The Note series from Samsung has carved out a special niche within the smartphone industry. With its oversized display and stylus input, it has arguably the most distinctive user experience offered since the original iPhone over a decade ago. Year after year, Samsung has worked to perfect both the form factor and user experience of the Note series, building up the fandom around this Galaxy series. Its user base are some of the most vocal and enthusiastic in the industry. The Note series appeals to power users who feel limited with existing mobile interfaces that can only present one application at a time. These Galaxy Note aficionados value the no-compromise approach of the Note design which offers the largest displays, highest density memory and some of the biggest price tags of any flagship on the market.
Today’s launch of the Note 10 and 10+ definitively continues the carefully crafted message around this product. As with “even” number years, Samsung introduced significant design changes to the Note 10. The most prominent is the extreme edge-to-edge display design in both the standard and plus model. The hallmark S-Pen has been updated to include new motion sensors to enable remote gesture inputs via Bluetooth connectivity. Furthermore, Samsung DeX functionality can now be achieved without the need of specialized physical docks. Users can connect the Note 10 directly into a monitor (via USB cable) to enter the desktop interface of Samsung DeX with many enterprise application possibilities.
The S-Pen continues to evolve. In addition to using the pen as a remote, connected via Bluetooth, it is now possible to control applications and the interface with gestures. Samsung also continues to engage developers to drive traction of pen use cases.
Beyond the improvements to display and S-Pen, Samsung also brought new fast charging capabilities to the Note. With an optional 45 watt charger, the Note can be charged to a level for a "full day of use" in only 30 mins. This capability will allow for quick top-offs for times when the user is not moving about from task to task. Battery performance has been a sore spot for Samsung since the debacle of the Note 7 battery issue. Now, having instituted a new battery manufacturing protocol to improve safety, Samsung now will pivot to quick charging solutions to give users the all-day use capability.
Samsung continues to re-think its smartphone portfolio. In 2018, the company changed its strategy from launching new technologies on flagship devices first to bringing new features to mid-range devices, like the A-series. Now, the company is further blurring the line between its flagship series with the launch of two Note devices.
The displays on the Galaxy S10+ and S10+ 5G are 6.4 & 6.7 inches respectively, falling between the standard Note 10 (at 6.3 inches) and the Note 10+ (at 6.8 inches). Until now, Samsung had kept the size advantage with the Note line, as a key differentiator between flagships of other OEMs and its own S-line. Now, this distinction is quickly disappearing.
The Note series has seen shipments grow from 12.9 million units in 2017 to 15 million units in 2018. The Note 9 shipped 6.5 million units in its first quarter of availability. By comparison, the Note 8 shipped 5 million units in its first quarter on the market in 2017. The form factor remains attractive to a user segment not afraid of the price tag. For Samsung, growth in this segment is welcome news as shipments across the Galaxy S line have declined. In 2017, Samsung shipped 54.4 million Galaxy S smartphones but saw this number decline to 52.3 million units in 2018.
In the US, Verizon will have an exclusivity period on the 5G version of the Note 10+ until later in the year, when AT&T will also offer a 5G version. Additionally, AT&T and Verizon offer buy-one new Note get one Galaxy S10 for free. These launch offers show that carriers and Samsung are well aware of the impact super premium pricing can have on consumer buying behavior. AT&T is further battling sticker shock by spreading payments out over 30 months for its subscribers, lowering the monthly price to $32.
Internationally, the launch of the new Notes can help Samsung take advantage of Huawei’s on-going struggles by presenting a new flagship device with significant market appeal. If Huawei updates its Mate product later in the year, the launch will still be under a cloud of uncertainty, at least in Western European markets.
Samsung is updating the Note with new features that highlight the differentiated hardware of the series, the S-Pen, while further evolving the power-user DNA of the device by including a powerful processor, large battery and industry leading display.
The Note hardware platform continues to standout, without direct competition from other OEMs. At the same time, Samsung is blurring the lines between its S – and Note-series devices, hoping to address more nuanced user needs and preferences in upgrade buys.