Archive for October, 2013


Sunday, October 20th, 2013


The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphone is both versatile and useful

Another long season of mobile phone reviewing is drawing to a close.

As we do every year (though usually only in our imagination), it’s time to sit back, take stock, and ask ourselves the all-important philosophical question: if a nuclear war broke out and we had to jump on a plane to escape to Antarctica, and if for some reason there was room for only one smartphone per person on the plane, which phone out of this year’s crop would we take?

Watching videos on the Note 3 is unbeatable.

The iPhone 5s with its fingerprint scanner (hard to use with gloves on)? The waterproof Xperia Z1 (not quite so useful when all the water is frozen)?

No. Much as we’d like to squeeze those phones on board, if we could only take one phone, I think it would have to be Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3.


I say that for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that, daydreams of nuclear winter aside for a moment, the previous Galaxy Note was always the phone we actually did reach for whenever any of us here in the Labs had to travel overseas this year. The Note 2 is an incredibly versatile, incredibly useful device, and the Note 3 is even more useful. If it fits within your definition of a phone (and given its huge, 5.7-inch screen, it might not), it’s probably the most useful phone money can buy.

>>View an interactive comparison of 10 smartphones and see the Samsung Note 3 in action on

The Sony Xperia Z1 smartphone.The Sony Xperia Z1. Photo: AP

The Galaxy Note 3 has all the fancy gestures you get in the Galaxy S4, such as the ability to scroll through web pages with just the tilt of your head (useful if your hands have frozen solid in an Antarctic blizzard), plus it’s got all the terrifically handy things you can do with its little stylus (now better and more useful than ever, as I’ll get into presently), plus it’s got a bigger screen than just about any other phone out there, plus it’s incredibly fast and has a long battery life. I really can’t think of another phone that even comes close to the Note 3.

Another reason for grabbing the Note 3 is because, if nuclear bombs were about to go off, I imagine you’d be in a bit of a hurry, and the Note 3 has a new feature that looks like it was designed with that very race-against-the-clock in mind: USB 3.0. I don’t know about you, but when I’m about to fly, the very last thing I remember to do is the most important thing of all: load the phone with TV shows to watch on the plane. It’s stressful sitting and watching the file transfers slowly tick over when you know the cab will arrive any second. How much more stressful if it’s the imminent blast of a bomb?

USB 3.0 is the thing you need in the apocalypse. It’s a much faster way to load files onto your phone, and while it won’t come in handy very often, it will be very handy when the crunch comes. In our tests, we were able to load anywhere between 2.5 and 3.2 times as many TV shows onto the Note 3 in a given amount of time using its new USB 3.0 port, compared to using the old-fashioned USB 2.0 port you find on most mobile phones. A video that took 54 seconds to upload onto a Galaxy S4, for instance, took just 17 seconds to get onto the Note 3. Quite literally, that could be the difference between life and death.

And, of course, with a screen that borders on the too big (but just manages to keep on the right side of the line, in our estimation) watching videos on the Note 3 is unbeatable. But the main reason we’d choose the Note 3 over all the terrific phones that came out this year is its stylus. It may seem like a bit of a blast from the past (tee hee!), but it’s not. It’s great.

The main improvement in this year’s version of the stylus is a little dial, known as “Air Command”, that pops up on the screen whenever you pull the stylus from its slot or press the stylus button while hovering the stylus above the screen.

Air Command quickly gets you to a number of useful apps, such as the Scrapbooker app for cutting and pasting anything that’s on the screen (a super-useful new function that could only be more useful if it synchronised with Evernote the way some of the other stylus apps do); the Action Memo app that lets you jot down tasks with the pen and assign those tasks to other apps (you can jot down a number, assign it to the phone app and Action Memo will recognise your writing and put the number in your dialler, for example); or the Pen Window app that lets you draw a little window on your screen and then run small apps, such as calculators, in that window (nifty!).

Oh yes, the Note 3 is a great device, no doubt about it. It’s so good, it actually has me looking forward to living in Antarctica. But I do have one question. Will there still be mobile phone reception during the Armageddon?


Henry Sapiecha

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