Champagne on the door, a warm-up gig courtesy of Icona Pop, a live stream to Times Square in New York… forget the boat, Samsung pushed a proverbial ocean liner out when they launched their latest portable gadgets at IFA this week. They even ditched the dated halls of the Messe in favour of a rather more dramatic venue, Berlin’s Tempodrom, and I was lucky enough to get a VIP pass for all the action.
I was most excited about the launch of this, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, a 5.7in tablet-cum-smartphone.
This new addition to the growing ‘phablet’ category is one of the best I’ve seen. I loved its bright full HD Super AMOLED display, noticed how much thinner (8.3mm) and lighter (168g) it is compared to previous incarnations, and was chuffed that the 13MP back camera has been fitted out with Smart Stabilisation and a brighter flash for less blurry shots. My photography needs all the help it can get!
My favourite thing about the Note 3, however, is undoubtedly the improved S Pen. If you hover it over the screen you’ll be able to access five Air Commands. These include a Scrapbook option that allows you to use your pen as a pair of scissors, ‘cutting out’ images or text that you can then add to your own Scrapbooks (think of it a bit like Pinterest).
There’s also Pen Window, which is really handy for multitasking. Simply draw a window of any size and you can open and run a separate application within it – say a calculator or a web browser – without having to hop in and out of different screens.
Another notable feature of, er, Note is My Magazine, which collates your social media, favourite news feeds and entertainment sites into a magazine-style layout. Sound familiar? It’s been developed with help from Flipboard.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 will be available in blush pink, jet black and classic white, and with flip wallets in 10 colours, including mink blue, mustard yellow and the rather less sexy oatmeal beige, with talk of accessories from Mochino and Nicholas Kirkwood. It’s available on September 25th,with preorders available at Phones4U. But be warned it’s not cheap, tagged at a massive £649.
Moving on now to surely one of the worst kept secrets of this year’s IFA – the launch of a whole new category of so-called smart watches. Here’s Samsung’s offering, the Galaxy Gear.
The idea behind the Gear is that you pair it up to your Samsung smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth. You can then answer phone calls, read emails and messages, and be alerted to upcoming events without having to rummage in your bag for your phone.
A 1.9MP camera is built into the wrist-strap, so you can take quick snaps to be shared quickly on Twitter or Instagram, and the Gear can double as a pedometer, tracking calories burned, steps taken and distance covered. It even does clever things such as automatically opening an email if you look at it on Gear’s screen, then grab your Galaxy Note 3.
Now, I understand the premise, after all the wrist watch was designed so that people didn’t have to forage for their pocket watches. And I love the whole Star Trek feel of answering calls – you simply raise your hand to your ear and chat away. But one stumbling block could be the battery life. Your average watch will last months before you need to change the battery or tweak the time. The demanding Gear, on the other hand, requires feeding every 25 hours. And that’s when I already have a laptop, tablet and smartphone to charge. It would have been nice to see some NFC connectivity built in. Then I could have charged the watch wirelessly, and maybe used it for more futuristic tasks like making payments.
The Gear comes in six colours – a straw poll among my fellow journalists revealed the boys have a preference the orange, whereas I love the rose gold. We’re all in agreement that we’d like a fashion brand to have a crack at the design as Prada have done with LG’s phones. The Galaxy Gear will cost around £299 and will again be available on September 25th. I’d love to know what you guys make of this techy timepiece!