Man, my wallet just can’t keep up with the blast of flagship launches this year – each smartphone seemingly outdoing the last. The latest is the Galaxy Note 7 from Samsung, announced on Tuesday, and it’s a freakin’ beauty.
At first grip, the Galaxy Note 7 feels like the Galaxy Note 5 (that’s last year’s model, for those keeping track) shacked up with the Galaxy S7 Edge. It has the all-glass and metal of the Galaxy S7 Edge, the same Snapdragon 820 processor and expandable storage. It also has the S Pen from the Galaxy Note 5, though it has been improved with increased sensitivity and plenty of new software features. There are a few tricks that neither the Galaxy Note 5 nor Galaxy S7 Edge have, though.
For one, there’s an Iris scanner on board, which can be used for quickly unlocking the device. In my time with the Galaxy Note 7, the phone unlocked so quickly after registered my eyeballs that it was hard to capture it on video and photo. The setup process is a cinch – just look at the phone for a few seconds, and I found the experience is much easier than using the fingerprint scanner. It’s limited to allowing you to unlock the device or an encrypted folder of apps/photos/videos for now, but Samsung says we can expect it in other places like Samsung Pay later, too.
The Galaxy Note 7 is IP68 water-resistant, which means it can take a beating under water and in dust just like the Galaxy Note 7. You probably won’t purposefully jump in the pool with it, but the phone is built to survive it in case you do. Yes, even the S Pen.
And speaking of the S Pen, Samsung brought over the Always on Display (AOD) tech from the Galaxy S7 Edge and added a bonus feature. Pull out the S Pen at any time and you can write on the display and then save that note as the Always On Display. That means you’ll see the sketch in black and white all the time, which is great for reminders. Plus, adding in the water-resistance, you can do this at any point, even in the rain or, yes, under water. I have no idea why you’d want to take a note in the pool, but I’m sure there are folks who will find that useful.
The cameras on the Galaxy Note 7 are the same as those on the Galaxy S7 Edge, though Samsung updated the software to make it easier to swap between modes and the front-facing/rear camera with swipes across the screen. This felt easier and less cluttered to me, so I dig it.
There’s another unique S Pen feature you should know about, too. It lets you highlight an area of the display and save any motion within that frame as GIF. That means you can create your own GIFs from personal videos or even YouTube, so long as it isn’t protected by DRM. You can edit and easily share the GIFs, too, or adjust the quality to help keep the size down.
There are tons of new features to talk about, including a slightly cleaner TouchWiz user interface, a new USB-C port (USB 3.1 transfer speeds), and more. We’ll be bringing you a full discussion on our thoughts in our final review, but for now enjoy the hands-on video and gallery.