Samsung skipped a number when it named it’s newest Note, so Mr. Mobile skipped over to San Francisco to see what the big deal was. What I found, was a familiar phone that did familiar things in unfamiliar places.
With the new Galaxy Note 7. Here’s what it is and what it isn’t. If you don’t know what a Galaxy Note is, it’s basically the reason your smartphone’s been getting bigger every year. The original Galaxy Note was so oversized for its time and so controversial for including a stylus that it was almost a punchline when it launched five years ago.
That is, until it sold 10 million units in under a year. That spawned a family of oversized, overpowered tablets. An annual offering from Samsung that outclassed basically everything else on the market.
For the most part, the Note 7 lives up to its fore bearers in the specs department. Much of what’s packed into the body here is top of the line. Most crucially, Samsung addressed one of the biggest criticisms of the Note Five by bringing back Micro SD support so you can expand the onboard 64 gigs of storage.
Sadly, the battery still isn’t removable, but it is 16% larger than last year’s and Samsung says it can be recharged just as quickly. Either a quick charge 2.0 through the USB-C or fast wireless charging Qi or PMA.
The new Note looks are also no surprise. From a distance, you could easily mistake it for its predecessor, that is, unless you get the soothing coral blue version with gold accents, my favorite of the release color options.
What sets it apart when you get up close is symmetry. Front and back, side to side, Samsung has made this the most visually balanced Note ever and on top of that, it added IP68 water and dust resistance.
Finally, we have a Galaxy Note that won’t die if you get pushed into a pool with it. That water resistance extends to the new S Pen stylus too and bonus, it won’t break the phone if you put it in backwards as happened with the early Note Fives.
Also, all the stylus related apps have mercifully been combined into a single, simpler hub called Samsung Notes. And there are new fun tricks like hovering over texts to translate it and you can draw a box around a video to make it a GIF. You can still take notes on the lock screen just by popping out the pen and now you can set them to persist until you discard them which might be useful for say, shopping lists.
The screen is pressure sensitive like always, with sensitivity now double what it was on the Note Five and the display itself now curves just slightly over the edges. That means you’ve got the Edge UX, custom panels for apps, contacts and widgets that you scroll through with the thumb.
It looks cool, but as with last year’s Edge Plus models, I still found it kind of awkward to use on the Note 7. And for the VR heads out there, there’s a revised gear VR, Virtual Reality Headset, with better mask padding, redone touch controls, and adapters so it will work with both USB Type C and Micro USB connectors.
So all of that’s great, but I have to admit to feeling a dash of deja vu here. The Note line used to stand out. It was so obviously bigger and badder than any other smart phone. But now, it looks so much like the non-Notes that it doesn’t feel quite as special.
Its spec sheet is essentially identical to the Galaxy S7. Even the accessories are variations on things we’ve seen before. Though this waterproof wireless powerpack is pretty cool. But you know what? I said many of the same things about the Galaxy S7 when it debuted.
That it was too similar to the S6 it was supposed to replace and I was dead wrong about the S7. So much so that I recently called it the best Android phone you can buy right now. And the Note 7 stands a good chance of accomplishing the same thing for those who want a bigger screen or a stylus or a phone that lets you scan in with your eyeball instead of your thumb.
Yeah, I buried the lead there so one last thing, the iris scanner. Which I don’t find terribly exciting. Yeah, there are cool aspects to it. There’s a secure locker that lets you hide files behind an eye print, but you can do the same thing much faster with a fingerprint and there’s also a fingerprint scanner here as usual.
Remember, I’ve been using a Lumia 950 for the past nine months and it’s taught me that no matter well an iris scanner works, it’s still pretty awkward on a phone. My prediction is that I’ll be signing in most often with my thumb when I review the Note 7 and despite my reserved tone, I’m actually looking forward to it quite a bit.
Fun fact, I signed the lease for my current apartment using a Note Five at a restaurant. And I’m excited to see what else the king of tablets makes possible this year. Whether you’re a Galaxy Geek or a Note Neophyte, let me know what questions you want answered in my Note 7 review.
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