When I first held the Galaxy Note 10, I was mesmerized. It was the smaller of two new Notes that Samsung announced today, and although I had been expecting the new size (thanks to the hardworking leak mill), I was still pleasantly surprised. At last, a Galaxy Note that I could navigate with just one hand! I can finally get the excellent S Pen without having to be saddled with a giant handset.
The benefits of the (comparatively) mini Note weren't many, but getting the powerful performance and stylus advantages typical of Samsung's high-end line in a smaller size felt meaningful. That is, until I started counting the compromises.
The most obvious is the Note 10's lower res full HD+ screen. I tried to explain this away by telling myself the smaller 6.3-inch panel doesn't really need as sharp a resolution as the 10+'s quad HD. I probably wouldn't notice a difference. I even reasoned it would probably mean longer battery life, too. But when you consider that the Note line has packed quad HD displays since the 5.7-inch Note 4 in 2014, my justification just feels feeble.
Then I started stacking up the other compromises. The Note 10 lacks a microSD card slot, which for the power user that typically buys a Note is a glaring omission. It has just 8GB of RAM, which despite being more than the Note 9's 6GB, is still less than the 10+'s 12GB. The smaller Note 10 is also missing the depth sensor on the rear of the Note 10+. Essentially, this means the Note 10 will have to rely on the three cameras it has for AR effects, and can't use some upcoming 3D scanning and measuring apps that Samsung has planned for the Note 10+.
The thing is, I could live with most of these tradeoffs... if the Note 10 didn't cost $950. Yes, that's a decent $150 cheaper than the $1,100 Note 10+. But it's also only $50 less than the Note 9 when that phone launched. It almost feels like the smaller Note 10 gives Samsung an excuse to hike the Note 10+'s price by $200 without really having improved the handset significantly.
I have little doubt that in a few months, the Note 10's price will drop. And for people who are buying the phone on an instalment plan, that $50 or $150 difference won't feel like much. Samsung can also probably charge whatever it wants and people will still buy the Note 10 in droves. The company said in a press release that offering an additional size is "so consumers can find the Note that's best for them." But "best" here is clearly limited -- if you prefer the smaller phone, you won't get the top-notch qualities of the bigger one. Worse, the money you save in opting for the Note 10 simply isn't enough to justify the tradeoffs.