Either out of the need to move with the times and offer as much diverse choice it offers on its other flagship smartphone lineup, the Galaxy S, or driven by the need for an outright change or just, in what many Galaxy Note fans may suggest, a dilution, Samsung changed the way we view its Galaxy Note smartphone lineup last night.
At an event held at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, New York, the Korean company, the biggest maker of smartphones in the world, took the stage to announce not one but two models of the pioneer of the “oversized” smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy Note.
A Note unlike past Notes
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and Samsung Galaxy Note+ are more in tune with the company’s trend since 4 years ago when it debuted two models of the Galaxy S6 than the precedent it had set a few months earlier with the release of the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the Samsung Galaxy Edge in Germany.
In this case, the Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy Note+ do vary significantly with the latter being the superior device. And that is not all, there is a third variant, falling under the Galaxy Note 10+ banner, meant for those in countries where 5G network rollout has already gained steam.
As far as features and specifications go, the smaller Galaxy Note 10 (imagine calling a 6.3-inch smartphone “smaller”) definitely varies from its larger sibling in terms of the display size by 0.5 inches. According to Samsung, it is the “narrowest Galaxy Note” smartphone they’ve ever released. The larger Note 10+, which retains the same body as last year’s Galaxy Note 9 but pushing the boundaries of design and innovation by almost doing away with the bezels, manages to squeeze a much more display viewing area whose all-glass monotony is only broken by the singular punch-hole display which is centred unlike what we saw on the Galaxy S10.
Curiously, the punch-hole only accommodates a single front-facing camera lens and not the dual setup that the superior members of the Galaxy S10 family rock.
In what will be likely to disappoint those that opt to go with the standard Note 10, it packs a Full HD+ display instead of the Quad HD+ display that those who part with more money and opt to go with the Note 10+ get. For anyone coming from the Galaxy Note 9, that may feel like a downgrade. We can’t be sure why Samsung did this but maybe it has something to do with the battery savings that can be gotten since the smaller body frame (relative to its bigger sibling) means that it can only accommodate a smaller – 3,500mAh – battery unit.
Other differences come in the memory and camera departments.
In the former, while it is a good thing that the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 comes with 256GB onboard storage, the story ends there. Users of the device won’t be able to expand their storage by use of microSD cards as it lacks a microSD card slot, the first Galaxy Note smartphone to do so. Those that would want to expand their storage will have to make do with the bigger and pricier Galaxy Note 10+ which will let them add up to 4 times the onboard storage using a microSD card. There are also some differences in the amount of RAM on either device as can be seen in the spec sheet below.
In the case of the latter, the smaller Galaxy Note lacks what Samsung is calling a “Depth Vision” camera sensor that is meant to make it possible to take better video portrait shots and, in the case of the Galaxy Note 10+ 5G, to even do so live, just as was the case with the Galaxy S10+ 5G.
Where users of both devices will be unified in their lamentation over withdrawn features will be when it comes to outputting audio via something other than the device’s included stereo speakers. It has no 3.5mm headphone jack. While Samsung is still including a pair of earphones in the box (I didn’t hear talk of AKG tuning this time round so I am just wondering, is it still there?) for those that will never be caught in the hard situation of deciding whether to plug in the device to juice it up or to continue listening to their tunes, there is no dongle to keep on using whatever wired headsets you already have.
A common annoyance ever since Samsung debuted its voice assistant, Bixby, on the Galaxy S8 2 years ago, the much-maligned Bixby button, is gone – good riddance! While the physical button is gone, the feature lives on. On the Note 10 and Note 10+, it is built into the devices’ power buttons. Long-pressing it will bring up Samsung’s smart assistant.
The one feature that makes the devices Samsung unveiled yesterday earn their name is the stylus that allows users to, well, take notes. Following last year’s lead, which saw the S Pen get its biggest feature additions, yet, with the inclusion of Bluetooth connectivity, instead of the usually annual bumps in pressure levels, this year some features also made their way to the all-important accessory. The S Pen is getting even more features that boost its capabilities beyond just taking notes and doodling.
Last year, thanks to its Bluetooth capabilities, it became possible to use the S Pen to perform presentations as well as take photos. This year, on the Note 10, the stylus can be used as some sort of wand thanks to functionality that Samsung has built into it that allows the use of gestures to do various things (Air Functions). That is in addition to using it to switch camera modes when shooting oneself remotely or, using the new addition to the S Pen feature menu, AR Doodle, to add Augmented Reality drawings straight into the viewfinder instead of just relying on stickers. Features that I’ve had little use for in the Note 9 like Live Message also live on.
On the software front, while Samsung wasn’t upfront about the device’s Android Q roadmap, even though that can be expected early next year if the past is anything to go by, it had a few additions to the One UI software it has been running on its devices.
Thanks to its partnership with Microsoft, OneDrive is integrated into the Note 10’s image gallery to boost the device’s storage options (just in case you’re still grieving over the lack of a microSD card slot on the standard Note 10).
The same partnership is also to thank for the smooth software integration with Microsoft’s Windows platform when the devices are plugged in – thanks to whatever the company has had going with the Your Phone app which allows for mirroring of a mobile device on one’s desktop machine. There is also the bit where the Note 10’s algorithm for transforming handwritten (via the S Pen) notes into full-fledged Microsoft Word documents.
Outside the Microsoft partnership, an addition to Samsung’s One UI that users will appreciate since it is also coming natively to Android in Android 10, is on-screen recording, a feature that rival Huawei has had on its flagship devices for ages.
Even better, a simple USB cable connection with an external monitor will have DeX, Samsung’s desktop overlay, up and running.
Pricing and availability in Kenya
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and Note+’s pricing, according to representatives of Samsung Electronics East Africa and a statement issued today, will start at Kshs 104,000 – which we can safely assume to the starting price of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10. Those who are put off by that high pricing – which is to be expected – may go with credit arrangements provided by Lipa Later and the Barclays Bank of Kenya which Samsung has partnered with.
Pre-orders for the device open on August 15th locally and is expected to run all the way till August 30th. Those that pre-order the devices in the country will be getting a free cover with their purchase worth at least USD 80, according to the company. Once it starts selling in the country in late August, every purchase will be bundled with a free pair of Samsung’s Galaxy Buds headsets (which the devices can charge wirelessly and which try to salvage the “no headphone jack” situation).
Does this look like the smartphone for you?