Samsung doubles down on the Note

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Above: Samsung’s new Note with Auraglow finish. Photo courtesy Samsung.

In summary. There are two new Note devices available, a significantly smaller Note10 and an incrementally larger Note10+ and Samsung has removed the headphone port.

The first of these big changes is a nod to the company’s success in making a stylus a useful accessory in daily smartphone use, the second required the company to begin quickly removing all its ads sneering at Apple for removing the jack from its iPhone in 2017. Samsung’s A80 was the first of its phones to ditch the jack.

Both moves make sense for different reasons.

A smaller Note device reaches out to all the S10 users who really wanted a stylus and all the attendant software usability tweaks it enables.

If you’ve been bouncing between considering a Note9 and S10+, the big difference between the Note10 and the S10+ now is really the availability of the stylus, which also has improved  battery life.

Both devices are effectively the same size with the S10+ delivering an incremental 0.1 of an inch size advantage.

Jarrod Best-Mitchell with the new Note10 models. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

Removing the headphone jack closes a hole in the body of the device and seals it more effectively against the elements.

It also brings connectivity challenges for users, though Samsung includes USB-C headphones in the box. While supplies last, local suppliers will offer free AKG Bluetooth headphones as part of a Samsung promotion.

Samsung has also been thinking more about audio in the device as well.

Speaker placement has tended not to favour horizontal grips on recent Samsung premium models. Holding the earlier Note in widescreen mode and cupping it in your hands resulted in distinctly muffled sound.

That’s gone in the new Note series.

Audio capture has also been improved.

The Note9 was entirely too eager to incorporate ambient sound into video recordings, to the extent that any video recorded in less than ideal circumstances tended to have very intrusive ambient audio. I’ve had a couple of interviews ruined this way.

Samsung makes much of a new audio zoom feature that seems to work when you zoom in visually during recording, but generally in normal use the Note10+ focuses its capture cone more directly in front of the camera with noticeably superior results.

If you’re upgrading from either the Note9 or Note9, expect a few days of misdirected muscle memory as you reach for the power button in the wrong place.

The new all USB-C connectivity on the Note10 is also likely to spur some much needed improvements in audio capture connectivity on smartphone devices.

The iPhone has already spurred the development of mini-hub devices that allow both audio and power connections via USB-C, so perhaps there will be more that allow professionally certified audio connections using the USB-C port soon.

Another quiet change was the removal of the dedicated Bixby button on the left of the device. To be more exact, that button is now the power button as well as the Bixby button and the button on the right of the device has been removed entirely.

If you’re upgrading from either the Note9 or Note9, expect a few days of misdirected muscle memory as you reach for the power button in the wrong place.

The removal of a dedicated button may be another effort at improving the weather sealing of the device by removing entry points, but it’s also an acknowledgement of the general failure of Bixby to catch on with Samsung’s users.

Part of the reason for this is unquestionably its limited functionality in the region, where Samsung’s Smart Things connectivity with IoT devices is still to catch on locally, but another is the unfortunate reality that Bixby runs a weak race, at least in TT, in a nascent voice control market dominated by Google and Amazon.

Bixby still takes up a whole home screen on the Note10, but nobody’s going to miss squeezing that button by accident.

Another miss that’s been going on for far too long is Samsung’s uninspired implementation of digital photography on its devices.

The Note10+ rear facing camera system.

My evaluation of the Note10+ camera system is here.

According to Jarrod Best-Mitchell, Sales Manager for SamsungTT, the device has met sales forecasts.

“Continuity of sales in the Note line has been good, particularly as resellers have been receiving stock,” Best-Mitchell said.

“Last year we did a launch and this year we didn’t do one and sales are the same. My thinking it is maybe we need to do more for customers.”

“Phones are a major part of people’s lives. Most of the earlier purchasers are people who had earlier models of the phone; I personally know someone who did the upgrade from the Note 5.”

Note9 users won’t find powerful reasons to upgrade in this edition of the Note series unless they really want to take photos with an ultrawide lens.

Battery life is excellent on the device, but the new camera system promises more than it delivers, unfortunately.

Note10+ purchasers should seriously consider the new Aura Glow finish, which makes everything reflecting off the back of the device look like a set from one of the new Star Trek films.