Iris Scanner

An undoubtedly useful technology that is served half-baked with the Note 7


The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 introduces a new security feature called Iris scanner. In what is probably the only occasion where Windows phone owners could say “ha, we’ve had this since…”, this new piece of biometric security allows you to unlock your phone or access private stuff with just a glance. How does it work? It simply scans your iris using some dedicated hardware that’s mounted next to the front-facing camera. You can learn more about the technicalities here, but the bottom line is this: just as it was on the Lumia 950 and 950 XL, the iris scanner is just not a very good feature at this point. It’s inconvenient, and it’s unreliable. To demonstrate all the disadvantages of this current generation of iris scanning technology against the already great fingerprint scanners, let’s play a quick Q&A game:

Can you use it from any distance?
Iris scanner: No | Fingerprint scanner: Yes

Can you use it without staring at it?
Iris scanner: No | Fingerprint scanner: Yes

Can you use it to unlock the phone in any position, like when it’s lying on a table?
Iris scanner: No | Fingerprint scanner: Yes

Can you use it with (sun)glasses?
Iris scanner: Most of the time, no | Fingerprint scanner: Yes

Which one is more reliable?
While not perfect, the fingerprint scanner in the Galaxy Note 7 works far more consistently than the iris scanner. Success rates in my experience stand at about 75% for the fingerprint scanner and 50% for the iris scanner.


As mentioned in the beginning, the Samsung software layer, which we're used to calling TouchWiz, is constantly being reworked and updated. This remains true with the Galaxy Note 7, which comes with not only a bunch of new features, but refreshed visuals as well.

Powered by Android 6.0.1, the Note 7 brings a new visual style where everything is much cleaner and more simplified than in any other previous Galaxy. It also attempts to standardize icon shapes, by putting them in white icon frames. Many Android makers have tried to do that in the past, and all have failed. Samsung’s latest attempt, however, works rather well for the most part, with only occasional unsuccessful instances, like the Hearthstone icon, for example, which looks weird with its edges cut off. If you’re not into standardized icon shapes, you can always disable this feature from the settings.

TouchWiz continues to be a largely versatile thing, with a lot of settings and options to tinker with. It even comes with a Themes app where you can radically change the look of the user interface, complete with the app icons.

Secure Folder


Another really cool new feature is the Secure Folder, where you can store separate instances of entire apps, with their own content and all. For example, you can have a separate Gallery within the Secure Folder, and that gallery can house all the memories you happen to be ashamed of – like that time when you drank soda and at the same moment something really funny happened that made you laugh, and all the soda came out through your nose... Doesn't sound familiar? Well, I can tell you it's not the best feeling in the world! Anyway, you can also have a separate Contacts app with private entries, or private files, etc. As I said, this is a very cool feature, made even cooler by the fact that it can use all available security tools, including the fingerprint sensor and the iris scanner.

In what is yet another move to build its own, proprietary ecosystem, Samsung is introducing Samsung Cloud with the Note 7. Similar to Apple’s iCloud, this powerful new feature lets you back-up important data like phone logs, homescreen layouts, app data, settings, internet bookmarks, notes, etc. In short, Samsung is giving you a complete cloud solution, which can make your life much easier if you’re loyal to the Samsung universe.

Phonebook, Messages, Email, Calendar


The new Phone application is pretty neat. Nice and simplified, it has just two prominent tabs: Log and Contacts. The log is pretty much what you expect it to be, plus it’s searchable. The Contacts tab is relatively efficient, yet it doesn’t miss on the eyecandy, as it displays a picture of decent size next to each entry. Following the iOS approach, almost everything is now designed in the neutral colors of white and gray, and thankfully, the ridiculous dummy portraits next to people for which you hadn’t assigned a photo are no more. No matter if you’re in Log or Contacts, the Dialer is accessible with a single tap on the respective icon in the lower-right corner, and we’re happy to see the familiar T9-style contact searching in tact.

The Messages app shares the same layout concept, only repurposed for the needs of messaging, which is really cool. The application is not cluttered; instead, it’s pretty efficient, focusing on the essential features first, yet making it easy to reach the more advanced options like media attachment or recipient selection.

The built-in Email application is pretty decent. It’s quite powerful and doesn’t require a lot of tinkering to get set up properly. It managed to set-up a custom IMAP email address correctly, choosing the right server folders and all. It’s smart enough to inflate text sizes so they are convenient to read, though I did run into an issue where the older messages from a long email thread weren’t displayed properly and were almost impossible to read. But, more often than not, the stock Email app gets the job done quite well.

I didn’t quite like the default Calendar application: if you have a good number of appointments, the week view starts to lag unpleasantly. Day view isn’t much better, because it tends to be somewhat inefficient – it displays too little content on the otherwise abundant screen space. The process of creating new events could also use some streamlining.

