Samsung's Galaxy Note Enhancements
Like other Galaxy-branded devices, the Note 10.1 2014 borrows just about every software feature from the Note 3, including S Memo, S Beam, EasyMode, Multi Window, Smart Stay, Smart Scroll, S Translate, Easy Mode, Air View, and Air Gestures.
Also like Samsung's Note 3, the Note 10.1 2014 emphasizes using the S Pen via the S Pen Air Command. To us, this is the centerpiece of what sets the Note line apart from other tablets on the market. The Air Command interface is a huge improvement over last year's implementation, like on the Galaxy Note 3, as it allows Air Command functionality to continue working throughout the OS, separate from TouchWiz.
As a result, if you decide to use a third-party launcher like Nova or Action Launcher, you can continue to take advantage of Air Command. In the past, a lot of S Pen functionality was bound to the TouchWiz interface. Now, you're able to retain full usage of the S Pen, no matter how you customize your Android launcher.
We don't usually write notes by hand on tablets, but we're always impressed by the handwriting recognition in the Note suite of applications.
From taking down an email address or phone number to recording a few mental reminders, if you need your notes transcribed into digital form, the software typically handles the task well. Considering we're lifelong keyboard users and may have some of the worst handwriting in the world, that's quite a feat.
Multi Window support is another feature that no other OEM has really managed to match. It's especially useful on the Note 10.1 2014, given increased screen real estate afforded by the device's ample QHD resolution.
Compared to previous iterations that were slow, unresponsive, or just plain bad, this year's version is a much better representation of what is typically thought of as desktop functionality. Combined with other important improvements, such as data transfer between applications and unique input options that only the S Pen can provide, Samsung's offering is nicely differentiated.
The last notable user experience change is in Samsung's My Magazine. Accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the home screen, My Magazine somewhat previews what Samsung was cooking up for its professional line of Note Pro and Tab Pro tablets.
In what is basically a baked-in Flipboard news aggregator, you get the latest news in the topics of your choice. It's kind of like the Blinkfeed offering that HTC has on its One line of smartphones.
While people will either love or hate the Samsung TouchWiz UI, we don't see the company ditching it any time soon (even if some enthusiasts believe otherwise due to the deal signed with Google). Samsung has too much to lose by completely dropping the TouchWiz branding; it's now familiar to millions of users. And, of course, there are the ever-present rumors of TouchWiz being used by Samsung to get people accustomed to future Tizen-based devices.
As with other Galaxy products, the usefulness of the Note 10.1 2014's baked-in features are questionable. But, at the end of the day, they're likely a boon to many longtime Samsung customers.