Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 is one of the best phones of the year. Aside from its great design and incredible feature set, it has one big thing that sets it apart: an iris scanner.

Here's what it is, and how to set it up.

What is an iris scanner?

Simply what it sounds like: a tool that scans your eyes — or more specifically, your iris. It is used for biometric authentication, for logging in to your phone and various secure features within the phone, such as the Secure Folder.

The iris scanner uses two distinct pieces of hardware to achieve an accurate scan: a small, front-facing camera sensor; and an infrared sensor, that helps measure the unique aspects of your eye like its shape and depth. Combined, these prevent photos or other static interpretations of someone's face from being used to dupe the system.

VPN Deals: Lifetime license for $16, monthly plans at $1 & more

Should you use an iris scanner?

Iris scanning is an alternative to other forms of authentication, particularly the Note 7's fingerprint sensor. It doesn't replace any way of logging in, but can be used in conjunction with other secure login methods like a password, PIN, or pattern. The Note 7's iris scanner is not always as reliable as its fingerprint sensor — both I and Andrew Martonik have had issues with it in anything but ideal lighting conditions — but it's also accessible in situations where the fingerprint sensor isn't a viable option. Use the iris scanner when your finger is wet or inside gloves, or when it just makes more sense to hold the phone upright.

How to set up the iris scanner

Setting up the iris scanner is easy, and can be done in one of two ways: the first time you set up your Note 7, or any time thereafter, through the Settings menu. We'll be showing you the way to set it up the second way, but these steps also apply to the initial setup, as well.

  1. Pull down on your notification shade.
  2. Tap the Settings icon.
  3. In Settings, scroll down and tap on Lock screen and security.

  4. Tap on Irises.
  5. Enter your pin code, password or pattern.
  6. Read the instructions and tap Continue.
  7. Go through the remaining steps to set up iris scanner.

  8. Once completed, tap Turn on.
  9. Optional step: Enable Web sign-in and Verify Samsung account.

That's it! You can now access the iris scanner by turning on your phone and swiping up on the lock screen.

How to improve the reliability of the iris scanner on the Galaxy Note 7

Samsung recommends a few things to make sure the iris scanner works well every time you turn on your phone.

  • Take off your glasses (or avoid wearing colored contacts)
  • Hold the Note 7 25-35cm (9.8-13.7 inches) from your face
  • Hold the Note 7 parallel to your eyes, making sure to look at the camera, not the screen
  • Keep your eyes open fully throughout the scan
  • Avoid scanning in direct sunlight
  • Ensure both the IR sensor and the iris scanner camera lens are clean from smudges and scratches

Your turn

What has your experience been like with the Galaxy Note 7's iris scanner? Let us know in the comments below!