Every six months we iPhone users go through feature envy at the hands of Samsung. This year is different. Samsung is on the comeback trail with a new flagship smartphone that competes with iPhone at every turn, save one.
I’ll admit to having more than a little feature envy with the Galaxy Note 7. It’s an update so good Samsung skipped over the Note 6 (it also helps to have the same numbering scheme as other phones). What is so good about the Note 7? It’s all in the numbers, an area where Apple no longer treads.
‘You’ve Already Failed’
I’m not sure that I’m sufficiently qualified as a tech writer to differentiate stylus from Pencil. Stylus, as in Samsung’s famous stylus, obviously modeled after the Palm Pilot infections from years past. And, Pencil, as in the Pencil Apple uses for both iPad Pro models.
For the sake of argument and Steve Jobs’ legacy, let’s say a stylus is not a pencil; I say that because Pencil doesn’t really work on an iPhone, but Samsung includes a stylus on the Galaxy Note 7. Way back in the day, all the way back to 2010, Steve Jobs issued his decree.
If you see a stylus, they blew it.
Maybe so, maybe not. Samsung sells lots of styluses (or, is it ‘styli’), or rather, lots of smartphones that ship with a stylus. Yet, here we are a few years after Steve Jobs death and everybody who owns an iPad Pro loves the Pencil.
The Note 7’s stylus isn’t all that drool worthy but other features are, including the iris scanner unlocking option. There’s also the Secure Folder, and easy pairing to Gear VR and Oculus, though I have yet to see either in the wild. What’s really impressive, though, are what I call the basic specifications.
First, the screen. Quad HD. That means resolution that is four times HD, but not four times the screen resolution in the comparable iPhone 6s Plus, which remains stuck at 1080p HD. The CPU is quad-core, too, and the Note 7 comes with a real headphone jack and the new USB-C universal connector, all in a package that weighs slightly less than Apple’s own flagship smartphone. Samsung’s screens in the past two years have eclipsed the iPhone’s screen and while resolution differences are not easily visible between the two, the colors pop out more on the premium Galaxy models.
Second, Note 7 may have the best camera in a smartphone, part of the leap frog with Apple every six months. Storage is of the expandable version, up to 256GB, and the battery is massive (probably necessary to power the gazillion pixels on the screen and make the quad-core CPU do something other than idle).
Finally The Fail
As much as the specifications are drool worthy, the Note 7 falls short in what is arguably the most critical consideration.
Sure, it runs the last latest Android OS, Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but already Android Nougat is hitting the streets and Samsung says an update won’t be available for months. That’s the problem. Marshmallow has been out about a year and it’s managed to engage only around 15-percent of the Android base, while iOS 9.x, launched about a year ago, too, has penetrated over 90-percent of all iOS devices.
Even worse for Samsung is the company’s utter dependence upon Google. Granted, Android is free, but that means Samsung has competitors at the low end with cheaper smartphones that do exactly the same thing as any Galaxy or Note or Edge or whatever. They all run Android, so they’re not easily differentiated one from another. Compare that problem with iPhone and iPad, both substantially different with usability and app quality from Android devices.
I like the Samsung hardware, but using Android and Google Play Store apps leaves me wanting. My iPhone.