Samsung's scorched earth mobile strategy has its share of critics. But if you're going to harp on Samsung for trying anything, everything, and all the spaces in between, you also have to acknowledge that the company has two major flagship smartphones that can each command the full attention of the tech world. How many smartphone makers can you say that about? Let's compare the latest versions of those two premier phones, the Galaxy Note 3 and the Galaxy S4.
The Galaxy S4 is pretty big for a smartphone, but it still doesn't hold a candle to Samsung's hulking phablet, the Note 3. The Note is about ten percent taller, 13 percent wider, and five percent thicker.
No minor difference here either, as the Note 3 is a full 29 percent heavier than the GS4.
This was our biggest surprise from the Note 3 event. Samsung ditched its much-derided glossy plastic, found on the GS4 and most other recent Galaxy devices, and replaced it with a faux leather backing. It's still made of plastic, but now it's soft and leather-bound notebook-themed.
We'll have to wait for more extended time with the Note to draw any real conclusions here, but, at the very least, we tip our hats to Samsung for trying something new in the build department.
This is the biggest perk of carrying around a lumbering phablet like the Note 3. It gives you 29 percent more screen real estate than the (already big) display on the GS4. The latest phablet is pushing the boundaries between phone and tablet more than ever.
Resolution is identical. Though that has the smaller screen on the GS4 coming out a bit sharper, they're both likely well past the point where you'll be even remotely disappointed. Sharp text, crisp images, happy eyeballs.
No need to worry about performance on either of these phones. Both the LTE and 3G versions of each have some of the fastest mobile processors of 2013.
The 2 GB of RAM on the GS4 is a very solid amount, even over four months after the phone's launch. The 3 GB in the Note 3 is forging new ground.
The base model of the Note 3 doubles the base 16 GB in the Galaxy S4. Samsung's TouchWiz software, layered on top of Android on both phones, can really eat into that 16 GB, though, so that extra space could be a nice advantage for the Note.
The Note 3's battery holds 23 percent more juice. We were impressed with the Note 2's uptimes, but we'll have to wait to get the low-down on the Note 3's actual battery life.
Megapixel counts are identical in both phones. The only true measure of phones' cameras, though, are sample shots. We'll have to wait a little while to put these two side-by-side.
Both phones sport LTE radios, though they also both ship in versions that max out on HSPA+. That split coincides with the different processors we showed you above.
The Note 3 runs Android 4.3, but the GS4 is supposedly going to be updated to that latest edition of Jelly Bean in October.
Both phones run Samsung's TouchWiz software, which grows more and more bloated by the minute. Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh, but depending where you're coming from, you might find TouchWiz's feature list to mean more bang for your buck, or just overwhelming and unnecessary. On the GS4, we'd lean towards the latter. If the Note 3 is anything like the Note 2, though, we'd lean a bit towards the former.
... that's because the little plastic stylus known as the "S Pen" becomes something much more when TouchWiz's goodies are added to the mix. The pen not only gives you a finer level of precision, but TouchWiz has all sorts of note-related features up its sleeve. We're talking handwriting recognition, content scrapbooks, multiple apps on the screen at once, and anotated screenshots.
From where we stand now, the S Pen tricks (and TouchWiz tricks as a whole) are all a bit overwhelming. But you'll hear much more from Gizmag about the new Note's S Pen features in the coming weeks, after we put it through the paces.
Wrap-upIt's way too early to wholeheartedly recommend one of these mobile gizmos over the other. We've spent months with the GS4, but have only been briefly acquainted with the Note 3.
At this point, though, it looks like Samsung improved its phablet in all the right ways. Its screen is bigger and sharper, the device itself is a bit more compact, and its guts are full of the fastest mobile components you can buy in 2013. TouchWiz always walks that line between more of a good thing and gimmicky feature creep, so that verdict will have to wait. Ditto for battery life, camera quality, and how that soft backing feels over long stretches of time.