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Samsung Galaxy Note 3 - S Pen and Stylus Apps

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams



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Samsung Galaxy Note 3 – S Pen

The Snapdragon 800 processor is a case of keeping up with the Joneses. It’s the Galaxy Note 3’s S Pen that’s really worth talking about.

Galaxy Note 3 6

It uses a Wacom digitiser, meaning it can sense varying pressure levels. It’s much more intelligent than a simple capacitive stylus.

In-hand, though, the Note 3’s S Pen feels like a simple stick of plastic. It’s light, it’s small and it slots into the bottom of the phone – making it slightly less easy to lose. Samsung also puts in a software feature to help out on this front. If you take the S Pen out of its cubby hole and walk away a few paces, the phone bleats to let you know the pen isn’t aboard.

Galaxy Note 3 5

But more importantly, what can you do with the S Pen? Quite a lot as it turns out. The Galaxy Note 3 benefits from being the third phone in the Note series, the third to feature a stylus like this - giving Samsung and other developers time to optimise their apps for this rare (in phones) technology.

You can use the pen to navigate around the phone, to write texts and emails using the phone’s excellent optical character recognition, to draw pics and more. The biggest chance in the Note 3’s S Pen software, comapred to the Note 2, is the S Command menu.

Hover over the screen and press the button on the stylus and this circular menu pops-up. It offers five shortcuts to the most stylus-centric features, and the Note 3’s universal search function.

Galaxy Note 3 8

Action memo is a little post-it style window that lets you jot down quick handwritten notes, or perform commands. For example, you can write a phone number ring it, or write down a term and search the web for it.

The second S Command feature is Scrap Booker. You draw around anything on-screen you want to keep in your virtual scrapbook, which is a separate app.

The third S Command feature is Screen Write. Tap it and a screengrab of whatever’s on the display is captured, which you can then scribble on. You can then save your scribbles to the Galaxy Note 3’s gallery.

The final S Command feature (bar the self-explanatory universal search), and perhaps the most ambitious, is Pen Window. It asks you to draw a box on the screen, which opens up a window of multi-tasking apps.

These can be run on top of whatever else you’re doing, within scalable windows (a bit like a windowed app in… Windows). In a smaller-screen phone this feature would be ridiculous, but in the Note 3 is makes sense – just about.

Apps that can be windowed like this include YouTube, the web browser, calculator and the dialler.

These additional S Pen features make the Galaxy Note 3 quite a complicated phone that requires a good deal of time to get used to. Matched with the already-abundant features of TouchWiz, it’s an awful lot to take on.

Like the gestural features, you can ignore the extra stylus bits if you want.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Galaxy Note 3

S Pen apps

Galaxy Note 3 12Samsung also offers a few stylus-centric standalone apps in the Galaxy Note 3. The most important are S Note and Sketchbook.

S Note has been around since the early days of the Note series, and – as its name suggests – is a note-taking app. As well as just scribbling, and adding text using OCR, you can add audio clips, images, videos, charts and even maps. It’s much more than just a virtual post-it note.

Autodesk’s Sketchbook is a drawing/art app that is one of the few to make full use of the phone’s pressure sensitivity capabilities. It’s great, too. It's dead easy to use and offers a bunch of different ‘brush’ types and full support for layers. It’s pretty complete app.

It’s casual enough for those who aren’t used to using programs like Photoshop too. You’re limited to 18 layers, and very large images offer fewer layers, but if you want to do ‘real’ professional work, you’re probably not going to be using a Note 3.


September 5, 2013, 8:34 am

Hmmm can anyone help me decide whether to purchase this to replace my old winpho7 HTC HD7, or upgrade to a Nokia Lumia 1020 and get the Note 10.1 (2013) edition as a combo? This phone may be a little large, and I can get my app "fix" with the tablet (considering how many apps aren't on WP8). I do want the 1020 for its camera though. Advice?


September 5, 2013, 9:16 am

I have the original Note phone. I find it a great all rounder, and use it for web browsing at home when I can't be bothered to fire up the PC, or around the house. I don't have a tablet, but the problem I would have with a tablet is that it would sit on a coffee table and so not be to hand. It is quite possible to read the BBC news site in desktop view un-zoomed, but more comfortable if zoomed a bit (double tap screen). e-Books are also very readable, and it's a great screen size for sat-nav. For me the Note really does manage the feat of combining the purpose of tablet and mobile phone into one device.
I've also found I take pictures with it, not something I ever anticipated doing. But it is always in the pocket, the regular camera isn't. So I do regret that the camera isn't better - I'd love the camera of the Lumia 1020.

However, my offspring has a WP7.5 phone, and unless WP8 is lightyears improved then the Lumia's OS would drive me bananas. I was very pro-WP when it was mooted, but found it a serious disappointment. SImple things like setting different volumes for ringtone than for games, not possible. Mute the games and the phone won't ring. Maybe they fixed that? Or the byzantine notification system - it is still a mystery to me how to discover if/how you have been messaged or contacted. You have obviously lived with WP for some time, so maybe you would find the reverse to be the case, and be bamboozled by Android?


