The Note 3 is the crown jewel of Samsung's fleet of Android-based smartphones. It improves upon the Note and Note II in every way and still offers a few surprises. Samsung managed to increase the size of the display while also shrinking the overall footprint of the over-large smartphone. The display measures 5.7 inches across the diagonal and packs in 1920 x 1080 pixels for a full HD Super AMOLED screen. The device will be powered by either a 2.3-GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor from Qualcomm or a 1.9-GHz eight-core Exynos 5 Octa processor from Samsung, depending on the market. Both devices will be paired with an industry-leading 3 GB of RAM.
The Note 3 is slightly thinner, narrower, and lighter than last year's model and features a slightly refreshed design. It carries over some of the design language of the Galaxy S4, such as the polycarbonate frame, and changes the look by switching to a faux leather back cover instead of glossy plastic. The back panel, which is removable, now has a soft-touch texture that looks like a high-quality leather wallet, but it's plastic. The slight change in the phone's look and feel is a welcome one.
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Other specs include a 13-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video capture; a 2-megapixel user-facing camera, also with 1080p HD video capture; Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, infrared, MHL 2.0 and USB 3.0; and either 32 or 64 GB of storage. It is powered by a 3200mAh battery. The device will be sold in the U.S by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless.
The Note 10.1 tablet shares many features with the Note 3 smartphone. Notably, it has a better-than-HD, WQXGA Super LCD screen with 2560 x 1600 pixels. It is based on the same processor and memory setup as the Note 3, but dials the main camera down to 8 megapixels and comes in three storage variants: 16, 32, and 64 GB. It is powered by an 8,220mAh battery.
Both the tablet and the smartphone run Android 4.3 Jelly Bean with Samsung's TouchWiz user interface. They include many of the software tools first seen on the Galaxy S4, such as Samsung's WatchON software for video discovery and Samsung Knox for business security.
But the most impressive features are with the S Pen stylus included with both devices. Samsung revamped the features to make them easier to find and to use. For starters, the Note 3 and 10.1 offer a refreshed stylus user interface called Air Command whenever the stylus is removed from its holder. The UI shows up on the screen with shortcuts to all the new S Pen features. Those features include Action Memo, which lets users perform actions based on text they've written with the S Pen (such as opening a web page or making a phone call); ScrapBook, which lets users select and save Web-based content and store it in a visual tapestry resembling a scrapbook; S Finder, for searching through handwritten notes and other content on the phone or tablet; and Pen Window, which adds small widget-like apps to the home screen for better multitasking. Samsung also made it easy for users to drag-and-drop content from one multitasking window to another, rather than forcing them to sort through annoying on-screen menus.
Rather than sitting around waiting for its chief competitor, Apple, to innovate, Samsung is forging ahead with its own new ideas. The S Pen functions make the Note 3 and Note 10.1 even more business-friendly while also offering a fresh look and feel. Samsung did a good job improving both the phone and tablet, and both are fearsome iPhone and iPad competitors.
Both devices will be available in the U.S. in the next two months; each individual U.S. network operator will announce its own release plans.