When Samsung launched the first Galaxy Note in 2011, the device became a harbinger of the "phablet" phenomenon. With its big 5.3-inch display and stylus support, the handset was a truly oddball device. It was essentially the anti-iPhone in both form and function, and that's what made it so good.
Now, a few years and a high-profile recall later, and the Note's place in the market is suddenly in peril.
How can consumers possibly trust that the upcoming Galaxy Note 8 won't catch fire? Should Samsung re-brand the Note line in order to put last year's recall fiasco behind the company once and for all? Should the Korean company even bother selling new Note devices? (News flash: It already is.)
Most importantly, what will set future Note releases apart from Samsung's increasingly popular Galaxy S family?
Make no mistake, the Note series has been an important part of Samsung's mobile strategy since it was launched, and the S Pen offers incredible value—at least to those who use it. The Note 7 was far and away the company's most impressive device of 2017. Were it not for the recall, it would have easily been our favorite phone of the year.
But, looking ahead to the Note 8, and the release already sounds underwhelming—and possibly very expensive.
According to numerous reports, the device's headlining feature this year will be its dual-camera setup, something other manufacturers, including Apple, have offered for several months. It may also feature more RAM (6GB) and a slightly larger 6.3-inch display. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like there will be a fingerprint sensor underneath the display.
So, essentially, the Note 8 can best be described as a slightly improved Galaxy S8 Plus, which was the case with last year's models, too.
Seeing as the devices are now so similar, I wonder if Samsung should just imbue its larger Galaxy S device with Note superpowers. So, rather than introduce two Galaxy S devices and then a Note several months later, why not focus on a two-pronged attack?
When the Galaxy S9 Plus launches next year, why not launch it with stylus support?
It used to be that you purchased the Galaxy Note for its larger screen and battery. But these advantages have all but disappeared; it sounds like the Galaxy S8 Plus and Galaxy Note 8 will be virtually identical. Which isn't a bad thing at all, and I fully expect Samsung to continue the path it's on, releasing two flagship devices in the spring and one in the fall.
Of course, if Samsung were to release only two devices in the spring, it would be at a big disadvantage come fall when Apple releases new iPhone models.
This year's Note release is without a doubt Samsung's biggest release ever. Not only will it be arguably the market's most technologically advanced device yet, but it will need to overcome the baggage of last year's recall. Fans were unsurprisingly miffed when the Note 7 failed, so it'll be crucial for Samsung to get it right.
This was just a conversation we had in the office, and something we thought would be fun to posit to our audience. Is the Note line as relevant as it once was?