If the reviews Samsungreceived earlier this year for its Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge flagship phones were positive, the ones received this week for its Galaxy Note 7 "phablet" have been even more so.
Superlatives abound in Note 7 reviews. Business Insider declares the device to be "the most beautiful phone ever made." The Verge calls it "the best big phone," and The Wall Street Journal deems it the "best new Android phone." Many similar comments can be found by quickly scanning review headlines via Google.
The Note 7's body and materials are receiving a lot of praise. The phone sports a curved OLED display (echoes of the S6 and S7 Edge) that's separated from a curved glass back panel by a thin metal frame, and yields a symmetrical body that's easy to hold. Regarding the display, The Verge calls the Note 7's 5.7-inch, 2K-resolution panel "pixel-dense, color-rich, and gorgeous to look at." Display software firm DisplayMate proclaims it "the best smartphone display," matching or breaking records in several categories.
The camera, similar to that found in the S7 line and replete with large optical image stabilization, unsurprisingly got high marks. As did the performance of the phone's Qualcomm (QCOM) - Get Report Snapdragon 820 processor -- some international models use Samsung's Exynos 8890 processor, which is roughly as powerful -- and the phone's waterproofing. And outside of a couple of quibbles, reviewers liked the Note 7's revamped S Pen stylus, which provides improved sensitivity and can now let users quickly turn videos into GIFs.
There were a handful of complaints. The phone's much-hyped iris scanner was often declared by reviewers to have limited practical use. Samsung's TouchWiz custom Android interface, though toned down in recent years, is still something many would prefer to do without. And with unsubsidized Note 7 prices north of $800, the device is far from cheap.
Strong Note 7 sales would provide fresh momentum for what has been a decent 2016 for Samsung's phone business. With the help of the S7's reception and better performance in the low-end Android market, Samsung's mobile revenue rose 8% annually in the first quarter and 2% in the second quarter, after dropping 6% in 2015.
Several chipmakers could also get a boost. On Note 7 models in which its Snapdragon 820 is used, Qualcomm also supplies several complementary chips, as shown by a Note 7 teardown performed by iFixit. Qorvo (QRVO) - Get Report, which gained share in Samsung's high-end lineup with the S7 and S7 Edge, supplied three RF chip modules for the Note 7 model analyzed by iFixit. Broadcom (AVGO) - Get Report supplied an RF module and, from the looks of things, a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth combo chip. IDT (IDTI) - Get Report supplied a wireless charging receiver chip.
Meanwhile, Apple will have to convince high-end Android phablet users its upcoming iPhone 7-plus, set to succeed the 5.5" iPhone 6S-plus, is a better option than the Note 7. The 7-plus is rumored to sport a dual-camera array that yields better low-light shots and improves image quality in general. And both the 7 and 7-plus are expected to provide waterproofing, improved displays, pressure-sensitive home buttons and -- controversially -- no 3.5mm headphone jack.
But the rumored features have drawn mixed reactions from the press and iPhone fans. And with next year's iPhones rumored to bring improvements such as OLED displays, all-glass casings, more advanced haptic feedback and over-the-air wireless charging, Apple appears to be breaking with its historical pattern of releasing big iPhone upgrades every two years.
With iPhone loyalty rates still sky-high, it's unlikely a huge number of iPhone users will jump ship to buy a Note 7. But in a year in which many firms have forecast iPhone sales will drop slightly, Samsung's shiny new phablet could weigh on Apple's efforts to boost iPhone sales by "converting" long-time Android users.