The rumour mill can finally take a rest with the unveiling of the new Samsung Galaxy S3 flagship phone in London. The highly-expected Android superstar might not have lived up to some of the more far-fetched expectations surrounding it, but it still hasn’t failed to impress those that have seen it in action.
Talk of a ceramic external case was almost accurate, with Samsung showing off a new seamless ‘Hyper Glaze’ design that gives the phone the feel of being one single unified piece. Reports right now suggest that most users will want to grab a case with the Galaxy S3 for nothing more than to improve grippiness, but a case is generally a good idea anyway.
As with all high-end Samsung smartphones the screen is really where most of the attention falls and the Galaxy S3 isn’t letting anyone down. The 4.8 inch 720p display is, by all accounts, amazing. A few people are getting hung up on the missing “Plus” at the end of “Super AMOLED”, but to be realistic it really doesn’t make a huge difference. Yes, you can see it when comparing a S-AMOLED Plus against a S-AMOLED if you hold them next to each other, but we’ll take a severely improved resolution over an almost unnoticeable increase in colour vibrancy any day of the week.
Power and Internet
As we expected, the Samsung Galaxy S3 will come toting a quad-core 1.4GHz Exynose processor. That puts it up around the same kind of speed as the HTC One X and other quad-cores. What it has over them all, however, is that unlike the NVIDIA Tegra 3 chip, the Samsung Galaxy S3’s quad-core can support 4G LTE wireless broadband.
That’s right. It’s a quad-core device with real 4G internet. US customers will most likely be happiest to hear this one, but countries like Australia and the UK that have their own fledgling or soon-to-be-launched 4G networks can still appreciate the inclusion of 4G.
The camera on the Galaxy S3 isn’t the immensely megapixeled monstrosity we’d heard about, but that’s ok. MP is at best a wildly inaccurate way of judging a camera’s quality so we weren’t too taken aback to hear that the GS3 would be sporting something a little more trimmed-down.
What we were intrigued about is some of the features included with the GS3’s new camera software. Among the new goodies is the auto-detection of your friends’ faces. Taking a picture of a friend, or group of friends, will prompt you to send the photo to the people in question, or ask you if you wish to share. You can also tap on their faces and bring up their facebook profile, email or sms from which you can send them the photo or a message regarding the image.
This is both a little creepy and very cool. The idea of Samsung being able to tell who all of our friends are and link it with their contact details is unsettling. Of course we know that companies have been able to do this for a while, but it’s obviously getting to the point where manufacturers like Samsung don’t feel as though they need to keep to the shadows when using their ability to detect and identify everyone in your life from a photograph.
The prompt to send the image to them, or the ability to access their profiles straight away by tapping their face is actually pretty cool. While it’s still part of the whole creepy factor, it cuts out a lot of steps in the social media sharing process. It’s a great idea by Samsung and we hope that it works reliably.
S Voice is Samsung’s answer to Siri. Absolutely no word just yet on how well this technology works, as demonstrations have been indefinite at best. More on this at a later date.
Perhaps the two most notable other features are the eye-tracking ‘smart-stay’ software and the ‘direct call’ function.
Smart Stay is a feature whereby the screen remains unlocked so long as you are looking at it. The phone actually uses the front camera to track your eye movements and will not lock while you’re staring at the screen. Creepy? Check. Awesome? Check.
Direct Call is a more simple bit of functionality. Go to call someone, get their number on the screen and then simply lift the phone to your ear. This cuts out exactly 1 tap, meaning that you don’t have to tap on a number once you have it displayed.
Overall So Far
So far the Galaxy S3 sounds like a fantastic contender for the Android throne. One paper it has almost everything that the HTC One X has, but edges it out with more features and 4G LTE support (with a quad-core processor). It even has a slightly bigger screen.
It’s not the incredible super-phone that many fans were hoping for, but big-release smartphones almost never live up to the hype. We definitely expect the Galaxy S3 to retake Samsung’s position at the top of the Android ladder. The real question now is: can it take on the iPhone 5? In quality, probably. In popularity, almost definitely not.
UPDATE: Here are what some folks who've already had hands-on experience with the Galaxy S III had to say:
Fortunately, this time Samsung's put more focus on the appearance, build quality, battery life and practicality of its latest flagship device, so we can somewhat forgive the missing "plus" in the HD Super AMOLED display. Also, don't forget that unlike the One X, the slimmer Galaxy S III comes with microSD expansion and a removable 2,100mAh battery!
- Richard Lai, Engadget
The lock screen is unusually configurable. Remember the Samsung Continuum for Verizon, the phone with a little secondary ticker running along the bottom? You can give the Galaxy S III a news ticker, too. I'm happy with finding more ways to use that 4.8-inch HD screen.
- Sascha Segan, PCmag
I spent about 15 minutes using the new handset, and came away impressed by its ambition levels, but not its aesthetics. The S III is packed with clever new features, but I wasn’t wowed by either the phone’s UI or industrial design.
- Nathan Olivarez-Giles, Wired
Our first impression was that it was noticeably faster than the HTC One X, and this was backed by the benchmark results from Quadrant, which measures CPU, memory, I/O and graphics performance. The Galaxy S III achieved the best results we've seen yet from an Android device, with a score of 5432. This beats other quad-core devices we've tested by a comfortable margin, namely the HTC One X (3657) and the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime (3724) - higher numbers are better
- Jenneth Orantia, SMH