Bigger isn't just better - it's best. That's the message coming out of Samsung HQ, as their flagship Android phones grow considerably larger year after year. From the 5-inch Samsung Galaxy S4 to the 5.5-inch Galaxy Note 2, the only way is up for smartphone screen sizes.
But are we ready to go even bigger? The popularity of the original Galaxy Note, with its somewhat anachronistic stylus pen and gigantic screen size took many industry experts by surprise, with the range now one of Samsung's key properties. Now approaching the inevitable release of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, we've rounded up everything there is to know so far about Samsung's pen-packing phablet.
Conflicting reports have put the Samsung Galaxy Note 3's screen size at everything between 5.9 and 6.3-inches, with the former suggested by Samsung's J.K. Shin back in May. With the recent launch of the 6.3 inch Samsung Galaxy Mega, it's unlikely that Samsung will pop the same screen size into both devices - though their love of shared branding (see the mountains of Galaxy S4-branded handsets) across their range suggests they're not fearful of confusing their customer base with multiple similar handsets.
There's also been rumours of the handset sporting a flexible OLED display, though reports of a non-bendy full HD 1080p AMOLED screen seem most likely, and were pretty much confirmed yesterday.
Being the Note's key defining feature over the Galaxy S series, the Note 3 is all-but guaranteed to again ship with the S-Pen accessory. Will we see any innovations in this year's model? The launch of Sony's Xperia Ultra Z will certainly provide and impetus for Samsung to do so - Sony's phablet device includes screen technology that will allow any sort of standard pencil or dry-ink pen to work on its screen without damaging it, whereas the Note line has traditionally only worked with Samsung's proprietary S-Pen. With snappy scribblers likely to favour Sony's system in this regard over the Note's current set-up, we'd expect to see some similar innovation from Samsung on this front.
Running all that S-Pen software for one-to-one stylus input is demanding, so the Note 3 is likely to be a pretty powerful device. With the top spec Samsung Galaxy S4 sporting an eight-core Exynos Octa-core, we'd expect to see the Note 3 match it at the very least. 3GB of RAM is also tipped for inclusion, again helping deliver a smooth multitasking and pen-input system.
Many had expected Samsung's flagship Galaxy S4 device to come with the company's newly-developed Orb Camera system, which would allow for 360-degree panorama shots, optical image stabilisation and include far deeper (and simpler) Facebook integration and social network sharing. Not present in the Galaxy S4, it's now being tipped for inclusion in the Note 3. In terms of megapixel count, a 13MP sensor is likely to feature.
Design and build
Looking to keep profit margins high, Samsung have traditionally built their handsets using plastic materials. However, the superb response to the aluminium build of the HTC One Android handset is said to have shaken Samsung, who are said to be considering a new metallic build for the Note 3 that could shake up the entire design language for the Galaxy line. This leaked image from @evleaks supports such claims:
However, we'd expect such a drastic departure to be reserved for Samsung's Galaxy S4 flagship, rather than the company's second-most important handset. And while we're not privy to the goings on in Samsung's design labs, the leaked images above looked decidedly un-Samsung like to us. In this regard, we'd expect an evolution, rather than a revolution, on Samsung's curvy plastic Note 2 build.
With the Galaxy Note 3's launch expected so late in the year, many had hoped it would land running Google's latest build of the Android operating system, version 5.0, AKA Key Lime Pie. However, with Google still staying tight-lipped over the operating system's launch, and the latest rumours pencilling in its release date for October, it's looking unlikely that the Note 3 would launch with the desert-inspired OS onboard. Expect instead Android version 4.2.2, or possibly the rumoured Android 4.3 Jelly Bean update.
As with all Samsung's Android handsets though, expect to see plenty of love-em-or-loathe-em tweaks to the core Android operating system from Samsung's own TouchWiz UI. These will likely include apps such a S-Note, Smart Stay eye-tracking and Air Gestures for hands-free page scrolling.
The Samsung Galaxy Note line has always been a pricey one, with the 2nd generation Note 2 starting at a whopping £549.99 price tag. Expect no different from the spec-heavy Galaxy Note 3, which will likely start around the same price. With the comparably sized and comparably spec'd Sony Xperia Ultra Z up for pre-order on some independent retailers at £599.99 including VAT, Samsung could well push the price up from the Note 2 by £30 or so and still undercut their competition.
Release date and launch
Both the original Galaxy Note and Galaxy Note 2 were launched at the annual IFA tech conference in Berlin, and we'd expect the trend to continue for the Galaxy Note 3, a reveal window even hinted at by Samsung's own J.K. Shin. Whereas the Galaxy S4, being the brand's flagship handset, has broke away from shared tech conferences to become the star of its own show, the niche-yet-newsworthy Note line has become the perfect headliner for Samsung's Berlin showcase in the Autumn.
However, the usual source "familiar with matters" at Samsung has suggested the handset may be revealed slightly earlier than the start of the IFA conference, with a special "press-only" Samsung Unpacked event rumoured to be planed for September 4th.
With IFA running from 6 - 11 September 2013 this year, expect to see the handset on the show floor throughout the conference at the very least.
As for an in-store consumer availability date, the Note 2 launched in the UK on October 1 2012, roughly a month after its August 29 IFA unveiling. Conservative estimates would expect a similar launch schedule for the Note 3, though with an iPhone 5S handset from Apple expected to launch around a similar time there's potential for Samsung to aim for a swifter global release with the Note 3.
So, what do you think of the Note 3 rumours so far? Enough to get you excited, and to stave off competition from Sony and Apple? We'll be updating this post with all the latest Galaxy Note 3 news as it comes in, so keep checking back for more in the run up to release.