Obsessed with technology?
Subscribe to the latest tech news as well as exciting promotions from us and our partners!
By subscribing, you indicate that you have read & understood the SPH's Privacy Policy and PDPA Statement.
Product Listing

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 - S Pen Refocused

By Sidney Wong - 23 Sep 2013
Launch SRP: S$1048

Android 4.3 Jelly Bean & Air Command


Air Command: Making Everyday Tasks Easy and Fun

The Galaxy Note 3 is the first non-Nexus/non-Google Play Edition device to run Android 4.3. However, this is not the main draw of the device; Samsung has invested a lot of time and efforts in refining its TouchWiz front-end and S Pen, and the hero feature this time round is Air Command.

Air Command actually consists of five S Pen related features: Action Memo, Scrap Booker, Screen Write, S-Finder, and Pen Window. The Air Command wheel pops up when you remove the S Pen from its silo, or (if it’s already out) when you hover the stylus over the screen, and click on a button that’s on the S Pen.

Air Command is one of the defining features of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3.


Action Memo

Action Memo is basically a note-taking overlay which you can activate on any window or app. Besides the basic function of jotting down notes and information quickly, Action Memo lets you take action almost immediately with its list of 7 tasks (from left to right):

  • Phone icon: Once you have written down a number on Action Memo, you have the option to call it.
  • Contacts icon: You also can save the number as a contact into your phone book .
  • Messaging icon: You have the option to send a text message to the number.
  • @ icon: Instead of copying and pasting an email address that you've just jotted down, you can click on the "@" icon and it will bring you to either the default Email or Gmail.
  • Browser icon: You can jump straight into the default Internet browser or any other browser (e.g. Chrome) to find out more information on the notes.
  • Maps icon: Not familiar with the directions to the address that you are given over the phone? Fret not as you can tap on the Maps icon and Google Maps will be activated to provide directions.
  • To-do icon: You can save the note(s) as a to-do item which is integrated with the S Planner.

We find Action Memo to be pretty useful on some occasions. However, it may take some time for consumers to remember the 7 features of Action Memo.


Scrap Booker

Scrap Booker lets you collect any information into the Scrapbook app, be it from a website, YouTube, or audio book. This is especially useful for consumers who tend to do a lot of things on their mobile device, as you can create categories to file your work.

Scrap booker is useful in situations where you read something, and want to quickly note down important thoughts about it. You can refer to them later or share the note.

Upon activating Scrap booker, you can draw a box around an image, a table, an object and even a video. You will be led to the Scrap book app where you can choose to save it in the app or create a new category of your choice. The entry can be tagged or personalized with a memo. You can also share the entry via Image + Text or as a Scrapbook file (.scc) with other Galaxy Note 3 users.


Screen Write

Screen Write basically lets you take a screenshot and doodle on it. There is nothing extraordinary about Screen Write, and similar functions are found on LG phones such as the Optimus G and Optimus F5.

You can use Screen Write on the Galaxy Note 3 to share information with friends and seek their opinions.


S Finder

S Finder functions like Google Search, but extends the search to all your content on the device. By default, you can filter search results via time (past 30 days, past 7 days, yesterday, today, next 7 days), content (handwriting, notes, communication, help, images, music, videos, personal information) or through tags you have created.

If you've noticed in one of the filters, S Finder is able to search items that are handwritten or doodle (symbols and signs). You can limit the search of the S Finder via its settings, where you decide which apps it can look into. 

We did a test by drawing a star symbol on a screenshot of our favorite apps in Scrap book. We hovered the S Pen over the magnifying glass icon at the top left corner of the search bar to bring up the option to doodle, and drew a star symbol. S Finder was able to find the particular entry out of the five entries in Scrap book within seconds.

S Finder can also be used to find a particular system setting if you forget which menu it resides in.


Pen Window

Pen Window reminds us of Sony's implementation of Small Apps in a number of Xperia devices such as the Xperia Tablet S, Xperia Tablet Z and Xperia Z Ultra. However, Samsung's Pen Window allows you to open multiple apps in small windows, which can be minimized into rounded icons that always remain as the first layer onscreen for you to summon later. 

At first glance, the rounded icons look like Facebook Home's Chat Heads.

Apps that support Pen Window include Calculator, Clock, YouTube, Phone, Contacts, ChatOn, Hangouts, and Internet (browser). One minor gripe we’ve (though it may be impossible to fix) is that when an app is maximized, it can’t be minimized again quickly. You’ve to bring up Air Command, go to Pen Window, and select the app again.

Eight apps are supported on Pen Window (left). Here are some examples of usage scenarios of Pen Window: discussing news with a friend on Hangouts while in Pulse News Reader (center) and calculating the total costs of owning a Galaxy Note 3 with SingTel's Flexi Value plan.


One-handed Operation for All Screens

One-handed operation feature can be found on almost every phablet device out there. Its main purpose is to make it easier for consumers to use certain functions such as the keyboard and keypad. With the Galaxy Note 3, Samsung brings one-handed operation up a notch by allowing you to adjust the scale and position of all screens by swiping the edge of the screen. 

Pictorial guide on how to activate the one-handed operation for all screens on the Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

To enable this feature, you need to swipe from either side of the device onto the screen and quickly back off the screen in one movement. This will make whatever is on the screen move to the right or left and become smaller.

You can adjust the scale of the screen via the square icon, or make it full-screen via the rectangle icon.


S Note

S Note can be now synced with Evernote or Samsung account so that information can be accessed and viewed from different devices. We wonder if there is a need to sync with Evernote since the latter itself is a very capable note taking app.

You can now preview the contents of an entry in S Note by dragging it downwards.

Hate it or love it, the standard suite of TouchWiz features introduced on the Galaxy S4 is also found on the Galaxy Note 3. They are the Air Gesture, Air View, Air Command and Smart Scroll. For more information on these features, head over to our review of the Galaxy S4 where you also can find video demonstrations.

Air Gesture, Air View and Air Command are found on the Galaxy Note 3.

  • Design 8.5
  • Features 9.5
  • User-Friendliness 8.5
  • Performance 9.5
  • Value 8.5
The Good
Class-leading performance
Smooth TouchWiz UX
Long battery life
Useful S Pen features
Vibrant display
The Bad
Chrome edges don't instill confidence
One-handed operation can be difficult for some
Some gimmicky software features
Micro-USB 3.0 connector is unwieldy