On Wednesday, August 5th, Samsung is likely to reveal the long-expected Galaxy Note20 and Note20 Ultra smartphones at a virtual event. Galaxy Unpacked 2020, as it's officially known, will begin at 10AM EST that morning via a video livestream. New models of Samsung's Galaxy Buds and a next-generation Galaxy Watch smartwatch are also expected to be formally launched at the event.
The Galaxy Note20 has been the subject of extensive leaks, and relatively little that is significant about the phone remains unknown. A higher-efficiency 120Hz display panel is rumored to debut on the super-premium Galaxy Note20 Ultra, while retaining the line's signature digitizer stylus and large format screens. In addition, there have been months of rumblings that a new-and-improved Snapdragon 865 Plus, along with an all-new Exynos chipset, would make their first appearance on the Note20 series.
What does remain a mystery is how Samsung will price and position these historically very expensive smartphones in its broader portfolio. The Galaxy S20 line started at an astronomical $1000 back in the spring, with the family's hero phone, the Galaxy S20 Ultra, commanding an eye-watering $1400 MSRP. If the Note20 Ultra—as it's rumored to be named—were to eclipse that, it could raise more than a few eyebrows (and not in a good way).
As the global economy falters and consumers cut back on spending, pricey 5G smartphones have proven a hard sell, especially in the US. Relatively unimpressive 5G speeds and coverage (something I can personally attest to on AT&T) coupled with confusing marketing around the next-generation wireless technology have failed to convince consumers that the 5G cost premium will actually bring them noticeable benefits. And with many Americans working from home or unemployed, carriers are finding their promises of increased bandwidth and speeds just don't resonate at a time when most of us are constantly connected to Wi-Fi. I suppose you could position the Note20 Ultra as the ultimate work from home phone—signing and marking up documents, connecting to an external display to run DeX, and zipping through spreadsheet cells with the pinpoint accuracy of the stylus. Hey, it's an idea!
— Samsung Mobile (@SamsungMobile) July 7, 2020
While Samsung will no doubt seek to rectify some of the perceived mistakes it made with the S20 series — the cameras, in particular, weren't especially well received — the Note's core (and very real) fanbase remains the primary audience for a phone that shares more and more with its Galaxy S cousins with each passing generation. If Samsung didn't convince mainstream smartphone buyers with the S20 line, it seems hard to imagine the ways the Note20 win them back over (the beloved stylus, of course, aside).
No doubt, it's a hard year for any phone manufacturer: supply chain issues, shrinking economies, and a global pandemic leading to massive levels of uncertainty (let alone preventing companies from even holding press conferences) make 2020 the most challenging year in memory to launch a new product. We'll be tuned in August 5th to see how Samsung faces these challenges, and what the Note20 is doing to keep evolving and differentiating Samsung's 5G lineup.
If history is any indicator, the August 5th livestream will be broadcast on Samsung's official YouTube channel.