Galaxy Note fans have probably settled into the notion that their favorite line of devices may not be coming back. There have been a myriad of rumors and leaks have been pointing to it since last year, and with support for S Pen on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the writing was on the wall.
Samsung added fuel to the fire of these rumors during the virtual Mobile World Congress (MWC) event this week with a spokesperson, Tae Kim, indicating that the company is "planning on bringing the S Pen to even more flagship devices soon!" (via TechRadar).
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The obvious conclusion to draw here is that they are referring to the Galaxy Z Fold 3, the most recent leaked images showed the device with a "Fold Edition" S Pen resting on it. That is a potential game-changer for the Galaxy Z Fold 3, which was already the spiritual successor to the Note in some ways as the unique second high-end flagship from Samsung arriving in the fall. Its screen size makes it an absolute dream pairing with the S Pen and coupled with the rumored price drop may help it to win over Note users.
One of the only disadvantages is that the S Pen won't be housed conveniently in the phone. That is an unfortunate sacrifice for the same reason we vastly prefer to see a stylus silo on a 2-in-1 laptop. It's too easy to lose or forget the stylus without dedicated housing. We'll need to see how Samsung tries to address this, it produced a number of cases with an added S Pen slot for the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the Galaxy Z Fold design makes that quite a bit more difficult, but not impossible.
Notably, they said "flagship devices," so what else could Samsung have in the pipeline that would meet that description. Casting back to November of last year, leaker Max Weinbach tweeted that three of seven devices from Samsung in 2021 would offer S Pen support. So far, we have the three Galaxy S21 phones with the Galaxy S21 Ultra as the lone phone to offer S Pen support. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is all but confirmed to be the second device. That leaves the Galaxy S21 FE, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 or the Galaxy Z Fold FE as the possibilities for the third.
The Galaxy Z Fold FE would certainly make some sense if Samsung is looking to position the Fold as the Note replacement, making it the Note 20 to the Note 20 Ultra that is the Galaxy Z Fold 3. The Galaxy S21 FE would be a surprising choice as the budget offering in the S21 family and would likely alienate some Galaxy S21 and S21 buyers. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 seems unlikely for a variety of reasons, its advantage is its portability and we have also seen nearly as many leaks on it as the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and there's never been any indication that it would offer S Pen support.
What does all of this mean for the Galaxy Note?
I'm not convinced that even Samsung knows the answer to this question yet. Note owners are notoriously some of the most dedicated in the phone world, after all a massive number of them resisted returning the literally explosive Galaxy Note 7 and happily returned to buying the Note when it came back.
What Samsung is no doubt considering carefully and mining usage data for is how much of this is screen size, S Pen support or that actual built-in S Pen. The Galaxy S21 Ultra and soon the Galaxy Z Fold 3 can scratch those first two itches, but that last one remains something only the Galaxy Note can offer.
One leaker, @FrontTron, claims that this is the reason that the Galaxy Note will make a comeback in 2022, indicating that sources within Samsung reported to them that the S Pen support on the S21 Ultra was not well received by the market. If this is mirrored by the response to S Pen support on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and potentially Galaxy Z Fold FE, it is certainly plausible that Samsung brings back the Note in fall 2022.
The Samsung Galaxy Unpacked event that will bring us the rest of the Galaxy lineup for the year is expected to be held on August 3, so we shouldn't have much longer to wait for some of these answers.