Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Review: An Iconic Phone

Wow. A snappy and beautifully crafted Note series phone from Samsung.

I had a chance to play around with Note 7 today.

Galaxy Note 7
Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Some people watch the flights of birds, and others watch for the nocturnal appearances of the groundhog. For me, the annual marker is the Samsung Note. It is the only phone that captured my prolonged attention after Blackberry dropped off a precipice. Seeking to get all of its phones on the same numbering scheme, Samsung skipped the Note 6 and named this one the Note 7. I returned last year’ Note 5 because in the end I could not forgive some of the features that were jettisoned. T-Mobile is GSM, and therefore “an international phone.” I preordered to take advantage of Samsung’s incentives, and received mine on August 23, 2016.

Once again, the beagle has landed, metaphorically. The Galaxy Note 7, like its outgoing sibling, features a pleasing amalgamation of glass and aluminum that pronounces it an undeniably premium device. It feels glossy and svelte in the hands. Its apparent fragility is worrisome, but for all that, the phone does feel great. This is the first – glory be – waterproof/dustproof Note. It features the new Gorilla Glass 5 which is allegedly more difficult to break, though l have declined to put that to the test for the nonce. The Note 7’s 5.7 inch AMOLED screen manages to convey the impression of having smaller dimensions while maintaining the same screen size as its predecessor. Note screens have always been best in class, and this one does not disappoint. The new screen curves around the edges of the phone, permitting access to shortcuts along the curvature at each spine, and there is no perfectly flat variant as before. It is not a feature that I see myself using frequently. Colors are rich and pop.

The fingerprint scanner returns. Brand new this time around is an iris scanner in the front-facing camera. During set up, a warning that the use of lens or eyeglasses could impact the iris scanner appears. I still prefer the fingerprint scanner, as there is an annoying delay in using the iris scanner. The design of the phone is aesthetically pleasing, none-the-least of which are the placement of the SIM card and micro SD slots at the top of the phone, along with a mic. Minor annoyance: the SIM/micro USB slot must be pried open with a provided tool. The headphone jack, USB port and speaker are at the bottom of the phone. The faux leather back of the Notes 3 and 4 are greatly missed; the new coverings are as pretty as they are impractical, and collect smudges and fingerprints with reckless abandon. The 12 megapixel camera is impressive – not necessarily because of its specs but – because of its superb performance in low light conditions. In short, the camera is the best that I have ever used on a mobile phone.

USB Type-C adorns the charging port. Old chargers will not work, unless equipped with an adaptor that comes in the box. Type C offers the advantage of fitting, regardless of which way one inserts its head. Also new is the flip gesture that can change switch the camera to the selfie mode. The 3,500 mAh battery has so far lasted an entire day in the regular mode. The nomenclature for the power saving mode has changed, with a “mid” and a “max” mode. At the “mid” power saving mode, the phone lasted 1.5 days with moderate to heavy use; a herculean feat. The battery beats the Note 5’s 3000 mAh battery handily, yet plays second fiddle to the S7 Edge’s 3600 mAh battery.. With 4GB of RAM, the Note 7 fairly zips along with nary a hint of a lag. The Note 7 now comes only with a 64GB variant for internal storage, but – in a welcome departure from the Note 5 – has brought back the ability to use a micro SD card for more storage. The S Pen has equally been improved, with a thinner tip. The sometimes overlapping notation apps have now been amalgamated into a single cohesive Notes app.

Similar to the Note 5 and even the Note 4 whose software was updated recently, notes can still be taken when the phone screen is off. New, this time around, is that those notes can be pinned to the “always on the display” along with battery level, time and date. The ability to make animated GIFs, i.e. to “Smart Select” a targeted portion of a video and edit it is likely to be an instant hit. The S Pen can also now offers magnification and translation of text. The translation feature has great potential, as it can translate to any language in a fast, convenient way. Items stored in an available “security” folder keeps those private files quarantined from a potentially jealous spouse or curious kid taking a break from playing Angry Birds. As in the outgoing Note 5, Samsung’s Touchwiz is now minimalistic. New, and welcome is a blue light filter turns the screen to a softer, more palatable hue at night.

As in most things, I prefer the color black, although the phone is available in several colors that I shall deem a rapper’s delight, namely: Titanium Silver, Coral Blue and Gold Platinum. The black variant is entirely black, front to back, with silver letterings.

On the Con side: Once upon a time, with each successive release of the Note came newer features. That seemed to plateau with the Note 5. The Note 7 still has a non-removable battery. Like the Note 5, it also lacks the IR blaster – indispensable for using the phone as a remote – that its predecessors had. Even at this early date, the phone is displaying a tendency to scratch easily. At $850, it costs an arm, an ear, and most of the tibia.

Summary: The Note 7 avoids some of the mistakes of the Note 5 by bringing back a Micro SD slot. It remains the best phablet on the market because it is the only one that makes software specifically aimed at capitalizing its larger screen. It is still not a perfect phone, as a removable battery is still not an option, and the IR blaster that was a staple of yesteryears remains eliminated. Equally surprising was the fact that the Note 7’s battery is actually 100 mAh less than its more diminutive cousin, the S7 Edge. This is the first time that the Note’s battery specs are smaller than any other in Samsung’s line up.

N.B. Pictures and video are coming, once I figure out where and how to set up shop.

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