Is the Galaxy Note 7’s iris scanner and S Pen worth the extra cash?

The next big thing is here, again, and we’re left to bask in the aftermath of Samsung’s second device announcement. The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is here, and with it comes some interesting new features, but also an inflated price tag. Don’t get me wrong, the Note 7 is less than $100 more on AT&T than the S7 Edge (a.k.a. Galaxy Note 7 beta), so even a little bit more can be a lot on this phone.

note7dS Pen is smarter

The S Pen is getting smarter which is pretty cool. Arguably the center of the Galaxy Note experience is this S Pen, so the pressure is on to continue to get the most out of it. This year is no exception. One of the more intriguing uses of the S Pen is the ability to translate highlighted words on the page. This is similar to Google Translate, so one wonders how useful this will be, but we’ll have to wait for our full review to find out. Add to that the ability to make gifs out of video clips – which to be perfectly honest either delights or scares me – and there is some gimmicky, but potentially useful stuff here.

Security was also a focus of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 which is ironic since the “6” seems to have been stolen. Anyway, one of the new features of the Note is the iris scanner. This is a feature most recently shown off in the Lumia 950, and if the experience is anything like that device, it will be cool, but not better than the fingerprint sensor. In fact, in a moment of panic this afternoon, I had to verify that the fingerprint sensor was still on the Note. There was so much emphasis on the iris scanner, it completely slipped my mind. That’s how much Samsung digs this sensor. How much the rest of us dig it, remains to be seen. See what I did there?

galaxy-note-7-hands-on-780HDR what?

The Galaxy Note is also the first smartphone to feature HDR video playback. HDR video, for those who are not aware, is a standard in Ultra HD TV’s today, and is now being brought to the smartphone level. There are some caveats to its use – only a select few sources provide HDR video for example – but the Note 7 is really future-proofing here, which is always a great thing.

Finally, the Note 7 and S Pen are both IP68 water resistant, which brings it to the level of the Galaxy S7 and S7Edge. But the real question people will be asking is, “is the Note worth all the extra money?” and of course, that is a question that only you and your checkbook can answer. Personally, considering the price difference between the S7 Edge and the Note 7, I would have to think that the extra money is worth it.


Admittedly, I am a stylus junkie, and the Stylus on the Note has always added an additional layer of usability to the Note. The Note 7 is certainly no exception. It’s not like I’m going to be pumping out gif after gif or anything, but the utility of the S Pen hasn’t been matched by any other OEM out there, despite numerous tries. The S Pen is so well thought out and executed that it alone would be worth the extra hundred dollars.

Little things like the additional phone capacity – the Note 7 has 64 GB of storage – and the iris scanner which could be a nice layer of added security in some cases make the Note stand out above all the rest, at least for now. Add to that the future-proofing of the USB Type-C port and the HDR video playback, and you have yourself a solid investment that will last, rather than the S7 for which cable-shopping will be harder and harder in the years to come.

If I were buying a Samsung phone today, I would be picking out the color of my Note 7. But if course, I can’t speak for you, so I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Are you picking up the Note 7? Is there not enough there to make you want to spend the extra money? Is the extra $85 even a concern for you? Sound off below and let us know if you’ll be grabbing a new Note, or if you’ll be saving your hard-earned cash for something else.

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About The Author
Adam Doud
Adam joined the tech world after watching Jon Rubenstein demo the most epic phone ever at CES 2009. He is webOS enthusiast, Windows Phone fan, and Android skeptic. He loves the outdoors, is an avid Geocacher, Cubs/Blackhawks fan, and family man living in Sweet Home Chicago, where he STILL hosts monthly webOS meetups (Don’t call it a comeback!). He can be found tweeting all things tech as @DeadTechnology, or chi-town sports at @oneminutecubs. Read more about Adam Doud!