This morning was the opening of Melbourne’s ‘Samsung Experience’ store, the second such store in Australia, located in the Highpoint Shopping Centre in Maribyrnong. Ausdroid were fortunate enough to be invited, and to celebrate the store’s opening, we were given a tour and some hands-on time with the new Galaxy Note 8.0.
The Samsung Experience store
Samsung is a huge company, and they sell more than just Android devices. The Samsung Experience stores are designed to showcase not only Samsung’s products, but how they all relate and interact with each other – an experience, if you will. One of the demos was a staff member taking a photo of us on a Galaxy Tab and immediately displaying it on a Samsung Smart TV. The entire Galaxy Note 8.0 demonstration was mirrored on a Samsung Smart TV using Samsung’s Allshare Cast technology.
The store is very neat, clean and well-lit, and does a great job of showcasing all of Samsung’s many product lines. There is a dedicated space where you can charge your mobile, and the store has free WiFi access. There are tables filled with Galaxy Cameras (which seems uncharacteristically-well designed for Samsung), Galaxy Note 10.1 tablets, Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note II phones, as well as the occasional Galaxy S II. I know we’re an Android news site, but Samsung also have their finest Smart TVs on display, as well as their lineup of Windows 8 convertible tablets and ultrabooks. There really is something for everybody, and every single item on display has its place. The highlight of the non-Android lineup was the ridiculously large 75-inch ES9000 Smart TV, on which a couple of staff members were playing Angry Birds using motion detection.
No one wanted to talk about the upcoming Galaxy S IV, which was disappointing, and I was hoping to catch a glimpse of one on an inattentive executive, but it seemed that everyone was carrying a Galaxy Note of some size. According to one staff member, they are not told anything about products until the day they are released, and apparently that’s ‘exciting’. Speaking of staff members, Samsung have a dedicated team of knowledgeable staff who help with technical issues, known as ‘Smart Tutors’.
My souvenir for the day was a Samsung promotional mug, featuring a delightful photograph of yours truly, taken on a Galaxy Note II.
After our tour around the new store and some delicious juice, we were led out front for the official store opening and ribbon cutting ceremony. We did not have any supermodels present (unlike David Jones next door, where I saw Megan Gale), but we did have Richard Ashman and Mr S R Yoon (Samsung Australia’s Head of Retail and Managing Director, respectively) as well as Matthew Faddy and Bruce Sedgwick from GPT Group (who own Highpoint).
Then, it was back for the part of the show we had all been waiting for – the Galaxy Note 8.0 hands-on!
More photos of the store:
The Galaxy Note 8.0
Like other Notes before it, the Note 8.0 is an Android tablet with a stylus (they call it an ‘S-Pen’) and a suite of applications that offer unique features tailored for pen use. The original Note (and Note II), I found were neat toys, but too small to be of any real use; and the Note 10.1 was just plain horrible. The Note 8.0 though, seems to be in the Goldilocks zone of Android tablets, and I could actually see myself using it on a daily basis. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to keep the tablet.
Firstly, the Wi-Fi version of the device is available for pre-order now for $459, and is expected to ship in the second week in April. The 4G edition will be available in May and will work as a phone, and Samsung have not yet announced its price.
While the Note 8.0 is made from the same lightweight plastics as their other devices, its build quality seems much better than many other Samsung devices. It actually felt nice in the hand, and light enough that it wouldn’t become tiresome holding one-handed for extended periods of time. The display’s 1280 x 800 resolution is not as high as I would have liked, especially for the price point, but it is definitely vibrant and clear and is certainly adequate.
The Note 8.0 has a few exclusive features that haven’t made their way to the other Notes yet, but I’ve never really spent a lot of time with any of Samsung’s stylus-equipped devices, so all the features were new and exciting to me. The exclusive Note 8.0 features:
- You can now use the S-Pen on the capacitive keys at the bottom of the device.
- Reading mode: this is one of those really cool and innovative features that make Samsung such a success. With Reading Mode enabled, the screen brightness and colour temperature will adapt to your surroundings to make reading on the Note 8.0 easier on your eyes. This is a per-application setting, and comes enabled by default in the Readers Hub and Play Books applications.
- Several new applications have been added to the Note’s split-screen mode: music, calendar, alarm and the file manager.
The demonstrator’s favourite feature of the Note 8 – the main one that ‘increases your productivity’ is split screen. I think all of Samsung’s high-end devices (Note II, SGS III, Note 10.1) have this feature now, but it is pretty cool and something that would definitely be useful.
Samsung have undoubtedly brought a lot to the table with the Note 8.0. Here is a quick run-through of today’s demonstration today:
Holding down the S-Pen button and double-tapping anywhere on the device’s screen pops up a floating note-taking window.
Hovering the S-Pen over the screen will show you a preview of what is under the stylus. In the gallery, it will show you images inside a folder and in Gmail, it will show you a preview of the message.
Holding the button and drawing on the screen will take a cropped screenshot and copy whatever is inside the shape you drew to the clipboard.
Yes, this is Samsung’s word for ‘calendar’. It’s S-Pen enabled though, and you can write and draw on the calendar to highlight events. I don’t know when this would be helpful, especially considering that what you’ve drawn is only displayed when the calendar is switched into the S-Pen mode.
Mirroring your screen’s content to a huge television? Yes, please! Unfortunately, it requires an adapter to be connected to your TV, but it worked really well throughout the demonstration. If you’re watching video though, the Note 8.0’s screen goes black while it plays on the television.
This was one of the coolest features of the device. It took me back to my youth and many a long summer spent sitting with my friends doing integral calculus. You can hand-write formulae on the screen with the S-Pen, and the Note 8.0 will pull graphs and solutions from Wolfram Alpha. I wish I’d had this 10 years ago!
This is probably one of the most underrated, and awesome, features of the Galaxy Note 8.0 (and apparently it was on the 10.1 as well). You can pair your tablet with any device that uses an infrared remote control, not just Samsung TVs, and your Note will become your remote!
Well, Readers Hub is probably one of the ugliest applications I’ve ever seen. Taking cues from Apple’s iBooks, it features a faux-wood, fake bookcase that houses all your downloaded books. The skeuomorphism aside, it’s actually rather neat. You can highlight text and make handwritten notes in the books that are available through the store. This is another thing that I wish I’d had in uni.
Samsung, realising that typing on a tablet computer can be difficult for people with different-sized hands, or depending on how they hold the Note, have included a choice of input methods. Pinching on the touch keyboard causes a selection pane to show up on the screen, allowing you to choose between a separated keyboard, ideal for two-thumb input on larger screens; a floating keyboard; and the regular full-keyboard. Nice work, Samsung.
See all my photos of the Galaxy Note 8.0:
These days, tech companies are coming out with a whole lot of gadgets that I have a hard time finding a place for in my life. The Galaxy Note 8.0 is not one of these devices. I own a Nexus 7 that I use almost exclusively for reading books, and a Microsoft Surface that I use to get work done, but is a bit too big to carry with me all the time. I could easily see the Note 8.0 replacing of both these devices, as it retains the portability and convenience of the smaller tablet, but the S-Pen would offer enormous productivity benefits.
The Samsung Experience stores are a great opportunity for Samsung to showcase the ecosystem they have built – phones, tablets, laptops and televisions that all connect together to let you create and share content across devices easily. In many ways, buying a Samsung device is buying into a larger ecosystem – one that transcends operating system – and the Experience stores allow Samsung’s innovation and cross-platform connectivity really shine.