With the official announcement of Galaxy Note 10 (and Note 10+), many long-term Galaxy Note owners are disappointed, although there are many BS articles claiming how innovative and how exciting Galaxy Note 10 is. This is a no BS Galaxy Note 10 review from a long-term Galaxy Note owners who owned every Galaxy Note devices.
This Galaxy Note 10 review is an overall review about Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10+ (the difference between Note 10 and Note 10+ can be found here). The detailed review of the new features of Galaxy Note 10 (and Note 10+) is posted here. And the detailed review of the missing features of Galaxy Note 10 (and Note 10+) can be found here.
When the first Galaxy Note was announced in 2011, many are not convinced. They were correct, and they are still correct.
Galaxy Note is for a niche market where owners use two hands (instead of one) and like to use the S Pen to “write” (instead of touch). So, it is not for the mainstream phone users. The screen size of the 5.3″ Galaxy Note is more than twice (actually 2.23 times, 81.4 vs. 36.5 cm²) of that on the 3.5″ inch mainstream phone (iPhone 4) in 2011.
The growing user community who enjoys the bigger screen helped Samsung lead the industry in adopting a bigger screen in the mainstream phones. Today, most smartphones have a screen larger than 5″.
But the success of Galaxy Note is not just the big screen.
The success of Galaxy Note is due to 1) Big screen, and 2) S Note
The early adopters of Galaxy Note consisted of two groups of buyers:
- People who prefer a big screen to read books/website, to play games or videos on the phone.
- People who like to write on the big screen with the S Pen.
For the first group owners, they have got more and more choices over the years because all smartphone manufacturers gradually increased the screen size of their flagship smartphones. So, they are not “loyal” Galaxy Note owners. They can easily get a phone with an even bigger screen.
S Note is the most useful app on Galaxy Note devices for the second group owners. They are the most loyal Galaxy Note fans because there are no real alternatives up to now.
But since Galaxy Note 5, Samsung started to ignore the hardcore Galaxy Note users. They almost stopped the development of the S Note app.
Instead, they asked S Note users to migrate to the Samsung Notes app, which can be used on all Galaxy devices. To be honest, Samsung Notes is a good note-taking app. But it lacks many S Pen features as in the old S Note app (see S Note vs Samsung Notes app).
Instead of maintaining and expanding the core user base, and focusing on the niche market for Galaxy Note, Samsung eyed the mainstream market.
Samsung abandoned Galaxy Note user base since Galaxy Note 8
Actually, Samsung abanded Galaxy Note user base when designing the Galaxy Note 7 (they skipped Note 6). But due to the battery issues and two recalls, Galaxy Note 7 was later sold in a few limited markets.
Galaxy Note 8 was designed as a mainstream device. It used a “curved” and “narrow” (18.5: 9) screen.
Although Galaxy Note 8 added back the SD card slot (which was removed in Galaxy Note 5) and packed an iris scanner, it is no longer a Galaxy Note device because:
- The curved edges on both sides of the screen are NOT S Pen friendly.
- The 18.5:9 aspect ratio makes the usable screen even narrower.
- There are no improvements of bug fixes for S Note app. It is actually not pre-installed on Galaxy Note 8. You have to install it manually from the Galaxy Store.
In fact, Galaxy Note 8 is just a Galaxy S8+ with a redundant stick (S Pen).
For owners who like a big screen, the 6.3″ screen is similar to that of the 6.2″ S8+. It seems Samsung used Galaxy Note 8 to refresh Galaxy S8.
For owners who want to use S Pen on Galaxy Note 8 (later Galaxy Note 9 and now Galaxy Note 10), it is a disaster.
Samsung solves big problems that do not exist
The most innovative part of Galaxy Note system is the S Pen, which can be only useful when you have some good apps for it. S Note is the most noteworthy one.
But Samsung did not solve the problems in the apps; they tried to fix big problems that do not exist or do not matter.
For example, in Galaxy Note 5 (and S6), Samsung removed the SD card. Then, in the next year, they added back as a new feature.
The fingerprint reader on Galaxy devices never works well. Samsung always uses a rectangular cutout for the fingerprint reader. When it is embedded in the rectangular home button as in Galaxy Note 5, it is still reasonable. But after ditching the physical Home button, Samsung put the fingerprint reader next to the camera lens as in Galaxy Note 8. And they still used a rectangular cutout. Did Samsung patent the rectangular shape? On Galaxy Note 9, the location of the still-rectangular fingerprint reader is slightly better.
But in Galaxy Note 10, they used the in-display fingerprint reader introduced in Galaxy S10. It sounds great. But the only issue is that it does not work well. It is worse than the capacitive fingerprint sensor.
