JR Raphael

Hands on: 7 cool things about the Galaxy Note 3

October 03, 2013 1:35 PM EDT

Samsung Galaxy Note 3If there's one thing you can say about Samsung, it's that the company doesn't hold back.

Sammy's Galaxy Note 3 is unabashedly big, bold, and brimming with features. In typical Samsung style, the end result is a mixed bag -- one filled with lots of novelties you'll never use and a few really interesting elements.

In the case of the Note 3, some of the interesting elements are particularly, well, noteworthy. Here are seven cool things that have stood out to me during my time with the phone so far:

1. The S Pen

Samsung's trademark stylus is more integrated into the Note-using experience than ever with the Note 3, thanks to a new Air Command "control center" that appears every time you pull the pen from the phone. (You can also load Air Command manually by clicking the pen's button while holding it over the screen.)

Air Command gives you instant access to several core S Pen features, like Action Memo -- a quick action-oriented handwriting notepad -- and S Finder, Samsung's new in-device search tool (which actually searches through your handwritten notes as well as more standard types of documents).

Combined with the S Pen's more traditional capabilities -- the ones that might appeal to artists and others who need to sketch, scribble, or mark up via mobile -- the stylus is actually starting to feel like a core part of the Note experience instead of an easily overlooked accessory.

2. Handwriting into text

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Handwriting to TextI'm not sure if this is something I'd actually use regularly over the long term myself, but it's undeniably cool: the Galaxy Note 3's ability to convert your S Pen-based handwriting into regular text.

With the new Note, anytime you're in a text field and hover the stylus over the screen, a small icon appears that allows you to input text from the pen instead of the regular on-screen keyboard. All you do is write on the screen, and the Note transforms everything you say into normal text that'll go back into your document, email, or whatever you were composing.

I should note that I've run into a couple of instances where the feature won't work -- like in Google Drive, bafflingly -- but for the most part, if there's a text field, the option shows up. And even with my barely legible chicken scratch, it manages to decipher nearly everything I write and turn it into text.

3. Multi Window

This one's nothing new to owners of other recent Samsung devices, but that doesn't make it any less cool -- especially on the Note 3's spacious screen. And it's packing a few new tricks in this latest implementation.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Multi WindowMulti Window, if you aren't familiar with it, is Samsung's way of letting you split your smartphone's screen in half and have two apps open and visible at the same time. On the Note 3, you press and hold the phone's Back button to get the Multi Window panel to appear. From there, you select any app in the list -- and then repeat the process to select a second app, if you didn't already have one open -- and end up with both programs running simultaneously on your screen.

You can resize and reposition the windows with a couple of quick taps. You can drag and drop content from one window to the other -- like photos from your Gallery into an email. And with certain apps, like chat services, you can have two instances of the same program open side by side if you want.

Multi Window doesn't work with everything, but the list of apps it supports is pretty decent and includes third-party titles like Twitter, Facebook, and Evernote as well as Google apps like Gmail, Chrome, YouTube, Maps, and Play Movies.

4. The "Increase touch sensitivity" option

This tucked-away option in the Note 3's settings (also available on some previous Samsung devices) boosts up the sensitivity of the touch screen. The result? You can actually use the phone while wearing gloves and have it recognize your taps and swipes through the material.

And the best part? It actually works. Quite well, in my experience.

As anyone who lives in a cold climate knows, this could prove to be an invaluable feature -- one that every phone should have.

5. S Note + Evernote integration

S Note is Samsung's main notepad app, designed for use with the S Pen stylus. And with the Note 3, you can set it up to sync automatically with your Evernote account, so all the notes you jot on the go will always be accessible on any phone, tablet, or PC.

Not only can you get to your notes via Evernote -- you can search them there, too, thanks to Evernote's handwriting recognition system. Pretty sweet setup for anyone who uses the service.

6. S Pen Keeper

The danger of having a stylus -- even one that's stored inside your phone -- is the distinct possibility of taking the thing out and leaving it behind. After all, no matter how you look at it, a lost S Pen is not a useful S Pen.

The Note 3 has a feature to prevent this from happening. Once activated, S Pen Keeper will sound an alarm and alert you on your phone anytime you move a certain distance away from the pen. It's worked reliably for me and has already saved me from leaving a certain something behind on a couple of occasions.

(The function is off by default for some reason, by the way, so you'll probably want to go into the main system settings and activate it ASAP if you end up getting this phone.)

7. USB 3.0

The charger port on the Note 3 looks a little different than most Android devices. That's because it supports USB 3.0, a newer and faster setup for transferring data and charging a device.

The Note 3 comes with a special cable to support the port, and boy, does it make things fly. With the USB 3.0 connector, the phone charges in no time -- noticeably faster than what we're used to seeing with the micro-USB setup on most Android phones. (Increased data transfer speeds will be dependent on having USB 3.0 support on the other end as well.)

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 USB 3.0

And no worries about compatibility: You can still plug a regular ol' micro-USB cable into the phone, too -- and charge it, transfer data, or do whatever your heart desires -- using the right half of its plus-sized port.

So there you have it: seven cool things about the Galaxy Note 3. Of course, the new Note isn't all rainbows and roses. Tomorrow, I'll take a look at some of the sillier and more frustrating elements of the phone that have jumped out at me so far.

Android Power TwitterStick around for that as well as my complete in-depth review, which will take a detailed dive into all aspects of the Note 3-using experience. I'm still living with the device day to day right now and will share my full impressions and conclusions with you soon.

UPDATES:

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