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Samsung Galaxy Note7: An excellent phone for the high-price market

Dan Rosenbaum | Aug. 17, 2016
Samsung's new addition to its Galaxy line of phones has a superb display, well-thought-out design and strong security features.

Dazzling screen

The screen, as I mentioned earlier, is terrific. The Note7 allows no fewer than four screen modes, which is three more than most phones. The default Adaptive Display setting adjusts the screen's specs to accommodate most day-to-day activities, particularly useful in bright light. Basic Screen mode is the setting to use for regular photography; AMOLED photo mode is accurately calibrated for high-end photography like HDR mode photos and videos; and AMOLED cinema produces color accuracy on a par with 4K movies.

In addition, the screen has a blue light filter for night viewing, because studies indicate that the blue light in phone displays can interfere with sleep. (iOS has had this feature, too, in the last couple of generations of iPhones.)

The eyes don't quite have it

The Note7 has a couple of interesting security features that stop just short of being enterprise class: iris recognition and Secure Folder.

Android users are used to pattern and PIN unlocking, as well as the more recent fingerprint security. Some phones played with face recognition, but that turned out to be pretty unreliable. The Note7 is the first phone to include iris recognition.

It's relatively simple: Swipe up from the lock screen, point the face of the phone so that the camera aligns properly with your eyes, and the phone unlocks. Although you can register several fingerprints, the Note7 lets you register only one eye print.

Once you're used to it, it's quicker than it sounds. But I found that iris unlocking didn't work well in low light, and glasses seemed to confuse it. In an interview with Computerworld, Chris Briglin, Samsung's director of enterprise mobile product marketing, acknowledged that glasses presented a challenge -- scratched, high-diopter or progressive lenses can defeat the infrared light used to scan irises. Still, Samsung positions this feature as being even more secure than fingerprints, and well suited for work applications where the user may be wearing gloves.

I'll agree with the validity of the use case, but the actual usability of iris unlocking still leaves a bit to be desired. Unlocking is instantaneous when the phone finally sees your eyes, which takes some practice. But I wasn't able to either register my irises or unlock the phone with my glasses on.

All else being equal, most people will probably stick with one of the other three authentication styles. But don't expect iris recognition to go away.

Secure Folder

Also on the security menu is Secure Folder. Based on Samsung's Knox technology, the Secure Folder is essentially a fully separate managed partition of your phone, protected by password or biometrics. Previous phones have had the feature, but this is the first time that Samsung is trying to bring it to the fore by putting an icon directly on your home screen and mentioning it during setup.

 

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