Galaxy Note 7 – On the Surface

(This is the first post in a new section I’m developing on tech, where I’ll be giving my thoughts on issues in tech, perspectives on devices, how-to’s, and other cool stuff.)

I was very fortunate that the few of my coworkers who came over to my area during the Samsung GN7 reveal came to talk to my boss. I was able to watch the entire nearly hour long program without distraction. Quite an accomplishment, I must say.

I did still remain somewhat productive, answering emails and doing a few other odd items, but then again, staying up on the latest technology should be part of my job. Even if it’s likely nobody at my job will ever get one of these things, except for me.

Anyway, onto my impressions from far away from the event and watching online and looking at YouTube videos about the phone after the fact. Yay. I should have gone to New York for this. I’ll probably end up going to something boring next time I’m in New York doing a tech event.

First Impression: It’s the GS7 Edge Note

My initial impression was that this basically the GS7 Edge Note. It very much is, both in looks and under the hood. Maybe it’s my eyes, but it looked pretty much like the S7 Edge, but with the pen dock on the bottom and a USB type-C port.

Outside of S-Pen and the iris scanning, the specs are largely the same. Same processor and clock speed. RAM. You get base 64GB of storage vs. the base 32GB in the GS7’s, but the same amount of expandable storage possibilities. Screen is slightly larger than the Edge as you’d expect.

Water resistance seems to be the same as the GS7’s, including the S-Pen. You can apparently write under water with the thing, should you so choose.

Battery is slightly beefier than the S7 Edge. Fast wireless charging is part of the deal, too.

Software wise, largely the same but with a few differences. Among them are a revamped settings menu and camera controls, but you do get the Edge apps that are present on the GS7 Edge. Even though I’ve been a fan of Samsung’s devices for a while now, it is annoying when I see them put a feature on a phone released a short while after the phone I have and that feature not make it over to my phone. I wonder if S7 and S7 Edge users will feel the same about some of the software changes.

Samsung says the HDR video playback as well as video gameplay will be superb and features like that will appeal to quite a few people who watch more video and actually play games on their phones. I’m not that person as I like tablets for watching video and consoles for playing games. They claim that games playable on this phone will be console level, but I’ve been considering the nVidia K1 (or X1) tablet for mobile gaming, should I get more serious about it. Again, I like screens even larger than phablets for some things. I need to get new glasses soon. Might have something to do with that.

The Note also comes with a secure folder, more on that below.

Despite all the similarities to the S7 series, this is still a Note, so you get …

The S-Pen

Everything you could do before with your S-Pen, you can this time around, but now, you can do some cool things with the S-Pen like create .gifs from content on your screen. The pen can translate words to different languages on the fly as well as magnify the screen. The tip has been made thinner for more precision and Samsung says they’ve improved touch sensitivity for the pen.

Actually, let me backtrack. I kinda don’t care about the whole .gif thing. I just don’t. It’s something I’d probably never use. I’m not 15 and haven’t been for more than 15 years.

They’ve also fixed an issue with Note 5’s where you could put the S-Pen into the phone incorrectly and break the pen. Never had that issue with my Note 4.

Iris Scanning

This might actually be cool all around for some folks.

MKBHD tries this out and it works well for him. I’ve been reading all along that the scanning wouldn’t work well for people with glasses and since I wear them, I wasn’t sure this would be a huge selling point for me. Besides, I’m not ready for a biometric way of opening my phone. I don’t use thumb prints now for the same reason. I’m old fashioned. I like passwords. I promise the scene in Demolition Man where Simon Phoenix carves out the warden’s eyeball for retina scan has nothing to do with how I feel about this.

I also like knowing that if necessary, I can enter my password incorrectly a bunch of times and blow up the phone, without it possibly being held up to my face to open it. When I drive, my exceedingly long password dissuades me from texting and driving as sometimes, it takes the better part of a red light cycle just to open my phone. Forget about even trying to open the thing while driving. My significant other will attest to this. I’m not turning off my screen lock or from passwords until I have to.

