Samsung has finally dropped its major entry into the 2012 smartphone market, and, at least for now, it appears to be worthy of the Galaxy name. The Galaxy S III might be a little big for some, but it’s packing in loads of new features, some of which manage to do something very difficult – make the phone stand out from the rest of the smartphone crowd.
The Galaxy S III has a 4.8” HD Super AMOLED display in 1280 x 720 resolution, and is powered by Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and Samsung’s own quad-core 1.4 GHz Exynos 4 Cortex A9 processor. It has 1080p recording and playback capabilities. Recording is handled by the 8 MP camera on the back, which is complemented by a 1.9 MP front-facing camera. There will be 4G compatibility – whether or not you’ll get an LTE-ready phone (as opposed to HSPA+) will depend on where you live. The S III weighs in at 133 grams, and is housed in a 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm frame. It also packs an impressively powerful 2100 mAh battery.
The same kind of focus that Samsung put into interaction for their Smart TVs is found in different forms on the Galaxy S III. Samsung claims that the S III has a natural language interface, dubbed S Voice, but from the information on hand right now, it sounds like this is a misnomer. Most of the voice command demonstrations use very specific command words, and supposedly, those command words can be programmed by users. That’s nice, but it’s not exactly a natural language interface as the term has been advertised up until now, where you can just say whatever you want to your phone, as you can with Apple’s Siri. Also, one command presented was the ability to say “snooze” when your alarm goes off, which has to be one of the worst ideas I’ve ever heard for anyone who actually uses a “snooze” button. I’m comfortable saying that someday, someone is going to lose their job after repeatedly showing up late to work thanks to the S III.
But, the smart interaction doesn’t end there. Smart stay is a facial recognition feature that prevents the screen from dimming or turning off if the S III’s camera detects your face – ideal if you’re reading or watching a movie and don’t want to touch your screen every few seconds. Direct call will automatically call a number that you are texting, should you change your mind mid-text. While texting a message to another person, raising the phone up to your ear will automatically call that person’s number, instead.
The S Beam uses NFC technology to allow two S III phones in the same area to transfer data to each other, with very fast transfer speeds. I’ll grant that a fair amount of people are going to end up with an S III, but it still feels like that feature will end up sounding better on paper for most smartphone shoppers.
PopUp Play is another feature that sounds great in theory, but might end up being underwhelming for many. Any videos played on the S III can be popped out and viewed in thumbnail mode while you engage with other apps on the phone. That sounds nice, but it’s often hard enough to watch a video on a smartphone screen, even a 4.8” one. Watching a video in thumbnail mode on a 4.8” screen doesn’t sound too great to me, but I’m sure a lot of people can and will find uses for it.
AllShare Cast is a pretty solid feature, allowing you to connect the S III to any device in the home using Wi-Fi. The second device’s screen will display whatever is on the S III’s screen, in real-time. Group Cast works in a similar way, and allows you to share your screen with multiple friends’ devices nearby. The S III can also be used as a video game controller, though that’s something that certainly calls for more explanation down the road, as to how that will work and for what devices or consoles.
The camera has seen big improvements, too. Shutter lag has been nearly eliminated, while burst shooting up to 20 shots is now possible. The S III then has the capability to pick the best photos of that lot to save automatically. You can choose to zoom in on specific faces before taking a shot, and stills can be taken while shooting video.
Tagging is also an important feature of the S III. Facial recognition can scan your photos for faces, then connect the faces it finds to corresponding friends in your social networking profiles.
Just for good measure, there’s also an accelerometer, digital compass, gyroscope, and barometer included on-board.
All-in-all, the Galaxy S III appears to be the unquestioned king of the Android smartphone world right now, at least in terms of specs. You could even argue that it will be the premiere smartphone on the market when it becomes available sometime this summer (May in Europe, with a global rollout planned after that), as long as you tack on a big, fat asterisk that says the iPhone 5 (or whatever it’s going to be called) is probably going to come out sometime this year.
So, are there any disappointments from the S III announcement? Hard to say right now, before we’ve had a chance to get our hands on a unit, but there is one thing worth mentioning – maybe the most eye-roll inducing tagline we’ve ever seen on a tech product: “Designed for Humans.” Which is…I mean, I’m glad. I’m glad they cleared that up for us, because there might have been some confusion otherwise.