Unlike even those flagship Galaxy S phones (like the new Galaxy S7), Samsung’s Note series phones have a special kind of fan base. Productivity nerds just love their 5.7-inch, S-Pen-accessorized phablets. And today, America’s nerdlery need not wait any longer for an update: Along with a bunch of other Galaxy gear, the Galaxy Note 7 goes on sale in the United States for $349 on a two-year contract at Best Buy.
Samsung also announced the availability of its Gear IconX wireless earphones ($200 on Amazon); a redesigned Gear VR headset ($100); and the Gear 360 camera, which shoots VR-ready content ($350). But the big story here is the Note 7 superphone.
Why this matters: Ironically, I’ve been calling Best Buy a lot this week, trying to schedule maintenance for a busted Samsung dishwasher. Every time the automated operator kicked in, I was first asked if I was calling about the Note 7. Clearly, Samsung has a “thing” here.
Why you might want the Note 7
We gave the Note 7 4.5 out of 5 stars in our review, praising its finessed chassis design; an improved S-Pen with better pressure sensitivity; and an upgraded camera—among other great features. But the real bottom line is this: If you want a super-big phone that’s appropriate for both artistic doodling and workhorse productivity, Samsung’s Note remains the only serious option available. There’s even a new Iris scanner, which unlocks your phone with a gaze. And it works.
AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint versions of the Note 7 are currently selling for $349 (with a two-year contract) at Best Buy. You can also buy the phone at T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint stores, as well as Samsung.com. Samsung says the phone is available at Amazon too, but a quick check at press time shows only unlocked international versions are available.
Gear IconX: wire-free but will they thump?
I’ll probably never use the Gear VR and Gear 360, as low-end virtual reality just isn’t my thing. But I’m very interested in Samsung’s Gear IconX wireless earbuds, which are now available at Amazon for $200.
For starters, the IconX are completely wire-free. They’re tethered neither to each other, nor your phone. Second, they seat quite well inside your ears—or, at least, inside my ears. I couldn’t shake them loose no matter how violently I throttled by head during a quick 5-minute demo. Third, they have onboard step and heart rate sensors (a robot voices your data directly through the ‘buds).
Beyond that, they boast 4GB of onboard storage for music tracks, or you can stream music from your phone over Bluetooth. Battery life is rated for 3.6 hours of continuous music if you only listen to onboard tracks.
The IconX may be poised to be great workout companions, as you can leave your phone at home and still listen to music. During my demo, I found the touch interface to be challenging, and bass response to be worryingly low. That said, I only listened to a single music track, so it will be interesting to see how the IconX fair during extended testing.