New Note7 scans iris for added security

Mr Justin Denison, Samsung's senior vice-president of product strategy, talking about the Galaxy Note7's iris recognition technology during the Samsung Unpacked event in New York.
Mr Justin Denison, Samsung's senior vice-president of product strategy, talking about the Galaxy Note7's iris recognition technology during the Samsung Unpacked event in New York.ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

Samsung's newly launched flagship Galaxy Note7 phone comes with an iris scanner for enhanced security, which analysts say will be the next battleground for handset makers.

Unveiled on Monday in New York, the 5.7-inch Note7 will be on sale in Singapore from Aug 20 for $1,168. The successor to the Note5 has skipped a version to synchronise its name with Samsung's popular Galaxy S7 and S7 edge smartphones.

Sporting a display that curves down on both sides, the device's enhanced security features are aimed at consumers who increasingly use their phones for highly sensitive transactions and for storing classified documents.

Mr Eugene Goh, Samsung Electronics Singapore vice-president of IT & Mobile, said that the Note7's strong security features and an enhanced service ecosystem make it "the ideal device for those who want to achieve more in life".

For instance, iris scanning is used to unlock the phone and a new Secure Folder for storing users' confidential documents and apps. It can also be used for authenticating Samsung Pay transactions at retailers.

Samsung Pay is the Korean electronics giant's e-wallet service, which allows users to tap their phone on contactless readers to pay for goods and services.

Samsung is also working with service providers to let Note7 users access, say, financial apps by scanning their irises.

Market research firm IDC's research manager, Ms Kiranjeet Kaur, said that the Note7's iris scanner helps the phone stand out from its competitors. "It is a matter of time before other companies, especially China-based handset markers, start embedding the same technology in their smartphones," she said.

"But we will have to wait and see if iris recognition is as easy to use as fingerprint scanning," she added.

Iris scanning is new for Samsung, although forerunners such as Japan's Fujitsu and China-based Vivo have already launched smartphones equipped with an iris scanner.

Symantec security evangelist Nick Savvides said that iris scanning may be more convenient to use, but offers similar protection as fingerprint scanning from casual hackers. However, he points out that the biometric data of the iris should be stored in a secure enclave to reduce the chances of it falling into the hands of more sophisticated or well-resourced attackers.

The new Note7 comes with an S Pen stylus that is twice as sensitive as the Note 5's, making scribbling or drawing closer to a pen-and-paper experience. Working with the stylus is also possible when the Note7's screen is wet.

The device is the first Galaxy Note to be dust- and water-resistant and can withstand water to a depth of 1.5m and up to 30 minutes. Like the S7 and S7 edge, the Note7 sports a 12-megapixel rear camera and 5-megapixel front-facing camera. It also has 64GB of internal storage, which can be expanded by up to an additional 256GB using a microSD card.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2016, with the headline 'New Note7 scans iris for added security'. Print Edition | Subscribe