Did Samsung just put Apple on the clock?
At an event in Berlin on Wednesday, Samsung introduced two new devices that were heavily anticipated for different reasons. The Galaxy Note 3 is the smartphone giant’s followup to the successful Galaxy Note 2, coming with an even larger screen and the latest version of Android, Android 4.3; the Galaxy Gear, meanwhile, is an entirely new category for Samsung, marking what is perhaps its first and best chance to create a market for a device, rather than follow in competitors like Apple, HTC and Motorola.
Let’s start with the Galaxy Note 3. Samsung’s newest release of its Galaxy Note smartphone packs some solid hardware improvements, most notably a 13 MegaPixel camera capable of capturing 1080p and ultra high definition 4K video. The Super AMOLED screen is also a full HD (1080p) 5.7” (up from 5.5 inches on the Galaxy Note 2 and 5.3 inches on the Galaxy Note) and the processor is a hefty 2.3 GHz quad-core. The Note 3 will offer 3GB of RAM, which Samsung says will make for more efficient, lag-free multitasking, and a huge 3,200 mAh battery. Full tech specs, mapped against the Galaxy Note 2, are available here.
Samsung also went into great detail on its new S Pen stylus and Air Command, a set of actions and gestures that can help the user multitask and utilize “more advanced note-taking.” The Pen Window feature lets users draw a window of any size, anywhere on the screen, to quickly open up another application on top of the current activity without pausing or switching screens.
In a partnership with news reader application Flipboard, meanwhile, a new My Magazine app looks to take full advantage of the Note 3’s large, high density screen by allowing the user to create their own personalized, magazine-style “news, social media, entertainment and in-the-moment content experience.”
The biggest feature of the Galaxy Note 3, however, is likely its biggest feature: the display. Apple’s run of iPhones has yet to surpass the 4 inch display threshold; other companies like HTC, LG and Motorola continue to build smartphones with displays that near the 5 inch mark, though none have made screen size central in the way Samsung has. Samsung is clearly looking to continue this large format domination with its Galaxy Note 3, bumping up the screen size once again.
Samsung also seems to see another opportunity to grab a market lead in a neglected category: the so-called smartwatch. With a “welcome to the future,” tagline, Samsung introduced the Galaxy Gear, sporting a 1.63 inch Super AMOLED touchscreen, an 800 MHz processor, the ability to run version of many of the latest Android apps, and a 1.9 Megapixel front facing camera. The Gear links to Galaxy smartphones and tablets through Bluetooth connectivity, but will not be able to connect to non-Samsung smartphones. A full list of features and specs is available here.
Samsung is not the first manufacturer to debut a smartwatch -- Sony and Pebble, notably, are already in the space -- but it is the most noteworthy, especially given its runaway success against Apple in the smartphone market. With the success of crowdfunded projects like the Pebble watch, as well as the once growing popularity of iPod Nano wrist watch kits/bands, the smartwatch arena has seemingly become a focus for the big league gadget companies, as Apple, Google and Microsoft have all been attached to reports of developing products of their own. The Galaxy Gear, then, becomes the largest, most-hyped smartwatch launch announcement to date.
The Galaxy Gear will retail for $299 starting on September 25th; the Galaxy Note 3 will also go on sale on September 25th, at AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular. No price was announced for the American version of the Note 3.