TM Roh took over Samsung Mobile from DJ Koh at the start of 2020. It was a challenging time for not just the company but the world as the pandemic was raging. Samsung Mobile required new leadership that would lead the world’s largest smartphone vendor into the “Next Normal,” a post-pandemic future that would change our realities.
It wasn’t an easy time to take over the company and given the nature of this job, it goes without saying that TM Roh had the weight of expectations on his shoulders. We’ve said before that he hasn’t got enough credit for how he led Samsung through those harsh times. Under his watch, Samsung’s mobile division has gone through one of its most transformative transitions.
There’s not much that you can blame him for. On the contrary, much has happened under his watch that has improved Samsung’s position, particularly in the foldables segment. Roh has spearheaded Samsung’s foldable push, the overhaul of Samsung’s mid-range Galaxy A series, the elevation of the Galaxy S series, and a vast improvement in its software support and firmware release timelines.
However, as a lifelong Samsung fan, if there’s something I can blame Roh for, it’s killing the Galaxy Note series. This decision was likely made as part of Samsung shifting its focus on foldables in the second half of the year. The company presumably didn’t want another flagship phone during that period and it preferred the foldables to get all of the limelight.
This decision made a lot of Samsung fans sad. The Galaxy Note series had perhaps the most loyal customer base of any Samsung smartphone lineup. The second half of the year used to be all about the Galaxy Note series. Ever since it was discontinued, Samsung’s PR reach has tanked in this crucial time.
That’s because at $1,799, the Galaxy Z Fold phones are still too expensive for most people while the more affordable Galaxy Z Flip devices aren’t enough to win over the Galaxy Note loyalists. Samsung has tried to offer an olive branch by reincarnating the Galaxy Note as the Galaxy Sx Ultra but that does little to address the lack of a suitable flagship device to push in the second half. It also fails to capture the loyalty and inspire the sort of pride that the Galaxy Note series did in its loyalists.
Before this shakeup, the choice was fairly simple for Samsung customers who bought flagship phones. Either they got the Galaxy S or the Galaxy Note flagship and those who bought the Galaxy Note devices knew that they had the best of what Samsung had to offer that year. That’s one of the major reasons why this lineup had such a dedicated customer base.
Samsung hasn’t been able to replicate that with its foldable phones. The Galaxy Z Flip is entirely different and while the Galaxy Z Fold might be closest to the Galaxy Note with its larger displays and S Pen support, it’s no replacement for the beloved series. As it stands, it doesn’t seem likely that the Galaxy Z Fold will be able to tick all of those boxes for the Note loyalists, and that’s why it often feels that Samsung is lacking clear vision on how its most loyal customers really feel.
Many of them that we’ve spoken to echo the same feelings. Some of my co-workers make another point. They preferred the Galaxy S series as it once was, with its distinct, curved-edge design and no S Pen. Now if they want a top-of-the-line Galaxy S flagship, they have to use a design they don’t appreciate and tolerate an S Pen they don’t want. The marriage of convenience between the Note DNA and the Galaxy S series that Samsung has concocted in the Galaxy Sx Ultra models is trying to be all things to all fans, but ostensibly falling short at both.
I’m far from the only one who feels that Samsung shouldn’t have killed the Galaxy Note lineup. There could have been a way to keep it around. It’s not even a question of the series encroaching upon the foldables. There’s no denying that Samsung has done a good job of establishing itself as a dominant force in the foldable arena. The question remains, was it necessary to do it at the expense of the Galaxy Note’s future?
As a very loyal Samsung fan, I would have preferred to see Samsung at least try its best to make that happen. Looking back at how things have unfolded so far, to me, it feels that the company took the easy way out instead of trying to figure out a way where it could provide its customers with the best of both worlds. If that indeed was the call TM Roh made, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed.