There are many reasons to love Samsung. It has a wide range of good (usually great) devices, solid software, and the ability to interconnect smart devices better than most Android manufacturers – but the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 isn’t one of the reasons why. In fact, this is a crappy smartphone, and after upgrading to the Google Pixel 7 Pro, I can finally free myself from the experience and move on.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 was one of the worst phones I’ve ever used, and if you didn’t buy it, you should be thankful for your luck. If you did, I feel your pain.
Note 20 was already the unloved sibling
From the very beginning, there were signs that Samsung wasn’t messing around with the Galaxy Note 20 as much as it used to. The second of the two Galaxy Note series favorites, the Note 20 was undeniably poorer between the two. The larger model, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, has a glass and metal build, a larger display with a higher refresh rate, and a much more capable camera. Andy Boxall from Digital Trends liked it and declared it the best Android smartphone of the time. Samsung had removed all barriers.
Unfortunately, it had firmly pulled back on the hurdles on the Note 20. It wasn’t a bad looking phone, but even in 2020 it didn’t live up to the standards of its $1,000 price tag. The back was plastic, the screen was limited to 60Hz, and the camera tricks that made the Note 20 Ultra shine were missing. It wasn’t a bad setup, but it wasn’t a $1,000 spec sheet either.
From the very beginning, there were signs that Samsung wasn’t doing much with the Galaxy Note 20.
But despite all that, I was excited to use it. The Mystic Green color suite was gorgeous and had the S Pen, an accessory I’ve been wanting since I envied my colleague’s (admittedly short-lived) Galaxy Note 8. I thought I could get past the Note 20’s obvious flaws. I was going to put a case on it (so a plastic build could be forgiven), the 60Hz refresh rate is fine when you’re not using anything faster, and I can live without the more advanced camera.
Maybe if those were all I had to struggle with, I’d be fine. Unfortunately, these weren’t the worst flaws. The biggest problem would not be obvious until you played with it for a while.
cured my battery anxiety
These days, it’s common for a smartphone’s battery life to increase as the software gets used to your daily activities. As such, I wasn’t too worried when the Note 20 initially showed pretty bad battery life. “It will be better,” I said to myself as I plugged the phone into the charger at 3:00 pm, “There’s no way a 4,300mAh battery could be this bad. The software will kick in and fix it.”
Reader, it didn’t.
Like most of us, I had battery anxiety before. Battery technology was hardly available at the dawn of the smartphone age, so we were all used to needing to plug it in pretty regularly. Increased battery sizes, faster charging, and better software have largely eliminated battery anxiety for most of us. Mine was improved by the Google Pixel 3a XL, an excellent smartphone with excellent battery life.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 single-handedly took it all back. Even from zero, it struggled to get through a day on a full charge. A 20-minute dog walk with podcasts can wipe out almost 10% of a freshly charged phone. As a seasoned pro, I’ve engaged in battery saving maneuvers, turning off the always-on screen and dimming the brightness to the point where I have to squint my eyes to see the screen.
The Note 20 struggled to get through a day on a full charge, even from zero.
It helped a little, but still needed more to somehow become acceptable. So the nuclear option: Battery saver. I kept this mode on for the next two years, but even then it would barely make it to the end of the day. Early in the evening, I often found myself plugging the Note 20 in, knowing that otherwise it wouldn’t be time for bed.
I was thankful that my life usually revolved around a desk because I didn’t like being away from charging cables. Outside the home, portable batteries have been constant companions. I’d take my charging cords to my friends’ houses, embarrassingly unplugging them away from prying eyes. Thank god Samsung shipped this phone with a 25W charging brick, as I’m not sure I would have spent time apart from the charger otherwise.
Long term social media? Not without looking in the upper right corner. Videos? Probably best to avoid. Games? You’re kidding, right?
An uninspired piece of mobile tech
The garbage battery is a pretty strong red line for me, but maybe my time could have been easier if the phone had excelled in other areas. Samsung had shipped the phone with some cosmetic drawbacks, so surely other areas were fine?
My Galaxy Note 20 is technically Mystical Green but its soul is beige. It’s the color you paint on the walls because it’s not distracting and your vision shifts from that color without leaving a lasting impression. Using the Galaxy Note 20 was a bit like that too. It could be used. It worked. Performance, yes, was good. The camera took good pictures. The screen was amazing. Well, Samsung continues to excel at display tech – but the lack of a 90Hz or 120Hz refresh rate is still in order.
On the plus side, I didn’t really realize it was such a dull smartphone until I started using the Google Pixel 7 Pro, as everything else was so bland.
A bright new dawn
Using Google’s phone was like a glowing light. I was excited to take pictures, started playing games again, and spent more time on Twitter than ever before. Yes, the Pixel 7 Pro has issues and I’ve run into more than a few of them. But like most fun friends, it’s bright and dazzling, albeit a bit silly. I get angry at mistakes, but it’s always worth getting past them for the good parts. Much better than the Note 20’s gray, colorless presence.
In one last, cruel joke the universe made, my Note 20’s charging port also started to give up. I really have to salute this humble USB-C port for its service. By a long shot it was the hardest working part of the phone.
Goodbye Samsung Galaxy Note 20. It was a terrible phone and you will not be missed.