A look at Samsung's latest offerings

Hadyn Green reviews the Galaxy Note 4 phone and Gear S watch.

Galaxy hero

The Galaxy Note 4 is the latest in Samsung’s series of gigantic phones that nearly everyone said were way too big for normal humans. But now that Apple has released the iPhone 6 Plus, everyone seems to have softened on the idea of huge phones.

The Note 4 is a little smaller than the new iPhone in height and width, but not depth, and it has a bigger screen. It also has an incredibly useful feature: a stylus.

The stylus, which has come with every version of the Note, does a lot to unlock the potential of the large phone. It gives you the opportunity to easily write and draw on the screen and to do precise actions.

Having the stylus makes the phone thicker and also means it’s not waterproof (like its smaller sibling the Galaxy S5). But just like the iPhone 6 Plus, the Note 4 is difficult to fit in your pocket and is pretty much impossible to use with one hand (another reason the stylus is useful). Both of these new giant phones are hard to balance with one hand if you are trying to look at the screen and use the keyboard. I kept feeling like I was going to drop it.

I found that typing on the Note was easier with a Swype-style keyboard. “Swyping” let me use the large format keyboard easier with one hand (though it was still hard to balance).

The Note’s camera is very nice and this is where a big screen is a good thing. I went to a specialty beer tasting and was able to take some excellent photos, both in macro and wider, of the samples. Using the stylus, I could take tasting notes directly on the images before sharing them on social media.

The Note 4 also has a suite of sensors to measure health factors like heart rate, stress levels and UV radiation, so you can track your health through the built-in S Health app.

Samsung also have the new Gear S connected smart watch, which is a massive chunky watch. Like the Note, it’s covered in sensors to measure a bunch of health-related things, all of which sync to the S Health app on your phone.

The task you’ll use the watch for the most, other than telling the time, is getting updates. When your phone gets a notification, so does your watch. You can choose which apps send you notifications.

The Gear connects to your phone (and it can be any newish Samsung Android phone). It can take and make phone calls and texts, though the tiny little virtual keyboard is incredibly hard to use. The voice controls can be a little iffy with the New Zealand accent, but in general it’s a neat little feature.

I suppose the main idea of the Gear is that you can leave your giant phone in your bag or pocket and do everything via your watch (especially while you’re walking around). Of course the number one thing you do with a watch is tell time. The Gear requires you to move your wrist in order for the screen to turn on, so there’s no glancing down at your wrist to quickly check the time. There is also the problem of sunlight, because, like a mobile phone, the shiny screen is sometimes unreadable in direct sunlight. I found this all to be incredibly annoying.

Unlike my normal watch, you have to recharge the Gear every couple of days. I gave the Gear a full charge on Friday afternoon and after a regular weekend of usage it ran out of power on Sunday afternoon. After that it’s no longer a watch, it’s a very chunky bracelet.

All-in-all I still find giant phones too giant for me. You may love them though. It’s all about how you use your phone and if you use two hands, then the larger Galaxy Note 4 or iPhone 6 Plus could be for you.

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