Samsung, as promised, introduced a smartwatch and a new phablet at a live-streaming event in Berlin Sept. 4. It also threw in a new, feature-rich 10.1-inch tablet. (But with a Samsung smartwatch to finally ogle, who has time to care about another tablet?)
In New York, the press were gathered in Times Square to tune into the event (via a faulty feed that eventually dropped off), and the world’s top-selling device maker showed off the Galaxy Note 3, calling it “the best large-screen phone in the market place;” the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition, the Samsung tablet with now as cumbersome a name as the Apple iPad with Retina Display; and the Galaxy Gear, a smartwatch that Gregory Lee, the new president of Samsung Telecommunications America, said was “like nothing available today.”
While Samsung has indeed beaten Apple to the smartphone game, Galaxy Gear isn’t alone, of course. Joining a number of options on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, in June Sony introduced the Android-running SmartWatch 2. And in San Diego, at nearly the exact moment of Samsung’s Galaxy Gear launch, Qualcomm introduced the Android-running Toq.
The Galaxy Gear is unique, however, in featuring Samsung’s S Voice technology, which enables a user to place a call without touching the Gear—while driving, say, or while leaving the grocery store (to use a less dangerous Samsung example) with bags in his arms.
With S Voice, a user can also check the weather, set alarms, create calendar entries and draft messages, all hands free.
Here’s what else you need to know about the Gear:
• The Gear has a unique look. It has a 1.63-inch AMOLED display (320 by 320), a thick plastic band and an intense silver clasp. The bands will come in six colors—black, gray, orange, oatmeal, rose-gold and lime green. It weighs less than 3 ounces and features an 800MHz processor.
• On one side of the wrist band is a 1.9-megapixel camera. Looking into the tiny display to take a photo is a bit reminiscent of taking a photo with an old clamshell feature phone. The Gear’s camera shutter, however, makes an obvious photo-snapping sound that can’t be disabled—a nod to privacy concerns.
• This is a companion device. Exactly whom it’s a companion to isn’t quite clear—several Samsung representatives at the press event said it was an exclusive companion to the Galaxy Note 3, but multiple news reports say it will also pair with the new Galaxy 10.1 (2014 Edition!). Either way, it’s hard to imagine that Samsung won’t eventually open it up to additional Galaxy devices, if not at least the Galaxy S 4.
• A Smart Relay feature alerts users to calls, texts, emails and alerts that are incoming on a paired smartphone, and a user can accept or reject these using the Gear. From the home screen, a user swipes from side to side to access apps, such as the calendar, the camera and notifications, and swipes down to access the camera.
• The Gear runs Android, but only applications designed with the Gear’s 1.6-inch touch-screen in mind. It will ship with 50-plus apps available, including a MyFitnessPal app that helps users to achieve their fitness goals.
• The Gear includes Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, and an Auto Lock feature that enables a user to lock her phone from the Gear. That said, when the devices are in close proximity, it can dismiss the need to type a safety code into the phone to unlock it.
Samsung Intros Galaxy Gear Smartwatch, Note 10.1, Note 3 Phablet
• A price was not officially revealed at the event, but the Wall Street Journal has reported that the price will be $299. Samsung will begin shipping with the Note 3, in more than 140 countries, on Sept. 25.
Samsung Galaxy Note 3
With the Note 10.1 and the Note 3, Samsung departed from the nature-inspired aesthetics it touted in its previous Galaxy devices. With these new devices, both of which feature an S Pen, Samsung went for a journal-feel in the hand, covering the back in a leather-like fabric and “fine stitching.”
The Note 3 is slimmer (8.3mm) and lighter (168 grams) than its predecessor but manages to feature a larger (5.7-inch) full HD Super AMOLED display. It also has a 3,200mAh battery, for more a longer use time, and a 13-megapixel rear camera with Smart Stabilization technology and a “high CRI LED flash,” said to produce crisp images in low light and active situations.
Samsung also grew the capabilities of the S Pen. Hovering it over the screen produces a palette of five options. Action Memo lets a user handwrite a note and initiate actions from it—call the number written down, for example. Scrapbooks helps a user to collect various kinds of content, including Web pages, in a single place—research for a vacation, say—so that it’s easily referable; Screen Write lets a user capture a screen image and write comments on top; S Finder allows for a full-device search, including hand-written notes; and Pen Window, surely the coolest of all, lets a user draw a box on the screen with the S Pen and then open another application, such as YouTube or the calculator, inside the box, regardless of the app that’s currently running.
The Note 3 also enables other multitasking capabilities that take advantage of its screen real estate, and it comes with Knox security protection, which makes it possible to create a safe “container” on the device that offers enterprise-grade security against phishing and malware attacks.
The Note 3 will be available in 32GB and 64GB versions, with the latter featuring an additional microSD slot, beginning Sept. 25. The device will come in black, white and blush pink, though Flip Wallets will come in loads of colors and styles.
Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition
The new Note 10.1 features a 10.1-inch WQXGA display with a resolution of 2560 by 1600, a 1.9GHz Octa Core processor, 3GB of RAM and Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean). It measures 243.1 by 171.4 by 7.9mm and weighs 1.2 pounds.
It includes the key perks of the Note 3, including Knox security and Pen Window, in addition to Multi Window, which lets a user run separate instances of the same application.
“The new Galaxy Note 10.1 is the most progressive 10-inch tablet, delivering the best viewing and multitasking experiences,” Samsung President JK Shin said in a statement. He added that it will “consistently surprise” users, as they discover how much easier it makes their lives.
This sentiment reached across all of the new offerings, which by mid-fall are likely to have new Apple devices to compete against.
“Samsung’s ongoing smart device innovation leadership reflects our commitment to listen to our consumers,” said Shin, “who want their lives to be easier and more enjoyable.”