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Galaxy Note 3: Even more features packed into a (slightly) bigger body

Florence Ion | Oct. 2, 2013
Samsung threw everything but the kitchen sink into its latest not-quite-a-phone, not-quite-a-tablet. No wonder it's so big.

Samsung also included its own Flipboard-style application dubbed My Magazine. You can launch it by swiping up from the bottom. To personalize it, you can choose from a pre-selected list of news sources you want aggregated, just as you would with Flipboard, and then add in notifications from your social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ (but oddly, not Facebook). The app feels like a response to HTC's news-blaster app, BlinkFeed, and though Samsung partnered up with Flipboard for the app, the standalone application is much more versatile than Samsung's implementation.

Air Command is an entirely new set of five small apps that can be accessed by hovering over the screen with the S-Pen and clicking the side button. The menu gives you quick access to: Action Memo, Scrapbooker, Screen Write, S Finder, and Pen Window. All of these "mini apps" exist to serve a particular function, but they're not all as useful as Samsung would have you believe.

Scrapbooker lets you clip videos, websites, text, links, and other little parts of the web that you might want to save on your phone to access later. This handy feature will even let you clip YouTube videos to watch later.

Screen Write and S Finder both seem like natural extensions of the Samsung user experience. S Finder will thoroughly scour the system, your personal files, your handwritten notes, and the web for your query, while Screen Write will snap a screenshot and let you add a doodle-y addendum.

Action Memo lets you pen a memo to yourself and link part of it to, for instance, scope out directions in Maps, navigate to a specific link, or open up a photo library. The app is especially useful for its ability to save and archive sticky notes, but the added linking functionality can sometimes overcomplicate what should have been a perfectly simple-to-use application.

Lastly, there's Pen Window, a gimmicky feature that asks you to draw out the size of the window you need and then select the app that you want to fit within those parameters. These small apps are featured on several manufacturer-customized versions of Android and they're useful on a screen as a big as the Note 3's, but Samsung's implementation is a bit flawed. Some apps end up skewed and misshapen, and I would have rather just had the option to choose what I need in a window I could manually resize. You can also minimize a window to a "chat bubble" if you're in multitasking mode.

Some might say that the S-Pen is a feature that you'll forget to use after a while, but I felt more comfortable using the stylus with the Note 3's larger screen. Granted, I wasn't a big fan of the handwriting portion, but I liked navigating menus, bringing up applications, and swiping away emails with the pen better than with my finger. The S-Pen has its limitations, however, and you'll want to carefully consider if you can live with permanently stowing away a pen you might not ever use.


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