Samsung is staging another one of its major launch events today in Berlin, where the tech giant is expected to unveil its latest Galaxy Note smartphone and give us a peek at its Galaxy Gear smartwatch. Follow along here as we provide you with quick news and analysis.
Samsung has started its big reveal event, which is being streamed live from Berlin. The event comes ahead of a major consumer technology conference, IFA, which always draws prominent product announcements from some of the big smartphone companies.
The company’s event is also being live-streamed on YouTube and in New York’s Times Square, where a crowd has gathered to watch the product launches.
Samsung co-chief executive JK Shin is introducing the first new product of the day, the Galaxy Note 3.
The smartphone — well, really a phablet — is “slimmer, lighter and more powerful” than its predecessors, Shin said. The device has several of the business-friendly features that sets the line apart, including the S-Pen stylus. Note 3 users also have access to Samsung’s Galaxy Knox software, which is designed to let users store secure company information on their phones alongside their personal information. Shin says this is now the best enterprise option out there.
For consumers, the company has also focused carefully on how the phone feels — substantial without being too heavy.
“We’ve really focused on how the Galaxy Note 3 feels in your hand,” Shin tells the crowd.
Shin just showed off the Galaxy Gear on his own wrist, which looks much more appealing than the leaked photos that came out in dribs and drabs ahead of the launch. The Gear comes in six colors – Shin’s is a sort of tangerine — and he is selling it as a companion to smartphones. The device has a camera and will show notifications from users’ phones.
Shin isn’t passing up the opportunity to upsell this audience. “It’s a perfect companion to Galaxy Note 3,” Shin says.
Shin also just introduced a new tablet, the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 edition. It’s an update of Samsung’s full-sized tablet, but Shin isn’t giving too many details now.
He also said that The Note 3 and Gear will launch worldwide on Sept. 25, in 149 countries. They should be in all markets by October, he said.
Now for the details. First up is the Galaxy Note 3.
Samsung is starting off by focusing on what it considers to be pioneering moves into the phone-tablet hybrid space — a phablet, if you must use that word, that features devices with a screen size that falls between the two devices. Previous versions of the Note have been 5 inches and up, and the Galaxy Note 3 is no different.
Before designing the device, Samsung asked its Note users what they liked about their phones to get ideas for future updates. According to the presentation, getting the news, getting directions, browsing contacts and multitasking were among those top-rated features.
The device has a larger screen — still no specifics on that yet — but Samsung said that it’s not any heavier. It also has a soft, textured back cover with stitching — a definite departure from the lightweight plastic that’s normally on Samsung phones. This texture, Samsung says, is supposed to give it the feeling of a diary or journal. It comes in black, white and blush pink.
Weighing just 168g & only 8.3mm thick, the #GALAXYNote3 sports a 13-megapixel camera, a large capacity battery & a high performance CPU.
— Samsung Mobile (@SamsungMobile) September 4, 2013
Samsung is now showing off the types of view covers and protection options you can have for the Note, including accessories designed by Moschino. Users will also be able to choose from a variety of covers in metallic, pastel and other shades.
All that’s nice, but gadget lovers will be happy to know that the company is finally getting more into the nitty-gritty of what this phone can actually do.
David Park of the marketing team is on stage talking about the S-Pen, which has more features than ever. For example, users can control more of their phones with the stylus. Tapping on the screen brings up a fan-shaped menu of the pen-based tasks available.
The Note line is, as you may expect from the name, particularly popular among people who like to take notes on their phones. Samsung is making the pen a better tool for pulling information out of notes, such as the ability to recognize a phone number or name from a handwritten note. Users can then call that number or add a new contact.
The pen also lets users take “scrapbook” clips by circling a piece of content, say, on a Web site, and saving it to the phone. You can also categorize these notes or add keywords — including handwritten content, such as stars – to make it easier to find them later on.
Users can clip Web pages, videos, audio files and other formats. They can also easily return to the original page where they found the content by just clicking on the page they’ve saved.
Samsung has confirmed, as expected, that the screen on the new Galaxy note is 5.7 inches, its largest so far.
The big screen will let users take advantage of the multitasking feature on the phone, such as using Samsung’s ChatOn program, with more than one person. (That feature actually drew applause from the crowd.)
Going back to the features of the S Pen, Park is showing off a “Pen Window,” which lets you actually overlay some apps over the one you’re running simply by drawing a box on your screen. Park offers up the example of chatting with someone while talking about trip expenses. By drawing a rectangle on the screen, Park is able to call up a calculator over his chat window to make the calculation without switching apps.
Users will also be able to put up to three Galaxy Note 3 devices together to join to make a bigger screen. Not sure what the use cases on that would be.
With the very basics of the Note 3 out there, Samsung is now turning its attention to what’s probably the most exciting product of the day — the Galaxy Gear.
The honors for this presentation go to Pranav Mistry, head of the think tank team for Samsung Research America, who said that the goal was to make it “something out of sci-fi” that was also stylish.
“We took our inspiration from an object that we’ve loved and relied on for more than a century,” he said, referring to the watch.
The Galaxy Gear is designed for comfort, he said, as well as style. It comes six colors — from “formal to playful.” Swiping horizontally takes users between features, such as notifications of updates from your social network. Swiping down will take you back.
E-mail notifications also show up on the watch, but also communicates with Samsung’s phone so the two are displaying the same message — in case you want to look at your messages on a bigger screen.
Samsung is marketing the Gear specifically as a companion to the Note, saying that the two devices are “better together.”
Galaxy Gear users will be able to accept phone calls on the watch, answering calls by putting their wrist next to their heads. There are a microphone and speakers in the clasp area of the watch. That means that users will be able answer calls without actually pulling out their phones. Users can also put their hands down if they want to talk.
Gear also responds to voice commands, so users don’t always have to physically fiddle with the watch while placing calls.
The watch also has a camera that captures short video clips — visual memos, the company is calling it — as well as pictures. This, Samsung argues, will allow people to capture more spontaneous moments.
The smartwatch will also act as an augmented reality device, the company says, and will be able to do things such as translate signs in foreign languages. The Gear will support its own apps, which have been specifically designed for the watch.
Samsung is jumping around a little bit, bringing David Park back on stage to talk about some more Note 3 specs.
The 4G-capable phone has 3 GB of RAM, a 13 MP camera and capability to record in 4K — none of which are supposed to shorten the phone’s battery life.
The Galaxy Gear’s battery life is an impressive 25+ hours, which should be good news to anyone who was worried about having to plug in their watch in the middle of the day.
The devices will be available in the United States and Japan in October; other (unspecified) world markets will get the devices later this month.
— Samsung Mobile (@SamsungMobile) September 4, 2013