The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is here, all $1,000 of it — but why should you buy it over the brilliant Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus? After all, it looks better, costs a little less, and has essentially the same top-end features. In fact, the Note 9 is so similar to the S9 Plus, there is confusion over why it still exists in Samsung’s line up, along with rumors that this model may be the last of its kind.
We sat down with Paul Scott, Samsung’s head of product management in the U.K., to find out what makes the Note 9 special, and whether this is the last time we’ll be talking about a new Note phone.
Samsung loves to chalk up Note consumers as its most devoted fans.
“When we look at our consumers, a typical S consumer is different to a typical Note consumer”
“When we look at our consumers, a typical S consumer is different to a typical Note consumer” Scott said, when asked about the similarity between the two devices today. Citing market research the company carries out, he told us, “Note owners are the most loyal.”
This won’t be the last time Scott refers to Note owners as loyal. Clearly passionate about not only the Note 9 but Samsung itself, Scott thought back to how the Note 9 came about.
“The Note has always been hugely popular — it’s almost a community,” he said. “We really listened to people about the Galaxy Note 8 to see what they wanted in the Note 9. What we heard was performance and battery life. [Note owners] are the most loyal. They want the an all-day battery, performance, the best gaming, the best display, and the best sound.”
Surely the Galaxy S9 Plus has all this too? What makes people return to the Note 9?
“The S Pen is the differentiator for us, and it’s a feature Note users absolutely love,” Scott said. “It’s great to see owners come alive when they talk about it, and many first time users are so surprised by what it can do. There is a lot of, ‘I didn’t know it could do this.’”
Is the S Pen enough?
The S Pen does make the Note 9 different to the S9 Plus, but we’re not sure it’s enough of a selling point for anyone not already a loyal Note user. We’ve often struggled to find a reason to use it, and a (small) selection of Note owners we surveyed through an unscientific Twitter poll also found they weren’t using it either. Samsung has made this sixth generation pen better than the last, with a Bluetooth connection so it works as a remote control, but its appeal is still limited.
What makes people return to the Note 9?
Scott goes into more detail about what separates the Note 9 from the S9 Plus, citing the cooling system as one factor.
“We went from using silicon to using carbon fiber, which is 3.5 times better at cooling versus the Note 8, plus 2.5 times the amount of vapor so it cools down even quicker,” he said.
What about the 4,000mAh battery? The smaller 3,500mAh cell in the Galaxy S9 Plus is a weak point, and struggles to last a heavy day. Scott and his team didn’t have statistics for how the two compare, so we’ll wait for our long term test to discover if the extra 500mAh capacity makes that much needed difference.
We talked about Samsung’s other two main product announcements, the Galaxy Watch — which Samsung also has high-hopes for — and the Galaxy Tab S4, with Scott commenting on Samsung’s strength as a hardware manufacturer and the advantages this brings in creating new technology. There was a positive, forward-looking tone to his words. Is the new range a first look at a different Samsung?
“It’s a look into the future of Galaxy,” Scott said. “Every time we launch a device, we’re always developing, and we’ve had some milestone devices that have put Samsung at the forefront. First the Galaxy S9 and now the Note 9.”
Samsung needs this positivity at the moment, as rumors from inside sources say the Galaxy S9 series may be a milestone for all the wrong reasons. Sales may not reach 30 million this year, making it the worst-selling Galaxy phone made, despite being the most technically competent. Other reports citing anonymous sources say Samsung pushed the Note 9 out earlier than usual, potentially in response to flagging sales numbers.
It’s not a surprise to hear Samsung talk about customer loyalty. But does this mean it will consider leaving devices that aren’t all that different to others behind, perhaps to generate excitement among new fans with a foldable Galaxy X? Is there really a future for the Note series? Scott smiles.
“Oh, absolutely,” he said. “The legacy of the Note will always remain and we’re taking it to the next level with the Note 9. We understand how loyal Note fans are.