This is the best and most disastrous smartphone Samsung has built in 20 years. The chances of you owning this device, the latest of one of the most successful smartphone series on the market, is limited because Samsung recalled it then stopped production of it after there were reports of the battery pack exploding. Nevertheless, I had a chance to test the 5.66-inch phablet and discovered that, critical battery flaw aside, the Note 7 is an incredible handset.
- ✓Best camera on the market
- ✓Unmatched design
- ✓High display quality
- ✓USB Type-C
- ✓Large internal storage capacity
- ✓Game Tool software
- ✓IP68 certification
- ✕Its battery explodes
- ✕Mono audio
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 release date and price
The Galaxy Note 7 was officially presented by Samsung on August 22 and the first units went on sale soon after. The Note 7 would be sold in black, gold and silver for around $849 (depending on the carrier) for 64 GB of internal storage space.
Galaxy Note 7 Total Recall
Due to problems with the device battery causing some units to explode when charged, Samsung started the biggest recall the company has seen in the past 20 years.
The recall has been conducted to protect consumers. Samsung was putting lives at risk and could have been on the verge of receiving a huge number of lawsuits. Below are the developments in the story.
Production of the Note 7 has been permanently halted.
October 13: Samsung's flagship may have been one of the best phones ever made, but it was also one of the most dangerous, which is why it's finally been permanently withdrawn from sale. If you own one, Samsung is urging you to return the device for a different model or refund, and for customers in the US, is providing incentives of up to $100 in store credit.
October 11: The Galaxy Note 7 is dead. After months of recalls and re-recalls Samsung is finally throwing in the towel. The Galaxy Note 7 is being taken off the market.
Earlier today, Samsung sent out a press release telling retailers and carriers to quit selling the Note 7. This comes as the controversy continues for the South Korean smartphone giant. Yesterday, AndroidPIT reported the replacements for the Note 7 are also starting on fire.
The press release was posted on Samsung's website and asks owners of Note 7s to "power down and stop using the device and take advantage of the remedies available". The 'remedy' depends on who you bought the device through. Check out our guide on how to return your Samsung Galaxy Note 7 for all the details.
October 10: Samsung suspended production of the Galaxy Note 7 until further notice. This is due to replacement models of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 starting on fire. The story was originally broke by Yonhap News Agency from South Korea.
Samsung decided to halt production in cooperation with safety regulators from South Korea, the United States and China according to a Yonhap source. The Samsung official said: "This measure includes a Samsung plant in Vietnam that is responsible for global shipments (of the Galaxy Note 7)".
Five new cases of Note 7s catching on fire were reported by various US news sources. Following this development, T-Mobile stopped selling the device. If you bought one through them you are entitled to a $25 in-store credit of offset any cost incurred by the recall.
October 7: Carriers are taking action to ensure their customers don't blame them for Samsung's problems with the Note 7. T-Mobile lets its customers replace their Note 7s within 14 days of purchase. Now Sprint is allowing customers to exchange their Note 7s for any other device in the store.
Recode said a Sprint representative claimed "If a Sprint customer with a replacement Note 7 has any concerns regarding their device, we will exchange it for any other device at any Sprint retail store during the investigation window".
We don't yet have any word on what the other major carriers will offer but we'll let you know as soon as there's more information.
September 29: The Galaxy Note 7 is still causing problems for Samsung. The exchange program was supposed to end in October but now there are several reports of replacement devices overheating in the United States. Samsung is aware of this and released the following statement:
"There have been a few reports about the battery charging levels and we would like to reassure everyone that the issue does not pose a safety concern". The company added that "In normal conditions, all smartphones may experience temperature fluctuations."
We'll keep you updated as we learn more.
September 26: According to the Wall Street Journal, the replacement Note 7s are overheating and losing battery power even while they're being charged. A Samsung spokesperson said the incidents are "isolated" and "completely unrelated to batteries". About half of American replacement phones were already sent out.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 design and build quality
The Galaxy Note 7 design is inspired by the Galaxy S7 Edge with some small optimizations. The result is a symmetrical design and it's undoubtedly one of the nicest smartphones I've ever had in my hands.
The symmetry of Note 7 can be seen on the sides. The metal frame has been tuned perfectly, curved to reach the display and to roll around to the back. At a glance, it might seem like an insignificant difference, but the change is felt when you have the device in hand. When you hold the new Galaxy Note, compared to the S7 Edge, the impression is that this is not a 5.7-inch device. It's easy to hold in one hand.
When comparing this model to its predecessor, the Galaxy Note 5, we see even more changes, notably the curved screen and the fact that the Note 7 has more angular corners than the Note 5.
At the front of Note 7, we have the iris scanner at the top of the screen and the start button, which also acts a fingerprint scanner, at the bottom.
On the bottom of the device to is the 3.5 mm minijack, stylus holder and the USB Type-C battery connector. This handset is almost as thick as the Galaxy S7 edge. To give you an idea of its size compared to the competition, the dimensions of the new iPhone 7 Plus are 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm, with a 5.5-inch screen, the Note 7 dimensions are 153.5 x 73.9 x 7.9 mm.
