05 Sep Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Review: Best Business Phone You Can Buy

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

I attended Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 launch event in New York City which was great but even better was using the Note 8 for the past week. While you will likely see hundreds of Note 8 consumer reviews, I thought I would do something a bit different and review the phone on the merits of a business phone, or a phone that you would use to conduct business with. I am pleased to share my experiences with the Note 8 as a business user which, was quite positive.

Multitasking

The Note 8 was built from the grounds up to get things done and to do many things at the same time. It all starts out with it large, 6.3” Super AMOLED Infinity Display with a resolution of 2960×1440 equating to 521 PPI. You will not find a better display anywhere. If you want to read all the gory test details on the Note 8 display, which is the same as the S8+, read DisplayMate’s analysis here. Big, high quality displays simply let you get more done because you can see more in finite detail. You can review that PowerPoint, edit that report in Word and even review Excel spreadsheets. No, I am not kidding, it is possible, I do it all the time, and it is better on the Note 8 display.

Note 8 multi-windows capabilities

The Note 8 improves multitasking with App Pairs, an easy way of pairing two apps you want to see on the display at the same time and therefore getting more done. Case in point before the Note 8 event at the airport when I was trying to find my Uber discount code, figure out what hotel I needed to go to and summon Uber. I clumsily went back and forth from Mail to Calendar to Uber, copying and pasting the information. After a brief time, even Uber resets itself.  With pairing, I could have the Calendar or Mail and Uber open at the same time and complete that same task more quickly and accurately. I can also see email or message and calendar App Pairs as useful. Nearly anything with a browser is a candidate for App Pair or multi-screen.

S Pen

This one should be a no-brainer by now given everyone has jumped into “pen” this century including Apple and Microsoft. Many business people take their notes on the PC, but more take them on paper. With the Note 8’s Screen Off memo, I did not have to open the phone to take pages of notes. With 4,096 samples a second, I felt zero lag. This could even make me a believer in the pen.

Screen Off Memo with S Pen

Samsung really nailed it here and led the new pen revolution of this century. Once I found myself taking many notes with S Pen, I longed for a Windows app to view and share these notes on my PC. I thought the S Notes app would work, but it did not. I would like to see a Windows app and a way to sync OneNote.

Security

Without Samsung’s Knox, I will admit, I do have had my questions about Android security. While Android is improving its security with features like Play Protect and accelerated security updates, Knox still adds the security X-factor that makes Android more secure. The fact is that Samsung devices with Knox are deployed by militaries, governments, financial institutions, and health care agencies, so it will likely be secure enough for your business. There are no foolproof security solutions, and everything can be hacked over time, so staying ahead of security is important.

In addition to the typical password and PIN, the Note 8 has an iris scanner, face scanner and a fingerprint scanner on the back of the phone. The iris scanner cannot be “stacked” at the initial login, but it can be serially stacked on top of specific corporate apps. For instance, to get into that enterprise data app, the user could be required to enter their iris identification on top of the PIN or password to get into the phone. The same is true for the fingerprint reader, but based on where it is inconveniently located, on the back, I do not see it getting used a lot. Neither Samsung or I recommend using the current Note 8 facial recognition capabilities in any high-security areas as it can be spoofed with a photo.

The Note 8 also has what’s called a “Secure Folder” built for enterprise IT and the end user. The Secure Folder protects IT from getting contaminated with their worker’s apps and data, and it also protects user’s privacy from IT unless, of course, IT performs a complete smartphone wipe. What I love about the secure folder is that biometric security can be stacked on top of it.
Universal communication
Whether it is participating in a conference or a Spark video call, the Note 8 is a communications machine. First off, if you are anything like me, you are doing a few things in addition to paying attention to the call. There may be a lull or a topic that’s not applicable to you, and you want to do email, or you have to check another app related to the video call. This is where App Pairs, split view and multitasking come into play. You can conduct a video call and do other things just like you do on the PC.
I will add that the Note 8 still has a headphone jack, so if you are in a bind and can’t find those fancy wireless headphones for that marathon call, or they run out of juice, you are covered. I personally don’t mind not having a headphone jack, but some may, especially if they are on conference calls all day.
Battery and charging
Consumer phone makers do not pay enough attention to battery life or charging. It is one thing if your device goes dark and you cannot watch cat videos; it’s an entirely different matter if you are on that phone all day conducting commerce.  The Note 8 has a bevy of power-saving and quick charge technologies that all businesses need to consider.

First off, the Note 8 has a very large 3,300mAh battery to drive the entire system. The Note 7 had a 3,500mAh battery, but the Note 8 now has a power-sipping, 10nm application processor. That is a good base to start and the Note 8 does even more with two different power saving modes:

  • “Medium power savings mode” which appears to double battery life by decreasing brightness, screen resolution to FHD+, limits CPU frequency and shuts off background networking and the Always On Display
  • “Maximum power savings mode” which appears to increase battery life by 5-6X by decreasing screen brightness 10%, decreasing screen resolution to HD+, limits CPU frequency and eliminates background network usage.
I never ran out of battery life with the Note 8 using different power savings modes and that says a lot because I am on my phone ALL day.