Iris scanner was introduced on Galaxy Note 8. It works acceptably. On Galaxy Note 9 (and S9), Samsung improved it significantly and worked great. But on Galaxy Note 10 (also on S10), Samsung removed it and asked you to use the inferior face recognition.
One of the major features of Galaxy Note 10 is the removing headphone jack. If you do not want people to use a wired headphone, why do you include a USB-C headphone in the Galaxy Note 10 box?
Some marketing guys claimed that removing the headphone jack (and some connectors inside) can boost the battery capacity. This is non-sense. Even if the space saved can add 50mAh capacity (FYI, Apple managed to add 10mAh battery after removing the headphone jack), it is only about 1.4% of the 3500mAh battery in Galaxy Note 10, and less than 1.2% of the 4300mAh battery in Galaxy Note 10+.
Even if majority Galaxy Note owners may never use the headphone jack, removing the headphone jack will only decrease/shrink the core user base.
S Pen is a magic wand, not a useful tool, in Galaxy Note 10
Without the S Note app, Samsung is trying to turn the S Pen into a magic wand.
The only app that may actually use S Pen on Galaxy Note 10 is the new video editing app. But there are many better video editing apps and most of the serious video editing jobs can be done better on a PC with a big screen, than on a phone
Samsung keeps adding gimmicks to the S Pen, and they forget the most powerful feature of the S Pen is writing (note-taking).
On Galaxy Note 10 (or even Note 9), the S Pen was downgraded to a useless Bluetooth accessory.
“New” does not mean better; “unique” does not mean innovative
Samsung needs to improve the hardware and software, not just to bring new things.
For example, the in-display fingerprint sensor is new. But it does not improve the user experience. The capacitive fingerprint reader works far batter than it. You can easily verify this by trying Galaxy S10e and S10.
Removing headphone jack may look fashionable because most of the other flagship smartphones removed it. But does it give a better user experience?
HTC stupidly removed it, and the company bit the dust. Apple removed the headphone jack so that that can sell more accessories (AirPod). Their latest revenue can verify this. Google removed the headphone jack on Pixel 2 and 3 because they want to promote Google Assistant.
None of these companies removed the headphone jack to “improve” user experience. Actually, some just followed Apple blindly.
The “curved” screen is still unique to Samsung phones (and a few handsets of Chinese brands). But is it useful? Edge screen? The Infinity O display may look great. But that’s all. On a phone targeting at productivity like Galaxy Note 10, the curved screen not only is not only useless but also lowering productivity.
It is not strange that some Galaxy Note 5 owners skipped Galaxy Note 8 and Galaxy Note 9, and now will skip Galaxy Note 10 because of the nonsense curved screen.
The problem for many hardcore Galaxy Note owners is that it is hard to find alternatives.
Galaxy Note does not have a real competitor even in 2019, but Samsung is destroying it with Galaxy Note 10.
The market for note-taking or S Pen users is not large, but it is still sizeable. Galaxy Note dominates this market. And the success of Galaxy Note 3 and Note 4 proved the existence of the market.
But so far, in this market, there are no serious competitors. Smaller players like Motorola, Sony, LG or Nokia does not have resources to bet on this unfamiliar territory.
Apple Pencil now works on bigger screens. When Apple managed to crack it on smaller screens with decent apps, the Galaxy Note will be trashed. Probably only at that time, Samsung will regret and start to dig out the old apps.
So, for the time being, as a Galaxy Note user, you have to live with what Galaxy Note 10 offered, or to skip Galaxy Note 10.
What do you think about this Galaxy Note 10 review? Is it helpful for you?
You may share your thoughts and views on Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy Note 10 Plus in the comment box below.
If you have any questions on using Galaxy Note 10 or Galaxy Note 10+, you may check our Galaxy Note 10 guides page.
You can also download the official Galaxy Note 10 user manual in your own language here.
The last Samsung Galaxy Note device that truly and fully respected the Galaxy Note Philosophy, i.e. it was a luxury “jack of all trades” device, was the mighty Galaxy Note 4. The four was the pinnacle of this series in terms of versatility because:
-It’s the last Galaxy Note device with a removable battery, a VERY IMPORTANT feature for power users and people that want their devices to last for many years. This feature also allows the Note 4 to be almost instantly recharged to 100% by swapping batteries, which for the current phone market, is a notable feat.
-It has microSD card slot, compatible with huge card sizes (I think it even works with 512GB cards). This is a game changing feature because it allows to greatly expand the phone capabilities and even allows this currently “old” phone from 2014 to have the same storage capacity than the most expensive 2020 iPhone.
-It has a flat screen, again, EXTREMELY IMPORTANT feature for the S Pen users, because the S Pen loses usability with a curved edges phone (ie Galaxy Note 4 Edge and Galaxy Note 8 and above).
