It may go down as the one of the least surprising product launches in history, but that does not make the new Samsung Galaxy Note 7 any less important.
This is a smartphone which comes to the UK on the back of a 10,000-signature petition to reinstate the Note range on our shores. We were treated to every Note from the original to Note 4, but Note 5 was never sold here. The UK team at Samsung went all in on the equally large Galaxy S6 Edge Plus, but consumers wanted the Note unique S Pen stylus.
And so a year and 10,000 signatures later, here we are. No, I am not sure why Note 6 never existed either, but jumping to seven at least aligns the new Note with Samsung's other flagships, the S7 and S7 Edge. The Note 7 was launched at events in New York, London and Rio on 2 August, opens for pre-order on 16 August and goes on sale in the UK on 2 September for £749 SIM-free. After some hands-on time with the Note 7, below are some pertinent observations;
Samsung Galaxy Note 7: Design
The Note 7 clearly shares many of the family genes with the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. It has glass on its front and back, a metal chassis, and a screen which curves down over the edges. The curves are however not as large as on the S7 Edge; instead they wrap halfway around to the phone's surprisingly fingerprint-free back panel, making this a purely aesthetic feature.
It looks great, as does the rest of Note 7. Some will balk at the size of the thing, and packing a 5.7in screen (same as previous Notes) means the bulk is hard to hide. But for those who want a big-screen phone, this is your most stylish model to date.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7: Screen
Big and bright, the 5.7in screen has a resolution of 2560 x 1440, which is quickly becoming par for the smartphone course. It is the same as the Galaxy S6, S7 and the Note 4 and Note 5. It looked great in the limited time we had to use the Note 7, and new for this handset is protection in the form of Gorilla Glass 5, a first for any phone.
As we said above, the curves do not have a practical use, as they (sort of) did in previous Samsung phones. Here, they are purely to extend the screen to the very edges of the handset in the most beautiful way possible. We approve.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7: Iris scanner
Note 7's biggest feature is its iris scanner, another first for any mass-market smartphone. Positioned above the screen, the scanner quickly reads your eyes and only unlocks the phone if its owner is gazing into the sensor.
The system is very easy to set up, as you just need to stare into the screen for a couple of seconds, then unlocking is a case of pressing the home or power button, swiping upwards on the screen, then the sensor does the rest. If someone else tries, then the phone simply will not unlock.
The scanner worked perfectly for me, but there are a number of limitations. A disclaimer shown the first time you set up the scanner reveals how it struggles with users wearing glasses or contact lenses, or those who have had recent eye surgery, and cannot be used by children as it may damage their eyesight. A less obvious issue we are yet to explore is how the scanner works under different lighting conditions; will it work at night, or in a dimly lit room, for example?
We will find out more once we have had time to fully review the Note 7. Given the 2 September release date, this will be a few weeks away yet.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7: S Pen stylus
The familiar S Pen stylus returns for a sixth outing with Note 7. This time Samsung has doubled its sensitivity, to over 4,000 levels of sensitivity. It now also works when the screen is wet (or entirely underwater) for the first time. Another exclusive innovation is the ability to write a quick note on the screen while the phone is locked. Just take out the S Pen and start scribbling. A new feature we did not have time to try out is translation via the S Pen; draw around a piece of text on-screen and Note 7 will offer up a translation.
Yes, actually. The Note 7 is the first Note to be water-resistant; it will survive up to 30 minutes in 1.5 metres of clean water. It runs Android 6 Marshmallow, has 64GB of storage (plus room for up to 256GB more via a microSD card slot), and there is a USB Type-C port, plus a Micro USB adapter in the box.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7: First impression
The Note 7 is a beautiful handset and it feels good to have the S Pen-equipped Note brand back in the UK. It has always been (and will likely always be) a niche part of Samsung's line-up, but one which is hugely powerful, looks great, and offers the benefits of a big screen and lasting battery. Adding water resistance, an improved stylus and headline-grabbing iris recognition only further secures the Note 7's position as a must-have smartphone.
IBTimes UK will be bringing you much more on the Samsung Note 7 once it goes on sale in the UK in September.