The Galaxy Note 20 range has, arguably, the most passionate smartphone fans in the world. So while Samsung’s all-new Galaxy S20, S20+ and truly bonkers Galaxy S20 Ultra (details) are grabbing all the headlines right now, Note fans know they should wait. And now the first Galaxy Note 20 leaks have arrived, waiting makes a lot of sense. This is why.
Tip: this article will be regularly updated, so bookmark it (Updated 03/22 below)
Forbes Gordon Kelly
Codename – the Galaxy Note 20 is codenamed “Project Canvas’ and this is a big spoiler. While the Note range’s S Pen has already been great for taking notes (and pretty good at drawing), this specificity of the codename strongly suggests a big upgrade in 2020. Popular leaker Ice Universe has already revealed “new features” are coming, but expect this to be in both hardware and software. The Note range will switch to the same ‘20’ branding as the S series (which had a massive camera overall to mark this new beginning) and for the Galaxy Note 20 it’s the S Pen getting the big makeover.
03/21 Update: the Galaxy Note 20 is now official. XDA Developers‘ Max Weinbach has uncovered Samsung’s first direct reference to the phone hidden inside the newly released kernel source for the Galaxy S20 line-up. The kernel also ties the device (again referenced as ‘Project Canvas’) to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 chipset, as widely expected. Interestingly, the kernel also contains references to ‘Project Winner2’, the successor to the Galaxy Fold which (somewhat amusingly) was codenamed Project Winner and an unknown device, ‘Project Zodiac’. The former will also use the Snapdragon 865 while the latter is have a Snapdragon 855 processor, much like Samsung’s other folding smartphone: the Galaxy Z Flip.
Design – The Galaxy Note 20 models will mimic the Galaxy S20 design which, in turn, stole the centralised hole punch design from the Galaxy Note 10. Consequently, expect the Galaxy Note 20 models to look very similar to the concept renders in this article.
03/11 Update: acclaimed render artist Concept Creator has released a stunningly detailed new video of the Galaxy Note 20 based on all the leaks so far. It shows that we can expect an evolution of the Note 10 design with a lot of influences from the Galaxy S20 line-up, including the almost bezel-less design, shrunken front camera (resulting in a smaller hole punch) and the adoption of the S20’s range’s massive new camera modules and rectangular hump. The only downside? The renders, in accurately portraying all the leaks so far, also show the Galaxy Note 20 without a headphone jack. That port is not coming back. Aside from this, the only question is whether any Note 20 model will sport the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s huge 108MP primary camera. As it stands, a Note 20 and Note 20+ are expected but it is unknown if an Ultra model will join the ranks or Samsung will distribute the cameras differently on the Note series. Watch this space.
Display – here we will get a step-up from the already superlative Galaxy S20 screens. We know this thanks to Samsung, which announced its new enhanced OLED displays have now entered mass production, meaning Galaxy S20 owners just missed out. Samsung promises lower power consumption and reduced blue light in these panels, saying: “Our 5G-optimized OLED display is taking the lead in the 5G era with its crystal clear imagery, distinguished designs, economical power consumption and increasingly eye-protective functionality.” Sorry, S20 owners.
Camera – As Samsung has done for several years, the new Galaxy Note lineup will use the same camera modules as the Galaxy S20 models. Given the seriously buggy launch for this otherwise outstanding hardware, expect updates to the S20 range to mean the Galaxy Note 20 series has a much smoother arrival out the gate. The only question is whether there will be a Galaxy Note 20 Ultra to use the crazy 108MP camera in the Galaxy S20 Ultra.
Performance – there have been no Galaxy Note 20 spec leaks yet, but this is one area where we already know what will happen because it happens every year. The Galaxy Note 20 line-up will get the same Snapdragon 865 / Exynos 990 geographic split (US gets Snapdragon, everyone else gets Exynos) as the S20 line-up and 5G as standard. Though Samsung has already confirmed some new memory upgrades, the big question is whether will Samsung add a Galaxy Note 20 Ultra as well.
