The Galaxy Note 20 doesn't come with headphones and that's a good thing
Commentary: "I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords."
Patrick HollandManaging Editor
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
Patrick's play The Cowboy is included in the Best American Short Plays 2011-12 anthology. He co-wrote and starred in the short film Baden Krunk that won the Best Wisconsin Short Film award at the Milwaukee Short Film Festival.
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
no longer includes a pair of wired headphones in boxes of its high-end
. 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?
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.
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
, 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
line, 5G phones cost more. At least they do right now.
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
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.
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.