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Samsung flagships comparison: Note7 vs. S7

As I was saying, for half a year I was a proud S7 user and everything was well except somewhat smallish display. My wife started playing Pokemon GO seriously and S6's short battery life was quite frustrating for her. Meanwhile, Note7 was announced and I had to think hard whether I want one.

Good part was that hardware is just as good as in S7 (slightly better but who cares about one more gig of RAM and stuff like that) but with bigger screen and even bigger battery. Lack of a non-curved option sounded like a deal breaker to me though, I'd never buy an S7 Edge. Yet, after carefully watching all the video reviews I decided to try it. Curves are more sloped, with larger flat surface (mainly to make S Pen usable, I guess) and symmetrical design looked cool. Fortunately, my situation is not as it used to be a couple years ago and I don't have to limit myself with only one toy per year (although this year I did indulge myself quite a bit) and S7 didn't go to waste — I gave it to my wife and she doesn't criticize me for my spending habits anymore.

So I preordered it and after a very quick delivery I was a proud owner of officially the most expensive phone on the market (yes, it's official now: 32GB iPhone Plus is cheaper, even 256GB one is still cheaper than Note7 plus a good 256GB SDXC card). Turns out, I was right. Curve is much more tolerable than with Edge and it all feels very good in hand. Free Gear Fit 2 I found almost completely unusable but that's a minor issue, after all, it's free.

I won't even try to compare it to Note5, simply because I never had one. But I readily believe that Note7 is way cooler and more better.

How different is it from S7? Note very different yet slightly better in almost everything. Slightly bigger, somewhat heavier, slightly more RAM, slightly more curved display, IRIS scanner in addition to fingerprints, optimized UI, slightly more bullet-proof glass, has a stylus on top of that all.

Size feels just right to me. As I mentioned earlier, I have big palms and that half-inch is the difference between missing buttons and typing almost without errors. Yet not a 7" monster you have to buy cargo pants for. Might be not everyone's impression, but feels good to me which is what important.

Weight is not an issue, you can still hold it one hand and scroll and even type. Not for as long but for long enough.

RAM size is something to brag about but in comparison with S7 I don't feel any difference. The same goes for everything else (although CPU is just exactly the same one used in S7 so there should be no difference).

Curved display, as I said, is not as bad as I feared. Edge UI is only barely usable with such a slope but still there (I think you could actually use Edge UI without the curves, it's an artificial limit, but I don't like it too much anyway). Night clock is, again, less usable that with Edge and it also disables always-on display feature, I'm not sure if I like either anyway.

IRIS scanner might feel superfluous for someone as there is a fingerprint scanner already, which is arguably even faster and easier to use. Key difference is that it's harder to use it without you knowing (like when you're asleep). I use it mainly for Secure Folder though, which is, by the way, the single greatest feature ever.

Basically, it allows you two have two copies of every app you want, one of which is completely sandboxed and can be locked away. For example, you can have two facebook accounts or two google accounts which you can use at the same time (without logging out) and although service providers will probably notice that they share IP and device no data will be directly shared. Or you can have a secure browser for your porn, with bookmarks and history invisible to people just looking over your phone. Unlike the previously used "private mode" which allowed you to move your naked pictures to private gallery (ricking them being synced by google), now you can take then with secure camera to begin with with geo tags are automatically disabled. By the way, you can totally allow different permissions for secure and non-secure apps and, for example, hide your location from secure messenger while share your location with non-secure one (yes, of course, same IP, same device, facebook can still easily profile you). I don't know the exact details, like how data is encrypted, how hard is to hack it if phone is powered up and unlocked, but at least it should keep your stuff safe from the unsophisticated onlookers.

Other major UI changes include new settings menu (close to the stock android), built-in blue light filter, slightly different quick settings icons and notification grouped by app. Nothing is a big deal, but together a steady improvement.

It's the first device featuring Gorilla Glass 5 (I'm not sure if Apple will use it this year, no news mentioned it). According to a review I saw it's better protected from falls and punches but you should still use at least some protective case. I'll probably go with a silicone bottom (more friction = more convenient to hold) and maybe a tempered glass protector on the top. I despise flip cases, frankly (although I'll get myself one if only for travelling — it's safer because you often have to put phone into backpack with who knows what). I still don't believe it won't scratch but I'll have to try different protectors and see if I can tolerate them (I put on some film while I waiting for glass protectors and it feels horrible) otherwise I'll have to put up with those microscratches again. I hope someone will figure out sapphire displays or something real soon.

It felt like styluses were going to die when capacitive screens came to masses. Mostly because styluses intended for such screens were ugly and unneeded (short, thick, with a big soft tip to emulate your finger). S Pen is different, it's narrow and precise, with some hundreds of pressure levels, you can screenwrite and probably even draw a little bit (not that I remember how to do either). Samsung always adds some special cool features that don't necessarily require a stylus but here you can't use them without it (and it's probably better that way in this case). Screen magnifier, handwriting notes (including ones on always-on display), editing screenshots with cropping and writing on (very useful for my work), making GIFs (from videos or games), translating whatever you see (with some optical recognition even).

Of course, as everyone knows by now, Note7 devices are being recalled over a battery issue, but that's, again, is bad for marketing and not that bad for most users. Just be careful with charging for a couple weeks before you can replace it if you already have one. I personally charge it in several takes (about 30% a time) and unplug as soon as it becomes more than lukewarm, just to be safe. If you do not have one yet, be extra careful buying after-market devices or from unauthorized resellers (but you can probably find a good deal on refurbished in a few months, they have 2.5 million device to refurbish). Maybe Samsung will come up with some way to check whether a particular device is safe by serial number or something?

And I'm also curious about how many things they will allow me to keep when replacing. Of what came in the box, I mean (gifts are definitely mine to keep): will they take away used headphones with my earwax on them or, say, charger? Those headphones are the best oem buds I ever encountered and they cost about a $20 separately so I definitely intend to try and keep an extra pair (no, cheaper ones from aliexpress do not sound as good, I tried, some say they also break easier). And a good type C cable that can handle fast charge and is 1.2m long is just hard to come by on short notice and I'm known to break them. Most probably they will not allow me to keep the S Pen. It's not more than a $50 anyway, I can live with that if I manage to lose it — which is unlikely as I rarely use it at all. Stylus for Note5 goes for about $10 on aliexpress now, maybe this will become cheaper as well, in a year or two when I might need it if ever. But, anyway, we'll see.

Update(Oct. 4, 2016): Just got a call that I'll be receiving a new Note7 later this week. I'm so happy to finally get rid of this crappy temp S6 edge. For the record, I kept charger, headphones, and all the adapters (s-pen I did return, maybe I should've kept it as well) and nobody asked any questions whatsoever about that.

Update(Oct. 12, 2016): News say something about another Note7 recall. More than that, they seem to be discontinuing the line completely. Epic. Now I don't know what I'm going to use, definitely not some apple® ishit™. Maybe I should get myself something temporary until S8 or Note8 gets released next year, for some reason I still like Samsung's hardware. Or maybe I should check out what Google does with their Nexus/Pixel thingy, I heard some good feedback but I'm not sure I could live without a hi-res amoled display.

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