Samsung this morning welcomed a creative new warrior in its on-going battle with Apple's passive iPad, the Galaxy Note 10.1. At least, that's the story Samsung is telling.
And the Galaxy Note 10.1 goes on sale tomorrow, August 16; $499 for the 16 GB version, and just a $50 bump, to $549, for the 32 GB edition, $50 cheaper than the 32 GB iPad. Both Notes are Wi-Fi only, and both are available in either white or deep gray.
I have one and will bring you more of a hands-on first-impressions tomorrow. For the time being, here's the basic news.
Galaxy Note 10.1 is all about the stylus – or, rather not a stylus, but an S Pen, similar to the one in the company's 5.3-inch Galaxy Note smartphone. S Pen is filled with electronics that do more than a plain stick with a blunt point, and it is somehow powered by its contact with the Note's screen, so no batteries needed.
S Pen can detect up to 1,000 levels of pressure, which brings more sensitivity and precision to writing and especially drawing. It also can be used to move objects around the screen, leaving no finger-dragging streaks to constantly wipe off.
Unleash your creativity
Philosophically, Samsung stressed the Galaxy Note 10.1's tablet cultural change, its ability to create content, not simply consume someone else's content.
Hollywood director Baz Luhrmann, who's currently working on a revamped version of The Great Gatsby, appeared at today's event at the Time Warner Central on New York's Columbus Circle. He's been using a Galaxy Note 10.1 for the last month and was on hand to laud the new tablet's creative capabilities, particularly the Note-specific version of Adobe Photoshop Touch and his ability to create story boards, add annotations to documents or artwork, write notes and otherwise work more effectively than he does with a "regular" tablet (i.e. iPad).
Every graphic at this morning's event exhorted us to "Note the new way" – noting (pun intended) that writing with a pen is some sort is a "great innovation in new technology."
In many ways, a stylus or pen or whatever you call it is far more intuitive for writing than your finger or tapping on a keyboard. It's easier and more precise to scribble quick notes or make sketches or drawings, even to paint, with a pen-like object – that's why finger-painting remains the province of cave dwellers and kindergarteners.
Samsung has actually improved pen writing with neat script-to-text conversion and something called Shape Match, which automatically smoothes out sketched lines and shapes; in a demo, a roughly drawn circle instantly was transformed into a perfect circle. I assume you can defeat both auto-smoothing corrections in case you WANT rough lines and actual handwriting.
You also don't have to worry about accidental marks made by your fingers. The Note includes "palm rejection" – the screen ignores hand touches while you're writing.
More impressive is Samsung's Multiscreen – you now can work with two apps side-by-side on the same screen. This capability is especially handy when you have to write an email or note commenting on or editing a presentation or document or video. Instead of annoyingly toggling back-and-forth, both apps are active – the demo was quite impressive. With the S Pen, you can even cut and paste objects from one app and drag-and-drop it to the other.
Note 10.1 also retains the pop-up video screen of the Galaxy S III – you can have a resizable video window floating around the screen so you can watch a movie while you're working on something else.
Are you a creator or a consumer?
The question is, are you interested in being this creative with your tablet? Or are you more interested in it simply having a boob tab, a time-filler, a supplementary TV-watching companion?
Samsung tries to answer these content consuming concerns with advanced specs, including front stereo speakers so you can hear what you're watching.
Spec-wise, the Note 10.1 runs Android's Ice Cream Sandwich (upgradeable later this year to the next-gen Jellybean OS) on a quad core 1.4 GHz processor (iPad "just" a dual core 1 GHz chip) with 2 GB of RAM (the amount of memory used by applications to run; iPad has "just" 1 GB of RAM). It's screen measures 1280 x 800 pixels (iPad, of course, has a Retina 2048 x 1536-pixel display).
The inherent problem with a stylus, which was de rigueur for what passed for a smartphone before iPhone, was that the stylus was so damned losable. Even UPS or FedEx now tether the signing stylus to the electronic delivery electronic pads.
S Pen slides and clicks into a slot in the Note; the inevitable replacement will cost $39.95. I'm told you will also be able to buy a larger housing; the S Pen may seem to uncomfortably dainty compared to a regular pen to some folks.
So, how does Galaxy Note 10.1 stack up against iPad? I'll have more of a side-by-side comparison tomorrow. But Samsung's tablet story is no longer specs but the stylus.