The Samsung Galaxy S III is one of the most highly anticipated phones of 2012. And rightfully so, after all, its predecessor the Galaxy S II is one of the most popular smartphones in the world. With the Galaxy III, Samsung has upped the ante, but not just where you would expect it. That is because instead of just focusing on improving hardware, Samsung has made a concerted effort to bring software features to the Galaxy S III that you won’t easily find else where.
The Galaxy S III has been designed to accommodate a massive 4.8″ display. This display is nearly as big as the display you’ll find on the popular Galaxy Note. Fortunately for us, Samsung has designed the Galaxy S III in such a way that it doesn’t seem like the Galaxy S III is unwieldy at all. Samsung says that the design of the S III has been “inspired by nature“, and its design features smooth and “gentle” curves. As a result, the Galaxy S III feels quite nice to hold in your hand. Weighing just 133g, it’s also quite lightweight for its size. This lightweight body is made possible thanks to its plastic materials. And while a plastic body might make some wary, the quality of phone seems like it will hold up pretty well with time. Also, because it’s made of plastic, that means that the device is practically shatter proof. We also like that the soft touch buttons on the S III only illuminate when necessary, leaving the phone with a minimalist look.
Plus, we appreciate that the S III is available in a choice of three colors – blue, white, and the just recently announced red version. But while we do like the form-factor of the S III very much, our biggest gripe with the device is that it tends to pick up grease very easily. It’s also worth mentioning that the S III takes a Micro-SIM, which is starting to become the norm for smartphones.
The Galaxy III sports a 4.8 HD Super AMOLED display made of Gorilla Glass 2 with a 1,280 x 720 resolution. There has been some criticism directed at Samsung for using a PenTile display on the Galaxy S III. Especially since the older Galaxy S II has an amazing 4.3″ SUPER AMOLED Plus display. And it’s no secret that we practically loath PenTile displays. Fortunately, the PenTile display that can be found on the S III is the best one we have seen yet, and is definitely superior to the ones you’ll find on the likes of the Motorola Droid RAZR. So for anyone who is worried about the PenTile display on the Samsung Galaxy S III, the device still sports a great display with vivid colors and pretty sharp visuals. It’s just not as good a display as what you’ll find on the like of the iPhone 4S or HTC One X – It’s just not as bright or sharp.
We have all been there – you want to share a photo or video with your friend, and the process becomes a hassle. Especially when it comes to videos! First you have to upload the file somewhere or attach it. The process often takes too long and can be frustrating. But now thanks to S Beam, sharing photos with other Samsung Galaxy S III users is super easy. All you have to do is place two Samsung Galaxy S III’s back-to-back, and with a tap, you will have transferred your file to your friend’s handset. The catch? For the moment, the S Beam capability is locked to Samsung Galaxy S III users only, and we would love to see this type of feature become available cross platform so that more phones could all just get along together!
Speaking of sharing photos, the Galaxy S III is so savvy, that using its new Buddy photo share it is able to automatically share photos with your friends. The way it works is that as you snap photos, the phone recognizes your friends’ faces, and offers you the option to share it with them via email, etc.
Samsung has also come up with some unique features for the S III which make the phone fit in more seamlessly with your everyday life and your everyday interactions with your phone. For example, Direct Call is a neat feature that lets you automatically switch to making a phone call while writing a text message. All you have to do is lift the phone to your ear while composing a message and the phone will automatically dial the person that you are busy texting.
Furthermore, the new S Voice feature on the Galaxy S III has also been getting a fair amount of buzz because it’s being touted as a Siri competitor. You can double-press the home button on the S III to launch S Voice. Powered by Vingo, S Voice essentially lets you take control of your phone. With it you can launch apps, tweet, get your weather info, make a call, adjust the volume, answer a call, snap a photo, and more. But we would hardly call it a complete Siri competitor. S Voice still feels quite rough around the edges, and it didn’t always understand our commands. However, we’re hopeful that future software updates will improve S Voice.
