Galaxy Note 9: Samsung’s Possible Swan Song For Its Flagship Phablet Line Could End With A Whimper

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The final moments of Samsung CEO DJ Koh’s presentation of the Galaxy Note 9 last Thursday showed a sincere moment of honesty from the South Korean tech giant. Addressing the audience, Koh thanked Samsung’s user base for inspiring the company to make the Note better every year. After a brief pause, however, Koh added off-script that “It’s not easy every year, frankly speaking.”

The Note 9 came just as expected by the mobile community thanks to leaks and rumors that have emerged about the device over the past few months. Samsung’s new flagship phablet — possibly the last Note device if some rumors are to be believed — is a powerhouse handset, capable of beating industry leaders such as the iPhone X in practically every metric except its processor. Despite this, however, the Note 9 seems destined to be an underwhelming device.

As noted in a report from The Independent, for about two hours on August 9, online searches for the Galaxy Note 9 rose, peaking above the searches of its closest rival — the Apple iPhone X. Just minutes after the device’s presentation ended, however, searches for the flagship phablet decreased significantly, plummeting to levels far below its iOS-bred rival.

Ultimately, this particular trend is something that has weighed down on smartphone manufacturers over the years. The mobile industry is unforgiving, and it is also highly competitive. This is why among the dozens upon dozens of manufacturers, only a select few become household names. Upstarts such as OnePlus have made it, but only by adopting strategies that are almost insane, like stuffing flagship-grade internals and aggressively undercutting the prices of rivals. For established companies such as Samsung, it takes a blockbuster device to truly stand out from the competition. Unfortunately, the Note 9 might not be one of these devices.

The Galaxy Note 9 is a great device, however. Its display is huge with its 6.4-inch screen, and its top-tier variant can feature as much as 1 TB of storage. Its battery is almost 50 percent larger than the iPhone X’s as well, with 4,000 mAh. With a revamped AI-driven camera and a Bluetooth-powered S-Pen that can recharge fully in 40 seconds, the Note 9 is one of the most feature-ridden smartphones in the market today.

Yet, despite all these headlining features, the Note 9 is not making as many waves in the smartphone market. In a statement to WIRED, Carolina Milanesi, principal analyst at Creative Strategies, noted that the market appears to have forgotten just how remarkable smartphones really are.

“The problem with phones is there is such a focus on big events at specific times of the year that missing or delaying would attract a lot of attention and impact stock. Technology cycles sometimes just do not line up. Plus, we seem to forget how good these phones are today, which makes expecting something amazing every time quite unrealistic. One last point is that a lot of the value-add today is given via software, and both commentators and consumers still do not give this the same weight they give to hardware innovation,” she said.