FEATURED VIDEO

167 Comments

1. TreyTreyTaylor

Posts: 728; Member since: Dec 21, 2010

Don't know how I feel about 8.7. It's as if the reviews here have no consistency. Having said that 3 more days...

7. TreyTreyTaylor

Posts: 728; Member since: Dec 21, 2010

Even worse. The 4 cons are completely subjective software issues. Iris scanner unreliable is bs. It works in dark and light conditions, and it compliments fingerprint security, not replaces it. Fingerprint sensor is the most nitpicking con of all cause we know that's not a issue and definitely not a con for the phone. Edge screen is personal preference. Some people love the functionality of the edge. Again not a con. Finally, the processing that Samsung uses on its cameras is a tad on the sharp side, but that's nitpicking at best when you have the best mobile cameras on the planet.

14. Acdc1a

Posts: 473; Member since: Jan 21, 2016

You can't use the iris scanner as a con as no one else is doing it. What in the hell are you going to compare it to?

22. Jimrod

Posts: 1605; Member since: Sep 22, 2014

Well that doesn't mean it's a great plus either. Just because something has a feature, unless that feature works well it isn't really a particular benefit - the review seems to state it doesn't work well and the existing security methods are better.

36. Macready

Posts: 1821; Member since: Dec 08, 2014

"the review seems to state it doesn't work well and the existing security methods are better." And that's exactly where it falls flat. I used it on a demo model and it worked great, with glasses. Reviews show that it works great even in complete darkness or when using a torch light to shine into the scanner, basically everyone who's used it says it works pretty well. It's more secure than the fingerprint scanner and the comparison list (yes vs no) against the fingerprint scanner in the article is laughable at best. Where's the factor wet/dirty hands? Fingerprint scanner: no, iris scanner: yes. Gloves? Fingerprint scanner: no, iris scanner: yes. Holding the stylus? Fingerprint scanner: no/hard, depending on finger(s) scanned, Iris scanner: yes.

56. dimas

Posts: 3363; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

I also tried the iris scanner in the showroom this morning and it was fast. These reviews are just guides and personal opinions so it's better for people to test it before making their own conclusions.

70. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

But reviews are suppose to be based on personal opinions, it is suppose to be based on facts. You give an "opinion" when you have only heard of said tech, may have seen sad tech, but haven't actually used said tech. But when you have the phone in your hand and you are able to use said tech, then your thoughts should be based on facts of using, not opinions.

89. KParks23

Posts: 725; Member since: Oct 13, 2010

Someone needs to get y'all a wahburger and some French cries geeze... he almost gave it a 9 and this is rayS were talking about just be glad it wasn't a 8 flat!

148. cheetah2k

Posts: 2254; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

Yeah this whole review is bs. iPA isnt a blogger site. its supposed to be a tech site with constructive reivews not based on personal opinion It should be like "iris scanner - does it work - yes, does anyone else have it in the current phone line-up - no - "Pro" Instead its "well i couldnt get it to work because of my lazy eye, and my iphone doesnt have it, so i'd never use it. so its a "Con" This is why iPA will never make it into the big leagues...

173. Diego!

Posts: 871; Member since: Jun 15, 2009

I agree. Everything fruit-less is crap and that's the reality here at iPA. You should check the 'no evil twin' review at GSMArena.com it's way better than this review and it's a profesional one. No biased at all.

87. Pattyface

Posts: 1658; Member since: Aug 20, 2014

If it's based on personal opinions then it would be a blogger, this is supposed to be professional with no bias

101. dimas

Posts: 3363; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

But I thought the writer was just a blogger expressing his opinion? And I think this comment will get deleted again. We can go as scientific as we want reviewing these products but at the end of the day, writers are humans so personal preferences will be affecting them. For me Note 7 is awesome and I'll be purchasing it after reading gsmarena and pocketnow analysis.

69. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

You claim is false. We've seen videos of the Iris Scanner. We know it works well. Whether its useful to your or not, has nothing to do with how it should be scored. Example, I personally may not use it. I plan to try it out and just see how it works. But just because I may "personally" find it to be gimmicky and useless, certainly doesn't mean everyone will. I would score it based on the fact it does offer a benefit. Just because something isn't beneficial to me, doesn't mean it isn't beneficial. This it has to work well is nothing more than BS. Force Touch by definition sounds like a nice concept, yet no one had implemented in in a useful way. 2 OEM's we have seen witj it so far, have implemented it in a boring useless way because the alternative methods for achieving the same results can be done faster in other ways. Notice I specifically said "Force Touch". Don't get it confused with anything else. When you are rating a product, it is not suppose to be based on personal preference or bias. It is suppose to be based on the actual spec, what the product was design for, and how well it measure up to that. Example, the camera has a certain specification. We know that a camera with a certain size aperyure, is suppose to take pictures in low light better. So we test for accuracy of that. We know a camera with a certain sensor size, is expect to take a certain level of quality video/photos, so we test for that. We know when the battery is a certain size, we expect that it should last a certain amount of time, based on the cell size and features and how well they are optimized. All of those things fall into a specific spec where bias has no room. The Iris Scanner doesn't mean bias or preference. The score of it should be based on, its implementation, its usefulness and ease of use and accuracy. That's it. All of those have no room for bias or preference. It's simple, either it works or it doesn't. We've seen videos, we know it works. PA scoring it as a con is bias and based on preference and their insulant hate of Samsung. After all, that is what you all would say if it was YOUR brand or phone of choice.

