The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is history. Or is it? As much as Samsung would want you to forget anything and everything about its infamously exploding seventh-generation Note phablet, fact is, it would take a really long time — and a lot many successful S8s and S8+’ — to rise from its ashes. Rumours that Samsung would relaunch the Galaxy Note 7 at some point of time later this year have been doing the rounds for some time now, but then, nobody ‘actually’ thought the company would ‘actually’ do it. Only, it has. Samsung has relaunched the Galaxy Note 7 in its home turf Korea — with other markets to follow — and is calling it the Galaxy Note Fan Edition. Question is, why? Question is, who would want it?
Samsung says — in its official press note for Korea — that it is launching the Note 7 FE as a measure to minimize Eco-waste as it salvages unused Note 7 parts. After all, disposing of nearly 4.3 million Samsung phones would be nothing short of an environmental fiasco of magnanimous proportions. Although Samsung’s motives behind the move are commendable, the obvious question is whether or not it’s a good idea to relaunch the Note 7 at all considering the impact it has had on both the tech world as well as the company’s reputation.
Strike while the iron is hot
There was lot of humility — more than the usual — in Samsung Mobile chief DJ Koh’s Galaxy S8 and S8+ Unpacked keynote this year. You’d have to give it to the man for all the patience. It hasn’t been easy for him. But, what’s important is how he sailed through all this — arguably some of the darkest times the world of tech has ever seen — and yet managed to stay as calm as he did. All this time, he did not stop innovating, or rather; he did not stop imparting that vision to everyone who worked behind the scenes to make the Galaxy S8 and S8+ a reality.
“The Galaxy S8 and S8+ are our testament to regaining your trust by redefining what’s possible in safety and marks a new milestone in Samsung’s smartphone legacy,” Koh said in a press statement. Fortunately for Samsung, the Note 7 debacle had little impact on Galaxy S8 and S8+ sales, according to the company. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ are fantastic phones and down the line, they have also gone on to fulfill most of Samsung’s promises. Most importantly, none of them has exploded. At least, not yet.
Just to ensure, the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ — batteries — don’t suffer the same fate as the Note 7, Samsung has invested a great deal of research into these phones. In addition to the standard tests, the Galaxy S8 and S8+ batteries have been pushed through 8 other tests to meet the highest level (ever) of safety standards. The company, in fact, also flew journalists to Seoul, South Korea to make them understand how paramount customer safety is for Samsung.
Samsung says the new Note 7 FE is perfectly safe with a new battery that has undergone the same 8-Point Battery Safety Check as deployed in the case of the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+. Even if you give Samsung the benefit of the doubt here, question is, why wasn’t this done earlier?
Making way for the Note 8
The Galaxy Note 8 is already in the works and Samsung will supposedly launch it sometime in August-September. Just like the Galaxy S8 and S8+, it is also largely expected to be, a long continuous sheet of glass with an edge-to-edge display and no physical buttons. The front, just like it is on the Galaxy S8 and S8+, would be clean and without any physical buttons. The fingerprint scanner would be on the back while the home button would be software-based. It would also be pressure-sensitive and give haptic feedback when you would press it, kind of how it is in the case of Apple’s iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. But, while the iPhone has a dedicated area — atop a chunky lower bezel — to serve the purpose, Samsung’s phone would employ what you can call an invisible solution.
The Galaxy Note 8 would have almost no bezels. To be a little more precise, it would be all screen and no bezels. To be a little more precise, the phone would give a screen-to-body ratio of an upwards of 80 per cent. In a compact palm-sized form factor. The Galaxy Note 8, because it would have almost no bezels, would occupy a much smaller footprint — size as well as girth — in comparison to the Note 7. It would still be IP68-certified for dust and water resistance, like the Note 7.
The main USP of the Galaxy Note 8, however, would be its Infinity display that would impart it an unusual 18.5:9 aspect ratio instead of a more traditional 16:9. The idea would be to offer more screen in a pint-sized phone and to make every inch of that screen count. As long as you would have the content to conjure the Galaxy Note 8’s one-of-its-kind edge-to-edge display sorcery.
Bottom-line: unlike the Note 7, the next Note will supposedly come with a 6.3-inch ‘Infinity’ display that would be high on glass (and curves) and low on practicality.
The Note 7 FE, in that case, would be your last Samsung flagship phone to be practical and less of a fragile nightmare.
The Note 7 FE still has the best in-class specs
The Note 7 introduced many an industry-firsts back in the day. It came with Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on both front and back. It was, in fact, the first Note-series device to come with dust and water-resistant capabilities. Samsung was also able to IP68 certify the included S Pen, for that matter. Speaking of which, the new S Pen on-board the Note 7 came with a “smaller 0.7mm tip and improved pressure sensitivity to emulate a real pen-like experience,” according to Samsung. Basically, it was closer to a ball-point pen now, more than ever and faster and more accurate. It came with some new and improved features like the ability to magnify and translate content straight off the bat. It could also make GIFs out of videos.
Base storage started at 64 gigs, and the new Note also supported expandable storage of up to 256GB via a hybrid micro-SD card slot.
It came with a Quad-HD screen resolution and allowed users to manually change the screen’s resolution to HD and Full-HD as well, to conserve battery. There was also HDR-mode for videos.
On the inside, the Note 7 came with either a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820/Exynos 8890 processor based on the market and Android Marshmallow-based Grace UI software.
On the camera front, it came with a 12-megapixel ‘dual-pixel’ rear (with f/1.7 aperture and optical image stabilisation) and a 5-megapixel front shooter combo.
The Note 7 FE has more or less the same specs and makes changes only in the battery and camera departments. It is now backed by a smaller 3,200mAh battery — as opposed to the Note 7 that came with a bigger 3,500mAah battery — and runs Android Nougat-based Experience UI, the same software that’s pretty much inside the Galaxy S8 and S8+. The new software bump adds the Bixby virtual assistant to the Note as well.
Not only is the Note 7 FE practical, it is also still very much jam-packed to the T with great hardware.
The Note 7 FE costs almost two-thirds less than the Note 7
That the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 has been launched at 700,000 South Korean Won (roughly Rs 40,000) as opposed to the original Note 7 that cost almost Rs 60,000 isn’t very surprising. Also, only 4,00,000 units will be sold initially.
Samsung was caught foot in mouth when multiple reports of the Note 7 exploding started emerging back in September last year. The company, thereafter, issued a global recall of the Note 7 and announced that it will give buyers who had already purchased the device (in the US, for instance) a replacement over the coming weeks. Much to Samsung’s dismay, even some of its replacement Note 7s which were deemed safe for use, encountered a similar fate.
The company tried to explain — albeit briefly — the reason behind the explosions. Calling it a very rare manufacturing process error, it said that “overheating of the battery cell occurs when the anode-to-cathode came into a very rare manufacturing process error” resulting in explosion. Thankfully, Samsung did not start selling the Note 7 in some markets, for instance in India, before it was forced into issuing a global recall of the devices.
The burning question
If you’re still wondering why on Earth would Samsung want to bring back the Note 7 from the dead, well, you’re not the only one. Clearly, the success of the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ has given it enough levee and the company is probably looking to leverage that to sell at least a few — if not all — units before it announces the next Note. That’s also another reason why probably the Note 7 FE costs so less in comparison to the original Note 7. That and the fact that it ought to be a responsible company that takes environmental pollution very seriously.