September 5, 2013, 2:18 pm

I heard in India 3G version of Samsung Note 3 will be available with exynos octa core processor. Can anyone please answer my following questions.
1. If I purchase LTE Qualcomm 800 version from US will it work smoothly in India, if and when 4g is available?
2. Does processor make a lot of difference?
3. Is it true that 4K video recording is not possible with exynos version?
4. What other major differences will be there in two versions?
5. Lastly why two versions at all?


September 5, 2013, 3:10 pm

There is nothing unusual about the leathery back. The blackberry bold had it years ago. And it's nice. I don't understand what's so "old" about leather. Old MONEY maybe lol


September 6, 2013, 1:36 pm

You say "This one's been approved by the Pentagon so it must be good."

Are you being deliberately naive?

Perhaps this "approved" software has a back door for NSA "monitoring" purposes?


September 6, 2013, 2:47 pm

Haha! You're right. Suddenly "Government" grade encryption has lost its aura.

Cat Astrophy

September 7, 2013, 12:36 am

Why does the URL say review and it links to a preview?


September 7, 2013, 6:59 am

There's no mystery about the price. It's on the Samsung website and you can pre-order one there as well - £649.


September 7, 2013, 7:11 am

There's no mystery about the price. There are these things called websites. Samsung has one. The phone can be pre-ordered there for £649.


September 7, 2013, 8:37 am

Hey I'm on AT&T and pre-ordered last night. The final page states that your card will not be charged until the phone is ready to ship. (On or around Oct 1) So I hit submit and completed my order. I noticed today that AT&T has already charged my card. I call in to see why I was charged so early and was told my expected ship date is between Sept 11- Sept 13. Nice. Did anyone else have this happen?

Steve Malone

September 8, 2013, 8:46 pm

Samsung phones are very buggy I'm not a big fan.

Steve Malone

September 8, 2013, 8:47 pm

Sorry Samsung not for me anymore they are just too buggy.


September 8, 2013, 8:52 pm

Check out LG G2 Amazing phone!!


September 9, 2013, 1:04 am

I got the same email, and I preordered mine on Friday . So I called AT&T and I was told the same thing. S I guess we will have our devices by Friday .


September 9, 2013, 9:44 pm

Not interested in the LG phone.


September 9, 2013, 10:13 pm

Yeah, I'm gonna guess the real culprit is user error by the guy who double posts lol.


September 9, 2013, 11:22 pm

I have a Note 1 and am quite happy with it. Its still going strong and whilst 1 poster indicates samsungs are buggy - Ive found it pretty good and reliable. (as I have the other samsungs Ive bought for the rest of the extended family over the last few years). HOWEVER due to my travel - FM radio IS a requirement. Without it - I will need to look elsewhere. once I would have said a changeable battery was as important - but as long as there is a battery cover available - I just swap that.... So the FM radio is a show stopper (and no - you CANT stream when there is no network - and the cost of straming multimedia data when travelling overseas - would break many national budgets.. SO did they bring back the radio ??

Richard Yarrell

September 15, 2013, 1:47 pm

Yeah this dude doesn't have a clue what so ever. Nothing beats Samsung period.

Richard Yarrell

September 15, 2013, 1:50 pm

Lg is the copy cat version. Nobody wanys copy cat stuff when you can have the industry leader in the android space. Samsung rules period..


September 15, 2013, 7:19 pm

These past 2 years, Apple has copied tons of stuff from Android, Windows Phone, and even BB10. And yet they still sell tens of millions of devices every quarter.
Not to mention, the original Galaxy S looked quite a lot like the iPhone, and it sold pretty well too. Stupid hypocritical moron.


September 16, 2013, 3:16 pm

which is a better processor on galaxy note 3 octa or quad?


September 16, 2013, 3:17 pm

wre you able to get some answers?


September 22, 2013, 5:06 am

Most phones you were able to use the FM-reciever on actually had the receiver in the headphones. Maybe there's a similar solution to buy somewhere? Apparently people are supposed to be willing to waste their precious megabytes on something that previously didn't need an internet connection :)


September 23, 2013, 7:37 pm

I don't know everything but I'll try to help
1. Not sure :(
2. The snapdragon is more powerful but I don't think it will make much of a difference power wise.
3. 4k works only on the Snapdragon
4. Again, I don't think there will be much of a difference.
5. My opinion is that Samsung is easing itself into making its own chips popular, but maybe they don't trust the U.S. market with those chips? Maybe the US market it too big to risk it.

Hope that helps! Either way I'm sure you will be just as satisfied!


September 24, 2013, 12:02 pm

I've always had an FM radio on my phone since my first feature-phone, and the headphones always did double duty as an aerial, but never did the headphones house the actual FM receiver itself. I guess it would be neat if they did, for phones without a biult in FM radio.

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