The much anticipated Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is now available in the UK, and the Galaxy Gear smartwatch should hit shelves very shortly. These two devices are designed to work in perfect harmony – and indeed, deals are already on the table whereby Note 3 buyers can get the Gear cheaper (to the tune of £100 less).
We’ve had a chance to play with both the Note 3 and Gear working in tandem, and you can see the results in the hands-on video below. Before that, though, and our first impressions of how they function together, let’s recap the tech specs of these two devices.
The Galaxy Note 3 is mostly an iterative update, with a slightly larger screen (5.7in vs 5.55in), a much higher-res display (1920 x 1080 as opposed to 1280 x 720), a lot of software tweaks, and a nice new faux leather back that’s infinitely nicer than the slick plastic on the Note 2. Despite the larger screen, the Note 3 is actually thinner, narrower, and lighter (168 grams vs 180 grams) than its predecessor – but it’s still much too big to be comfortably held in one hand (unless you have gargantuan hands like me). The Note 3 even has a slightly larger battery (3,200 mAh) than the Note 2 (3,100 mAh). All in all, the Note 3 is a seriously impressive piece of hardware (you can check out our full Note 2 vs Note 3 spec comparison here).
Of course, the Galaxy Note 3 also has the dubious luck of being one of the two devices that will bond with the Galaxy Gear smartwatch, the other being the Galaxy S4. The hardware specs of the Gear are fairly inconsequential: There’s a poor quality 1.9-megapixel camera, 4GB of on-board storage, an admittedly sexy 320 x 240 display, along with Bluetooth and NFC connectivity.
Hands-on, the Galaxy Note 3, with its big, bright screen and faux leather back looks and feels very nice. As I mention in the above clip, the stylus feels a bit small, and hitting the button to pop up the new Air Command menu can be a bit fiddly – but if you have average-sized hands, you’ll probably be just fine. The Galaxy Note 3, whether you’re flicking through the interface or doodling with the stylus, feels very responsive.
If you bring the Galaxy Gear within an inch or two of the Note 3, an NFC connection is made, and a setup wizard pops up on the Note. The Note downloads some software, pairs with the smartwatch via Bluetooth… and that’s it: You now have a smartwatch. As you can see in the video above, using the Galaxy Gear to make calls is easy enough. I don’t demo it in the video, but you can also use S Voice to make calls and send messages – but it’s not a completely hands-off experience, requiring you to hit a small button on the Gear, making it somewhat hard to use while walking along.
As you have probably surmised just by looking at it, the Gear is not a very comfortable wristwatch. It also goes without saying that once you’re out of Bluetooth range of your Note 3 or Galaxy S4, you can no longer make calls, send texts, use S Voice – or do anything except take low-res photos, really. Basically, the Galaxy Gear is an overly expensive second screen for your smartphone. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it’s really, really fun to talk to your wrist like a spy when making calls, though.
Stay tuned for our full reviews of the Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Gear smartwatch, which will be coming soon.