Samsung’s latest Galaxy Note phones are divisive, to say the least.
The Note 20 Ultra is a do-everything beast of a phone with a sky-high price tag that jars slightly with consumer priority during the pandemic. The regular Note 20 feels like a straight misstep, with a plastic back, 60Hz display and lower camera specs but still coming in at a cool £949, if you want 5G.
But with Samsung's S21 Ultra now coming with S-Pen support, Note fans' worst fear has come true and there will not be a new model this year.
When is the Samsung Galaxy Note 21 release date?
After months of rumours, many of which were conflicting, we now have confirmation that Samsung will not launch a new Galaxy Note series phone this year, not the Note 21 or even a Note 20 FE.
In a blog post, President of Mobile Communications, Dr TM Roh said the upcoming Galaxy Z foldables will come with an S Pen stylus adding that "Instead of unveiling a new Galaxy Note this time around, we will further broaden beloved Note features to more Samsung Galaxy devices."
It means Note fans will have to choose another Galaxy phone for now, but with more S Pen support, the options are wider than ever before. Samsung's Unpacked event revealed the Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3 along with the Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Buds 2.
While it seems the Galaxy Note series might be dead and buried, Samsung has told Bloomberg that it is "committed to expanding the Note experience across our Galaxy ecosystem moving forward" but "can't disclose the upcoming models,".
This is somewhat confusing as while it perhaps sounds like Samsung doesn't want to talk about future Galaxy Note devices, the Z Fold 3 has a 'Galaxy Note Pack' as a pre-order bonus including a case, stylus, and charger. So, the words 'Note experience' may well just relate to having things like stylus support on other Galaxy devices.
We discussed Samsung's upcoming foldable phones in an episode of our weekly video podcast Fast Charge, which you can watch right here:
How much will the Samsung Galaxy Note 21 cost?
The Note 20 costs £849/$999, with the Note 20 Ultra setting buyers back £1,179/$1,299. It’s worth noting that the regular Note 20 is 4G-only at that price, and it’s £949 if you want 5G. The Note 20 Ultra is 5G-only.
In the US, where the Notes run on Snapdragon chips rather than Samsung’s own Exynos silicon, there are only 5G models. With the 4G model ditched on the full S21 range, we expect Samsung not to offer a 4G Note in 2021, so all Note 21 models will likely break the £1,000/$1,000 barrier. A Note 21 Ultra is likely to cost around £1,200/$1,200.
What about Note 21 specs?
Thanks to the cyclical annual updates of phones, we can hazard some pretty confident guesses as to the specs of the Note 21 series, had it arrived in 2021.
Like with the Galaxy S phones, Samsung uses its Exynos chipsets on the Note in regions like Europe and India but uses Qualcomm’s 8-series Snapdragon chips in the US and its home country of South Korea.
While performance is usually largely the same, year after year the Exynos version of the phone struggles with battery longevity by comparison. US reviews always reflect well on the Snapdragon version’s longevity and it’s a major annoyance for people in regions where the Note has an Exynos chip. We are pretty confident Samsung will keep this strategy though, using the way it's handled the Snapdragon/Exynos split with the S21 range already.
Apart from the difference in chipsets, we should be seeing at least 8GB RAM if not more on even the lowest end model, with storage of at least 128GB. The Note 20 didn’t have microSD expansion but the Note 20 Ultra did, so that trend would likely continue - making it the only flagship-class Galaxy phone to do so in 2021.
Both handsets also have triple cameras, but the Note 20 Ultra had a mega 108Mp main sensor and 5x optical zoom, outshining the 3x hybrid zoom on the normal Note 20.
Add more to the leaks: the Note21 is the Note21 Ultra successor and (no lying) the Note21 is probably the 1st Galaxy phone to debut with UDC (or CUP, or what the hell they will call). The main reason they go development this early is because they want to release this phone earl.. https://t.co/MrirZhvJmr— Snapdrachun 888 5G (@chunvn8888) December 3, 2020
One of the more unusual Note 21 camera leaks that has surfaced has to do with its front camera. Vietnamese tipster @chunvn8888 originally suggested that, not only is Samsung potentially bringing the phone's launch forward by a month or so, but the phone is also set to serve as the debut device from Samsung's first under-display selfie camera (UDC or CUP - short for Camera Under Panel)-toting smartphone.
The fires of this particular rumour have since been stoked, with LetsGoDigital noticing that Samsung Display has registered for the trademark 'UPC (Under Panel Camera) in its native region of South Korea.
While this doesn't cement the feature's appearance on a new Note, it does clarify Samsung's intentions to implement such hardware in forthcoming devices of some kind, such as its next Blade laptop, as was recently teased.
ZTE already has a phone - the Axon 20 5G - that showcases this technology but if this rumour rings true, this will likely be the first example of a Korean smartphone utilising such hardware.
The design of the Note 20 is very similar to the Note 10, so it could be that the Note 21 is fairly tame in its design update. The Note 20 is even more austere than the Note 10, with matt bronze and a huge camera bump, where the Note 10 had a multicoloured glass option. The Note 21 is likely to carry on the industrial feel.
We’d hope that however many Note 21s there are that they all have 120Hz displays and that they’ll be able to run at full resolution. The S20 and Note 20 Ultra could only run either 120Hz or QHD+, and not both. Come on Samsung, these are expensive phones.
The Note 21 will have an S-Pen as standard, of course, but to be honest we wouldn’t mind if Samsung did away with the air gestures gimmicks that let you wield it like a magic wand and focus more on reducing latency and improving pressure and tilt response.
Samsung Galaxy Note 21 wish list
The Note 21 is probably still a ways off, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a list of things we want from it.
A lower price
The regular Note 20 would have made more sense at around £700, not £849. If Samsung is going to release a lower spec Note, then we want it to make it more accessible to those who can’t afford to spend close to £1,000 on a phone.
The way its played the pricing of the S21 series gives us hope in this regard.
Better battery life
The European Note 20 Ultra’s main flaw is its unremarkable battery life. When the most expensive Note is marketed as a do-all phone for pros, you end up using it a lot, and it’s a pain when the battery hits red before you’re done. The Note phones are big, so either get more battery out of the setup or switch to Snapdragon globally, please Samsung.
A smaller version
We’d love to see a smaller Note device as we did with the Note 10. With the Note 20, Samsung oddly turned out two very large phones with a mishmash of specs and design differences. A return to a small and large Note release would make more sense, offering a more compact and manageable device to people who don’t want a phone as big as their head.
The S-Pen is only available on the Ultra model among S21 phones, so there's still a window of opportunity for Samsung to make a smaller handset with a built-in stylus.