Samsung looks to change public opinion with their new Galaxy Note 8. The phone is set to release this fall, more than a year after the Samsung 7 was discontinued after a string of fire-related incidents. USA TODAY
At its press event Wednesday, Samsung first thanked its users for sticking with the brand after last year’s global recall of the Galaxy Note7 smartphone – a manufacturing defect in the batteries that caused some to catch on fire – followed by a thorough look at the Galaxy Note8’s impressive features.
Available September 15, you probably heard about its massive 6.3-inch borderless display (“Infinity screen”); an enhanced S-Pen stylus with a finer tip for greater precision; IP68 rating for water-resistance up to 5 feet of water (for up to 30 minutes); and the first Samsung device to feature a dual-lens camera system (one wide-angle lens, one telephoto lens), and both with optical image stabilization.
As one of the attendees of Unpacked, there were a few other Galaxy Note8 tidbits that didn’t quite get the attention it deserved – for better or worse. Here’s a list of eight lesser-known or understood features worth calling out.
1. Live Focus is really something
Take a photo of a subject about four feet away and the “Live Focus” feature will be automatically activated. This means you can pull off one of those fancy “bokeh” effects by softly blurring the background – even after you took the photo.
Use your fingertip on a slider bar to manually adjust the depth of field, after the fact.
2. Send ‘Live’ messages
Instead of sending a boring text message, pull the S-Pen out of the bottom of the phone and tap “Live Message.” Now you can write something on the screen (even over a photo) or draw a heart, and send it as an animated message to someone.
Yes, this follows Apple’s Digital Touch – which lets you send finger-drawn images or messages in iOS 10 – but Samsung says it works across multiple messaging platforms that support animated GIFs.
Speaking of GIFs, you can use the S-Pen’s “Smart select” feature to create your own animated GIF by clipping a section of a video and then sharing with friends or on social media.
3. Jot down (and stick) notes onscreen
As with previous phones, the Galaxy Note8 features an Always-On Display, which lets you see info at a glance, even when your phone’s screen is off, such as time, date, calendar appointments, and number of messages waiting for you.
But with the new “Screen-Off Memo” feature, you can jot down reminders or other notes with the S-Pen and pin them to the Always-On Display. In fact, you can have up to 100 pages of these notes, and edit them on the fly, if need be.
4. Launch two apps at once
Unlike iPhone, Android users can multitask smoothly with two open apps at the same time – and the Galaxy Note8’s big screen (and 18.5 x 9 aspect ratio) makes it even easier to snap two apps open, such as browsing the web on one half of the screen, while watching a movie on the other.
With the Galaxy Note8, a new “App Pair” feature lets you create a custom button on the Edge panel – by swiping in from the edge of the screen — that will simultaneously launch two apps in multi-window mode. Very smart.
5. Battery life?
But how will the battery fare running two apps at once — not to mention on a huge 6.3-inch screen? Is a 3,300mAh battery enough? Samsung didn’t mention how many hours of use one could expect (even an “up to XX hours” estimate).
At least it includes a fast charging cable and support for wireless charging, too.
6. Fast language translation
In the past, the S-Pen allowed you to highlight text and have it translated from one language to another – but now you can use the stylus to simply hover over words on the screen and it will quickly translate it for you. Or select entire sentences to be translated to more than 30 languages.
And it doesn’t just work on websites, but photos, too. Take a photo of a French menu or Spanish road sign, pull out the S-Pen and hover over the text.
7. Take 2 photos at once
In Dual Capture mode, both rear 12-megapixel cameras work together to take two shots – at the same time – and it saves both images. One will be a close-up photo from the main telephoto lens (now with 2x optical zoom), and the other a wide-angle shot that shows more of the background.
After the photo is taken you can toggle between the two to see which one you’d like to keep and share.
8. Boy, it’s expensive
From my limited hands-on time with the device, Samsung’s Galaxy Note8 may very well be the best smartphone on the market.
But what wasn’t mentioned onstage at Unpacked was the price. And it’s a doozy.
Unlocked, it starts at $929, making it one of – if not – the most expensive Android smartphones ever released.
Naturally, you’ll pay less on a 2-year contract with a carrier (and with many accepting trade-ins), not to mention there are preorder incentives like bundling the phone with a Samsung Gear 360 camera or Samsung 128GB EVO+ memory card.
More: Verizon and Samsung’s message this week: Learn to love Wi-Fi
More: Q&A: Samsung chief is jailed. Here’s what you need to know.
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