Samsung Launches the Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Gear

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In 2011 Samsung re-invented the mobile wheel, so to speak. Where the phone world back then was all about smaller and more compact, Samsung decided to buck the trend and go its own way. The result was the original Galaxy Note. Around 2 years and more than 38 million units later, it’s safe to say that Samsung pioneered and literally owns the “phablet” market. Many manufacturers have tried and just about every player now has a 5”+ screen device in its line-up, but none has come even close to the sort of success the Note has seen.

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]amsung is currently busy with its Note 3 World Tour and I was able to attend the Cape Town leg of this tour on Thursday evening. With the media event, Samsung wasn’t afraid to throw big numbers around, and with some bold claims, Samsung is positioning itself to lead the African continent when it comes to smartphones. In fact Samsung wants 50% plus of the smartphone share throughout Africa, and with strategies like the simultaneous launch of the Note 3 throughout the whole of Africa within the next week, it seems they will lay claim those boasts.

The Galaxy S range has been Samsung’s darling range of devices for a while now, but with the event on Thursday, it is VERY clear that Samsung also has a soft spot for the Note range. It’s clear that the Note 3 is a very important device for Samsung. They spared no expense at the launch event, and also didn’t fail to impress. And apart from the launch event, Note 3 and Gear ads are plastered just about everywhere. Both O.R Tambo and Cape Town airports are littered with huge posters for the devices and the television commercial for both runs on every television Samsung could lay their hands on.

Over 1200 people attended the event held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. After registration, all guests were treated to drinks and finger foods within a huge room with a spectacular bar right in the middle. Waiters and waitresses were at the beck and call of all the guests throughout, carting food and drinks around for everyone to savour. Wines were specially selected and the food was amazing.

After a while of getting to relax with good food and wine, a video showed us what the pen is all about, and then one side of the room was pulled away to reveal a huge stage with 6 screens and seating for everyone.

Here Samsung held its main event, treating us all to a spectacular show, hosted by the ever elegant Dr. Michael Moll. Samsung laid out what the Note is all about, which I will get to in a bit, and then revealed a few big surprises, one of which is Samsung’s imminent partnership with the Springboks, as their official smartphone partner.

Another surprise was the Note 10.1 2014 Edition, that Samsung let us play with together with the Note 3 and Gear. It will be released soon, probably just in time for Christmas.

Another big reveal for Samsung was Samsung Premium. Earlier in the year, Samsung revealed their ADH (Accidental Damage through Handling) program with the Galaxy S4, where you could get your S4 fixed if the screen broke or you accidentally dropped it in water. Samsung Premium takes this further with its premium range of devices, meaning the S and Note ranges. If you damage your device, Samsung will fetch your device from you and give you a similar replacement phone for the duration of the reparation process. They will fetch the device at your door. The ADH also applies and you are able to do this twice within the 24 month that the Samsung Premium program runs on your device. Samsung also has a Premium call centre to assist members and whatever you don’t use, gets transferred to your next device, if you go with a premium device again.

After the main event, the one side of hall, again was pulled away to reveal an “experience area” with a tom of devices running and Samsung team members helping you through how it all works. And then yet another wall was pulled away to reveal the HUGE after party spot.

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But let me get down to the real star of the show, the Note 3.

Although the Galaxy S4 is the current flagship device for Samsung, it is dwarfed by the Note 3 (excuse the pun) in just about every respect.

The Note 3’s screen has swelled to 5.7”, yet the actual dimensions shrunk and weight lost from the previous Note. The full HD AMOLED screen looks amazing and has very wide viewing angles. It’s sleeker, better packaged and more refined than its predecessor, not that there were issues in those departments.

Under the hood things have also dramatically increased. South Africa will get two versions of the Note 3; the LTE and 3G versions. The LTE version will come with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 chipset, rated at 2.3GHz, coupled with the Adreno 330 GPU. The 3G variant will come equipped with Samsung’s own Exynos 5 Octa-core chipset, coupled with Mali-T628 MP6 GPU. Both will come equipped with an astounding 3GB of RAM.

