Samsung Galaxy Note 3: Nice but Not Nice Enough

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Samsung unveiled its Galaxy Note 3 smartphone and Galaxy Gear smartwatch at a simultaneous Berlin/New York City event on Wednesday. After playing with both devices, especially the smartwatch, Samsung has a long way to go toward making these products mainstream.

Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 -- the latest smartphone Samsung unveiled this year alongside the Galaxy S 4 and several other versions of the Galaxy, is a $299, 5.7-inch phone designed to have the functionality of both a smartphone and a tablet. While the phone has 3 GB of RAM, a 2.3 GHz quad-core processor and a 13 MP camera, the biggest feature, and sadly one that falls flat on the phone, is its software, Air Command.

The Galaxy Note 3 will launch Sept. 25 in 149 countries, and will run Google's ( GOOG) Android 4.3 operating system at launch. It will also come in 32 GB and 64 GB sizes, with Samsung opting to do away with the 16 GB model.

Air Command was designed to make accessing the phone's features easier, allowing users to let the S Pen hover over the screen, clicking the built-in button on the stylus, and then clicking through the wheel that pops up on the screen. Air Command took some time getting used to, which is never a good sign for software. Apple's ( AAPL) software is intuitive, for instance, and is exceptionally easy to use. There have been studies done that toddlers can use Apple devices, which run on iOS, making them inherently more intuitive than Samsung's latest venture.

Aside from Air Command and getting over using a stylus (I don't like using a stylus, but some people do), the Galaxy Note 3 seems like a slight improvement over its predecessor. When coupled with the several other phones that Samsung announced earlier this year, it seems like Samsung is grasping at proverbial straws to try to make a phone for everybody. Perhaps fewer phones and more time getting the software just right would be a better route for the South Korean-based technology giant.

Once you figure out Air Command, Samsung does have some cool features n the smartphone. Action Memos, Pen Window, S Finder, and Scrapbook all provide new ways to do different things with your Galaxy Note 3. Action Memos, for instance, turns handwritten messages into something you can actually do, like writing a person's phone number, then adding that to your contact list and calling them. Pen Window allows you to actually draw a box of an app as large as you want, and make a calculator out of it, all without leaving the screen you're on.

Scrapbook is the really cool feature, allowing you to organize all of your photos, videos, music and content, and then allowing you to find it later.

Another interesting feature is Multi Window, which allows you to have an app and a browser window open at the same time, and you can chat with two different friends at the same time using a box. You can drag and drop chats using Multi Window, something which impressed me.

There's also Multi vision, which allows you to put two or more Notes together to watch a video on a larger screen. While that's undoubtedly cool, I'm not sure why anyone would want to do this, when you can just watch it on a larger screen.

In the time I had demoing the phone, and getting used to its new software, and the backing made of faux leather with false stitching, the Galaxy Note 3 is a nice phone. It felt very light, weighing just 168 grams, and it's only 8.3 mm thick. However, nice isn't going to win me way from other phones I've used in the past.

Grade: 7/10

-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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