All the major tech players have shaped up their brand new, late 2012 technologies ready for consumers, just in time for Christmas and the end of year sales season, with my live blog of Samsung's Galaxy Note II, stunning Galaxy Camera and Win 8/RT launch available to read here.
Although there have already been so many amazing new product and OS launches in recent weeks, some brand new models across OS ranges are still coming in over the next couple of weeks and into early December, just in time to enjoy four or five weeks of pre-Christmas sales and then take the battle into early 2013 and beyond.
The brand new models include Samsung's most advanced Android and stylus-equipped smartphone yet, a genre-morphing 16.3 megapixel camera with 21x optical zoom and a host of new Windows 8 and Windows RT models.
Samsung is also making a new push for enterprise business, something the breadth, depth and price of its entire 2012 updated IT range is undoubtedly making an attractive proposition for businesses large and small out there.
You can see Samsung's US Note II page here, scroll down to see marketing info, specs and more detail, with the Australian page here taking you to Sam Sparro and Ricki-Lee's Note II song collaboration video.
The Note II comes with a massive, phablet-sized 5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED Plus display while slimming the bezel to beat the original Galaxy Note's 5.3-inch screen, yet without coming in a larger package.
Naturally, the bold screen has a 16:9 aspect ratio, and it's powered by a very speedy 1.6GHz quad-core processor, coupled with 4G LTE and 3G HSPA+, Android OS 4.1 Jelly Bean, and an NFC chip with programmable new "TecTiles" capability to create your own programmable phone settings tags.
There's also the signature S Pen with big improvements over last year's version, which we'll look at in more detail in a few paragraphs, 16GB storage, microSD card slot, powerful AND removable 3100mAh battery, 8 megapixel real camera with awesome photo features like "Best Photo" and a 1.9 megapixel front facing camera.
We also see features like Smart Stay which first arrived on the Galaxy SIII, which stops the Note II from turning off the screen when you're facing it by using the front facing camera to detect your face at the screen, or not.
An AirPlay-like feature called AllShare Play plays content through HDTVs and other compatible devices.
So, the S Pen feature delivering Samsung's next-gen stylus experience, unavailable on iOS or Windows Phone 8.
The S-Pen is button-enabled with 1024 points of pressure sensitivity, with a rubber tipped stylus delivering the most natural writing experience yet.
When I used the stylus to write on the giant 5.5-inch phablet screen at the demo, it certainly felt very smooth and accurate, far beyond the abandoned Windows Mobile stylus days of years ago.
The Note II also features an improved version of the multitasking capabilities first seen in the recently launched 10.1-inch Galaxy Tab Note tablet, a tablet that itself is also equipped with S-Pen stylus and split-screen multitasking atop Android 4.x to compete with iOS and Win 8/RT.
Note II's multitasking lets you run two apps together in resizeable screens – letting you easily put two apps at half-screen each, at 1/3 and 2/3 or the ratio you prefer, while going between the two displayed apps was instant.
More multitasking fatures including Pop Up video ,which we've seen before on the GS3, letting you watch video while doing email, browsing the web or something else.
Pop Up Note lets you take written notes, sketches or anything in any app, even when on a call, and a new Pop Up Web feature which lets you bring up a pop up browser wherever you are so you can check a link or the web without leaving what you're doing.
The S-Pen is also more than just a pressure sensitive pen – it also lets you "hover" over the screen, much as you saw in the Windows XP, Vista and 7 days using the stylus.
This capability lets you hover the S Pen "over an email, S Note, S Planner, image galleries, or videos to preview the content without having to open it", giving you quick access to more detail without leaving the app to go into another or wasting time in "screen transitions".
A "gesture pad feature" called Quick Command also lets you use S Pen gesture commands, making the input, drawing and stylus capabilities of the Note II well above anything that either Apple is offering with the iPhone 5 or Microsoft is offering with Windows Phone 8, although Windows 8 certainly has stylus capabilities (with Samsung offering its S Pens there too).
