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Samsung Galaxy Note 3 - Android Software and TouchWiz

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams


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Review Price £619.99

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 – Android and TouchWiz

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, and uses a custom UI very similar to that seen in the Galaxy S4. It’s called TouchWiz.

TouchWiz is infamous for packing squillions of features into Android, many of which are arguably unnecessary – or at worst completely useless. The features obsession continues with the Galaxy Note 3, but it fits pretty well here. Its large screen makes great use of some of the extra features, and the Notes have always felt like pretty geek-friendly phones.

Galaxy Note 3 1

The interface’s look is bright and colourful rather than desperately cool or stylish-looking. You can mute the Samsung style a little with your own wallpaper and widgets if it looks a little too toy-like for your tastes, but the Note 3 software is a little less tasteful than the HTC One’s.

At a basic level, Samsung doesn’t mess too much with the way Android works. It adds things to the basic building blocks of the system, rather than altering the fundamentals.


Note 3 multitaskingThe best of these extras optimise how Android feels on a large screen. Multi View is one of the most interesting extras. It lets you run two apps on-screen at once, each taking up half the screen. However, it only works with select apps, not every single one you’ve downloaded from the Google Play app store.

Still, you can chat with friends using ChatON (a Whatsapp/Google Hangouts alternative) while reading emails, scan through two websites at once, have a book/video open while browsing the web – and all manner of other combos. You can choose how much screen space each app gets too.

Multi View gets a firm thumbs-up, even if it’s not new – it even features in the old Samsung Galaxy S3. Some of you will think it's unnecessary, though.

Samsung also offers features to make the Note 3 easier to use for smaller hands. An accessibility mode lets you create a scalable ‘phone within a phone’ view. However, if you think you’ll use this as your everday view – please don’t buy the Note 3. Embrace the size or get out of town.

There are also one-handed versions of the keyboard, number pad, passcode unlock screen and call keypad.

Gesture command

Always keen to jump on a gimmick when it can, Samsung has packed in as many ways to interact with the Galaxy Note 3 as possible.

A touchscreen is no longer enough. The Note 3 also responds to fingers lingering above the screen, gestures in the air, palm swipes across the surface of the display and even senses your eyes looking at the screen.

These moves control pretty pedestrian things like flicking through photos, scrolling through web pages and silencing sounds or calls. As gimmicks to impress friends, they’ll do the trick, but we find they’re solutions to non-existent problems, and ones that can at times introduce their own issues. As some react to fingers hovering above the screen, you’ll occasionally set something off accidentally when browsing the web.

Perhaps more seriously, they turn your first few hours – or days – with the phone into a pop-up filled mess as the Galaxy Note 3 desperately tries to explain how to use its dozens of superfluous features every time you get near them. You can turn them all off within Settings easily enough, but don't buy this phone for a technophobe.

SEE ALSO: Best phones round-up

Galaxy Note 3 4

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 – Software and Apps

As well as interface tweaks, the Galaxy Note 3 comes with a bunch of additional apps. Helpfully – with our review phone at least – Samsung packs most of them into a pair of Samsung folders in the apps menu rather than bombarding you with their unfamiliar icons as soon as you get the phone out of the box.

As well as the note-taker Evernote, Flipboard, Trip Advisor and Dropbox (you get 50GB of Dropbox storage with the Note 3) you get these Samsung apps.

See Also: Best Samsung Galaxy Note 3 apps to download

S Health

A basic fitness tracker that lets you log what you eat (a painful exercise in itself) and monitor the number of steps you take in a day using the phone’s accelerometer. Samsung could have incorporated full GPS tracking here, but it would have killed the battery in-use – and that’s only going to make everyone angry. It’s an app for your average, possibly slightly overweight, Joe and Joetta.


This is a TV guide app that also lets you control your TV and various home entertainment boxes using the IR transmitter of the Note 3. It looks snazzy, but setting it up for your telly is a pain. The commands in its database are only specific at the manufacturer level, so you’ll need to try out multiple iterations of each command (i.e. each remote button) to make them work with your specific TV.

S Translator

A solid translation app that – we imagine – may have been inspired by the communication difficulties between Samsung’s Korean HQ and its many global satellites. Just a guess.

S Voice

Samsung’s Siri alternative can perform the same sort of tasks as Apple’s voice assistant. It’ll call people for you, set calendar events, set alarms and so on. It’s not quite as advanced as Siri in some respects, but it’s the same sort of idea.


Probably the most impressive part of TouchWiz’s extended software suite is Knox. And it’ll be the least-commonly used by normal people. Knox is a hardcore security solution that secures work data much more completely than standard Android. Even the Pentagon has cleared it for use within its walls. Either your work will say that you have to use it, or you probably won't use it at all.

Is TouchWiz’s interface and software library a success? Yes, it doesn’t make the phone run slowly, doesn’t look too bad and isn’t buggy. But it does require patience, isn’t quite as snappy as vanilla Android 4.3 and is about as far removed from the simplicity of an iPhone as you can get.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3: Performance and Games

The Galaxy Note 3 uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, which is a generation more advanced than the chip of the Galaxy S4 (the quad-core version we have in the UK). It’s significantly more powerful, making this one of the fastest phones on the market right now.

Galaxy Note 3 10

There are few games to challenge it on Google Play right now. Our standard gaming test, Real Racing 3, is no problem for the Note 3. And the 3D Mark and Geekbench tests show that it’s on par with, or slightly faster than (thanks to its super- generous 3GB of RAM) the Snapdragon 800 Xperia Z1.

The extra power doesn’t really manifest that obviously, but it is there. We'll have to wait until Epic Games releases Infinity Blade 3 on Android to see whether the Snapdragon 800 is really capable of the sort of graphical feats as the iPhone 5S's new Apple A7 chipset. It's all rather academic at present.

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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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