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With the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, does Samsung still need the Note?

With the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, does Samsung still need the Note?

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Note 7
James Bareham / The Verge

Samsung just announced its new Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, and while the spotlight is on the company’s new flagships this week, the new S8 also asks the question: does Samsung need a Note 8?

The Galaxy Note has historically been Samsung’s biggest and most expensive smartphones, which typically justifies the extra price tag and stands out from the Galaxy S line in two main ways: the biggest and best screens, and Samsung’s S Pen stylus.

Does Samsung need a Note 8?

But the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus have essentially eliminated the “larger screen” incentive of the Note. The entire focus on the new models is the massive “infinity display” screens that cover what feels like the entire front of the phone. The smaller S8 already ties last year’s Note with a 5.7-inch screen, and the S8 Plus — at 6.2-inches — practically dwarfs it.

That leaves the S Pen as the biggest differentiator for the Note line, both in Samsung’s own lineup of smartphones and against the competition. Maybe an S Pen is enough for Note fans, especially considering that the most recent Samsung phablet on the market is still the Galaxy Note 5 from 2015. But just having a stylus is a pretty weak differentiator, especially when you’re up against not only every other smartphone, but Samsung’s own cheaper devices that will presumably offer screens that are just as big.

The Note tends to serve as a testbed for Samsung to try out new features

But there is one other reason for the Note to exist: the product line tends to serve as a testbed for Samsung to try out new features. The S Pen, split-screen multitasking, iris scanning, and GIF capturing are all features that debuted with the Note first, and many of them have trickled down to other devices in Samsung’s lineup. There’s no reason why a Note 8 couldn’t do the same.

Samsung could also use a Note 8 to further the new design from the S8 and S8 Plus, a strategy that the company has used before. Take last year’s Note 7, which took the S7 Edge’s basic design and refined it with improvements like a smaller curve for the screen to increase the flat surface area for writing. The Note 8 could operate in a similar vein — perhaps taking the style of the super-tall S8 models and offer it a less dramatically curved screen, or use a wider, less bizarre aspect ratio. Or maybe Samsung has some totally new crazy feature up its sleeve that no one has even imagined yet.

Obviously, this is a bit of a moot point, since Samsung has already said that it will be releasing a Note 8, despite the battery scandals that doomed its predecessor. But with the pressure from the S8, it’s up to Samsung to make sure that when the Note 8 does come, it has something incredible to make it truly different than just being an S8 with a pen.