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article imageSamsung's Galaxy Note 7 adds an iris scanner and improved S Pen

By James Walker     Aug 2, 2016 in Technology
Samsung has officially announced the Galaxy Note 7, an "intelligent smartphone that thinks big." The Note 7 is a flagship phone for power users, featuring high-end performance, waterproofing and a revised version of Samsung's unique S Pen stylus.
The Note 7 was unveiled at a dedicated launch event today. Samsung has skipped over the Note 6 entirely to bring the branding of its Note line up to speed with that of the flagship S series. It now has the Galaxy S7 and Note 7, compared to last year's S6 and Note 5.
The Note 7 has a new curved 5.7-inch quad-HD AMOLED display that supports HDR video, allowing for a greater range of colours in images. Available in Blue Coral, Gold Platinum, Silver Titanium and Black Onyx, the phone's metal body is sleek and refined. Its flat sides meet each other with smooth curves and the top and bottom bezels are both impressively thin. The phone is waterproof to the IP68 standard, letting you use it in the rain or while washing up without fear of it getting splashed.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Samsung
Underneath, the Note 7 is pretty much identical to the existing Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. In the U.S., it'll come with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 820 processor but all other markets will see one of Samsung's own Exynos chips. Performance will be largely the same across both versions.
There's 4GB of RAM on board and a large 64GB of storage. The primary camera is a 12-megapixel sensor. While it may not sound terribly impressive, the Galaxy S7 has proven to be one of the most competent smartphone cameras ever built. It is joined by a 5MP front camera.
With the underlying hardware largely the same as on the S7, Samsung has been able to concentrate on more unique user-facing features for the new phone. It has an all-new iris scanner that allows you to sign in almost instantly by looking at the device. It is one of very few smartphones to have such a system, with only Microsoft employing iris recognition previously on its Lumia 950 series.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Samsung
Samsung's S Pen, the unique active stylus shipped with every Note, has been upgraded for the Note 7. It has a smaller 0.7mm tip and improved pressure sensitivity for a more realistic writing experience. Samsung has created a new app to accompany the stylus, Samsung Notes, that delivers a "unified" S Pen experience. It can store and organise handwritten jottings, notes and drawings in one location.
The phone's software has also been upgraded. While the Note 7 comes with Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box, Samsung will deliver 7.0 Nougat in a future update. It has revised its own TouchWiz Android skin with new cleaner menus and colours, making it more visually appealing. The new design should come to older phones in the future.
The Galaxy Note has long been a popular phone with power users and the Note 7 looks to continue that tradition. It has a long list of supporting features including a large 3,500mAh battery, quick charging, USB Type-C, Samsung Pay mobile payments, Bluetooth 4.2, superfast 802.11ac MIMO Wi-Fi and Corning's recently-launched Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back, offering superior protection against drops.
"The Galaxy Note7 combines productivity and entertainment, with strong security features. Powering a robust ecosystem, it is the ideal device for those who want to achieve more in life," said DJ Koh, President of Mobile Communications Business, Samsung Electronics. "Life moves faster than ever now so we created the Galaxy Note7 to help users get things done more easily wherever, whenever."
Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Samsung
The Note isn't such a niche phone as it once was. When the line was introduced, phablets were in their infancy and large screen phones were viewed with scepticism. Today, 5.7-inch handsets are much more common though and the Note 7 has a wider audience to appeal to.
In some ways, the phone stands out less than it used to. Whereas it once set the standards for flagship smartphones, now it tries to extend what's possible rather than reinvent it. In an age of big-screen phones that have largely the same design, the Note 7 sticks to this formula in a way that's unusual for the brand.
The list of Note-exclusive features is rapidly dwindling, this year focused around the safe haven of the S Pen and the new iris scanner. Whether the latter will have staying power remains to be seen. Users may well opt for the more reliable fingerprint sensor rather than risk the unproven new technology.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Samsung
By basing the Note 7 on the Galaxy S7, Samsung is conceding it's becoming harder than ever to build a standout flagship smartphone. With the market approaching saturation and new device launches boasting the same specs and basic designs, it's no longer enough to have a fast processor and lots of storage. While the Note 7 will undoubtedly still be a success, it appears to be lacking the unique flair of previous Note releases.
Samsung says the phone will go on sale worldwide on August 19. This year, it's recovering from its fatal mistake of not bringing the Note 5 to Europe, a move that didn't go down well with fans of the line. Pricing hasn't been announced yet but will be set higher than the Galaxy S7 Edge, a phone with a retail price of around $800.
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