iPhone fans are not going to like hearing this, but Samsung’s Galaxy Note7 (yes, there’s no space) is the best smartphone money can buy right now.
I don’t make that statement lightly. I’ve been a devout iPhone user who has owned four iPhones as his main everyday-carry phone for the last six years.
Against all odds, Samsung has made the most impressive smartphone ever created.
But it runs Android and has TouchWiz. Ewww! That may have been a deal-breaker a few years ago, but they’re non-issues today.
iOS has better apps and usually gets apps first! True, but the core apps that I use every single day all work just as well on Android and sometimes even better (like Gmail).
The Note7 is available on every major U.S. mobile carrier in three different colors: Blue Coral, Black Onyx and Silver Titanium. As one of Samsung’s premium phones, it rightfully commands a matching price: about $850 for the full, unsubsidized price. An iPhone 6S Plus with the same 64GB of internal storage costs the same.
Feature for feature, the Note7 beats the iPhone 6S Plus and I don’t see that changing with this year’s new iPhones, which are expected to be more boring than previous years, especially when compared to what’s been rumored about next year’s 10th anniversary iPhones.
Stunning from every angle
I really didn’t think phones could get sexier than Samsung’s own Galaxy S7 Edge until I saw the Note7 in person.
Samsung knocked the hardware out of the ballpark and into outer space with this phone. I feel very confident in saying the Note7 is the most beautiful smartphone ever created.
It’s sleeker and more gorgeous than the iPhone 6S and if the rumors are true, it already looks hotter than the iPhone 7 (or whatever Apple calls its next phone) by a wide margin. The last time there was such a jump in smartphone aesthetics was the iPhone 4.
The Note7 is barely larger than the S7 Edge and somehow has a larger 5.7-inch Quad HD (2,560 x 1,440) Super AMOLED screen, which looks unbelievably stunning. DisplayMate’s Dr. Raymond Soneira is right. This is the best smartphone display available with the deepest black levels, the clearest colors and a brightness of 1,000 nits that puts the iPhone 6S Plus to shame.
This is the best smartphone display available.
The phone’s beautiful screen is also capable of streaming HDR (High Dynamic Range) videos from Amazon Video. I didn’t get to try any HDR videos since they weren’t available during testing time, there will be 150 hours worth of HDR content including shows like The Man in the High Castle and movies like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in the future.
Like the S7 Edge, the Note7 rocks curved displays along its right and left edges. The now signature Samsung design is even better on the Note7 since the curvature isn’t as pronounced. I noticed fewer reflections on the bent sides while watching videos, and because the metal frame is aligned in the center instead of towards the base, the phone’s also easier to firmly hold onto.
The Note 5 (last year’s model in case you or maybe Samsung lost count) had a curved backside to make it fit better in your palm. The Note7’s backside glass still has dual curved edges, but they’re symmetrical to the front glass and sandwich the metal frame in an aesthetically pleasing way. And yeah, the glass on the back is still a huge fingerprint magnet.
USB-C and headphone jack
Everything else about the phone is exactly what it should be. The buttons are placed well for finger reach, the camera hump on the back is as flat as the S7 and S7 Edge’s, the antenna lines on the metal frame don’t offend, the micro-drilled holes for the speaker are neatly aligned with the rest of the ports on the bottom and there’s a headphone jack. The Note7 is also Samsung’s first phone with the new reversible USB-C port.
As a Note, the phone comes with an S Pen stylus for better productivity use cases. The new and improved S Pen is twice as responsive as the Note 5’s with 4,096 levels of pressure. Artists and notetakers will love it. Samsung’s even made it impossible to insert it incorrectly and accidentally break your new phone. And like the phone, the S Pen is also IP68-rated for dust and water-resistance, which means you can get it wet all you want and even write on the screen underwater.
Samsung’s fingerprint sensors are right up their in responsiveness with the iPhone’s Touch ID sensor. The addition of an iris scanner and an IR sensor on the front of the phone, however, takes security to a whole new level.
The iris scanner looks for your eyes and the IR sensor helps the scanner to work even in the dark. Setting up the iris scanner is as quick and easy as setting up a fingerprint. You align your eyes with two circles on the screen and wait for the calibration to finish. The Note7 can store up to four fingerprints, but only one pair of irises.
I feel like Tony Stark every time I unlock the phone with my eyes.
I feel like Tony Stark every time I unlock the phone with my eyes, but as I mentioned in my hands-on, the execution misses the mark. I found it faster to unlock the phone with a fingerprint than waking up the phone, swiping to bring up the iris scanner/PIN (or pattern)/fingerprint unlock screen than getting my eyes scanned.
How secure is the iris scanner? Pretty darn secure. I tried tricking it with a high-resolution photo of my two eyes and using a video closeup of my eyes and failed.
The iris scanner isn’t perfect, though. It did feel like it got faster and faster over time (sometimes I didn’t even need to align my eyes with the two circles), but it sometimes had trouble detecting my smaller eyes, asking me to “open eyes fully”, and reflections in my glasses always interfered with the scans.
Still, I like that it’s there if you want the extra layer security and I really like how it can protect your private files and apps in the new Secure Folder. Everything you put in this separate partition of the phone is protected either by your iris, fingerprint or passcode.
Performance and battery king
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB of RAM have been nothing but win for Android phones this year in the performance department.
