I know everyone is sprouting Galaxy S IV boners right now, but that isn't going to be the next Samsung product to hit Australian shelves. Samsung confirmed Australian release plans for the Galaxy Note 8.0 yesterday, and we got a chance to quickly test out the device during the opening of its Melbourne store. The Note 8.0 is much more tablet than phablet, but still quite impressive.
Our US colleagues offered an overview last month of the Note in prototype phase, so I won't repeat the hardware specs here. Much of that discussion on whether anyone would actually want to carry around an 8-inch phone. So it's worth pointing this out up front: the first version which goes on sale in Australia (you can pre-order now for a mid-April delivery) will be Wi-Fi only. Samsung is planning a local release for the 4G version, but carrier testing means it's going to be at least May before we see any of them. So if you do spot anyone using the Galaxy 8.0 as a phone, you can dismiss them as a WhatsApp-using Wi-Fi wanker and carry on with your day.
In most other respects, the Note 8.0 is a blown-up version of the existing Note platform into full tablet form, and the most obvious change is in the software. One subtle hardware-related change is the ability to access the Android soft keys using the stylus, rather than having to revert to your finger. You can also use sthe stylus without touching the screen, hovering over images to see a preview, for example. In terms of encouraging stylus usage, this seems a sensible move, though hardly an earth-shattering development.
Most of the other changes are in the enhanced Samsung apps which form part of the platform. Yes, not everyone likes manufacturer add-ons, but if you feel like that, there's really no point going with the Note at all. Go and grab yourself a Nexus and be at peace.
Software changes include the ability to double-tap anywhere to start a new note and the ability to lasoo an area of the screen with a stylus and then paste that into other apps. You can also scribble text notes on the calendar, should you so desire. I'd expect these to eventually hit other Note devices, though not for a while. Other changes include the ability to customise Reading Mode, which adjusts the brightness of the display based on your current environment, and the ability to float or split your keyboard. That might be handy when in landscape mode, while portrait mode makes the existing dual-app split much more useful
I've never thought 10 inches was a sensible size for a tablet; that 7-inch zone is much kinder on the pocket. The Galaxy 8.0 fits neatly into that space, though at $459 it may have trouble competing with the cheaper Nexus and iPad Mini. But if you like your stylus, this could be just your style.