First of all, no, it didn’t explode. At least not while I had it.
It’s unfortunate that shortly after I got my review unit of the Note 7, news started breaking about bad batteries that could explode which of course is not good. Samsung fairly quickly responded and has been recalling the phones and replacing them – contact your carrier or use their exchange website if you got an early batch.
It’s also unfortunate because in my opinion, this is the best phone Samsung has ever made. It’s not without it’s issues (exploding ones aside) but the Note line has always been my favorite Android device. The Note 7 continues that trend and incorporates many of the best things of the S line of (slightly) smaller phones.
Unlock by death glare
Aside from the fingerprint scanner and normal pin/pattern methods of unlocking the Note 7, Samsung also added an iris scanner to the mix.
At first I thought this would be great…just pick up the phone and look at it (as you would) and it would unlock after recognizing your eyes. If only this worked as well in practice. It was easy enough to set up using a wizard to guide you through the process.
The first big issue with this method is that it doesn’t work ‘as well’ with contacts or glasses. My experience was that it didn’t work at all with either for me. In fact, it only worked about 50% of the time if I bothered to take my glasses off. It kept telling me to open my eyes ‘fully’…
That got tiring almost immediately and I reverted back to a pin unlock. Maybe it’s just my face/eyes but it was pretty frustrating to glare at the phone trying to unlock it. When it it did work, it worked very quickly so there is that although I think my iPhone fingerprint unlock is faster.
The other big issue this method has is that it doesn’t really work outside or even in places with lots of natural sunlight due to the infrared illumination that it uses to scan the iris. So good luck unlocking your Note 7 by glaring at it while outside.
During the media briefing, the folks from Samsung demonstrated the water resistance of the Note 7 by dropping it into a bowl of water. I’ve never had a water accident with my own phones (yet but have come close) but the fact that the Note 7 is well protected from spills or even a drop in a toilet or pool is pretty awesome. It negates the need to buy a dedicated waterproof case. Even if the S pen is out of the ‘pen hole’, it’s protected.
I happen to be in Seattle for a friend’s birthday pool party where a number of others had just gotten their Note 7s and a few of them ended up in the pool without fear of damage.
As before, the screen on the Note 7 is stunning.
While not an ‘Edge’ device, the screen has almost no bezel as it wraps around the front of the device. The screen is actually bigger than my iPhone 6S Plus but is a physically smaller phone due to the non-existent bezel. It’s also capable of playing back HDR Video which effectively puts a 4K tv in the palm of your hand. While I didn’t have any HDR content to view on it, I did watch the final Tragically Hip concert live on CBC (on Bell’s streaming TV service) and it looked amazing from every angle:
Goodbye micro-USB, hello USB-C
This was the first device I’ve had that dropped the Micro-USB port and used USB-C instead. This is basically where every device will go (except perhaps Apple) and it’s a welcome change since the plug orientation doesn’t matter. It will end fumbling around in the dark to plug in a phone with a micro-USB plug.
My review unit came with a tiny micro-USB to USB-C dongle (I didn’t get a dedicated USB-C cable) which made it easier to use with my existing cables but was almost lost a few times.
Samsung usually comes out with a bunch of case options for each new revision. Aside from some faster (wireless) charging cases, one option that stood out was the case with a lens thread to accept a wide angle or telephoto lens. These have been available from 3rd parties for years but it’s nice to see a 1st party option to further enhance the Note 7’s great camera.
Finally, I should also mention that my review unit was the silver mirror finish. At first I wasn’t sure I’d like it but it actually grew on me and was very good at hiding my grubby fingerprints.
It really is too bad such a great Android phone is being overshadowed by the exploding battery issue which is due to a manufacturing defect.