We’ve had a full week playing with Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 7 and its all-new iris scanner, a very cool security feature that acts as an alternative to the built-in fingerprint sensor. Here’s our in-depth review of the Note 7’s iris scanner, including setup and the results of our real-life tests.
What is the Galaxy Note 7’s iris scanner?
The Note 7’s iris scanner is a quick and convenient way of unlocking the phone, and like a fingerprint sensor is much more secure than a simple PIN or password that anyone can read over your shoulder. Basically, the Note 7’s front-facing camera analyses your eyeball when you try and unlock the handset, to prove that you’re the owner.
How does the Galaxy Note 7’s iris scanner work?
The Note 7’s front-facing camera uses infra-red light to take a high-contrast photo of both of your eyeballs, specifically around your pupils and irises. Because everyone’s eyeballs are as unique as their fingerprints, this provides a unique pattern which the Note 7 can use to prove your identity when you try and unlock the phone.
Does the Galaxy Note 7’s iris scanner work in the dark?
The Note 7’s iris scanner works very well indeed in the dark. Because the Note 7’s iris scanner uses infra-red light instead of normal light to map out your eyeballs, you can use the sensor even when you’re in a pitch black room. It’s just as accurate and responsive.
Does the Galaxy Note 7’s iris scanner work with glasses or contact lenses?
Some glasses can pose a problem with the Note 7’s iris scanner, so some users may find that they’ll need to remove their eyewear when setting up the sensor and every time that they want to unlock the phone.
However, I personally found that my Note 7 still unlocked when I was wearing my glasses, even though I wasn’t wearing them during the setup process. I also tried the Note 7’s iris scanner with contact lenses and it worked perfect fine, despite Samsung’s warnings that contacts might cause a problem too.
Galaxy Note 7 iris scanner review
Setup of the Note 7’s iris scanner is incredibly quick and easy. Just head to the security settings and tap setup, then open your eyes wide and stare at the camera for a second or two. That’s all it takes.
With that done, you can use the iris scanner to unlock the Note 7 each time. Sadly it’s not the quickest method of getting into your phone, as you need to tap the power or home button and then flick the Note 7’s screen and only then will the iris scanner check your eyeballs. In comparison, the fingerprint sensor just requires you to finger the button and you’ll be into your desktops in no time at all.
Still, the iris scanner is impressively quick once you’ve faffed around turning on the display and flicking to the unlock screen. As long as you’re looking at the camera at a reasonable distance, the scanner will read your eyes and unlock the Note 7 in well under a second. In fact, the scanner only needs to read one of your eyeballs, not both, so you don’t even need to fiddle around lining up your eyes perfectly in the centre.
The only time I struggled to get the iris scanner to work was when I was walking at the same time, as it’s difficult to keep the phone and your head still enough for a clear reading. Besides that, it worked every time almost instantly.
Nine times out of ten I use the Note 7’s fingerprint sensor to unlock the phone instead. However, if my hands are wet or dirty (usually when I’m busy cooking), then the iris scanner is an ideal alternative.