This morning at a glitzy event in New York City's famed Hammerstein Ballroom, Samsung unveiled its latest phablet phone, the Galaxy Note 7. The device builds on the successes of the company's previous Galaxy smartphones, including the Galaxy S7s — the Galaxy S7 edge was the "world's best-selling Android smartphone model in the first half of 2016," according to research firm Strategy Analytics — as well as the last-generation Note 5. (The company skipped the sixth generation Note name to bring the tablet family up to speed with its Galaxy S7 lineup.)
Consumers can place preorders for the Note 7 tomorrow, and it is expected to ship in the United States on August 19, according to Samsung. Pricing will vary by carrier or retailer.
Various rumors regarding the new Note have surfaced during the past few months, and though some proved true, Samsung was able to keep a few surprises under wraps. I spent about an hour with the new device last week at an exclusive briefing for the business media, and though that's hardly enough time to provide any sort of informed review, seven things about the Galaxy Note 7 stand out.
1. Galaxy Note 7 'S Pen' enhancements
One of the Note series' defining features, its "S Pen" stylus, received a significant upgrade along with the Note 7. The S Pen is now just as water and dust resistant as the phone itself.
The past couple of Galaxy S and Note phones have had water and dust protection ratings of IP68, which means the devices are "completely protected against dust, and [are] water-resistant in up to five feet of water for up to 30 minutes," according to Samsung. But now the S Pen is also protected, and that means you can write on-screen in the rain or even while the device is submerged in liquid. I tested the feature in a small basin of water, and it worked well.
The design of the S Pen is also slightly different, with the "Air Command" actions button higher up on the pen. Its pressure-sensitive tip is slightly smaller and more precise, according to Samsung. And it's supposed to feel even more like a traditional ballpoint pen, for an improved writing experience.
You cannot insert the S Pen into its storage slot upside down. The Note 5 can be irreparably damaged if its stylus is forced into the slot backwards, but Samsung fixed this design flaw with the Note 7.
2. Galaxy Note 7 iris scanner and 'secure folder'
One of the most frequently rumored features ahead of the official Note 7 announcement was a new iris scanner for secure authentication. The related rumblings proved to be grounded in fact. The new Note 7 does indeed have an iris scanner, and it uses a dedicated, front-facing infrared (IR) camera to capture and scan your eyes for authentication.
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