Verizon just became the last major carrier to release the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 in the U.S., on October 10. The newest flagship phablet Samsung is quite stacked with hardware, so let's take a look at what competition it has, with the Verizon exclusive Motorola Droid Ultra, which has been on the market for a little while now.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is definitely a phablet - a cross between a tablet and a smartphone - compared to the smaller Droid Ultra. It has a 5.7-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen with a Full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080p. The Galaxy Note 3's screen is being called one of the most vivid displays on the market right now, and the 368 pixels per inch density on a 5.7-inch screen certainly attests to that.
Compared to the Galaxy Note 3, the Motorola Droid Ultra is going to seem small, but it's a full, 5-inch smartphone. However, it has a lower resolution Super AMOLED touchscreen. It's still HD, but only 1280 x 720p, with 294ppi. The Galaxy Note 3 takes this category.
Size is a factor for phablets, because the idea of one of these mobile devices is that you can still carry it around, while enjoying the benefits of a large screen. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 managed to make its third iteration's display 0.2-inches larger than its predecessor, while making phone itself slimmer and lighter.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has very slim (for its size class) 151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3 mm dimensions. By making the side bezels super thin, and keeping the bottom and top boarders slimmer as well, Samsung warded off the worst of phablet gigantism, and the Galaxy Note 3 should still fit in your pocket. And it only weighs 168 grams - another impressive accomplishment in phablet portability.
The Droid Ultra is way more portable though, as it has pretty normal premium smartphone dimensions of 137.5 x 71.2 x 7.2 mm with a weight of 137 grams, or a little over a fourth of a pound.
Power (Processor and Battery)
The processor on Samsung's newest phablet is cutting edge. The latest Qualcomm system on a chip - the quad core Snapdragon 800 - powers the Galaxy Note, clocked to 2.3GHz and assisted by 3GB of RAM. This is the first time a device like that has featured that much RAM.
The Motorola Droid Ultra features a Moto-built X8 processor, which is based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon, but actually has extra cores for some special features, which the Droid family now sports (more on that later). For core computing, the X8 should provide plenty of power, with a 1.7GHz dual core processor and a 400MHz quad core GPU, assisted by 2GB of RAM.
However, the sheer brute force of the Galaxy Note 3's Snapdragon 800 with 3GB of RAM will probably out-class just about anything on the market right now.
The Motorola Droid Ultra will definitely pass out first, compared to the Galaxy Note 3, which features a ridiculous estimated 21 hours of talk time on its 3200 mAh battery. The Droid Ultra actually features less battery power than its predecessor, giving you only a 2130 mAh battery with about 13 hours of talk time.
Camera and Storage
The Motorola Droid Ultra has a 10-megapixel Clear Pixel camera, with some tweaks like a 1.4 micron pixel size and a f/2.4 aperture that should help you collect more light for those dim settings. It features all of the standard premium smartphone camera options, like flash, slow-motion capture, HDR, panorama, and so on. The main camera can record Full HD video at 1080p, and the Ultra features a 2-megapixel front-facing camera as well.
Samsung's latest phablet for the U.S. matches what's expected of a high-end smartphone with a 13-megapixel main camera and all of those camera options as well. The 13-megapixels means higher zoom-in quality, and the Note 3's camera can also take 1080p video at 60 frames per second. It also has a 2-megapixel front-facing shooter.
When it comes to storage, Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 wins hands down. The Galaxy Note 3's internal storage goes up to 64GB, and there's a microSD card slot for up to 64GB more.
Meanwhile, the Droid Ultra is severely limited in this respect. It only comes with 16GB of internal storage, and there's no microSD card slot, so that's all you get.
The "other" category is interesting between these two. First of all, both feature NFC, WiFI, Bluetooth 4, and other flagship-type essentials.
But the Droid Ultra, being a Motorola phone (the company now being owned by Google), has a completely new feature. Just like Google's smartglasses, Google Glass, the Motorola Droid Ultra can be accessed without touching anything. Motorola is calling it "Touchless Control," and it means you can search the web, open apps, and perform other functions like getting directions just by saying "Okay, Google Now" and then a command.
Other Android devices, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 with S Voice, have speech and command recognition, but they still require a tap of a button to get started and often more tapping to follow. The Droid Ultra is essentially always listeningyou're your command, and the phone simply offers something you won't get with the Note 3 (and its why the X8 needs those extra cores).
Meanwhile, Samsung has updated its S Pen stylus to make it ever more capable of multitasking.
They've baked a multi-function menu into the operating system that operates at a press of the S Pen's button, making several tasks a breeze with the stylus. The Galaxy Note 3 comes with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean out of the box, while the Droid Ultra runs Android 4.2, but, being a Google phone, it will get an update soon.
A couple other interesting dichotomies present itself just on the face (or back plate, as the case may be) of these two devices. The Motorola Droid Ultra comes with a thatched Kevlar back plate, making the device look both tough and elegant.
Meanwhile, Samsung has made the Galaxy Note 3 look and feel like an old-timey Moleskin notebook - pleather, stitches, and all. Beauty, I think they say these days, is in the eye of the consumer, but either one of these handsets offer something different than the rest of the pack.
Release Date and Price
The Motorola Droid Ultra is already available on Verizon (and no other carrier) for about $200 with a two-year contract.
The Galaxy Note 3 just launched on Verizon, but is available practically everywhere else. The 32GB model will run you $300 with a two-year contract on Verizon (and similar carriers), which means that for just a bit more, you'll be enjoying a Full HD 5.7-inch screen with plenty of storage space.
The downside is, you'll have to touch your smartphone to use it.