Samsung’s 4th Generation Wireless charger

The Note 8 will invariably need to be charged, and there are a few options to do that. First, there is fast cable charging compatible with Qualcomm QuickCharge 2.0. Sure, QuickCharge 4.0 would have been better, but Samsung is probably best off being conservative in this area for now. The Note 8 can also be wirelessly charged on a fourth generation, wireless fast-charger. Samsung’s evolution of wireless charging goes back to 2015, and I have to say, the company has nearly perfected it. With three charging coils and the ability to use the phone while it is charging on a swanky looking, leather-feeling charger, their solution will be hard to beat. Unlike other wireless chargers, I never “missed” the wireless charging zone, an issue with two and one coil chargers. I liked to keep the Note 8 on the charger serving in High-Performance mode as the third display between my two 32″ PC displays with my calendar open to make sure I didn’t miss any appointments. I also found it useful in social media notification triage.
Extend to a windowed, desktop environment with DeX
DeX is a system of a hardware dock and software that enables the Note 8 to serve as a desktop computing device, connected to a large display, keyboard, and mouse.  In the week that I had the Note 8, I did not have enough time to redo my DeX review I did with the S8+. Samsung did make some improvements, and I will cover those in the future. When I used it with the S8+, I was left knowing that DeX has many merits and Samsung appears to be improving it step by step. Nearly every app that was optimized for Android 7 worked well including most of the Microsoft productivity apps.
Dust and water protection with IP68
The Note 8 and S Pen are self-certified as “IP68” for dust and water protection. IP ratings and the “IP” stands for “Ingress Protection”. The “6” means it is what is called “dust tight” where there is no ingress of dust and has complete protection against any contact with dust. The “8” means the Note8 is protected from water immersion up to 1 meter. As I said after the Note 8 announcement, I do not know why any businesses buy smartphones that aren’t IP68 compliant is a bit puzzling to me as most enterprise notebooks are just that.
Dual OIS and dual lens camera
While consumers will undoubtedly appreciate the dual lens, dual camera Note 8 camera experience, businesses will, too.

As I said after the Note 8 launch event, cameras are not just for selfies or for eclipses. Insurance adjusters, real estate agents, architects, and builders all need better cameras. These verticals rely on communicating with their clients based on the quality of photos, so quality matters. The addition of S Pen opens new doors, too. With S Pen, a builder can take many photos of a construction site and point out with S Pen where potential problem areas are that need to be fixed and immediately sent to sub-contractors.

Also consider how visual AI works, demanding a better camera. New business visual AI apps are popping up all over the place which does things like automatically determine how much money you should get back from insurance after a car wreck, determine what skin condition you have by taking photos of it. If you have heard of the team “GIGO,” Garbage In, Garbage Out- this law applies to visual AI. The better the camera, the better the visual AI and the better-automated result.

Dual camera with dual OIS

A good camera will come into play with AR (augmented reality), and I am interested to see what Samsung and Google can do with the new ARCore. Without a depth sensor, you need two lenses to do many of the AR tricks well.

The Note 8 delivered an exceptional camera experience that rivals anything I have ever used. The dual OIS eliminates shakes from 2X to 10x zoom, quite incredible. While I am struggling to find a business use for bokeh beyond sellers of goods, it was also an exceptional experience with the ability to edit the bokeh intensity before and after the photo. Edge detection is vital with the bokeh effect, and it worked perfectly, unlike other smartphones, like Huawei, where it is hit and miss.
VR ecosystem
It is a mistake to only think of VR as a consumer phenomenon. I believe when we look back in five years, commercial VR will have driven most of the revenue. Samsung has the most mature and supported VR mobile ecosystem available. The company is on their third-generation headset and supports not only Oculus but also Google Daydream. The support for both VR platforms also means that Samsung users are not left out of any content that’s available for commercial mobile VR.
1 gigabit CAT.16 LTE
While Samsung does not play this up as much as they should, the Note 8 supports CAT.16 LTE Advanced networks supporting up to 1Gbps downloads. This is twice the speeds of many other premium smartphones, and 34 global carriers will have it live by the end of the year. In the US, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint are already live in targeted cities with the goal of all major MMAs by the end of the year.

Businesses should care because employees can have “line speeds” they have at work, removing any excuse for not getting work done. CAT.16 is a blessing for VDI, too, and makes the mobile VDI and app streaming case even stronger. Better connectivity via Gigabit LTE also usually translates to better battery life and fewer dropped calls.

The next Galaxy Note

I would be remiss to not list a wish list for what I would like to see support for businesses for the next Note. I would like to see a Note that is easier to handle with one hand without needing a case. Most premium phones are designed to look sexy, placed in a case for protection, and that sexiness makes them hard to hold. How about a rubberized material? This would make one-hand, case-less operation so much easier.

In the next note, I’d also like to see an under-glass, ultrasonic finger print reader. The Note 8 rear fingerprint reader, while placed in a better place than the S8+, is still hard to operate and impossible to use with DeX. With DeX, I’m forced to use PIN or put my face close to the display and use retina,

I’d also like to see a WiGig 802.11ad version of DeX, which would enable wireless docking. All I would need to do is put my Note into its wireless charger, open DeX and call it a day. Samsung could also super-charge a DeX experience by increasing its CPU performance and a higher dynamic range, enabling it to safely “overclock”. Integer performance is important with business productivity apps and DeX could use more “juice”.

Finally, as I said in my event article, I would like to see a MIL-STD 810G-compliant version of the Note. 810G is a military standard that comprehends the device’s ability to withstand altitudes, shock, and vibration, low and high temperatures, blowing rain, fungus, salt fog, humidity, exposure to dust and sand and even “explosive atmosphere. This could make the Note a lock for military, health care, transportation, industrial and construction applications.
Summary
The Samsung Galaxy Note is a great consumer phone and the best business phone I have ever used. Samsung adds Knox, iris scanning and secure folder for security while creating a multitasking monster of a smartphone experience with its Infinity Display and App Pair. S Pen adds another input dimension and nails it with Screen Off memos with multiple pages. DeX adds a unique capability to transform the Note 8 into a desktop, windowed desktop computer with large display, keyboard, and mouse. Businesses will not get stranded with the Note 8 for the future with new use cases as it already leads in mobile VR and will be first in line with ARCore. If you are a business researching your corporate smartphone standard or those for vertical use, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 must be in your consideration set if not purchase set.