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August 8, 2017

One design decision is severely limiting my Galaxy Note 8 hype

by John_A

I just don’t know if I can get over this one.

With each Galaxy Note release there comes an inevitable wave of hype in the months and weeks leading up as leaks happen and speculation grows. Much of what we’re seeing in the Galaxy Note 8 is both expected and enticing — its similarities to the Galaxy S8+ are entirely in line with previous releases, and in having much of what the GS8+ has the Note 8 is going to check just about all of the boxes for those looking for a top-end phone. It will also have the benefits of an even larger display, an S Pen and a dual rear camera setup — that’s all wonderful.

Unfortunately early leaks also point to one other shared feature with the Galaxy S8+: its extremely awkward fingerprint sensor placement. It’s this expectation of the bad rear-mounted fingerprint sensor that is truly tempering my hype for the Note 8, despite everything else about the phone looking intriguing to me.

note-8-leak-render-black-gold.jpg?itok=X

In my three-month revisit of the Galaxy S8, I spent a considerable amount of time discussing my distaste for its fingerprint sensor placement. Even on the smaller GS8 it’s tough to find, tough to touch accurately without smudging up the camera and still remains highly necessary even if you opt to use face unlock or iris scanning primarily. Yes you can get better with practice, but it’s just never going to be as easy as the other fingerprint sensors out there.

Months with the Galaxy S8 haven’t helped me get any better at reaching that fingerprint sensor.

Things don’t get any better on the larger Galaxy S8+, and of course the Galaxy Note 8 is expected to be just a bit taller and wider still. Renders, as we see above, show a Note 8 with more clear separation between the fingerprint sensor and camera lenses … but not by much, as they still occupy the same glass cutout. This worries me from an ergonomic standpoint, and I don’t want the frustration of using the fingerprint sensor — which I use hundreds of times per day on my phones — to hurt what I expect to be a great experience in the Note 8. I’m conflicted before I even set my hands on the phone, because I’ve been living with the Galaxy S8 for months — and that’s not a great sign.

Now don’t get me wrong here, I am entirely happy with a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor — provided it’s actually done properly. The Pixel XL, LG G6 and many others have shown that you can move your fingerprint sensor to the back of the phone and retain — or even improve — the ergonomics of the sensor you use hundreds of times a day.

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The LG V30, which we’re set to see just one week after the Galaxy Note 8, quite clearly has a fingerprint sensor — and a fully-functional power button — mounted in a very usable position, despite sporting what seem to be dramatically similar dimensions and styling otherwise. It’s this knowledge that it is possible to have this big slab of phone with a fingerprint sensor in a more sensibly position that really sours my feelings on the Note 8. Yes I definitely understand that there are trade-offs in moving the fingerprint sensor there — LG told us about the component acrobatics necessary to make the G6 how it did — but this is a pretty big loss that I believe should’ve been weighted heavier.

Samsung could have yet another overhaul of its iris scanning solution waiting in the wings, as it clearly thinks (somehow) that technology is superior to a fingerprint sensor today. Or it could shock us with some sort of entirely new security paradigm that goes several steps further into the future. And there’s little doubt that in a handful of years we’ll look back at fingerprint sensors as old tech that has since been replaced by more secure, faster forms of authentication.

But is this something we should put up with today? We’re looking at a phone that’s launching into a world where a fingerprint sensor is still the de facto authentication method on phones, despite Samsung claiming otherwise. Today’s software and apps overwhelmingly rely on fingerprint sensors exclusively, and Samsung is making that part of the daily use of the phone more difficult than on any other device short of those that don’t have the sensor at all.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

  • Galaxy Note 8: Everything we know so far
  • Rumored Galaxy Note 8 specs
  • All Galaxy Note 8 news
  • Should you buy the Galaxy S8+ or wait for the Note 8?
  • The buttonless future of Samsung phones
  • Join our Galaxy Note 8 forums

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