Set to arrive in U.S. stores on Sept. 15, Samsung's Galaxy Note 8 is winning strong reviews for its advanced dual rear cameras and stylus-enabled capabilities. Samsung said the device has also gone through extensive testing so it won't suffer the same fate as last year's fire-prone Note 7.
Priced starting at $929, the Android Nougat-powered Galaxy Note 8 features a 6.3-inch curved-edge Infinity display, support for wired or wireless fast charging, and a 10nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor. Ahead of next week's official release, several reports indicate that buyers who pre-ordered are already receiving devices from their wireless carriers.
While some reviewers have noted that the Galaxy Note 8 isn't wildly different from the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus launched in the spring, Samsung's latest phone introduces a number of new ways to use the provided S Pen stylus, including the ability to hand-write memos on the screen even when the device is locked. Samsung said the Note 8 is also the first smartphone to provide optical image stabilization for dual cameras.
To date, reviews of the Galaxy Note 8 have called it everything from "a nearly perfect smartphone" (ZDNet) to "the most feature-rich Android phone you can buy" (CNET) to "the best big-screen phone yet" (Tom's Guide). BGR called it "probably Samsung's best phone of the year," although it also noted the device is in many ways "basically a bigger Galaxy S8 version."
Several reviewers have also pointed out that the Note 8 retains the same drawback as the S8 and S8 Plus by locating the fingerprint security sensor on the back of the device alongside the dual cameras. While the new phone also features facial recognition and an iris sensor for biometric security, CNET called the iris scanner's performance "hit-or-miss," and BGR warned both options could be prone to hacking.
Despite having a price-tag that's considerably higher than the Galaxy S8 Plus, which can now be purchased unlocked for $750 and up, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is worth the added cost, according to some reviews. Tom's Guide said the Note 8's dual rear cameras make it the "top camera phone" on the market, while BGR's Zach Epstein wrote, "The S Pen alone adds so much to the user experience that I can't picture myself using a Samsung phone without it."
Window of Opportunity before iPhone Launch
In addition to letting users write and save memos while the screen is off, the Galaxy Note 8 offers several other new S Pen-enabled features. They include Live Message, which turns hand-drawn messages into animated GIFs; Screen Write and Smart Select for drawing on and capturing screen shots; Air Command for quick menu access; and fast translations in 71 languages by holding the S Pen over text.
To avoid a repeat of last year's costly recall of the Galaxy Note 7, which also launched with rave reviews before being linked to numerous battery fires, Samsung said it has tested the new device using its 8-point battery safety check.
"We have been closely working with Samsung to make meaningful advancements in the science of smartphone quality and safety evaluation," Sajeev Jesudas, president of UL International, said in statement from Samsung last month. "As a result, the Note 8 has successfully completed a rigorous series of device and battery safety compatibility test protocols."
Samsung for now has a narrow window of opportunity on the premium smartphone market, as Apple has scheduled a news event for Sept. 12 at which it is expected to unveil its latest iPhones, including the flagship iPhone 8 (or iPhone Edition, as it might be named).
Apple reportedly encountered the same challenges as Samsung in trying to integrate a front-facing fingerprint scanner into a full-screen display and is expected to replace its Touch ID fingerprint scanner with a facial-recognition Face ID.