However, the aspect of iris scanning I do like that will ship with the phone is the secure folder. Note 7’s will have a Knox-secured folder into which users can put content and even apps and the only way into the folder is through the iris scanner. I don’t hand my phone over to people often, but in the event that I do, I like knowing I can put apps like for things like text messaging into a folder that it’s likely only I will ever have access to. I can surely see myself using the iris scanner for this purpose, even if I plan to keep using passwords to open the phone as long as they’re available. I pretty much keep just cat pictures and selfies in my phone’s gallery, but that doesn’t mean I want anyone swiping through it and if I get a Note 7, I won’t have to worry about that.

Samsung also says they’re working with several banks to bring iris scanning into the security of mobile apps. If I can add an iris scan to the login credentials of one of my banking apps, that’s certainly something I’d be interested in, as well.

Plus, there are other security minded or focused apps that require additional login credentials aside from the lock screen and it’s possible that one day, those may adopt iris scanning as an additional credential you can use to secure those apps. As others have said, this may be a gimmick now, but down the line, I’m sure it will prove to be useful for phone security.

Overall

I’m a fan of the Note series, having used Note 4 phone and the Note Tablet 10.1 (2014), even though it’s never gotten that update to Marshmallow, for a couple of years now. I love the S-Pen more than regular styluses and I’ve bought a bunch of regular styluses for use on my iPad. The S-Pen has come in handy in a few places where I’ve been without a full keyboard, where I’ve needed to jot things down that I could transcribe later.

I also did talk myself into it at the office yesterday. The CEO was in a meeting with a bunch of interns. He’d been having issues with duplicate contacts showing up on his iPhone 6. I went in there while he was talking to the interns to get the phone and assess the situation. And I may have also talked about how good the Note 7 was, relative to the CEO’s current phone and it’s likely successor; I may have also mentioned that my Note 4 was holding up well against Apple’s current generation of iPhones. And that my next phone would be the Note 7. I put it out there a little bit. Nobody’s going to remember except me, but still, I did talk a lot of trash.

So, I’m inclined to buy the phone. However, at its price point, I need to consider if the newer features are worth the super premium price. The phone itself is a huge upgrade from the Note 4, but the S-Pen functionality I can see myself using isn’t really changed. The secure folder is a very welcome addition for me, but that’s something that seems like it might actually show up in the Note’s less expensive S7 cousins.

It does have the Edge apps, which are really cool and one of Samsung’s best innovations, I think. Being able to glance and get sports scores and other information on that edge is something that’s very appealing. But are those worth the extra dollars? That’s what I need to find out.

Overall, Samsung appears to be playing both sides. It’s rolling out new features, but it’s hedging the success of the S series, even so far bringing the Note numbering scheme in line with the S7’s. Note 7 looks like it’ll be quite the phone. And like the U.S.S. Enterprise on Star Trek (prime universe), it’ll be the flagship; still though, it’s not the first of its class (if you’re not a Trekkie/Trekker, trust me on this). It feels more like the biggest variant of the S7 than the top of its own line. That’s not bad, but it’s good to know going forward if the Note will be in line with the S line of phones or if they’ll be large jumps from the S phones, as in iterations past.

During the event, they also mentioned some new VR stuff and I think some Gear Fit stuff, but I don’t care about any of that. I’d stopped watching closely as it was. I’m more concerned with how this phone will work with my current Chromebook and/or a new Chromebook I might get around Christmas time.

Looks like pre-ordering is on now. Available in stores on 8/19, should you feel like braving lines. I don’t. I’ve never gotten to the phone carrier store when they’ve had stock. It’s like millennials’ bodies are all trained to get up an hour or two earlier on phone release day or something. I like hitting that snooze button.

Will someone make a decent privacy screen protector for this phone?

Writer, et. al.