For the first time in its 10-version history, the vaunted Galaxy Note comes in two sizes. In photos, that’s a good thing, with two gorgeous Notes dancing and cavorting with each other.
But unlike the Galaxy S10 and S10+, the Note 10 and Note 10+ have more differences than just simple screen size. Bottom line: If you’re a Note fan looking to upgrade, and you’re thinking of buying the smaller 6.3-inch Note 10, you’re going to be in for a surprise. If you want the latest and greatest Note—the one packed with all the features—you’re going to have to spend more money for the larger Note 10+.
Here’s what you won’t be seeing in photos of the smaller Galaxy Note 10: It has a smaller screen with a lower resolution than the Note 9 (with 500mAh less battery capacity than the Note 9 to boot). And there’s only a single 256GB storage option. And the biggest indignity? It doesn’t have a MicroSD card slot.
That’s not a Note. It’s a Galaxy S10e with an S Pen (although to be completely fair the S10e actually has an MicroSD slot). I just don’t understand how Samsung can justify selling a $950 phone with a mere HD display, especially a phone with the Note’s spare-no-feature pedigree.
Every year when a new Note comes out, Samsung talks about how fans are loyal to the device—at my briefing, the rep said that Note users say the device “lets them be the version of their best self.” Yet here we are, and Samsung is doing those fans a disservice with the Note 10. Samsung has changed what makes a Note a Note, and is forcing Note loyalists to spend more so they don’t miss out on the Full Note experience.
Mo’ options, mo’ problems
Taken at face value, the Note 10+ is a downright monster of a phone. It’s got a 6.8-inch Quad HD display, support for up to a gig and a half of storage, a 4,300mAh battery, 45 watt charging, four rear cameras, and 12GB of RAM. It has a gorgeous design. The only thing you can say it’s missing is a 120Hz display. Well, that and a headphone jack.
It also costs $1,100. In the age of smartphone sticker shock, that’s not a completely outlandish price for so much phone, but it’s the most Samsung has ever charged for a Note. The Note 9 broke the $1,000 barrier last year and the S10+ followed suit, so it’s only natural for Samsung to test the boundaries of what people are willing to spend for a premium smartphone.
But the whole thing feels like a ploy. Had Samsung released a single Note model priced at $1,100, people would have complained, and rightfully so. Not only would it represent the third straight year of price hikes, it would also put the phone in a pricing category all by itself, one even higher than the iPhone XS.
So instead of pricing the Note 10 at the same $1,000 as last year’s Note 9, Samsung created a lower tier that starts at $950 and introduced the Note 10+. That makes the Note 10 technically cheaper than the Note 9—until you dive into the specs and realize that the $1,100 Note 10+ really should have been the only model.
When showing off the compact Note 10, the presenter said the phone was for people who always wanted a Note but didn’t want a big screen. I’m fine with that. It’s not the size that’s the problem, it’s the specs. Samsung did just enough to the Note 10 to make sure diehard fans wouldn’t want one, thus ensuring that they’ll buy the $1,100 Note 10+.
A note of contention
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to an ultra high-end phone that costs $1,100. I’ve not even questioning whether the Note 10+ is worth its price tag—it almost certainly is. But the difference between the Note 10+ and a phone like the iPhone XS Max or even the $1,600 1TB S10+ is choice—insomuch Samsung has eliminated choice.
Consider this: If you buy the Note 10, you’re getting 256GB of base storage. That’s it. There’s no 512GB or 1TB option, and no MicroSD card slot. But on the Note 10+, you can have either 256GB or 512GB of base storage, and max it out with six times as much space as the smaller Note 10: 512GB internally with a 1TB card. That’s the kind of insane specs that Note fans want, and they shouldn’t be forced into a higher category of phone to get it.
If you choose to buy an iPhone XS Max or a 1TB Galaxy S10+, you’re choosing to buy a bigger screen or more storage. That’s not the case with the Note 10+. Sure, many buyers might have opted for more screen anyway, but the primary decision will be fueled by their desire for more pixels and expandable memory. That shouldn’t be the case.
Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.