And thanks to Samsung’s TouchWiz overlay over Android 4.0 and new software additions, there are plenty of cool and even quirky features that you’ll find on the Galaxy S III. For example, the Pop up play feature lets you multitask – so that you can playback a video in a pop up window while you’re doing other things, like checking your email. We also like that the systems control access toggles are available in the notifications pull-down. And of-course, like with all of Samsung’s other smartphones, the Galaxy S III also has support for AllShare, and it comes bundled with some neat widgets.
Samsung chose to use a PenTile display instead of the Super AMOLED Plus display found on the S II in order to improve battery life, and fortunately that has paid off. With moderate use we have been getting a full day on a charge. And that is a whole lot of better battery performance than what you will find on most other Android Smartphones, especially such powerful ones.
One of our favorite qualities of the Galaxy S II was its camera, and fortunately that has carried over to the Galaxy S III. The S III takes great photos with sharp visuals and it reproduces accurate colors. Shutter speed on the camera is extremely quick, the tap to focus works very well, the flash usually doesn’t wash out a scene or people in the scene, and the camera holds up well in doors with low light conditions. The camera is also fast and responsive. Plus, the Galaxy S III’s camera software also has plenty of tricks up its sleeve, including HDR, a Best Shot feature that lets you pick best shot out of 8 continuous photos. Our only gripe with the camera on the S III is that it often struggled with white objects, causing the white balance to be thrown off. To top it all off, the Galaxy S III also packs in a 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera.
When it comes to general performance, the Galaxy S III is as expected, a kick a$$ performer. The Galaxy S III is running on a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor and 2GB of RAM. The device earned a score of 6161 in AnTuTu, making it the current smartphone champ, having even beat out the HTC One X. But it earned a score of and 4269 in Quadrant, falling right behind the HTC One X. Either way you look at it, the Galaxy S III is a beast in terms of performance.
Below are some web surfing speed tests that were taken in New York City on a Samsung Galaxy S III running on Sprint, and a Galaxy S III running on AT&T. The device also takes advantage of those super speedy up and coming LTE networks, if you’re in an area with an active LTE network. In particular, the S III running on AT&T’s LTE network blew us away, while the S III running on Sprint underwhelmed.
Call quality on the Galaxy S III is generally very good. However we have a minor gripe with the device’s ear piece, and that is to hear a caller clearly, our ear has to be placed directly on top of the phone’s speaker – or else we often find ourselves struggling to hear our callers well.
Like with the Samsung Galaxy Note, Samsung has designed a Flip Cover for the Galaxy S III as well. This clever case not only protects the S III’s display, but it replaces the phones back cover in an effort to keep your phone’s footprint nice and slim.
Tec Tile Tags are another accessory being introduced with the S III. These Programmable NFC Tags take advantage of the built-in NFC on the S III. The tags are designed to unleash the potential of NFC in smartphones, by making phones instantly perform actions such as launching apps, sending text messages, sharing contact information, and changing phone settings. Tec Tiles could potentially become quite popular with businesses. However it remains to be seen whether for not Tec Tiles will take off.
We’re tired of the performance race inside of smartphones. And with the Galaxy S III, it’s apparent that Samsung recognizes that performance and hardware is becoming less important in the face of usability and design. And after using the Samsung Galaxy S III of nearly a month, we have grown fond of many of the new software features that come added on to Android with the S III. As a matter of fact, new features like S Beam work quite well. It’s just a shame that they are locked to the Galaxy S III only – at least for now. And while some of these new features are more useful than others, and while we’re also not sure how many of these features will take off, you have to give credit to Samsung for thinking out of the box and not producing another generic Android handset.
Scott Schaen contributed to this review.
The Good: Available from 5 carriers in the U.S., great battery life, tons of unique usability related features like S Beam, large display, excellent camera, nice form-factor, expandable memory, blazing fast system and web surfing performance (on AT&T), unlike most other Android phones there are already lots of cases are available for it, battery is removable, and memory is expandable.
The Bad: Good – but not great display, phone gets greasy and slippery easily, S Voice needs improvement, camera suffers from white balance issue with white objects, Touchwiz U.I. is not as slick as HTC Sense