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! 

No images

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.

No images

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.



81. patilh

Posts: 1; Member since: Aug 24, 2017

there are lots of phone having good qulity

57. mikehunta727 unregistered

Last Note I had (had N7 for few days, don't count) was the Note 4. I enjoyed it despite the performance not being very good. That big new quad HD screen was sweet at the time

62. SupermanayrB

Posts: 1188; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

I had the Note 7 for 2 months. Best phone I ever had. I didn't miss anything going from my Note 4, including the IR blaster. The only bad performance I get from Samsung phones is when I've had to go from a brand new phone to a refurb. I can't wait to get out of this raggedy refurb S7E.

55. TheNeighbor

Posts: 370; Member since: Nov 15, 2013

Sounds like the writer has not used a Galaxy Note as a daily device. The Dell Streak was the first to break the 5-inch screen size barrier, not the Galaxy Note. Note5 was not the first Galaxy Note to introduce rapid charging - it was the Note 4, and you had the for wireless charging starting with the Note 3 by changing to an extra back cover accessory. He also failed to mention that the Note5 was not sold in Europe and that it had only 32GB sold in most market. The S Pen is a Wacom pressure-level input digitizer pen - not the same as the rubber-nosed "stylus". It is an artist-grade system, and your can actually produce digital art pieces. And the S Pen is what differentiate the Note lineup from the rest. He never talked about the different generations offered better and higher levels of pressure sensitivity, peaking at 4096 on the Note7. I'm hoping that the Note8 will imploy 8000+ levels of pressure input. Phone Arena, please do a better job than this.

59. g2a5b0e unregistered

Perhaps you should work on your reading comprehension. He never said the original was the first over 5 inches. "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." Some of the other things you said are correct, but the fact that he didn't mention certain things doesn't mean much. It's not like he was writing an in-depth review for each device.

64. TheNeighbor

Posts: 370; Member since: Nov 15, 2013

Yeah, and the fact he also did not mention the Note5 had NO memory expansion was a fail where a lot like me did not consider it. It's the only Galaxy Note never to have had a memory expansion, with mostly was the 32GB model being sold in markets. I stand corrected on the Note "eclipsing" the 5" screen smartphones and termed with a very silly moniker, "phablet". No company has ever used that term for marketing. But hey, rapid charging started on the Note 4, NOT Note5. S Pen's function and features should have been emphasized as it is the driving feature that makes the Galaxy what it is as a tool. Without an S Pen, I would have never bothered getting a $700+ smartphone, and would have just gotten myself a $300 mid-ranged device. No interest in the S series or the iPhones. And the main thing that the writer emphasized was the clicky end point of the Note5's S Pen - which by the way he failed to mentioned had a problem if you stuck it in backwards.

69. g2a5b0e unregistered

I had a Note 4 as well which had the exact same problem, but no one ever mentioned that. As I stated above, this wasn't a review, so the author only mentioned things they deemed important. Sorry you disagree. You are right about the Note 4 being the first to rapid charge, but if that's the only mistake they made, I'm not going to make a big deal about it.

70. TheNeighbor

Posts: 370; Member since: Nov 15, 2013

If we are going to talk about what was just mentioned in this article, well, the Air View functionality only existed with the Note 3, NOT Note II. It's a feature I still enjoy with my Note 3, and I had the Note II for 9 months - it never had Air View function. It was taken out with the Note 4. The writer (Mr. X) needs to do better research than this. Obviously he/she did not use most of the Galaxy Note, nor got some of facts right.

72. g2a5b0e unregistered

Your memory betrays you. I had a Note 2 as well. It definitely had Air View. Read this page of the review for it. Now you've made just as many mistakes as you claim the author has. How can we even take you seriously anymore?

74. TheNeighbor

Posts: 370; Member since: Nov 15, 2013

Finger Air View.

75. TheNeighbor

Posts: 370; Member since: Nov 15, 2013

Samsung renamed the pen Air View as Air Command on the Note 3, while the finger-near-the-screen trigger was called Air View.

77. TheNeighbor

Posts: 370; Member since: Nov 15, 2013

Correction again - "Air View" with the S Pen on the Note II was first introduced, but Note 3 had both pen and finger "Air View". Air Command is something else again. Yes, finger Air View was taken out starting Note 4; we lost the IR remote and memory slot by Note5 (which came back because of complaints). I just don't get why the heartbeat sensor remained - the most useless feature to have. Samsung is inconsistent when it comes to removing features,

78. g2a5b0e unregistered

I hear you. The feature you are talking about debuted on the S4 & continued on the Note 3, then was gone. And you're right, Samsung can be very inconsistent with what they keep & remove. The IR slot should have never left. It's not like it's a particularly expensive feature to implement. I bet it got way more usage than the heartbeat sensor which still remains.

61. SupermanayrB

Posts: 1188; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

"The Dell Streak was the first to break the 5-inch screen size barrier, not the Galaxy Note." Probably wasn't mentioned because its relevance in the phone industry had the same impact as Daewoos' relevance to the automobile industry.

14. MEeee

Posts: 449; Member since: Oct 19, 2011

The Note is "The King" of all smartphones.

15. VasiliS7

Posts: 205; Member since: Jan 10, 2017

This is so true!

16. sip1995

Posts: 1771; Member since: Feb 07, 2014

And so untrue...

27. SupermanayrB

Posts: 1188; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

But really true.

38. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

Then definitely true.

19. darkkjedii

Posts: 31805; Member since: Feb 05, 2011


43. chenski

Posts: 796; Member since: Mar 22, 2015

Only true for fans of the series, otherwise they are just another flagship range

60. SupermanayrB

Posts: 1188; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

That's the best of all flagships.

13. Medoogalaxy

Posts: 232; Member since: May 25, 2017

The Note series is the best phones for me

12. darkkjedii

Posts: 31805; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Best Note: 7 sans battery issue Most versatile Note: 4 SD, IR, removable battery Best looking Note: 7 just stunning Best S-Pen: 7

26. SupermanayrB

Posts: 1188; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

I only used my IR blaster to prank folks. I miss the customizable lock screen on the Note 3. Everything else Note 7. I didn't even own the 5.

34. darkkjedii

Posts: 31805; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

I used the IR to control my TV, DVR, VCR, and garage. My best friend, who's an LG V20 addict, has nearly his whole home controlled by his.

40. SupermanayrB

Posts: 1188; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

Dang your garage?! That's fly as hell!

46. darkkjedii

Posts: 31805; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Yep, just match the code, and you got it bro. I wish like hell, Samsung would bring it back.

10. 87thobee

Posts: 10; Member since: Aug 02, 2014

Who's they guy in the video? I feel like it's John Velasco from android authority.

9. Plasticsh1t

Posts: 3109; Member since: Sep 01, 2014

Mr. X?

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.
FCC OKs Cingular's purchase of AT&T Wireless