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The Galaxy Note 20 doesn't come with headphones and that's a good thing

Commentary: "I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords."

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- 04:26
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The new Galaxy Note 20 Ultra packs a lot of new features. But its box is missing one important thing.

James Martin/CNET

When you buy a Galaxy Note 20 or Note 20 Ultra you might notice that the box feels a little lighter than normal. No, it's not the new plastic back on the Note 20 that's causing that light feeling. The actual reason is that Samsung no longer includes a pair of wired headphones in boxes of its high-end phones. Pause and let that sink in. Are you outraged? Are you indifferent? Do you even use the included headphones that come with your phone? Is this a deal-breaker for you?

The news of Samsung's headphone omission comes on the heels of rumors that Apple won't include headphones or a power adapter in the box of the next iPhone, aka the iPhone 12. If that's too extreme for you, Samsung does still include a charger in the box

On the Note 20's website there's a "what's in the box" section that is absent of any headphones. Samsung confirmed that all of this is true and that it won't include wired headphones in the box for phones sold in North America.

To quote Kent Brockman from The Simpsons when he thought space ants were invading Earth, "I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords."

It's wonderful that the new Galaxy Note 20 phones omit headphones from the box. Think about how much e-waste this will minimize. Samsung could become a role model for other phone-makers who will hopefully follow suit. Earth isn't really designed to handle yearly phone upgrades.

Here's my attempt to answer all your questions about Samsung's missing headphones.

Does it really come with less?

I know people will be pissed that they're paying $1,000-plus (that's $50 more than last year's Note 10) for a phone that comes with fewer things. In a physical sense there are fewer things in the box, which again can be beneficial for the environment.

Yet, I'd argue that both the Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra come with more. You get 5G, a high refresh rate display (on the Ultra only), a faster processor, better telephoto cameras, longer OS upgrade support, higher resolution video, Gorilla Glass Victus (on the Ultra only), a faster S-Pen and larger screens.

Are you getting less value?

It doesn't help that for years, Samsung made a point of highlighting the $99 value of its "included" wired headphones. So if last year's Note 10 cost $950, shouldn't the Note 20 cost $851?

That comes down to how much you value the improvements and new features that I mentioned earlier. As we've seen with other phones this year, like the Galaxy S20 line and OnePlus 8 line, 5G phones cost more. At least they do right now.

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Notice anything missing? Luckily, a charger is still included in the box with the Galaxy Note 20. 

Samsung

Do you really need another pair of 'free' headphones?

I'd challenge you to look around your house, in your car, bags or office (if you're fortunate enough to access it right now). You might actually already have a pair of wired headphones that can work.

But this is a little more complicated. You need a pair of headphones with a USB-C connector. Last year, Samsung eliminated the headphone jack from the Note 10. So even if you do have headphones lying around, chances are they have a 3.5mm headphone jack and won't be compatible with the new Note phones. Also the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra don't come with a headset jack to USB-C dongle.

I don't live in North America, why do I care?

You make a good point. If you don't live in North America, you have nothing to worry about. Samsung will continue to include a pair of wired headphones with a USB-C connector in the box.

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If you need a pair of USB-C headphones that will work with the new Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, Samsung will send you a pair free.

James Martin/CNET

If I don't have USB-C headphones what am I supposed to do?

Samsung has your back. If you need a pair of USB-C wired headphones, Samsung's customer service will give you a pair for free. The company will even cover shipping and handling.

Here's how it works. First, you need to purchase a Galaxy Note 20 or Note 20 Ultra. Next, when you receive the phone and contact Samsung's customer care, you'll need the phone's IMEI number, which you can find on the box, or dial *#06# from your phone. According to Samsung, people who preordered a Note 20 or Note 20 Ultra will start receiving them Wednesday Aug. 26.

What about Bluetooth headphones?

That's what Samsung is hoping people opt for, I'd wager. Not only is the wire gone, but you can use a pair of Bluetooth earbuds across your devices. A pair of wireless headphones like the new Galaxy Buds Live (nicknamed "Galaxy Beans") cost $170. That is definitely a lot more than free. But you're likely to keep a pair of wireless earbuds longer than a wired freebie.

Keep in mind, the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra can work with a number of Bluetooth headphones and earbuds. In fact, read this list of the best true wireless earbuds. If you're looking to save money, check out this list of the best cheap true-wireless earbuds, in which the most expensive option is $52.

I'm out of questions, what should I do next?

Take a look at our full, rated review of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.