The three features above are in my opinion the most important features that were lost over time, and only the microSD card slot was recovered later on the top of the line, flagship Note models of subsequent years (I’m not counting the “non ultra” Note 20 in this category, only the true flagships).
Other important features that were lost over time and the Note 4 had:
-The 3.5 mm headphone jack, a universal connector lost from Note 10/10+ on. Yes you can connect USB-C headphones and yes you can buy a USB-C to 3.5 mm jack dongle, but out of the box the phone is less versatile.
-A fully capable S Note app. The latest Note phones (10, 10+, 20, 20 Ultra) don’t come with S Note pre installed; you can install it from the Galaxy Store BUT some features are no longer available. The following S Note app features are not present on these newer phones: Insert Photo Note, Scrapbook, Easy Chart (lets you insert and edit table, bar, line and circular charts), Idea Sketch (lets you insert tons of downloadable pre-drawn very detailed sketches like animals, planes, ships, cars, food, sports, buildings, furniture, body parts and a large etc., you can resize and colour these sketches). Nowadays the main notes app is “Samsung Notes” instead of “S Note”. Samsung Notes is a great app, but it doesn’t have these features of the older app.
-Infrared beam capability, it was forever lost after the Note 4. With this you can control a TV, projector, air conditioner, and many other remotely controlled devices, straight from your Note 4.
-The ruggedness. If you had a decent case, for example the Spigen Tough Armor, the Note 4 was a considerably rugged phone, that is, it could survive many falls without a scratch, at least on a flat floor. Nowadays, with the very large curved screen and the glass back, the flagship Notes look much more fragile even with a comparable case on.
What I’d like to see on future Note devices (if any new models are ever released):
-Removable battery. I know it’s against the “mainstream phone design philosophy” these days, but I don’t care. This feature is very important, even if you lose IP certification, even if you need a durable plastic back.
-Completely flat screen. It’s equally important as a removable battery, it improves S Pen usability dramatically, also improves on-screen keyboard usability.
-A not so tall screen, and make it slighly wider. The keyboard usability would increase a lot (more space between keys, all keys on flat surface, bigger spacebar) and the phone would be less fragile.
-A much more rugged device. Something that doesn’t shatter or break when falling to a hard flat floor. I think ruggedness is more important than sofistication.
-microSD card slot supporting from smallest to biggest storage size available on the market.
-Big telezoom camera like the N20U or better, maybe with a bigger sensor for better quality.
-The 3.5 mm heaphone jack
-Reduce the latency on wireless DeX (an incredibly amazing feature, this is future stuff!). Provide a dongle or adapter sold separately if necessary, for the lowest possible latency.
-Continue supporting and improving Samsung Notes. Currently it has great new features not previously avalilable on S Notes, like exporting to MS Word, MS Powerpoint, PDF, Text file, etc. This app is of paramount importance on the Galaxy Note phones and Galaxy Tabs.
Will add a few additional items to the desirable features of future Note devices, as I said, if any new models are ever released:
-Efficient high performance processor and ONE PROCESSOR FOR ALL flagship Notes. We don’t like the “Exynos / Snapdragon” thing that’s happening behind the non-informed customers backs. All Notes should perform the same and should be equally energy efficient.
-Keep the big RAM size, 12GB ór 16GB, no less.
-Maybe make the device a little thicker, with a bigger battery, like 6000 mAh or above.
How does the curved screen do anything other than give you extra visual screen real-estate? If you hate the curves so much paint them black. Thats essentially the same exact thing Apple is doing. The curves are designed for versatility. You can set certain edges as swipe in zones otherwise they don’t respond to touch but still give you more screen real estate. No one actually uses the literally edges of a paper. If you want t create a tangency scroll the virtual page inward. The idea of trying to create a tangency is bad design anyway but its still possible and with more precision.
If you knew anything about Wacom pads you’d know no one uses the edge of the Wacom pad. Go ask and designer/artist why.
Actually go use a normal Wacom and try drawing on the edges.
Frank Sommer says
You are absolutely spot-on. So sad. My Note 5 was awesome. I skipped 8 & 9 as I could see no reason to upgrade. Put new battery in Note 5 and was happy (you ignored the unkindest cut of all – the death of the replaceable battery). My 5 finally bit the dust so I had to get a 10. BIG disappointment.
The Note 9 has:
-SD card slot
-Higher resolution screen
-The same amount of ram
And was released at a similar price to the Note 10. I dont know why people have to buy the more expensive Note 10+ for some of those extra features. The Note 10 seems like a nerf from the Note 10+, not an upgrade from the Note 10 to the Note 10+, especially at those prices.
Also I 100% agree with you on the headphone jack.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
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