Android this week: Galaxy Note 3 reviewed; Moto X camera and Chrome web apps improved


Customers this week were able to pick up one of the best Android(s goog) smartphones made to date: The Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Based on my hand-on experience, those who want handset that supports digital inking will be extremely happy.

Galaxy Note 3 and pen

The most noticeable improvements over the prior Note are found in the inking software.

Here’s an excerpt from my review earlier this week:

Where it gets different is in the software for the S-Pen because that’s the star of this show. Samsung has greatly improved the S-Pen experience through software tweaks and additions, the main one being a function called Air Command.

Remove the S-Pen from storage and the rotary Air Command menu pops up. You can also enable it by hovering the pen over the display and pressing the pen button from any screen. Think of Air Command as one-stop shopping for the S-Pen’s main features because it’s made up of five pen-specific functions.

I like how Samsung has made it easier to access the key S-Pen functions from any screen. It’s a smart move. Additional functionality helps too: The S-Pen can make a small window to quickly run another app and the new Action Memo applet gives “smarts” to your writing.

Galaxy Note 3 Action Memo

Even if you’re not an “inker”, the handset is worth the look, provided you want a larger than average handset. It’s a fast performer, has a great display and a large battery that should easily get you through a full day and then some.

On the smaller side, but still with a 4.7-inch display is the Moto X. After reviewing one, I enjoyed it so much, I bought my own for AT&T’s(s t) network. The only marginal quality of the phone was the camera, which was inconsistent. T-Mobile(s tmus) and Sprint(s s) customers already received a software update to improve the camera and AT&T began rolling it out on Friday. After installing the update, I’m seeing consistently better images although I think there’s still room for some improvement, particularly with how the camera handles bright white areas.

Here are few unedited indoor and outdoor pics I snapped after installing the update.

Also improved this week is the Chrome beta for Android: Version 31 brings quite a bit of new functionality and explains more about how Google is counting on Chrome as a major strategy. Web apps can now be installed to your home screen. That doesn’t sound exciting but these apps are treated more like first-class citizens: They appear natively in the multi-tasking app switcher and appear to be running outside the Chrome browser.

Google has also added payment autocomplete and Portable Native Client (PNaCl), which allows apps written in C or C++ to be complied and run as a Chrome app on Android. Think of this as the mobile version Native Client, which allows complex apps to run in Chrome.

Need an example to get a glimpse of the possibilities? Take a look at this video game I played on my Chromebook Pixel; it uses Native Client technology, supporting both offline use and game play with an Xbox 360 controller. While I don’t expect mobile apps to be quite as robust, the addition of PNaCl could bring mobile Chrome apps that rival native software.

Pixel gaming

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