75. Jimrod

Posts: 1605; Member since: Sep 22, 2014

I didn't claim anything. I haven't seen or used a Note 7 - I was referencing this review and I clearly stated that. Phonearena said it didn't work that well, bring it up with them.

102. dimas

Posts: 3363; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

Try going to a samsung showroom, play with the demos then you can decide if it's good for you.

96. technitude

Posts: 263; Member since: Dec 19, 2013

I don't think people are saying is a plus (but that's not even my point) . The criticism is of unique features being posted as Cons. If a phone added a feature where it could translate what pets are saying. Would it be a Con if it doesn't work with fish (the most populous house pet)? Should NASA be considered a failure because their fatality rate is much higher than planes? The purpose of a Con is to state why you might look at another product. If only one product that offers something, then "Con-ing" it is wrong. If we want innovation, we need to jump down the throats of people that criticize it.

37. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Of course they can. If it's unreliable or doesn't work, why couldn't they? Your reasoning is ridiculous.

42. TerryTerius unregistered

The Lumia 950 has an Iris scanner. There is something to compare it to.

121. Subie

Posts: 2361; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

Thanks Terry, I was just going to post the same thing. Both 950 models to be exact.

174. Diego!

Posts: 871; Member since: Jun 15, 2009

So does the Microsoft Lumia 950XL, I own one and it works flawlessly!

65. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

They could compare it to the one on the Surface pro 4. And videos show they work equally as fast. The SP4 works in total darkness. I am betting the N7 will too, because the sensor uses Infrared. PA will find any reason to bring a Galaxy S/Note down. They don't want it to score higher than their favorite. They know that they are biased. Then when you call them out on it, they send you hate mail trying to warn you. I just ignore threats. You can have a strong preference, you can even be biased, but you can still be 100% honest with all reviews, no matter what your favorite is. The Note 7 is the best Note ever. It should have gotten a 9.

67. JC557

Posts: 1919; Member since: Dec 07, 2011

Anandtech has their review for the Note 7 up on their site and the camera complaints seem to be similar, battery life is close to that of the S7 Edge etc.

85. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

But the allegedly inconsistent Iris scanner isn't a big enough con to warrant a meh 8.7 score for an other stellar Galaxy Note7!

131. JC557

Posts: 1919; Member since: Dec 07, 2011

For f**k sake it has some misses other than the iris scanner:http://www.anandtech.com/show/10559/the-samsung-galaxy-note7-s820-review/9

82. uzimafioso

Posts: 469; Member since: Jul 15, 2014

Yes cause no other manufacturer is stupid enough to do it. How the hell are you supposed to unlock your phone while driving? Turn on the screen, swipe left, hold the phone a foot from your face and bam you're into an effing tree.

106. perry1234

Posts: 645; Member since: Aug 14, 2012

Haha ! You got my upvote. But please don't bang into a tree. Use the FP scanner instead.

126. uzimafioso

Posts: 469; Member since: Jul 15, 2014

Hahaha I dont intend to buy a Note anytime soon.

103. QWIKSTRIKE

Posts: 1459; Member since: Mar 09, 2010

Read the Review on the Verge to get a good idea on how things are with this scanner. I expected an 8.7 on this site.

52. ph00ny

Posts: 2030; Member since: May 26, 2011

I don't know how much better or worse the finger print sensors are on the note 7 compared to note 5 but note 5 works every time and when it doesn't work, it's due to a dust/grease/moisture as expected. MM update made them extremely fast on the note 5.

71. QWIKSTRIKE

Posts: 1459; Member since: Mar 09, 2010

It seems to me that if this were apple iPhone it's features would make it a 9+. The curved screen and iris scanner would be a plus just like forced touch, and huge top and bottom bezels. I wait the Verge review more than here.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

Galaxy Note 7
  • Display 5.7" 1440 x 2560 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 5 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, Quad-core, 2150 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3500 mAh

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at https://www.parsintl.com/phonearena or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit https://www.parsintl.com/ for samples and additional information.