The Note 3’s photo and video capabilities also outguns the S4, and then some. The Note 3 also has a 13MP camera. But on the video front, the Note 3 can shoot full 4K video!!! Yes, a full 2160p (3840×2160) video at 30fps! It goes further and can shoot full 1080p HD video at 60fps. It’s only available on the LTE version with the Snapdragon chipset though. Both version can shoot full 1080p HD. Along with the 4K recording, the Note also records sound at 24-bit and 192KHz, much higher than any other device can do currently.

Samsung had both variants on display for us to fiddle with, and either way the Note 3 is the smoothest Android device I have worked with. Both chipsets and the enormous amount of RAM, means that the Note 3 chews up normal tasks without a hitch and full HD videos look and sound absolutely fantastic. From what I could see there simply isn’t any mobile apps or games that will currently make the Note 3 stumble. It’s that fast.

The idea behind the Note 3 is to be a true multitasking device, with which you can “Design your life”. The Note has a multi window function and with the newly redesigned S-Pen, you can access many time-saving and life-doing tasks. With the Note you can essentially bin your phone, tablet, Netbook and Laptop. It does what all of them do. Samsung did a really good job in optimizing the larger screen for multitasking and for getting things done easier and the S-Pen plays a big part in this. For normal tasks, you use the Note you would any other touch screen phone, but then when you want to get the work done, you take out the S-Pen, and start working.

The Note is also the most beautiful Samsung device I’ve seen to date. The design is sleek and stylish, and the leather back just adds to the premium feel of the Note 3. Along with stylish accessories and a variety of different coloured covers, Samsung really aims to make the Note 3 a fashionable and integral part of your life. A life companion device, if you will. It will initially be launched in black and white, with a blush pink variant coming soon. There will also be a choice of 13 different autumn coloured covers for the Note 3 at launch.

Both the LTE and 3G variants will set you back R8999, and became on Friday.

Another BIG announcement was that of the Galaxy Gear. You’d be mistaken to think that the Gear is a smart-watch, but as Samsung pointed out, it’s not. The Gear is wearable technology. It is also a companion device for the Note 3. Samsung has really stepped out of the box with these devices.

The Gear itself is no slouch of a device. The Gear runs on a custom single-core 800MHz processor and its 320×320 1.63” AMOLED screen looks sufficiently sleek. Samsung has also managed to pack a 1.9MP camera, 720p video recording in the device and it runs on Android 4.2. And yes, that is a stainless steel body.

The working between the Gear and the Note 3 is really interesting. The Gear essentially looks and feel like a watch, but it will notify you of any messages, mails, texts or chats that you get on your Note 3. You can even make and receive calls with the Gear. Yes, its looks very James Bond, with you speaking into the Gear. You can then respond either via the Gear, or via the Note 3, as what’s displayed on the Gear, is also displayed on the Note 3. For instance, the Gear will let you know that you’ve received an email. You can then open your Note 3 and reply to the mail from there. Or the Gear could notify you of a missed call. You can also activate functions on the Gear via S-Voice. The Gear and Note communicate via Bluetooth, and if the two devices become separated, both of their information sharing gets locked down, so that neither can be hacked for info.

The Gear comes equipped with a pedometer and gyroscope. The Gear also has 4GB built-in memory and Samsung says battery life will be good for 25 hours. Another clever function is the useful “Find-My-Phone” function. The Gear can “phone” the Note 3 and as it rings you can find it.

The concept is unique and fresh and from the looks of it, very well thought out and well implemented. Samsung said that the Note 3 would be sold either on its own, or bundled with the Gear. Gear will not be sold on its own though, as it is seen as a companion device, rather than a standalone device. That will be true for contracts as well. My only concern is pricing. The Gear is priced at R4500, which is by no means cheap. But there is literally nothing else in the market that you can actually compare it to. And coupled with the Note 3, will give you a unique experience that no one else has ever had.

Samsung has truly broken the mould again with the Note 3 and Gear and this combination looks set to push the boundaries of how we interact with our mobile devices. The Note 3 is as high-end a device as you will find this year, with specs that makes almost every other premium smartphone look downright average. And the unique and good-looking Gear is set to shake up the status quo. And after having spent some time with both devices together, it works, and it works well.

If you want to see the brilliant little television commercial that emotionally showcases how the Note 3 and Gear can help design your life, have a look at the link below:

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And to watch the story of the Note 3, have a look at this video:

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