The Galaxy Note 7 also offers the IP68 certification for resistance to water and dust, which extends to the S Pen. Thus, there are no longer any worries about accidentally dropping the stylus in water. This feature is extremely good for when you want to use the device with wet hands.
The S-Pen has also undergone improvements. The tip of it is thinner than before, which makes the experience of writing and drawing more fluid. Further, pressing the button on its side for a few seconds turns it into an eraser, meaning you can edit notes you've created without needing to activate this function on the phone itself.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 display
The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 display uses Super AMOLED technology and comes in QHD (2566 x 1440) resolution. What makes it unique compared to other models in the series is its dual-edge design.
It has vivid colors, deep blacks and super sharp images, everything we should expect from a Super AMOLED display from Samsung. Among the main screen features of the Note 7 is support for HDR10, a blue light filter to reduce eye-strain and Gorilla Glass 5 protection.
The main novelty of the Galaxy Note 7 screen is that it's ready to play videos and games in HDR. In theory, this function allows the display to reproduce colors and contrast in a more realistic way. The HDR10 feature of the Note 7 screen offers, as the name implies, a wider range of color.
The chance to produce a greater range of color reduces the likelihood of images losing quality when being shown on the Note 7 display. Below you can see a sample image which reveals the more harmonious distribution of gray on a 10-bit display.
Night mode is something that Android users have wanted for some time and it's here on the Galaxy Note 7. Manufacturers like Asus and Apple house this feature on their smartphones and Android 7.0 Nougat offers this feature natively. Considering that the Galaxy Note 7 is pitched as a productivity tool, Samsung puts the blue light filter front and center in its notifications.
When enabled, this feature reduces the blue light emitted by the display as the day goes on which can help you to sleep better (it's the blue-light that keeps us awake).
Gorilla Glass 5
Corning, the manufacturer of Gorilla Glass, claims that, based on its tests, this material is almost twice as resistant to falls as its predecessor: protected against 80 percent of drops from a height of up to 1.60 meters.
The Galaxy Note 7 I tested wasn't subject to such a drop test, so I can't attest to the durability of it, however, during the time I was with the unit, I did not notice any scratches and never used any protection. What's more, the device was often loose in my backpack or in my pocket.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 special features
One of the most exciting features of the Galaxy Note 7 is the iris scanner. This scans your eyes to unlock the phone and it's fast but it's not as functional as the fingerprint reader of this smartphone.
The great advantage of using the iris scanner is safety. Each person has a unique iris pattern which remains unchanged throughout a person's life, making it a great way to identify someone.
The Galaxy Note 7 comes with support for USB 3.1 Type-C, which enables the unit to charge faster and transfer data quicker than its predecessors. This standard isn't widespread, so remember to take the cable and adapter everywhere.
The Air Command menu goes hand-in-hand with the S Pen. This is the central software hub where you will access S-Pen specific features. Firstly, there is now a magnifying glass to enlarge content and you can use the S Pen to translate words and phrases.
This feature also integrates with the Note 7 camera, meaning it can be used to translate signs, menus or instructions.
The most entertaining feature, however, is the ability to create GIFs from your videos or YouTube. Just highlight a sequence with the S Pen to convert it into a GIF.
If you removed the S Pen with the screen off, you can also quickly write notes during a meeting or jot down an idea.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 software
The Galaxy Note 7 interface has been adapted from TouchWiz and is called Grace UX. In a direct comparison with TouchWiz on the S7, I can say that Grace is more mature and subtle.
The device leaves the factory running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow and, although Samsung has not yet officially confirmed when the device will receive the update to Android 7.0 Nougat, T-Mobile says that it will receive the newest version of Google's operating system.
With the change in Note 7's UI, some features became hard to find. During my tests, the "Smart Lock" menu repeatedly evaded me – I had to locate it using the search icon in the settings. Quick tip: use Smart Lock in conjunction with the biometric sensors (fingerprint or iris scanner) of Galaxy Note 7 to make your experience even better; you can make it so that you don't need to unlock the screen when at home or at work.
If you want to protect your files from prying eyes, Samsung implemented a feature called Secure Box on the Note 7 that you can take advantage of. In it, you can store everything you want to keep private and the access it only by using a biometric sensor.
Game Launcher, a software feature for games Samsung introduced on the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, is also present on the Note 7. This feature automatically adds your games to a specific folder and creates a floating button called the 'Game Tool' which can be used within these games.
Using the Game Tool, you can record footage and share this with other users and disable the capacitive keys during play.
The 'Screen Edge' feature from the S6 Edge and S7 Edge is present in the Galaxy Note 7, allowing users to swipe to the right or left of the screen to access a list of services. This feature offers the user a shortcut to up to five favorite contacts and favorite websites.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 performance
The Galaxy Note 7 was announced with two processor variants, one with Snapdragon 820, the other with the Exynos 8890. The unit we tested made use of the Exynos and comes with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage which can be expanded up to 256 GB via microSD card.
