Congrats, Euros. You're allowed to buy the Samsung Galaxy Note this year.
A little under a year ago, there was a nasty surprise for anyone in Europe wanting to buy a Samsung Galaxy Note 5. Other territories would get to choose between the GS6 edge+ and Note 5, but in Europe Samsung had made that choice for you. But forget all that — the Galaxy Note brand is back with a vengeance, and the latest Note 7 will land on European shores in early September.
So how did we get here? After four years of what had been a very European series of phone launches, with launch events at the Berlin-based IFA show, the Note 5 was replaced with its stylus-free sibling, the Galaxy S6 edge+.
Samsung's decision, which pretty much nobody outside the company thought was a good idea, apparently came after market research revealed that European buyers didn't use the S Pen much. The S6 edge+, it was surely hoped, would ride coattails of the successful S6 edge with its space-age curved screen.
Nobody thought excluding the Galaxy Note 5 from Europe was a good idea.
Privately, mobile operator sources admitted they'd have quite liked to carry the Note 5, but Samsung wasn't budging. And of course legions of hardcore Note fans — some of Samsung's most enthusiastic customers — weren't happy either. One retailer even started up a petition in an attempt to show that there were consumers ready to hand Samsung their money.
Nevertheless, the Galaxy S6 edge+ was — and still is — a great phone. Only without that defining feature, the S Pen. Buyers in Europe rightly felt like they were being denied the latest in a popular series of phones for reasons that were both weird and unnecessary.
As we wrote at the time:
Samsung seriously underestimates the value of the Galaxy Note as a global brand, to say nothing of its importance to some of its most loyal (and vocal, and influential) customers. To simply jettison it in this way is a terrible idea for a number of really obvious reasons. For one, online and social media will make a bunch of people aware of a much-anticipated product — the latest in a long-running and popular series — that they're not allowed to buy, and not all of them will decide to settle for the Samsung-approved alternative.
As much as consumers in different regions have differing needs, the success of the Note line has, perhaps surprisingly, been universal. Despite its quirkiness, it's a series with undeniable global appeal. Samsung has a popular product that millions of people want to buy, if only it'd let them.
Android Central understands that Samsung briefly mulled a limited European launch for the Note 5 in late January 2016 before once again pulling the plug — perhaps a wise move given that the S7 would land less than two months later.
How will a year in the wilderness affect the Note's brand value?
At the Note 7 event in London this week, Samsung seemed to acknowledge that the decision to skip the Note 5 launch had been a mistake. "At Samsung we listen to our customers. We disappointed our Note fans by not bringing [the Note 5] to Europe," Samsung Europe CMO David Lowes told journalists. Lowes also praised the efforts of fans to drum up support for the Note in Europe, saying that one petition had amassed 10,000 signatures.
So the Note 7 will triumphantly arrive in Europe on Sept. 2 — a few weeks after the U.S. launch, but better late than never. Does that disprove the oft-quoted line that Europeans weren't using the S Pen? That's debatable. A more conciliatory interpretation would be that Samsung's combining the best of last year's S6 edge+ and Note 5 into a single handset.
That said, it'll be interesting to see how a year in the wilderness affects the Note's brand value on the continent. Sure, there are still plenty of Note 4s out there, and owners of that device will be getting a huge, significant upgrade in the Note 7. But it's been a long time since the brand took center stage for Samsung in Europe, and that period of absence could dent its prospects against Apple's upcoming iPhone 7.
Personally, the Note 5 is the only one of the series I've yet to use for any length of time — and so I'm looking forward to reacquainting myself with a line of phones that's rooted in high-performance, big-screen, enthusiast-driven hardware. Will European buyers at large return to the Note brand so easily? We'll have to wait and see.