A History of the Galaxy Note Smartphone Series

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Samsung’s Galaxy Note series is still a mystery to some. “Who would want a device so massive?” is a common statement among onlookers. Many of us prefer the 5-inch form factor, which is why past Nexus devices, Moto X’s, and others have been so popular. Despite a market saturated with devices having a 5-inch form factor, the Galaxy Note series has managed to firmly corner a market wanting much larger options.

That isn’t a bad thing. After all, that’s what Android is all about–a variety of devices to fit different personalities, likes, and dislikes. However, the Galaxy Note series has an interesting history with the original Note launching in October of 2011.

Original Galaxy Note

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The original Galaxy Note was, at first, a strange device, not knowing what it really was. It featured specifications that are foreign to flagship devices today. It has a 5.3-inch 1280 x 800 Super AMOLED display, an Exynos chipset, a dual-core 1.4GHz ARM Cortex-A9 CPU, a Mali-400 GPU, 1GB of RAM, 16/32GB storage options, microSD support up to 64GB, an 8MP rear camera, a 2MP front camera, a, 2500mAh battery, and Android 2.3 Gingerbread.

The element that made this device unique was the inclusion of the S Pen, giving users more options and control with their smartphone.

Samsung created the Galaxy Note to be a user’s primary device for on-the-go activities. It would do whatever you needed it do–take notes by recreating the ease of traditional pencil and paper, take good photos for family vacations, be a great multimedia device, and so on. In essence, Samsung wanted to get rid of all the extra devices and accessories you take with you–pen, notepads, point-and-shoot cameras, and replace it with a single device: the Galaxy Note.

The most interesting aspect of the device is that the media wasn’t sure just how well the original Galaxy Note would fit in with its 5.3-inch display. At the time, that was a massive display and was considered extremely large for a phone, and almost unnecessary. However, it was still met with success, selling over 10 million units in a year.

This isn’t where the Note’s success stopped, though.

Galaxy Note II

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Samsung’s Galaxy Note II was a big upgrade from the original Galaxy Note on the hardware and software side of things. It has a bigger, 5.5-inch 1280 x 720 Super AMOLED display, an Exynos 4412 chipset, a quad-core 1.6GHz Cortex-A9 CPU, a Mali-400MP4 GPU, 2GB of RAM, 16/32/64GB storage options, microSD support up to 64GB, 8MP rear camera, a 2MP front camera, a 3100mAh battery, and it’s running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, upgradeable to KitKat.

Another modification was a revised S Pen, along with many added S Pen features. Added to the Galaxy Note II was pen gestures, split-screen multitasking, and Air View, a feature that lets users preview content by hovering the pen over the screen. There were some other new TouchWiz features included that was introduced with the Galaxy S III.

The original Galaxy Note’s success pales in comparison to what the Note II saw, selling well over 30 million units worldwide. Samsung certainly saw their was a market for large devices like this, and has seen a lot of success as result. However, after the Galaxy Note II, many other manufacturers began developing devices of a similar size to take advantage of this popularity.

Many still thought 5.5 inches was massive for a display at the time, but it would quickly become the norm in future editions.

Galaxy Note 3

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The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 launched in September 2013, succeeding the Galaxy Note II. It was an extreme upgrade in hardware and offered more productivity options than the Galaxy Note series had seen in the past. The Galaxy Note 3 also ushered in a less blocky design, focusing on a much more premium offering.

It has a massive 5.7-inch 1920 x 1080 Super AMOLED display, a Snapdragon 800/Exynos 5 Octa 5420 chipset (varies by market), a quad-core 2.3GHz Krait 400/quad-core 1.9GHz Cortex-A15 and quad-core 1.3GHz Cortex-A7 CPU (varies by market), 3GB of RAM, 16/32/64GB storage options, microSD support up to 64GB, a 13MP rear camera, a 2MP front-facing camera, a 3200mAh battery, and the device is running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, which is upgradeable to Android 5.0 Lollipop.

What was unique about the Galaxy Note 3 is that it introduced a plastic leather back as opposed to the silicone seen in the past. The faux leather gave the device a premium feel, though some didn’t like the new design at all. This new Galaxy Note 3 brought with it expanded S Pen functionality, such as Air Command, Action Memos, handwriting recognition, and much more.

The Galaxy Note 3 was met with yet more wild success, selling 10 million units in its first two months. Interestingly just a few months later, Samsung decided to offer a downgraded version of the device, the Galaxy Note 3 Neo.

 

Galaxy Note 3 Neo

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The Galaxy Note 3, announced by Samsung Poland in January 2014, was intended to be a less pricier version of the Galaxy Note 3. The Galaxy Note 3 Neo’s specs were all downgraded, but nothing too bad. The only major change was that the display was reverted to a 5.5-inch 720p panel and the camera was reduced down from 13MP to 8MP.

Software and S Pen functionality remained the same. However, it turned out to be a big disappointment in that it was essentially a Galaxy Note 2 with an artificial leather back. Its biggest complaint was the extremely drop in screen resolution. After this, Samsung never made a “budget” Galaxy Note again.

Galaxy Note 4

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Samsung later in 2014 at IFA in Berlin announced the Galaxy Note 4, which was essentially a Galaxy Note 3 with a few minor changes, although there was a major improvement in resolution with the display.

It has a 5.7-inch 2560 x 1440 Super AMOLED display, a Snapdragon 805/Exynos 5433 chipset (varies by market), a quad-core 2.7GHz Krait 450/a quad-core 1.3GHz Cortex-A53 and quad-core 1.9GHz Cortex-A59 CPU (varies by market), 3GB of RAM, 16/32/64GB of internal storage, microSD support up to 128GB, a 16MP rear camera, a 3.7MP front camera, a 3220mAh battery, and it’s running Android 4.4 KitKat, which is upgradeable to Android 5.0 Lollipop.

The Galaxy Note 4 didn’t see as much success as previous entries in the Note series, only garnering 4.5 million units in its first month. This would also be the last Note device to see the faux leather back.

As with every release, more software features was brought to the device for added S Pen and TouchWiz UI functionality. While many of these aren’t necessary to the goals of the Note series, it reiterates Samsung’s effort to make the Galaxy Note an all-in-one device so that you won’t ever need to bring anything else with you, whether that be a notepad, camera, and so on.

Galaxy Note Edge

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The Samsung Galaxy Note Edge can be pictured as Samsung’s “Frankenstein,” an experimental device. We’ve seen many devices with an edge-to-edge display, but nothing like the Galaxy Note Edge where it’s actually a curved display.

The device features a 5.6-inch 2560 x 1600 Super AMOLED display, it has Snapdragon 805 chipset, a quad-core 2.7GHz Krait 450 CPU, 3GB of RAM, 32/64GB of internal storage, microSD support up to 128GB, a 16MP rear camera, a 3.7MP front camera, a 3000mAh battery, and it’s running Android 4.4, which is upgradable to Android 5.1 Lollipop.

Aside from a small bump in resolution and a downgrade in battery, the Galaxy Note Edge’s specifications largely resemble that of the Galaxy Note 4. However, what makes it unique is that it has a curved display of 160px, running into the right side of the smartphone.

There was some additional functionality that worked with the curved display, but besides that, the device remains identical to the Galaxy Note 4. There’s been differing opinions regarding the Note Edge, but overall it seemed to do well, however, we haven’t heard news or rumors of another one in the works.

Galaxy Note 5

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And here we arrive to this year’s refresh of the Galaxy Note. The device received a small bump in specifications, but nothing major. After all, Samsung’s focus this year wasn’t hardware, but offering a more premium device than it has in the past through a new design and better software features.

The phone totes a 5.7-inch 2560 x 1440 Super AMOLED display, a Exynos 7420 chipset, a quad-core 1.5GHz Cortex-A53 and a quad-core 2.1GHz Cortex-A57 CPU, 4GB of RAM, 32/64GB storage options, no microSD support, a 16MP rear camera, a 5MP front camera, and a 3000mAh battery, which isn’t field removable. It’s also on the latest version of Lollipop.

There’s been a lot of controversy regarding this device, largely because of closing off microSD access and sealing up the smartphone’s battery. There isn’t much reasoning behind getting rid of microSD support, however, we’re sure Samsung felt like they could seal up the battery by offering fast wireless charging features.

More controversy surrounds this device due to the S Pen. If you put it in its tray backwards, it gets stuck and generally cannot be removed without wrecking the device, though there have been some methods posted online to “unstick” the S Pen.

Overall, it’s a very nice looking device with a gorgeous glass back. There’s been a bevy of improved software features, and this is truly one of Samsung’s best, despite the controversy around it. Personally, the most upsetting aspect of this device is that European users won’t be able to get their hands on it, as Samsung, thus far, hasn’t revealed any plans to bring the device to European markets.

Wrap Up

And that’s quick primer on Samsung’s Galaxy Note series. It truly is an interesting device, and its history is quite intriguing, especially considering that many thought anything above 5-inches was way too large for a smartphone. It still did very well, despite those thoughts, which were largely portrayed by the media.

Do you own a Galaxy Note device? Have you owned one in the past? If so, what do you like or even dislike about the Note series? Be sure to let us know in the comments below.


About the Author: Brad Ward

Brad is a tech enthusiast, writing and tinkering with all things technology since 2011. He currently bounces between the LG G3 and his beloved Moto X! His interests include reading, entrepreneurship, the gym, and of course, queso.


  • crhylove

    I have a note 3. It’s locked boot loader means my wife’s note 2 is now a better device. If they sold an unlocked one with an SD slot that could do VR hooked up to my PC to play gta 5, I’d buy a new one. That’s all highly unlikely though, so my next phone will be the moto X pure. I might miss the stylus. I won’t miss Knox. Or touchwiz.

  • RRV

    I have owned a Note II, 3 and I currently own the Note 4. I was disappointed when some of the ‘gesture’ features were removed that were on the Note II. I thoroughly enjoyed answering or ignoring a call with a swipe.
    The S-pen functionality on the Note 4 is much smoother. I only wish that the upgrades were more frequent and sent out with fewer glitches.
    I don’t see myself purchasing the Note 5 because of the removal of the micro SD card and no longer having the freedom to replace the battery with a freshly charged one, as in some instances charging is not readily available. Overall, I’ve enjoyed my Note Series experience.
    I hope Samsung will value me as a customer and provide the upgrades as they are launched for some time to come.