If there is a Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, it really needs a 21:9 aspect ratio

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
(Image credit: Future)

Rumors suggest the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Note 20 will get an Ultra sibling, just like the Galaxy S20 had the Galaxy S20 Ultra as a super-charged version.

It's really likely the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra will end up being the biggest non-foldable Samsung phone around - the Note 10 Plus held that title until the S20 Ultra came along, and the gradual size creep of phones suggests the Note 20 Ultra could have a 7-inch or bigger screen.

Huge phones like that can be terrible for people with smaller hands, or those who like one-handed use. The 6.9-inch Galaxy S20 Ultra can be pretty hard to comfortably hold, so a 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra could be really hard for some people to use. But there's a change Samsung should make to its device to mitigate that - give it a 21:9 display.

Sony Xperia 10 II

The 21:9 Sony Xperia 10 II (Image credit: TechRadar)

What is a 21:9 display?

The aspect ratio of a phone, or any screen, image or video, refers to the ratio of its length to its width. For example, a square picture would be 1:1, TV shows tend to be 16:9 or 18:9, and the Samsung Galaxy S20's screen is 20:9.

Older phones used to be 16:9, but recently most are 18:9, 19:9, 19.5:9 or 20:9, however, some like the Sony Xperia 1 II and Moto G 5G Plus are 21:9. This generally makes them longer and thinner than other devices.

A great perk to this is that 21:9 phones can have bigger screens without making the devices any wider - instead, they're longer, which doesn't affect how easy they are to hold in the hand as much as a width increase would.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is not easy to hold (Image credit: Future)

21:9 is easy to hold

You can't use a Samsung Galaxy Note phone two-handed as easily as a Galaxy S or other device - you need one hand for the stylus, after all, and if the phone is too big to be easily held, it'll be a pain to use at all.

If Samsung embraced the 21:9 aspect ratio for its smartphones, they'd be able to have bigger screens without it inhibiting the way you use the device too much. 

Even if the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra had the same screen size as the Galaxy S20 Ultra, I'd like to see it with a 21:9 display. The Galaxy S20 Ultra had a 20:9 aspect ratio, but with a 6.9-inch display it was still pretty hard to hold in one hand. If the Note 20 had the same screen size but a 21:9 aspect ratio it would feel way better in the hand.

How easy a phone is to use is an often-overlooked part of the experience of a smartphone, with many focusing on the cameras and chipset instead, but that doesn't mean Samsung should ignore it.

The aforementioned Sony Xperia 1 II has a big screen, but because of the aspect ratio it's not too annoying to hold.

Similarly I recently tested the Oppo Find X2 Pro with a 6.78-inch screen, but because of its 20:9 aspect ratio (which is still narrower than most) it didn't feel too big for me. So it's clear having a longer display makes bigger screens a bit easier to use.

Inception on the Sony Xperia 10 Plus

Inception on the Sony Xperia 10 Plus (Image credit: Future)

There are other perks too

Phone manufacturers didn't start using 21:9 aspect ratios to make phones easier to hold - that was just a side effect of the main reasons, and these reasons would really benefit the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

One reason is that many movies are in a 21:9 aspect ratio, so if you view them on a phone with a similar ratio screen there are no black bars at the top or bottom. Since the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra will likely have a high-res AMOLED screen, this would just be another way of improving the viewing experience.

Many mobile games like Fortnite and Call of Duty: Mobile are compatible with 21:9 displays too, so you can enjoy the game without your thumbs getting in the way as much.

Another benefit is that, on a 21:9 phone, you can easily dual-screen apps and still see enough of both. On a Galaxy Note phone this would be super useful, as they're generally aimed at business and productivity-minded buyers.

In many ways the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra would be a better phone if it had a 21:9 aspect ratio, and while we don't expect the company will actually use one (it hasn't on any other phone yet, and leaks point to it being 20:9), we'd still like to see Samsung consider it.

Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist.