Samsung is giving its latest Galaxy Note smartphone a stylish makeover. The Galaxy Note 3, unveiled Wednesday, has a soft, leather-like back. It feels like you're holding a fancy leather-bound journal. Grooves on the side of the big-screen phone make it easier to grip.
But I found the new phone to be complicated to use. There's too much going on. Between Scrapbook, My Magazine, Air Command and dozens of other functions, it might take even the most experienced smartphone user several hours to figure out.
I tested out the Note 3 for about 45 minutes on Wednesday at a Samsung press event in a New York hotel. The company also unveiled its next tablet, the Galaxy Note 10.1, which is basically an extra-large version of the Galaxy phone, but without the cellular service. The phone and its pen were both tied down to a table with a security device, so I was hampered testing it out. A colleague spent several minutes with the tablet and was likewise hampered.
But I saw enough of the Note 3 to at least like its look and feel.
With its leather-like back and the stitching around it, the phone feels expensive and well made in my hands. The soft back can be snapped off the phone to reveal the battery. Samsung will sell replaceable back covers in several different colors, but the phone itself will come in just three: black, white or pink.
The Note 3 has a bigger screen than its predecessor, measuring 5.7 inches (14.5 centimetres) diagonally compared with the Note 2's 5.5 inches (14 centimetres). But it still weighs less (5.9 ounces (167 grams), compared with 6.4 ounces (182 grams) and is slightly thinner [at 0.33 inch (8.4 millimetre) rather than 0.37 inch (9.4 millimetre)].
The biggest changes are with the S Pen. The pen unlocks a new feature called Air Command. With that, you can open five other features:
* With Action Memo, you can handwrite a note.
* Scrapbook lets you circle content you like, such as a YouTube video or a news article. It automatically saves and organizes the content into a format that's easy to