The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge both rock the combo and are screaming fast. Same goes for the Note7. I couldn’t slow it down with my heavier-than-average usage. 3D games run beautifully and games optimized with the turbocharged Vulkan graphics API like Need for Speed: No Limits rival last-gen consoles like the Xbox 360 and PS3 in terms of visuals and performance.
With the S7 and S7 Edge, Samsung decided to sell it with a single storage model: 32GB. The Note7 comes in a single storage capacity, too: 64GB. If you need more, you can add up to 256GB via a microSD card. (Samsung will give you a free 256GB microSD card worth $250 with a pre-order.) In total, you could pimp out the Note7 to have a combined 320GB of storage, which is more than enough to keep 2-3 years worth of full-resolution photos and 4K videos like I do on my phone.
The Note7 runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. It’s a little disappointing it’s not shipping with Android 7.0 Nougat, but Samsung says it’ll get updated within 2-3 months.
Galaxy S7 Edge
Even without Nougat, Marshmallow is great out of the box just like on the S7 and S7 Edge. Android is still skinned with Samsung’s TouchWiz interface and icons, but Samsung has injected a little botox to give it a fresher appearance. Things like the Settings app have been tidied and the Quick Settings as well. It’s not the overhaul I was expecting, but TouchWiz has come a long way from the bloated mess it once was.
Galaxy S7 Edge
On the Note7, Samsung’s consolidated several apps into a single app called Samsung Notes. It’s less cluttered and makes it easier to launch features for the S Pen.
My favorite feature on the Note 5 was its screen-off memo feature, which lets you start writing on the black screen as soon as you pull the S Pen out. On the Note7, Samsung’s gone a step farther and added the ability to pin your memos to the Always-on Display. I found it very handy to have quick access to my to-do along with the calendar and time, but I wish the notes were actually pinned on the screen instead of stored inside of the memo icon, which you need to double tap.
You still get previous Note features like Screen Capture, which can screenshot long websites and Smart Write which takes a screenshot and lets you write on top of it, but there’s are two new S Pen features on the Note7.
The first is within Smart Select (activated by launching Air Command by pressing the S Pen’s button on the screen) and lets you create a GIF animation of a video by selecting a portion of a screen. It works kind of like GifGrabber for the Mac. It’s really cool and easy to use.
Easy GIF maker
Here’s a GIF I made:
The second is the Translate feature, which lets you hover over a word and translate it into another language. You can also hear the word pronounced. I was less impressed by Translate since it’s a little clunky to use. The Google Translate app works faster for me and Google Goggles, which uses the camera and translates signs and printed words in real-time, is more advanced in my opinion.
The Note7 also has the S7 Edge’s “edge” panels. Things like shortcuts to apps and contacts and notifications really make it a power-user-focused phone.
Edge panels come to the Note
Keeping the Note7 going is a 3,500 milliamp-hour (mAh) non-removable battery, which takes up more than half the space inside of the phone. The S7 Edge has a slightly larger 3,600 mAh battery, but I still saw almost two days of usage.
Battery life is better than the iPhone 6S Plus and Fast Charging and Fast Wireless Charging make the Note7 the better choice. With Fast Charging, you can charge the Note 7 from 0% to 40% in 30 minutes.
16-megapixel back camera
5-megapixel selfie camera
The Note7 also has the same great cameras from the S7 and S7 Edge. The backside has a 12-megapixel f/1.7 aperture lens and the front has a 5-megapixel camera f/1.7 lens as well. They both perform exactly the same as the S7 duo so I won’t go into lengths here. You can read my S7 Edge review for a more detailed breakdown of the cameras. TL;DR: They’re super fast to autofocus, shoot and are the best cameras in low-light.
Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE
Image: raymond wong/mashable
Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE
Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE
Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE
What I will mention is the improved camera interface. There are now intuitive gestures like swiping up or down to switch between the back and front camera and swiping left and and right brings up your camera settings and filters, respectively. Coupled with the double-tap-home-button-to-launch-camera feature and the Note7 has the best cameras on any smartphone.
Climbing to the top
Those who know me best know I’m obsessive in my pursuit of perfection especially when it comes to gadgets. Though I own an iPhone, I don’t play favorites.
I demand the best not a brand. I crave clean, sensible design. I demand performance. I refuse to accept significant compromises.
The Note7 fuses state of the art hardware with Android in a harmonious package.
People have said for years that it’s impossible for Android phone makers to replicate the iPhone’s hardware and software synergy because they don’t own the software. The closest thing to an iPhone has been Google’s Nexus phones.
But I think Samsung’s finally figured it out. The Note7 fuses state of the art hardware with Android in a harmonious package. It’s not stock Android, but TouchWiz has evolved so much over the last six years, it’s no longer a crutch. It’s a deliberate design decision for a better smartphone experience.
Life is too short to own a second-best phone when the phone is so central to our lives now. And right now, that phone is the Galaxy Note7.
Samsung Galaxy Note7
Big, bright screen Gorgeous design Long-lasting battery life Best-in-class cameras Blazing performance Expandable storage Cool iris scanner
Only comes in 64GB Unlocking phone with iris scanner is gimmicky
The Bottom Line
The Galaxy Note7 combines the best of Samsung’s flagship phones into one super phone.
Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/08/16/samsung-galaxy-note7-review/