03/22 Update: popular Samsung insider Ice Universe has released a pair of tweets which deliver mixed news for potential Galaxy Note 20 owners. The first rubber stamps what we expected: that Samsung will not significantly change the core specs of the Galaxy S20 for the Note 20 (RAM and storage aside) and this includes cameras, which means the S20’s biggest upgrades are making it over intact. The second is more concerning, with Ice Universe using a sloth and cheetah to illustrate the differences between Samsung’s Exynos chipset and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865. This is already a such a concern for S20 users that a petition was begun to stop Samsung using Exynos chips in future phones, but Ice says this seems unlikely and warns Samsung to change track or “it will seriously hurt some consumers”.
03/19 Update: Galaxy Note 20 owners can look forward to another big upgrade over the Galaxy S20 range after Samsung confirmed mass production has begun of its next-gen eUFS 3.1 storage. Samsung states that it has balllistically fast sequential write speeds of over 1,200MB per second. Samsung says this is a 3x upgrade compared to the eUFS 3.0 memory inside the Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy S20 ranges. In addition to this, eUFS 3.1 is 60% faster for random read speeds (hitting 100,000 IOPs) and write speeds (70,000 IOPS). eUFS 3.1 will come in 128GB, 256GB and 512GB storage capacities and be available for smartphones in the second half of the year. Yes, that means it’s a shoe-in for the Galaxy Note 20.
Connectivity and Ports – As mentioned above, 5G will come as standard (it’s a mandatory feature for manufacturer’s using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 chipset) along with next-gen WiFi 6. But an interesting leak says Samsung is considering bringing back the microSD slot which was controversially removed from the entry-level Galaxy Note 10 last year. That said, don’t expect a similar reprieve for the headphone jack, it has gone for good.
Biometrics – The big surprise with the Galaxy S20 range is Samsung did not use Qualcomm’s next-gen 3D Sonic Max fingerprint scanner, despite it being available to smartphone makers since September. The Galaxy Note 20 line-up surely fixes this mistake and given its faster scanning time, support for a much wider reading area (making no-look unlocks easier) and dual fingerprints, this would be a big upgrade from the hit and miss gen-one sensor in Galaxy S20 phones.
Battery Life – again expect the Galaxy S20 smartphones to have the best battery life due to the internal space set aside in the Note line-up for the S Pen. That said, Samsung went big on the battery capacity for the S20s, so expect the Note 20s to come close to these battery sizes:
- Galaxy S20 – 4,000 mAh (S10: 3,400 mAh)
- Galaxy S20+: 4,500 mAh (S10+: 4,100 mAh)
- Galaxy S20 Ultra: 5,000 mAh
As for charging, 25W is standard for the Galaxy S20 and S20+ with 45W exclusive to the S20 Ultra (though with little real-world benefit). A similar split (especially if there is a Note 20 Ultra) makes sense here. Wireless charging and Wireless Power share (charging other devices), however, didn’t step up with the Galaxy S20 range, so maybe Samsung pulls some surprises here but nothing has leaked so far.
Price – This is perhaps the biggest worry for the Galaxy Note 20 phones. Samsung, arguably, pushed prices too high with the Galaxy S20 phones:
- Galaxy S20 – 128GB, from $999
- Galaxy S20+ – 128GB / 256GB / 512GB, from $1,199
- Galaxy S20 Ultra – 128GB / 256GB / 512GB, from $1,399
How the S20 range sells will be a big indicator of whether Samsung sticks with the eye-opening strategy. I hope for a change of heart, but I suspect only a sales disaster will make Samsung change course.
Release Date – Samsung seems to move up the Galaxy Note launch date every year. August 7 was the launch of the Note 10s and I’d expect another early August launch for the Galaxy Note 20 lineup as Samsung tries to make some space for sales before Apple launches its next-gen iPhone models in mid-September.
The Galaxy Note 20 range will be heavily influenced by the Galaxy S20 models with design, performance, camera and (sadly) pricing all set to be similar. But there are also enough potential differences (display, biometrics and that big S Pen upgrade) to suggest this will be the most well-rounded and polished smartphone Samsung releases in 2020.
Galaxy Note fans will be happy to wait for its arrival. But, given the Galaxy S20’s bugs and high prices (big reductions will come), I’d suggest many Samsung fans should hold tight as well.
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