Samsung's Galaxy Note 20 is doomed, and it's all the Galaxy S20 Ultra's fault

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

Yup, we're talking about the Galaxy Note 20 already. Nope, the S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra haven't actually started shipping yet. But I can't not think about Samsung's "next big thing" after reporting on a very credible rumor calling for a July launch alongside a second-gen Galaxy Fold. Now, I'm no math whizz, but I'm pretty sure that's a measly five months away. 

In other words, Samsung has 150 days or so left to come up with a way to make the Galaxy S20 series obsolete. Obviously, the company isn't just now beginning to develop the sequel (or sequels) to last fall's excellent Note 10 and Note 10+. In fact, there's a very good chance Samsung already knows precisely how the Note 20 will look, both inside and out. Still, I can't help but wonder if the world's largest smartphone vendor truly thought its 2020 flagship lineup through.

Let me explain.

The spirit of the Galaxy Note family is dead

You might think the built-in S Pen is the main thing that sets a Note apart from a Galaxy S-series device. It's even in the name, right? The note-taking accessory must be what makes a member of the Galaxy Note handset family special. But if you ask me, there's a lot more to this incredible success story than an admittedly amazing stylus. Started as a niche-oriented experiment in 2011, the "phablet" broke into the mainstream surprisingly quickly, so much so that I'm willing to bet you've forgotten the last time you used that word or heard someone using it.

Phablets are now... regular-sized phones, and Samsung deserves a lot of the credit for popularizing large-screen devices even though the company obviously didn't invent the concept. The display was not the only department where early Galaxy Note generations went big either. These bad boys took bold risks in directions that were simply not accessible for the mass-oriented Galaxy S roster. 

They also constantly pushed the envelope with their increasingly remarkable specifications and capabilities, despite risking to alienate fans and potential buyers with rapidly surging prices. Certain gambles, like the massive Galaxy Note 7 battery, literally blew up in Samsung's face, and yet year in and year out the company tried its best to stand out from a pack of increasingly similar high-end handsets.

Ironically, the mainstream popularity of the Galaxy Note family might be the thing that ultimately brings its demise. For years, Samsung played its Galaxy S releases relatively safe so Galaxy Notes could swoop in and cater to the needs of the few that wanted the best the industry had to offer at any given time. But because the few became the many, Samsung started to push the envelope further and further with the Galaxy S family until the S10+ and S10 5G made it almost impossible for the Note 10 and Note 10+ to truly shine.

With standard 5G connectivity, huge screens, and outright insane camera specs, the Galaxy S20+ and S20 Ultra are virtually rendering the Note 20 irrelevant before the latter is even released.

Nowhere to go but sideways

Am I saying the Galaxy S20 Ultra is perfect? Not at all. Definitely not until our in-depth review is done. But on paper, this is a power user's wet dream. It's huge and it's got all the specs to match that towering size. The design may not be very... refined, but in the end, we're basically talking about the mobile tech equivalent of a monster truck here, so why not embrace that parallel all the way?

Heck, even the S20 and S20+ have plenty of things going for them, leaving the Note 20 and Note 20+ (if there are in fact two models in the pipeline) in a very awkward position. They were supposed to be a power user's wet dream, and not simply an S Pen-wielding refinement of their "cousins."

Of course, we don't know exactly what Samsung is planning for the Galaxy Note 20 design. A so-called "waterfall" display is one way the company could revive the risk-taking and road-opening spirit of the high-end roster, but it's also a dumb way to do that. I'm sorry if you think that's the future of super-premium smartphone designs, but if it is, I don't want to live on this planet anymore. 

From time to time, smartphone manufacturers and tech giants in general should be less preoccupied with whether or not they CAN pull off a radical new design and stop to think for a second if they SHOULD try to turn every wacky idea into a commercial reality. I'm looking at you, Huawei. And you, Oppo. And Vivo, and most of all, Xiaomi with its "surround display" concept.

Galaxy Note 30... Fold?! 

There's absolutely no functional reason for Samsung to pursue a waterfall Note 20, and perhaps more importantly, a device with its screen wrapped around its sides like that just looks... dumb. It's not premium, elegant, or futuristic, it's simply a fugly gimmick meant to distract us from the industry's lack of meaningful innovation. Samsung knows better than to experiment for experimentation's sake (or so I hope), which is also why I don't think the Galaxy Note 20 will come with an under-display camera. Or anything radical to mess with the almost flawless frontal design of the S20 trio.

It's too early to do that in the numbers needed to meet global demand for a new Note-series release. Enter the Galaxy Fold 2 (or Z Fold 2), which could definitely afford to take a risk on an experimental technology meant to achieve the perfect all-screen design. After all, the original Galaxy Fold in its entirety was a big risk, and although foldable devices are slowly getting better, the same will most likely be true for the Fold 2.

Probably the most interesting feature rumored for Samsung's third foldable phone is a built-in S Pen, which would essentially annihilate the last remaining distinguishing trait of the Galaxy Note lineup. It's pretty obvious where this is going, so let me be the first to declare my excitement for next year's Note/Fold merger. It's the only thing that makes sense in these circumstances, don't you think?

Related phones

Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G
Galaxy S20
Galaxy S20+


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