For the primary time in a few years, August will come and go with out the introduction of a brand new Galaxy Word smartphone from Samsung. As an alternative, with their decrease costs and improved sturdiness, the corporate is giving its newest foldables — the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 — a agency push into the mainstream cellphone market. With the Z Flip promoting for a penny below $1,000, it’s sure to face out from the iPhone and Samsung’s personal Galaxy S21 gadgets that price an identical quantity (or extra).

However for repeat patrons of Notes previous and current, it does really feel like there’s one thing lacking. We’re speaking in regards to the model that established Samsung because the main producer of big telephones. But the corporate has fully skipped producing a brand new Word this yr and has tried to clarify it away with a easy “not this time around.” For now, the lineup isn’t gone; final yr’s Word 20 and Word 20 Extremely will stay on the market in 2021. The latter stays a legitimately glorious cellphone at this time, so even with Samsung hitting pause for a yr, at the least there’s that.

Samsung’s stance on the Word’s future is imprecise sufficient that it leaves room for an eventual return if foldables don’t change into the subsequent massive factor. However I’d argue that at the least one conventional Galaxy cellphone with a stylus ought to stay within the firm’s plans regardless. It’s too quickly to maneuver on from all the things that Samsung was doing so proper, and tacking S Pen help onto its different flagship telephones doesn’t fairly reside as much as the Word’s legacy. And there are a number of causes for the corporate to offer it one other go.

Folks appear to love stylus telephones

The Word is little doubt the de facto stylus smartphone, however different firms have additionally discovered success. Motorola has stated the Moto G Stylus rapidly grew to become the most well-liked machine within the G-series after its launch, and that was sufficient for the corporate to provide a 5G-capable sequel this yr. And earlier than LG’s full exit from the smartphone market, its Stylo telephones had been a few of its extra fashionable cellular gadgets.

You’ll be able to’t overstate the significance of a built-in silo for storing the stylus away when it’s not getting used. On the Word, the S Pen is there while you want it — for drawing, signing a PDF, or no matter else — after which it’s gone and fully unobtrusive while you don’t. No add-ons or particular cellphone instances required. These latter options solely add friction that may take away from the entire enchantment. Utilizing a cellphone case is completely fantastic, and most of the people do, however making an attempt to include a stylus slot there may be removed from splendid when you’ve acquired normal-sized arms.

The Word deserves a greater swan music than the Word 20

The Galaxy Word 20 Extremely was true to the road’s ordinary recipe of stellar construct high quality, high-end specs, and a large display. However the common Word 20 was a poorly executed misfire. Samsung’s technique of pursuing a barely cheaper price level made sense, however there have been sufficient compromises with final yr’s common Word that it was troublesome to suggest.

Most evident of all was that it had a 60Hz show, when even cheaper Samsung telephones just like the Galaxy S20 FE had advanced to smoother refresh charges. The cameras had been worse, it had a plastic again, and all of those tradeoffs had been made to succeed in a still-expensive worth of $999.99. Within the eyes of many Word followers, it was a irritating mismatch, they usually rejected the Word 20 for it. Marques Brownlee went as far as to call it the “Nope 20.”

This was notably disappointing after Samsung acquired it proper the yr prior with the Word 10, which wasn’t saddled with the identical variety of disappointing concessions. That machine felt prefer it was meant to be a mini model of the bigger, flagship Word 10 Plus. However the Word 20 got here off extra for instance of what occurs when an organization cuts too many corners.

A case is an imperfect answer

Samsung hyped the addition of S Pen help when it introduced the Galaxy Extremely S21 earlier this yr. And the expertise of utilizing the stylus appears to be on par with a Word. However then you definitely’ve acquired to put it someplace, and that’s the place there’s no substitute for an precise Word. With out a designated slot on the cellphone itself, Samsung’s answer was to make a case that would maintain the S21 Extremely and S Pen collectively.

Nonetheless, it got here with a draw back: worse ergonomics. As Dieter wrote in his S21 Extremely overview, the cellphone can really feel extra manageable in your arms than an iPhone 12 Professional Max as a result of it’s taller and narrower. That easier-to-hold benefit is diminished considerably by Samsung’s silicone case for the S Pen. Since there’s a everlasting holding spot for the stylus on the case’s left facet, the machine is noticeably bigger.

Samsung bundled the S Pen with a case for the S21 Extremely.
Photograph by Chaim Gartenberg / The Verge

For the Z Fold 3, Samsung got here up with a case design that locations a holster on the hinge. I feel it will work out higher, for the reason that Fold is extra slender than most smartphones (together with the S21 Extremely) when closed — so it received’t really feel as unwieldy even with the added house.

However until third-party case makers give you their very own choices, you’ll be restricted to that one particular Samsung case if you wish to carry the S Pen with minimal threat of it being misplaced.

Promoting the S Pen individually makes it really feel like an afterthought

Although it went to the difficulty of making a “Fold Edition” S Pen with a retracting spring tip, Samsung received’t be bundling that with its newest flagship foldable. Quite, you’ve acquired to purchase it (or the pricier S Pen Professional) individually. The Fold Version comes bundled with its specifically designed case for $79, whereas the S Pen Professional is bought standalone for $99.

An S Pen nonetheless comes included with lots of Samsung’s newest tablets and laptops. However making it an added buy on high of the $1,800 Z Fold 3 will in all probability lead some folks to cross on it totally. If the Fold is supposed to usher in a brand new period of smartphone productiveness, why not toss the Fold Version stylus and case within the field? Perhaps that’d ease the sting of not getting a cellphone charger, at the least.

One other Samsung stylus cellphone might be nice if performed proper

I hope that final yr’s fashions received’t be the top of the road for the Galaxy Word. Samsung nonetheless hasn’t give you an alternate that matches the coherence and comfort of a cellphone designed with the stylus in thoughts from the very starting. However the place ought to the corporate go from right here?

I may see Samsung selecting the “special edition” route (assume Apple’s iPhone SE, however excessive finish) and releasing a brand new, top-spec Word each few years for the diehard followers that may pay high greenback for his or her big slab of glass and S Pen.

However an excellent higher improvement can be if the stylus trickled all the way down to at the least one in every of Samsung’s fashionable A-series telephones and introduced extra folks into the expertise — for a lot much less cash. That’d be a transparent signal that Samsung is dedicated to the S Pen, even when the Galaxy Word itself stays on hiatus. The advantages of a stylus shouldn’t be reserved for the $1,000-and-up tier. You’d need a excessive refresh show since that does genuinely enhance the responsiveness of drawing and note-taking. The Galaxy A52 already checks off that field, so we all know it’s potential even when the corporate desires to maintain prices down.

A part of the issue with the Word 20 was Samsung’s messaging: it tried to cross off midrange {hardware} as one thing extra premium. The pushback and so-so opinions shouldn’t have come as a shock. However Samsung wouldn’t have to over-sell a Galaxy A-series cellphone with a stylus: it might be successful all by itself deserves.


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