But Samsung had to make some tradeoffs to shave those millimeters. For example, the Note 10 has a full HD display, which would maybe be excusable if this were a $500 phone or if it were 2016. But the Note 10 costs $950. And in 2019, pretty much all high-end phones have gone quad HD. Samsung also ditched the microSD slot here — something that has been a staple of the Note series since day one, and that power users will surely miss.
Yet the new, smaller phone isn’t meant for the average Note fan. With it, Samsung is trying to sell the S Pen to a larger audience — whether it’s people who find Notes too big or those who obsess a little less over spec sheets.
Most of the Note 10’s new features are the same as those in the Plus, and Chris Velazco has already gone over those in excruciating detail, so I’m not going to retread all of them. Instead, I’m going to focus on what makes the Note 10 different, and whether you should pick the smaller handset.
The importance of the S Pen
First, though, allow me to gush over the S Pen for a moment, since it is after all one of the biggest selling points of the Note series and is also why getting a smaller Note is a big deal. Back in the day, the stylus was really only useful for those who wanted to draw or write notes on their phones. Now, though, the S Pen is more than just a writing implement.
After adding Bluetooth support to the S Pen last year and turning it into a remote control, Samsung expanded the number of gestures you could use by giving the stylus a gyroscope and accelerometer. Instead of simply clicking once or twice to trigger actions, you can now swing the pen around to do things like switch cameras or zoom in on a scene from afar.
I really enjoyed having the S Pen as a wand-like controller for my camera, especially when my friend challenged me to a yoga pose-off where we needed to send each other pictures and videos of us beating the other at challenging poses. I was always too embarrassed to ask my friend to take a photo for me at the studio, plus I wanted to respect the privacy of my fellow yogis. I tried using my Pixel 3’s timer to capture my achievements, but even with the maximum 10-second window, I couldn’t get a picture of exactly when I had the right limbs up. The Note 10 came to the rescue — I got into position in my own time and clicked the button when I was ready, and I won the challenge. Yay.
It’s nice to have the S Pen in a device that fits in the snug pocket of my yoga pants, but that was a really specific instance where the Note 10 did something I couldn’t do with another phone. What you might use it for more frequently is to take digital handwritten notes. You can write on the Note 10’s face even when it’s asleep thanks to Screen Off Memo, which was a great feature when Samsung first launched it in the Note 5 in 2015. But with the Note 10, the company made it easier to sort through and make sense of your scribbles by improving its handwriting recognition system. All your notes are now automatically converted in the background and the words are indexed so you can search for a specific thing you scrawled and find it even if you hadn’t manually hit convert.
I wrote a list of things I had to do ahead of IFA 2019 on a Screen Off Memo and hit save. Later, I went into the Notes app and found the exact list by searching for “IFA.” This, more than the wand-like controls, felt like magic.