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Samsung at IFA 2013: Anticipated Upgrades & a Wrist Accessory

Yesterday?s ?episode II? of the Samsung Unpacked event brought into the IT world the much anticipated and relatively predictable upgrades to the Galaxy Note phablet, 10.1-inch Note tablet and a new model in the product line ? the Galaxy Gear ?smart watch?, which is described as the perfect accessory to the Galaxy line of products.

Samsung Unpacked Episode II

Let?s begin with the Galaxy Gear ? a tiny, well-designed, relatively conceptual gadget that got announced in the first quarter of the year by the executive vice president of Samsung?s mobile business – Lee Young Hee. Merely days before the official unveiling yesterday, the same company executive confirmed that Samsung Electronics plans to release their first smartwatch, as well as the successor(s) to the Note line of devices.

Galaxy Gear Variants

Just as predicted, Galaxy Gear isn?t a standalone product, just like the recently introduced Sony?s own ?smartwatch?. Gear is essentially designed in a way to free users of the constant checking of information on their smartphones and tablets, be it notifications, text messages or even calls. For all intents and purposes, its 1.63-inch Super AMOLED 320×320 screen seems to do just about that ? it is a companion device. Once the user decides to do something more after seeing a notification (such as replying to a message), Gear uses the Smart Relay feature. With it, once the user grabs the smartphone or a tablet, he gets pushed into the message on the screen to perform additional actions. Unfortunately, Galaxy Gear follows the incoming line of wrist gadgets ? it connects via Bluetooth only. There is no Wi-Fi connectivity ? not even as an option.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 + Galaxy Gear
Samsung’s vision of the two newly introduced devices

Solidly designed metal case sports a single-core 800MHz Exynos chip, 4GB of storage space for applications, 512 of RAM, a 1.9MP AF camera with a BSI sensor, two microphones, a tiny speaker unit and both gyroscope and an accelerometer for the sensory part of the watch. Battery capacity is just 315mAh and the whole package weighs at 73.8 grams. Storage space is going to be used for the data and apps, and Samsung expects around 70 apps to be available at the launch. That could include Pocket, Evernote, RunKeeper and Path apps. Of course, being a watch after all, the Galaxy Gear offers 10 variants of the clock display and six different colors of the adjustable wristband.

It is expected to ship this October for $299, which is quite pricey ? especially for a first-gen product that is not yet established on the market. Perhaps it says a word or two about the confidence of the company, but at the same time it is easy to recall of the words from Lee Young Hee ? it is still considered a concept product, and Samsung is likely just testing the market pulse. 

Galaxy Note 3

Galaxy Note 3 is thinner, lighter and much faster than its predecessor, while the software seems to have matured at least a bit ? though it still packs an immense amount of features, some of which are (borderline) gimmicky. The Note 3 features a 5.7-inch FullHD Super AMOLED screen, and though the screen is slightly larger, overall dimensions of the device have gone down. Note 3 is merely 0.1mm higher than the Note 2, while being around a millimeter narrower and slimmer. Curiously enough, despite much better hardware inside, overall mass of the device has dropped by 12 grams. In order to respond to the ?plastic-fantastic? criticism, Samsung tried to texture the back of the device with faux-leather look (along with stiches), and only time will tell if the consumers get to accept that element. Device is still made of plastic, but the overall impression could be slightly different than what used to be.

LTE variant of the unit should carry the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC while 3G variants should be powered by the Exynos Octa 5420. All of the units should come with 3GB of RAM, 32 or 64GB of storage (expandable via microSD). Rear camera received a welcome upgrade and it carries the same 13MP module found in the Galaxy S4. Battery capacity also received a slight upgrade to 3200mAh, and the S Pen got redesigned ? it is still coming with the device, and it is more than welcome to stay there, especially during some usage scenarios.

Galaxy Note 10.1 received the expected screen and chip upgrades under the ?2014 Edition? flag. The unit should soon be available with the 2560×1600 LCD, just like the Nexus 10. Situation regarding chips is virtually the same as with the Note 3 ? LTE variant will come with the Qualcomm solution, while Wi-Fi and 3G variants should carry the Exynos Octa SoC. Storage should range from 16 to 64GB (expandable, of course).