Eric Zeman / Android Authority
The Galaxy Note is dead. Not officially, but we won’t see any new ones in 2021. Samsung may bring the coveted Note line back in 2022, but for now, the Galaxy Note has all but been replaced by the Galaxy Z Fold 3. With S Pen pen options in tow for the first time on the latest generation of the Fold, it looks like Samsung has completed its transition to a new power-user form factor. After a year of folding devices being the focus of store shelves, will Samsung want to return to the Note series?
The story is of course a little more complicated than Samsung simply replacing the Note series with the Z-Fold series. The ongoing global shortage of components may have played at least a small role in the decision not to bring both products onto the market at the same time. Given the scarcity of processors and other key components, the shortage of its technological showpieces wouldn’t have looked very good for the company, and as such, Samsung may have simply prioritized.
Samsung may try again to fill the Note Lightening with foldable products.
Or this could be part of a larger phase-out strategy for the Note line. Previous Galaxy Note models, including the 2019 Note 10, saw strong growth for the Galaxy lineup and certainly contributed to Samsung’s success. However, Samsung reportedly expects subdued demand for the Note 20, which may have resulted in the company manufacturing only two-thirds of the units originally planned.
The note series’ appeal may be waning and maybe Samsung thinks foldables are the new market to bet on? Either way, Samsung made its choice. When the going got tough, foldables were preferred. But will giving up the Note series pay off in the long term or in the short term?
Affordable Foldables: A Game for the Future
Eric Zeman / Android Authority
Samsung’s predilection for this generation of foldable devices is not without its dangers. Without a Galaxy Note, the company’s power user customers will have to pay at least $ 1,799 for this year’s productivity powerhouse. Plus $ 50 more for the S Pen Fold or $ 100 for the S Pen Pro if you want the full experience (and even more for a pouch if you want to store the S Pen). That’s a huge sum for a phone with a worse camera setup than the 2020 Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and arguably even the normal Note 20. As such, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 will likely remain a niche device and many Note fans could Just sit out this upgrade cycle of the year instead of switching to Team Fold.
Our verdict: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 review
Fortunately, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is cheaper, starting at $ 1,000. However, the hilarious and funky clamshell phone isn’t really designed to attract traditional power user note customers. It is more of a handset to offer foldable items to mainstream consumers. Especially now that it has an (almost) mainstream price tag. This is the true nature of Samsung’s move – foldable devices for the mass market at the expense of a traditional power-user smartphone.
If the Galaxy Z Flip 3 sells sufficiently well, and it can now that it costs as much as the Galaxy S21 Plus, Samsung has been at the forefront of the foldable pack for years.
Samsung’s Gambit is foldable for the mass market at the expense of a traditional power user smartphone.
No other rival is likely to offer a foldable smartphone that can reach the mass market in the foreseeable future. The Huawei Mate X2 is very well made, but remains unmistakably expensive and would be difficult to sell in the West without Google apps. The Oppo X 2021, the Chinese company’s rollable concept phone, would likely be just as expensive if it ever hit the market. Even Xiaomi’s Mi Mix Fold for the Chinese market, which was slightly cheaper than Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold range, would still cost over $ 1,500 if it got to a global audience. Which it won’t.
Almost all other big brands with their flexible phones are even closer to the expensive concept than to the mass market. It’ll take an iter or two to fill the void. Samsung seems poised to be the mobile leader for at least a few more years by relying on mainstream foldable smartphones. Even the company’s biggest rival, Apple, is unlikely to launch its first foldable handset until 2023. And even this phone could come at an ultra-premium price point.
Fill the note blank
Adam Molina / Android Authority
Of course, it is nowhere near guaranteed that mainstream foldables will successfully hold their own against the mobile game. In fact, the lack of a Note 21 gives Samsung’s competitors an opportunity to gain more market share, especially if there is no shift in units when betting on foldable devices.
Xiaomi in particular had a strong 2020 and 2021, benefiting from the demise of Huawei to challenge market leader Samsung for the top spot in world market share. Oppo is also nibbling on the teeth. Samsung’s long-standing lead in the smartphone space is slipping, which perhaps explains in part why it is so willing to glue foldables.
Samsung’s competitors seem years away from the mainstream foldables.
Consumers looking for something a little more productive than the Z Flip 3 but don’t want to spend astronomical sums on the Z Fold 3 can turn to premium phones like the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, Sony Xperia 1 III, Oppo Find X3 Pro, and others playing on the enthusiast market. Samsung might find it much more difficult to compete against premium smartphones in the absence of a new Galaxy Note model. Especially since the Pixel 6 Pro and the new iPhone Pro Max are just on the horizon and will definitely be on the radar of those looking for a new phone before the end of the year.
That being said, manufacturers have struggled in the past to recreate the appeal of Samsung’s stylus-equipped power-user cell phones. For fans, nothing else comes close to the Galaxy Note. Not to forget that the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra now covers much of the Note’s territory and Samsung could always go back to the series if foldables don’t work as planned. Samsung is not quite all-in yet and may be able to afford a short break from the Note range.
Samsung sacrificed the Note to make foldables mainstream this year. It’s a bold game to push your nose forward again and fend off voracious competition from Chinese brands. By leveraging technology that its competitors cannot currently match at a price level that is competitive with their flagships, Samsung has an advantage. But there is no such thing as a risk-free reward, and Samsung is leaving a void in its lineup that others are trying to fill.
Do you think Samsung’s strategy of putting affordable foldables in front of the Note will be successful? Vote in our poll above and let us know what you think in the comments.