During my time with the Note 7, one thing was clear, the device does not deliver the performance you would expect from the tech specs mentioned. Samsung should have followed in the footsteps of OnePlus and added 6 GB of RAM to the new Galaxy Note.
Don't get me wrong, the performance of Galaxy Note 7 is satisfactory, but an update to the Grace UI could transform the experience with this device into something very impressive. During a game of Nova 3, the system choked sometimes, the opposite of what happened when I played the same game on the OnePlus 3.
In the Note 7 benchmark tests, I noticed virtually the same scores achieved in S7 Galaxy Edge but many of the devices that have been tested here at AndroidPIT that come wth a Snapdragon 820 show equivalent or better performance than the Exynos 8890.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 audio
The Galaxy Note 7 isn't the best smartphone in terms of sound quality. Like the Galaxy S7 Edge, using the Note 7 to play Spotify at home or indoors isn't a problem at 75 volume, but above that, depending on the style of music, the audio loses clarity.
This can be frustrating, especially because Samsung invested a lot in this device for productivity and entertainment. An HDR display should have been supported by stereo speakers. Another problem is the position of the speaker, which can easily be covered by a hand.
The feeling I have is that Samsung improved the gaming experience by offering the floating Game Tools button and then forgot that audio is one of the most relevant parts of a game.
However, when using the device with earphones, things change. Just like the Galaxy Note 5, Samsung brings a native software audio equalizer, which can be used to optimize the sound regardless of the app, Don't expect miracles, the audio can be improved by using this feature, but the change isn't really significant from one configuration to another.
The Galaxy Note 7 comes with headphones but you won't be blown away by them.
The device speaker for calls is really good and the microphone captures the voice while leaving ambient noise behind. The call reception is clear no matter which side of the conversation you're on.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 camera
The Note 7 has the same camera as the Galaxy S7 Edge, meaning it has one of the best cameras on the market. The main camera comes with a 12-megapixel resolution and f / 1.7 aperture and Dual Pixel technology. It's an impressive combination, capturing sharp images with great contrast.
The Note 7 also shows small improvements in the camera app. You can quickly switch the front and rear cameras, and access the settings menu and filters with a quick tap. You can also double-tap on the physical home button to quickly launch the device camera.
The camera of the Galaxy Note 7 is one of the best I've ever tested. The optical image stabilizer is accurate, the autofocus is super fast and there are few photos which don't look good in one tap.
The color representation is super accurate, images are crisp and provide excellent detail. The dynamic range is also very good.
The front camera comes in at 5 MP resolution and also has an f / 1.7 aperture. The front camera software features modes for corrections and you can highlight certain parts of the face in selfies or group photos.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 battery
We have evaluated the Note 7 battery based on our experience with the original review unit i.e. the model that has now been recalled. We will update this analysis when we receive the new and improved Galaxy Note 7 sometime in the future.
The Galaxy Note 7 has a 3,500 mAh battery which means 100 mAh less than the Galaxy S7 Edge. However, it is a step forward for the series, as the Note 5 came with 3,000 mAh battery. During my tests, the device displayed battery life as you would expect for a smartphone with such power.
The Galaxy Note 7 battery behaved very well. I used the device connected to Wi-Fi most of the time, watched videos and played at least two games per day. In addition, I used Chrome to access the internet and applications such as Messenger, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Netflix, Spotify and use the screen with automatic brightness activated.
Power saving mode
The new Samsung device comes with two power-saving modes: Normal and Maximum. The first limits the use of mobile data in the background, reduces processor speed and decreases the screen resolution.
The second is much more aggressive and dramatically reduces what is possible with your phone. Furthermore, Samsung optimized energy consumption during games in order to save energy. When you start the Game Launcher app, for example, you have the option to save battery during games.
The Galaxy Note 7 brings fast charging technology and also wireless charging technology. When I charged the device from 0 percent, it took only 80 minutes to reach 80 percent.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 technical specifications
The Galaxy Note 7 has a great design, display and camera. What's more, the software is good and the battery can last all day. Despite the high price, the Galaxy Note 7 would be a complete package if it wasn't for the battery problems.
The iPhone 7 Plus, announced last week, is a major competitor of the Note 7 and will in all likelihood be available before Samsung puts the Note 7 back on store shelves. Looking from this angle, the South Korean manufacturer will no doubt have to reduce the price of the new Note to quash further losses – and that's good for consumers.
|Design and build quality||10|
|Battery (the ones that don't explode)||8|
The Galaxy Note 7 is one of the best, if not the best, smartphone that I've ever tested and I'm considering it as my next phone. The exploding battery situation might be terrible for Samsung, but if it resolves the issue and drops the Note 7 price, it could make the Note 7 an even more attractive purchase option when it reappears.
What are your thoughts on the Samsung Galaxy Note 7? Let us know in the comments.