Samsung Note 7: Can power of the bundle thwart Apple's iPhone 7?

The Samsung Note 7 is a flagship device with some key features, but it needs to be viewed as a hub that plays well with virtual reality, smart watches, and services from the consumer electronics giant.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

With the Note 7, Samsung is adding a Gear Fit 2 or 256GB memory card.

Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 is a strong device that is critical to the company's ambitions vs. Apple. The Note 7 is Samsung's latest flagship and designed to be a hub used to connect the consumer electronics giant's portfolio such as the Gear Fit2, Gear VR, and apps and services like Samsung Pay.

CNET has the overall review of the Note 7, and our Matthew Miller will follow up over time. CNET's Jessica Dolcourt noted:

This is Samsung's ultimate phone, with all the Edge's curved-screen goodies and more: 64GB of storage instead of the Edge's 32GB. An iris-scanner for unlocking the phone with your eyes. A good, refreshed take on Android. A USB-C charger port that also charges up your other devices (you should buy a USB 3.1 cable for faster data speeds). New pen tricks to magnify, translate languages and make an animated GIF. A nighttime filter you can schedule to automatically give weary, screen-staring eyes a break.

The question you have to ask yourself is how much all this is worth to you. Because the Note 7 is one of the most expensive phones you can buy.

After a week with the device, here are my takeaways:

  • The iris-unlocking feature is handy and didn't take much of a learning curve. I did wonder whether it really scanned well enough since it almost opened the device too easily on many occasions.
  • Samsung's Note 7 S Pen is improved, and the app that comes with it appears to be cleaner and easier to share, navigate, and save. The S Pen's integration with tools such as Translate to convert languages with a hover is useful.
  • Secure folder brings some of the functions of Knox to the masses. It's an interesting feature but not a must-have overall -- especially if you're a business user working within Knox anyway. I'd love to see the secure folder usage data over time.
  • The pairing with the Gear VR and Oculus software is also well done. The latest Gear VR plugs into the Note 7 charging port without an adapter. The Note 7 marks Samsung's first use of the USB Type-C charging port for its phones, but an adapter is included.
  • Samsung's curved edges with the Note 7 are also nice to look at. However, I still haven't discovered the urge to use that screen sliver for much.
  • I have a well-worn Note 5 and am impressed with the Note 7, but I will refrain from a swap for now. The Note 7 is a nice update but not enough to exchange my Note 5.

More: Seven reasons to pay double for Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 | To fold or not to fold: Will Samsung really launch a bendable phone? | Samsung hopes more developers engage to create new edge features | Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 aims to take iris scanning security mainstream

Perhaps the best way to view the Note 7 is to consider the portfolio and Samsung's ability to offer promotional bundles. When the Galaxy S7 launched, Samsung threw in a Gear VR headset as a bonus.

With the Note 7, Samsung is adding a Gear Fit 2 or 256GB memory card. These promotions make the more than $800 retail price for the Note 7 a bit more palatable.

Galaxy Note 7: First views of Galaxy's new phablet

Ultimately, Samsung is betting that it can bundle its portfolio devices in a way that can thwart the iPhone 7 coming in the fall. Apple's iPhone 7 may have a few virtual reality hooks and really needs them. Why? Samsung is in front with virtual reality via its partnership with Facebook's Oculus unit.

It's unclear how Samsung's bundle and portfolio approach plays for the enterprise. In some industries, Samsung's bundle may make sense. For instance, a retailer could use the Note 7 for its floor workers and the Gear VR to highlight promotions and experiences. Enterprise bundles are common, but the first mission for Samsung will be to use the power of its device portfolio to fend off Apple's latest iPhone.

Add it up and Samsung will have more potential touch points between its devices. The challenge will be finding the connective tissue via hardware, software, and services for Samsung to woo tech buyers.

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