Samsung’s new phablet and second flagship smartphone for 2016 is finally here. On August 2, in New York, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note 7, a better, faster, waterproof, more powerful and secure replacement for the Galaxy Note 5. We’ll go over a few details, new features, and share some first impressions below.
For months, we’ve been seeing reports and rumors about the Note 7, which oddly isn’t called the Note 6. Almost everything turned out to be correct, and that’s not a bad thing. The Galaxy Note 7 has a lot to offer and will be available to everyone on August 19.
After taking the stage and showcasing a phone that was relatively similar to the Galaxy S7 Edge from earlier this year, we were able to get our hands on it and see what’s different. And yes, the Note 7 could be a bigger Galaxy S7 with a stylus, there’s more to it than that and it’s the best Galaxy Note device to date.
First up is the design, which is very familiar with everything we’ve seen lately from Samsung. However, they managed to improve everything really nicely. The new Galaxy Note 7 has the same size screen as last year, at 5.7 inches, it has seen upgrades in all respects, but a few millimeters thinner. The result is a smartphone that looks good, is made of glass and aluminum and fits perfectly in the hand. To be precise, it comes in at 2.2mm thinner and 7.9mm thicker than the Note 5.
Yes, the screen is now curved like the Galaxy S7 Edge, but more subtle and elegant. It doesn’t fall that fast. For long-time Note users, Samsung claims to have found the perfect balance on the curved edge without sacrificing the experience when using the S-Pen stylus. After a few minutes of use, they were right. The front and rear curve nicely into the aluminum body, making it feel thinner than it is. It might not sound like much, but it does a lot to hold the phone up during daily use.
Overall, it doesn’t look much different from the Galaxy Note 5, aside from the curved glass, lighter weight, and new USB Type-C port, but it’s different. It looks more polished and it all comes together quite nicely.
There was a lot of back and forth from rumor mills about specs, a new bigger screen, unrealistically crazy high specs, and more. And while we want a big battery and other stuff, it’s not possible when adding the pen and stuff and making it water resistant. The result is a highly capable phone that is the best of its predecessor in every category.
Last year the Note 5 had a great design, but a lot of compromises were made as a result. That’s not the case with the Note 7. In fact, they’ve managed to enhance the all-metal and glass design while making the phone thinner and lighter, while also making upgrades all over the place. It may look like a Galaxy S7, but users coming from a Note smartphone will have a lot to love.
To put it all quickly, the Galaxy Note 7 has a faster processor, twice the storage for apps and games, a better camera, more features with the S-Pen stylus, the biggest of any Note ever. It has a battery and IP68 dust and water resistance. more. For those wondering, this means it can go under 5 feet of water for 30+ minutes and works just fine. Both phone and S-Pen work underwater. Here is a quick video demo.
Then, of course, one of the biggest complaints of last year, storage or lack thereof, was addressed. Samsung has given back the micro SD slot to expand the storage beyond the onboard 64GB of storage, which is double that of last year’s model. Those who pre-order will receive a free 256GB SD card giving owners over 300GB of space. Something that no iPhone can offer.
With each iteration of the Note, Samsung has increased and streamlined what we can do with the S Pen, and they did it again this year. The S-Pen pen is smaller, mirroring the size and feel of a 0.7mm ballpoint pen, and works underwater. Yes, the phone is water resistant and so is the S-Pen stylus. We were able to write underwater, but not quite. Good for those who will feel the need to do this.
Accessed by the pop-up window when you remove the pen, Air Command has some new features. They’re pretty self-explanatory: translate lets you do text-to-speech, similar to Google Translate; magnify, of course, zooms in to see and read the content more easily.
In use, the S-Pen feels much better overall. It’s not very slippery, it doesn’t drag on the screen, and the curved edge doesn’t seem like much of an issue either. With the new stylus, writing on the Note 7 screen feels more natural and easy than ever before.
Perhaps the biggest change to the Galaxy Note 7 is the Iris eye scanner for enhanced security. A system that is far more accurate and secure than any fingerprint, Samsung claims cannot be faked with a photo or even a video of a user’s eye. Nothing is high enough resolution to fool the Iris eye scanner.
Everyone uses a fingerprint scanner on their phone these days, so switching to something like an eye scanner might not make much sense to some. You have to pick up the phone and hold your eyes still for a moment.
However, Samsung has added a few tricks for the Iris scanner that make it much more useful. One is a new “Secure Folder” inside Android. It is basically an encrypted secure folder for apps, folders, files, documents, photos and more. Allowing owners to use fingerprints for most activities, but a safer eye scan for important things.
Moreover, the secure folder can have all the apps installed there separately from the rest of the phone. Like a second Facebook for work or business or anything else users can imagine. Another layer of security unlike anything we’ve seen at Samsung. In the end, we think Samsung expects the secure folder to be used with the browser rather than using it as the main unlocking method.
All said and done, the new Galaxy Note 7 may not be the big leap many have been waiting for, but comparing it to the Galaxy S7 really isn’t fair. Both are new flagship phones for 2016.
Compared to the Galaxy Note 4 and even the Note 5, it’s clear that Samsung has made great strides. Being able to make the phone thinner, more powerful, more capable, adding a massive 3,500mAh battery and also making it water resistant is pretty impressive. Anyone coming from an older Note will love everything it has to offer. From blazing fast charging speeds, to the award-winning 12 Dual Pixel camera, 64GB of internal storage and an S-Pen that does more than ever before.
If I had one complaint, it would be on the 3,500 mAh battery. Yes, it’s bigger than any Note ever released, but when devices like the smaller Galaxy S7 Active and S7 Edge have a bigger battery, consumers question why and think it’s a compromise. At the end of the day, there’s so much that can fit in a stylish water-resistant shell. The Galaxy Note 7 should have excellent battery life, better than any previous model. Fast charging with the reversible USB Type-C port should get owners going from 0-100% in about 80 minutes and get a 50% discount in a quick 20-minute standby time. Fast charging is very useful and that is of course included here.
As a reminder, Samsung has confirmed that the phone will be available from August 19 in the US and worldwide, with pre-orders going live tomorrow, August 3. Carriers in the US will have Onyx Black, Coral Blue and Titanium Silver options, with the gold option limited to certain markets and carriers. Those who pre-order can choose between a free Gear Fit2 wearable or a 256GB memory card. Stay tuned for more details.