Every year Samsung relies on the Galaxy Note series to serve as a showcase for its technical advancements, such as multiple cameras or Dex for PC-like computing. Invariably, the Note sets the tone for Samsung’s mobile phones for the next 12 months, as some of the tech will trickle down to subsequent models.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 20, expected to arrive in August, is on deck to play catch up in some ways. The recent flood of flagships, such as the LG V60, Motorola Edge Plus, OnePlus 8 Pro, and Samsung Galaxy S20, brought a range of advanced features to today’s phones, including 120Hz screens and super zoom cameras. While Samsung often leads the way, the 2019 Note 10 series has now fallen behind. That means the Galaxy Note 20 will need to leapfrog what’s in the market today to retake its standing as a technical showpiece.
Can Samsung do it? Here’s what will help put the Galaxy Note 20 back on top.
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1. Size: Keep it in check
There’s no need to go any bigger. Samsung sort of admitted last year that not everyone likes a big phone. For the first time, the Note 10 series came in two sizes: the 6.8-inch Galaxy Note 10 Plus and the 6.3-inch Galaxy Note 10. The latter gave people an option if they found the former to be too much phone. This strategy made sense — until Samsung went even bigger with the Galaxy S20 Ultra. The Ultra has a 6.9-inch display and many (including us) found the overall form factor excessive. We hope Samsung shows some restraint and doesn’t crack the 7-inch mark with the Note 20.
Based on the latest rumors, it probably won’t, and we’re unlikely to see a Galaxy Note 20 Ultra either. Right now, the Galaxy Note 20 Plus is slated to have a 6.87-inch screen and the Note 20 will slot in below that with a 6.42-inch screen. While the screens are both bigger, here’s to hoping Samsung keeps bezels — and the total footprints — as compact as possible given the display dimensions. I think we’ll be satisfied as long as the Galaxy Note 20 size is smaller than the S20 Ultra, even if only fractionally.
See also: How big is too big?
2. Cameras: Don’t over-do it (also, make sure they work)
The Samsung Galaxy S20 series, and the Ultra in particular, demonstrated how it’s easy to take things too far. Not only was the camera module of the S20 Ultra utterly massive (and gross), but the features of the camera itself were simply over the top.
The centerpiece of the S20 Ultra camera was the 100x zoom, called Space Zoom, which was accomplished thanks to a mix of optics and digital cropping of a high-pixel-count sensor. Anything beyond 10x zoom was unusable. This simply isn’t warranted or required for a modern smartphone. Sure, we want to see good 3x and 5x optical zoom, and perhaps a hybrid 10x zoom that looks good. Anything beyond this is excessive and a waste of tech — and based on the rumor mill, it seems Samsung may now feel the same. We’d rather see the best-possible set of secondary sensors (wide-angle, etc.) accompany the main shooter.
The KISS mantra — keep it simple, stupid — is often the best approach, even when trying to sell a flagship smartphone. Stick to standard, ultra-wide, and telephoto lenses that all deliver results and people will be happy. Leave the gimmicks to the competition.
See also: Camera shootout: S20 Ultra vs Pixel 4 XL
3. Screen: A new rate
It’s time for the Note line to adopt a fast refresh rate. Samsung has long offered Quad HD+ screens on the Note series. These pixel-rich AMOLEDs are among the best available. But the competition has chosen a different spec to fret over: refresh rate. The Note 10 family has the standard refresh rate of 60Hz. This means the screen refreshes 60 times each second. Starting with gaming phones such as the ROG Phone in 2018, and later competing models from OnePlus and even Google, phone makers have jumped to 90Hz and even 120Hz panels. Samsung’s own S20 family offers 120Hz refresh rates.
Why worry about the rate? The faster rate provides a much smoother experience on the screen, particularly when it comes to motion, such as scrolling, panning, and zooming. The 120Hz screens we’ve seen this year are simply luscious. The Galaxy Note 20 needs to jump straight to 120Hz, if not 144Hz or higher. This would make the Galaxy Note 20 a monster gaming phone.
See also: Refresh rates explained
4. Cost: Earthbound pricing
Please, please, Samsung, make the Galaxy Note 20 affordable! The three S20 phones cost $999, $1,199, and $1,399, with options ranging up to $1,599. These prices are out of control, and Samsung got hammered for it.
Unfortunately, Samsung has painted itself into a bit of a corner. It’s hard to introduce a new device that has more tech than its predecessors and happens to cost less. Surely the price will be over $999, but hopefully not more than $1,399. If anything, the dismal sales of the S20 line should have opened Samsung’s eyes a bit to consumers’ dislike for phones that cost as much as — and sometimes more than — laptops.
We know, wishful thinking.
5. Unhinged: A fold in store?
But seriously, think of a combined Note/Fold? The Galaxy Note 20 Fold edition, or some such (serious, Samsung has had worse names for phones). It could be the ultimate device, with a massive set of screens, unparalleled multitasking, and more room for productivity. Hell, such a beast could usher in an entirely new mobile computing paradigm. Sure, it would cost $2,000, but it just might be worth it.
A pipe dream? Perhaps. But the Galaxy Note 20 needs a killer feature to set it apart from the huge number of super slabs already in the market. This would be it.
What do you want to see from the Galaxy Note 20? Let us know in the comments and be sure to check out some of our other Samsung content below: