Admittedly, I haven’t had enough time with the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 to be able to get used to it as a daily driver. As with all of the other reviews including Dom’s, we’re under a week in over here. But that doesn’t mean this thing hasn’t blown me away in a lot of respects. Nor does it mean that it is flawless.
The question: Should you get this smartphone?
The short answer is yes…if…
If you are considering the Note 7, you’ve already come to terms with the price which is just about the most expensive thing you can buy in Android-land at almost $900. You probably view the stylus as an advantage. You probably like your phones big – although comparatively, this is the smallest big phone you can find.
That slippery curved display is worth it for the extra features, and let’s just be honest here, the wow factor when you show other people. And probably most importantly, you are OK with Samsung’s app ecosystem, the Touchwiz overlay and the carrier add-ons that inevitably come with it.
I’m not yet with you there on the last point. I’m still in the Nexus camp when it comes to software. I like the latest OS, clean and simple with only Google apps on the phone by default. Of course Google has been making it easier and easier to get that look and feel with Now and new Nexus launchers and other refinements available through the Play Store.
Those are about all of the big caveats I can think of after a few days with the new Note 7. The perhaps one other is that there is a new HTC Nexus phone coming soon that might have some surprise Google features that we haven’t heard about. But I wouldn’t count on it being more whiz bang than the Note 7.
The Note 7 is a gorgeous, ‘friends stop what they are doing and take notice’ type of phone. As with the S7, the Note 7s combination of curved glass and microscopic bezels is unlike almost anything out there. Even iPhone owners take notice, just like a Samsung Line-waiters commercial.
My biggest beef with Samsung’s S7 is that it still uses a Micro-USB port. While I still have tons of those legacy cables, I’ve moved my desk, car, bedside, batteries, etc. to USB-C so having the S7 is a throwback. We’re now a USB-C society (even Chromebooks and MacBooks use it) and with the Note 7, Samsung is finally now on board.
Samsung also included a Fast Charge wireless charger in my review package and it works really well in either portrait or landscape mode. Both charging by USB-C and wireless is super fast, and between fast/easy charging and the 3500mAh battery (x 5V=17.5Wh) battery, this thing is always charged. On battery alone, I had little problem lasting a full day even with heavy usage.
Another standout feature on the Note 7 is the Iris scanner which works well but with the fingerprint scanner feels a little redundant. It works better and better –or should I say faster and faster – the more you use it and even works in dark rooms or with glasses on. But if you are pushing the home button anyway, the almost instant fingerprint scanner seems tough to beat in terms of convenient security methods.
When it comes to the stylus, I tend to agree with the late great Steve Jobs. I just don’t use it. I can always type faster, especially on the S7’s great keyboard (and the Google Keyboard I replaced it with). Adding words to images and signing my name can be done with my finger just as easy and frankly the process of removing the pen removes any convenience factors the S-Pens adds. However, in limited usage, the now more accurate, smaller tip pen that comes with the Note 7 is fantastic and for those who rely on a stylus, this will be one of the best they’ve used.
One thing I wasn’t quite prepared for is how small this big display phone is. Since the screen for intents and purposes spans the whole width, and the chrome on the top and bottom is minimal, this phone is significantly smaller than the Nexus 6 and 6P for instance. It even makes the iPhone 6/s Plus with its much more chrome on all sides seem like a generation or two older.
I’m not a fan of the choice of rear material – Gorilla Glass. Besides adding weight to the already dense Note 7, it is breakable and it feels like it gets smudges within seconds of using. Most people will put a case on here but I have to question that decision.
The software experience is exactly what you’d expect. Samsung takes Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow and puts a bunch of its apps, its overlay and its way of doing things on top. If you are used to this, it is probably not a big deal. For those of us who switch phones often, moving through the OS and finding the right setting can be a hassle.
Taking advantage and getting used to Samsung’s add-ons also becomes tedious and something that will come with time. I’ve resolved to try to get used to these this time around. I’ll try Samsung Pay in the coming weeks and maybe even get that S-Pen going. But for now, they don’t enter into my daily needs.
Samsung has loaded up plenty of speed with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 and the 4GB of RAM means plenty of apps and browser windows can coexist well. You know the Note 7 is going to be snappy just like you know it is going to have the best camera and best display.
Maybe one of the biggest sleeper advantages of the Note 7 is the storage. Mine came standard with 64GB but for $200, you can buy a 256GB MicroSD card to bring the total available storage to a whopping 320GB. If you take 4K video, this becomes a necessity.
The smartphone market has matured and every new release no longer has to have a whiz-bang, killer new features. Samsung however has become the Android flagship standard-bearer of the high-end “new”with its Galaxy line, and the Note 7 is the latest and greatest in that family. It is the best you can buy in so many ways.
These things aren’t really up for debate: Best Camera. Best screen. Most storage. One of the fastest OS experiences. Sleek, head-turning design. S-Pen Stylus is probably the best pen computing experience you’ll find on a smartphone. It is easily the best Android device you can buy and many believe the best smartphone of any kind.
But damn, it is expensive. At close to $1000 retail, that’s up to three times as expensive as the new budget Android flagships that cut one corner or another. Even a Nexus 6P can be found under $400. The carriers will take some of the edge off by subsidizing the cost and making the upfront fee a more palatable $350. But that Samsung/Carrier experience means you won’t get Android updates as fast as Nexus, you’ll be paying out the wazoo every month and you may not like the extras that get added.
Which means there are still compromises to consider. Choose wisely.