

Dude, are you autistic? I have explained what "new" means (it's a blend of both definitions you have so gracious posted: never used before - like multi-touch screen in the first iPhone - or already existing but implemented recently in an convenient form - like fp scanner in iPhone 5s). Note was by itself something new in the mobile world, but after it appeared, it was only incremented year after year, it brought nothing new, just a better soc and more ppi; the same goes for iPhones 6 to 7 and, if it's not going good to be filled with AR features that are going to prove themselves usefull, so will iPhone 8 be. PS: English is not even my second language so, if I f**k up its grammar, I apologize, but logic and cognitive thinking are some of the best native traits I have and there I rarely f**k up.

79. dmakun

Posts: 382; Member since: Jun 06, 2011

I recall many years ago that you were very much an iPhone guy even though you were one of the few mature Apple guys on this thread. There is that one very annoying fella "mixy" or whatever his name was. Anyway I digress, good on you that you tried Samsung and you have now a very open mind about these toys we work and play with. My Props to you on this comment bro ☝️. Very balanced and true.

30. SupermanayrB

Posts: 1188; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

*insert hand clap emojis* "I used to hate the stylus, but the S-Pen changes my mind and I use it all the time." I was the same way. Note 3, I literally only used it twice. Note 4, a lot more. Note 7, all the time. And swype texting is like 100% accurate with it.

33. darkkjedii

Posts: 31004; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

The one I hated, was on a Samsung windows mobile phone, I had on Verizon in 08 or 09. The Note 2 (I never owned or even used the OG Note) totally blew me away and changed my mind. It was the Samsung Onmia, that was the name.

36. darkkjedii

Posts: 31004; Member since: Feb 05, 2011


39. SupermanayrB

Posts: 1188; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

The Samsung I couldn't stand was the Moment because everyone kept saying that it was just as good as the OG DROID & I was like, no it's not. I thought the first Note was just a big ass Android phone that you could write on. The Note 2 I felt they did great with the screen to body ratio but was still team Moto. The Note 3 I felt how that dude felt about that couch, "...have to have it!" & its been Note gang ever since.

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