You can handwrite, write over existing content on the screen, crop the screen in whatever shape you want to 'save, share or paste', write a number and notes when in a call and so much more, surpassing what was possible during the stylus equipped days of the world of Windows Mobile 6.x and earlier.
I'm looking forward to testing the multitasking feature under real world conditions, but the short experience I had with its looked good. Samsung has also done a great job of integrating its own S Pen enabled apps, while encouraging showing off a few apps taking great advantage of the S-Pen's features.
Available on Telstra within the next couple of weeks on 4G, and available "next week" for Optus on 4G/3G+ and Vodafone on its 3G HSPA+ network, its retail outright purchase price is AUD $899, while each telco has plans to suit for those happy to go on a contract.
There's also cheeky etail moguls like Kogan selling an imported Galaxy Note II with 4G for $699 on his site, so if you're buying outright and not on a contract, be sure to shop around!
Especially if you're already an Android fandroid lusting after a quad-core Jelly Bean experience on massive screen with 4G access and the added bonus of the most polished stylus experience, and using all your existing apps effortlessly on your upgraded new superphone, the Galaxy Note II can't be ignored and must be seen to be experienced.
iOS users who want to see what future iPhones may well offer can see how Samsung is offering it now, and then play guessing games as to how Apple can re-invent the stylus so "it just works" in some heretofore unseen yet mind-blowingly obvious, simple and ultra effective way, although what I've just described would easily describe Samsung's Note II S Pen approach!
You'll find full specs of the Galaxy Note II on page three, along with full specs of the brand new Galaxy Camera.
On page two, you'll find details of the Galaxy Camera, along with my hands-on first impressions – please read on to page two!
Then there's Samsung's new Galaxy Camera, which I first saw a couple of months ago when launched overseas and covered all over the web.
It blends a fantastic 16.3 megapixel camera with an impressive 21x optical zoom lens while sitting atop Android OS 4.1 Jelly Bean, a 4.8-inch screen and 3G data connectivity!
As Samsung states, this combination produces "high performance photography with mobile technology to allow consumers the ability to shoot, edit and share high quality images virtually anywhere and anytime."
Samsung Australia's Digital Imaging executive Craig Gillespie, said in a statement that: "The collaboration between the mobile and digital imaging divisions has resulted in the GALAXY Camera, a product that Samsung is extremely proud of.
Image quality looked stunning from what I saw last night, with a "Smart Pro" feature to choose from a selection of options to match your photo requirement and to help make you look like a pro doing so.
A "Rich Tone" setting, for example, "delivers images with great intensity", while "Light Trace" lets you capture light trails from light sources like car lights, handheld light sources and more for very creative photography.
That 21x optical zoom rocks, I was able to zoom right into the face of the DJ playing at Samsung's launch event, and could capture a clear facial image without needing to have yet resorted to digital zooming.
There's also a back-side illuminated "1/2.3" CMOS sensor and 23mm aperture lens" so you can "capture images in brilliant colour, delivering impressive wide-angle shots."
Naturally, as an Android OS 4.1-powered device, it has access not only to a swathe of 3rd party apps, but also to the inbuilt "Photo Wizard" editing software, calibrated to perform at speed thanks to the quad-core processor.
Things look sweet on the 4.8-inch "HD Super Clear LCD screen", whether in camera mode or Android's home screens and menus.
A "Smart Content Manager" serves as an "innovative on-device organisation tool which intelligently creates folders, tags faces, and even suggests which pictures to delete when they don't come out as desired."
Samsung has installed several apps as standard, including Instagram, but naturally, all those apps at Google Play and the Samsung Apps store can be installed, from Angry Birds to Skype and anything else.
You can also sync photos you take to Dropbox automatically, too, yet another advantage of having proper camera optics built atop an up-to-the-minute Android smartphone-style device.
Another photo sharing feature is called "Share Shot" that sends photos to others as soon as the photo has been taken, along with the "ability to share photos and video to popular social networking sites and cloud services" and even other Galaxy devices including the SIII.
While there's a 3G HSPA+ module and SIM card slot, you can't make calls over the phone network with the Galaxy Camera via SIM card. You can, of course, make all the VoIP calls you want – naturally there's a microphone/headphone socket on the device, too.
