One of the perks of having a job that involves writing about phones is being able to frequently use new devices as soon as they launch. And, as far as working at SamMobile is concerned, that means the privilege of using a new Samsung flagship every six months, even if it’s on a temporary basis.
I have used every Galaxy flagship launched in the last few years (except the Fold, which was never sent out to the media here in India). I usually go for the top-end model in each lineup when I buy one, like the Galaxy S10+, Galaxy Note 10+, or the Galaxy S20 Ultra. And usually, each new Galaxy Note flagship usually brings a few upgrades over the Galaxy S flagship launched six months before it.
The Galaxy Note 10+, for example, had a bigger display with smaller bezels, more base internal storage and RAM, a bigger battery with faster charging speeds, and a more efficient Exynos processor compared to the Galaxy S10+. The Galaxy Note 9 wasn’t as big a step-up over the Galaxy S9+, but it still did offer some upgrades, like a bigger battery and more internal storage and RAM. All that’s on top of the S Pen, which still has no competition in the smartphone industry.
However, things look set to be different this year. With Samsung calling the top-end Galaxy S20 the Galaxy S20 Ultra and packing it with some crazy specs, like a 108MP camera, 100x zoom, and a 5,000 mAh battery, the company can’t exactly do much to make the Galaxy Note 20 lineup stand out. In fact, there’s even some confusion over whether the larger model is going to be called Galaxy Note 20+ or Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.
The phone’s Bluetooth certification suggests the latter, but Bluetooth certifications were also listing the Galaxy S20 as the Galaxy S11 for the longest time, so they can’t exactly be considered solid evidence. But, in my opinion, whether it carries the Ultra tag or not, the larger Galaxy Note 20 model could end up being disappointing in several ways.
Galaxy Note 20+/Ultra will have some inferior specs vs the Galaxy S20 Ultra
It all comes down to the fact that we expect a new Note flagship to be better than the most high-end Galaxy S flagship model launched in the same year. And the Galaxy Note 20+/Ultra is certainly going to be better in some regards. It’s rumored to have laser autofocus to overcome the focusing issues of the Galaxy S20 Ultra, an improved ultra-wide camera, a more efficient 120Hz display, and a more optimized Exynos processor, all of which will go a long way in improving the user experience.
But, unfortunately, according to rumors and leaks, it’s also going to have a few downgrades when compared to the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Its battery capacity is more or less confirmed to be 4,500 mAh, which is 500 mAh less than the Galaxy S20 Ultra. The 100x zoom capability is reportedly cut in half to a maximum of 50x. The zoom camera is also expected to be a 13MP sensor instead of a 48MP sensor.
The Note 20+/Ultra is even going to be inferior to the Galaxy Note 10+ in one area: Samsung’s upcoming Note duo are both being developed with a 128GB storage variant, half that of what you get on the Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10+ (though the 5G Note 20 and Note 20+ will probably start at 256GB). If you shoot a lot of 8K videos or even 4K videos for that matter, it doesn’t take long for 128GB storage to fill up, something many Galaxy S20 owners would probably have realized by now.
Granted, 100x zoom feels like a gimmick (though you can capture excellent photos of the moon and read far-off text clearly at 60x-70x zoom), and with a more efficient display and processor, the smaller battery may not be too much of an issue in real-world usage. There’s also the fact that the periscope lens that makes the high zoom capability possible takes a lot of space. Combined with the space required for the S Pen, it was probably impossible Samsung to add a 5,000 mAh battery into the mix, not without making the device too big and thick.
The improvements will be offset by major regression in some areas
Still, it won’t be a good look that the plus-sized Galaxy Note 20 will regress in some areas compared to the Galaxy S20 Ultra. It would go against what we typically expect from each new Note series. I say typically because this isn’t the first time something like this is happening. The Galaxy Note 8 was infamous for having a smaller battery than the Galaxy S8+, but after the Galaxy Note 7 hit Samsung’s prestige because of a faulty battery, it was somewhat easy to forgive the company’s decision to play it safe for the next device in the Note lineup.
This year, however, Samsung may simply have aimed too high and backed itself into a corner. Some of the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s specs are so over-the-top — there’s a reason we called it “too exceptional for most customers” in our review — that it seems Samsung had nowhere to go but down. Again, there will be some improvements, and the software will probably have many new tricks, but for me, the larger Galaxy Note 20 is simply looking too unexciting at this point.