I did try putting the camera to my face as though it were a phone, and you could use it that way if you wanted, but Samsung has, in this first model at least, omitted the feature so people weren't walking around with what looked like cameras stuck to their cheeks. :-)
Voice control features naturally are installed, letting you say "zoom in" or "shoot" to improve and then take photos, by voice!
Due to arrive in "late November", which means the next couple of weeks, it will sell for AUD $599.
There was also a suite of Windows 8 and Windows RT powered tablets with click-on keyboards, which I'll write about in the next article!
Full specs of the Galaxy Note II and the Galaxy Camera on page three, please read on!
Here are the specs for the Samsung Galaxy Note II stylus-equipped smartphone, followed by the specs for the brand new Samsung Galaxy Camera.
Galaxy Note II full specs:
HSPA+ 21Mbps (HSDPA 21Mbps / HSUPA 5.76Mbps)
4G LTE Category 31:
Up to 100Mbps downlink / 50Mbps uplink (available on the Optus and Telstra networks)
1.6 GHz quad-core processor
5.5" HD Super AMOLED (1,280 x 720)
Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
Main(Rear): 8 Megapixel Auto Focus Camera with LED Flash
Sub(Front): 1.9 Megapixel VT Camera
Best Photo, Best Face, Face detection, Share shot, HDR, Smileshot, Low
Codec: MPEG4, H.263, H.264, VC-1, DivX, WMV7, WMV8, WMV9, VP8 Format: 3GP(MP4), WMV(ASF), AVI, FLV, MKV, WebM
HD Playback & Full HD(1080p) Recording
Codec: MP3, OGG, WMA, AAC, ACC+, eAAC+, AMR(NB,WB), MIDI, WAV, AC-3, Flac
Music Player with SoundAlive 3.5mm Ear Jack
S Pen Optimized Features:
S Pen Experience
- S Note, S Planner, Email with hand-writing integration - S Pen Keeper
- Quick Command, Easy Clip, Photo Note, Paper Artist
Popup Note, Popup Play
Shape Match, Formula Match, Idea Visualizer
Samsung AllShare Play & Control
Samsung AllShare Cast (WiFi Display) – Mirroring & Extension Samsung AllShare Framework
Content Features & Services:
Samsung Kies / Samsung Kies Air
Samsung TouchWiz / Samsung L!ve Panel
AUD $899 outright, due "next week" for Optus and Vodafone, late November for Telstra.
Samsung Galaxy Camera product specs:
16.3 effective megapixel 1/2.3" BSI CMOS
F2.8, 23 mm, 21x Optical Zoom Lens
121.2 mm (4.77"), 308 ppi, HD Super Clear Touch Display
Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
3G (HSPA+ 21Mbps): 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100 MHz
1.4GHz Quad-Core processor
Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
8GB + memory slot : micro SDSC, micro SDHC, micro SDXC
JPEG format 16M, 14M, 12M Wide, 10M, 5M, 3M, 2M Wide, 1M
MP4 (Video: MPEG4, AVC/H.264, Audio: AAC) Full HD recording 1920x1080 30fps
Slow motion Video 768 x 512 (WVGA) 120fps
15 modes (Beauty face, Best photo, Continuous shot, Best face, Landscape, Macro, Action freeze, Rich tone, Panorama, Waterfall, Silhouette, Sunset, Night, Fireworks, Light trace
Share shot, Auto Upload
Smart Content Manager, Photo Wizard, Paper Artist, Video Editor
Voice Control, Slow Motion Video, S Planner, S Suggest
AllShare Play, Drop box
Google Mobile Services:
Google Search, Google Maps, Gmail, Google Latitude
Google Play Store, Google Plus, YouTube, Google Talk,
Google Places, Google Navigation, Google Downloads, Google Chrome browser, Google Play Books, Google Play Movies
WiFi a/b/g/n, WiFi HT40
128.7 x 70.8 x 19.1 mm
On sale late November for AUD $599 RRP.