Samsung Galaxy S3 (SIII) Review
Positive:up to 128GB onboard the phone and a further 50GB from Dropbox. Slick and not heavy. Great innovations like the S-Beam, Smart Stay, and pop-out play. Fast Processor and brilliant camera.
Negative:Size and sometimes felt cheap. Android OS is still lacking simple things like pinch to zoom with stock email apps.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 is the only handset in direct war with the HTC One X with all its features and fast engine under the bonnet. If you are an Android fan, you have a winner here and it can’t be faulted on features and specifications.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 has been one of the best smart phones I have played with and over time just continue to learn a few things or two new things about the handset itself; it was surrounded with a lot of speculations and rumours prior to its release, which doesn’t normally happen unless you are an Apple product. It also created a big stir when it was announced in London with some features that were worth playing with. After release to the public, it continued to ruffle some feathers with new stories developing about Apple trying their best to ban its release across the atlantic. Could it be the best selling smart phone yet? or maybe it will hold the pole position before Apple release a new iPhone.
Unboxing the Samsung Galaxy S3
Unboxing the Samsung Galaxy S3 Pebble Blue
Samsung Galaxy S3 Design
First impressions were that Samsung doesn’t seem to have gone after the eye pleasing enhancements to try and lure it’s buyers, instead what they have done is made it look as simple as it possible can be. The handset feel when holding it can only be determined individually when you personally get hold of one.
The plastic used does feel cheap but Samsung hasn’t always be a company to spend a lot of effort and money on developing anything other than the polycarbonate plastic casing just in case Apple sues them again for trying to involve some glass back and aluminium rim around the edges. When removing the back cover it did feel a little fragile but it is quite strong enough to gently remove and replace. If you have used the HTC One X or the iPhone 4S, no doubt you would say it feels cheap but hopefully the functionalities and features of the smart device will save it from some heavy criticisms from first impressions.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 does not have full resemblance to its predecessor the Galaxy S2 and looks very similar to the Galaxy Nexus although the S3 is 0.3mm thinner than the Nexus, a little smaller than the Galaxy S II which is 9.89mm at its fattest point. The Galaxy S3 also have a simple home button with two other buttons on either sides of the home button that will light up when in use and goes deem when not in use thereby saving some energy.
On the left side of the smart device is the volume buttons and a power button on the right; Samsung has also included a 3.5mm headphone jack situated at the top of the handset and the microUSB port on the bottom for your file transfers and charging the phone. The mesh/grill area is the earpiece with a silvery strip next to light sensors and a 1.9mp front-facing camera. The multicolor LED indicator light is also discreetly places under the bezel on the other side. SAmsung Galaxy S3 comes loaded with two microphones, one on top and one on bottom. There are also some sensors at the front for the smart stay feature of the handset to keep it awake as long as you keep looking at your phone. The powerful 8mp rear camera sits between an LED flash and a speaker grill.
First Look Video
Samsung Galaxy S3 Hardware
The Samsung Galaxy S3 features a 4.8-inches display with a resolution of 1280 x 720 resolution Super Amoled display; Samsung also loaded it with 306ppi which gives it a point over the HTC One X but not as good on paper when compared to the iPhone 4S with 326ppi because of its smaller screen, picture it been squeezed. The resolution differences might not be obvious to the naked eyes until you begin to play some heavy graphics games like GTA because the only time I was able to notice is when placed under my macro lens.
Switching on the smart device, you will notice the Super AMOLED HD screen producing some high quality images, bright and vivid colours that are very pleasing to the eyes and sends the eyes into a mesmerised state. With the Samsung Galaxy Note and the HTC One X, the automatic brightness was not good enough and I had to adjust the brightness which in turn took its toll on the battery life, but with the 2100mAh battery included with the Galaxy S3, adjusting the brightness and turning it up a notch did not have any adverse effect on the battery life.
Other hardware parts of the smart device includes the Exynos 4 Quad processor and ARM Mali-400 quadcore GPU which you can’t help but be in the awe of their performance especially when using the pop-out play function with videos. The processor was very impressive when put under benchmark applications.
Samsung also provide us with HSPA+ 21Mbps and GSM/EDGE in the European model which if you take a pay monthly agreement with the likes of Three UK which provides All you can eat data, that is winning because you can simply tether at high speeds. There’s also WiFI a/b/g/n with support for WiFi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, and MHL-HDMI output on the microUSB port. Under the back cover is the microSIM slot and a microSD slot for memory expansion of up to 64GB; Vodafone currently holds the exclusive for the 32GB versions and if you were to get hold of the 64GB version just imagine how big you can have the handset memory with another 64GB microSD card added not to mention you are also entitled to at least 25GB free of Dropbox cloud storage, there really is no excuse to run out of memory or download heavy graphics applications and games.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 is also not lacking in the GPS area with digital compass, accelerometer and a light sensor integration giving no issue with the built in Navigation app and Google Maps and support for NFC. The Galaxy S3 8-megapixel main camera has autofocus, Full HD 1080p video recording and an LED flash on the back, and a 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera for video calls and with the introduction of instagram on Android, the front facing camera quality will be a big selling point for Samsung because it was just nice to use. The S3 also comes with apt-X Bluetooth technology for good quality wireless audio connection and using the Sennheiser headsets before, I can tell you the quality is not lacking in that area.
Samsung Galaxy S3 Interface: Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0.3)
The Samsung Galaxy S3 comes preloaded with Android, 4.0.3 which is known as Ice Cream Sandwich to many. It has been one of the best OS from Google for a while with better and smoother interface and has left some of the other Android users frsutrated due to its bad roll out processes to other device like the Samsung Galaxy Note. Samsung has also stripped apart this version of Android to implement their Touchwiz interface which is always in ocmparison to the HTC sense, although I still feel Samsung has done a good job in keeping the interface light. Depending on which network you get your Samsung Galaxy S3 from you might get some apps also preinstalled from the network provider.
Apart from the physical home button and two capacitive buttons, Samsung has ommitted the Recent Apps button which you have on the HTC One X and I found that a waste of button, Samsung has done the right thing there and if you need to check your recent app, they have gone with the conventional way of a long press on the home button brings up the Recent Apps screen.
To unlock the screen, you swipe the screen and to give you feedback, there is a ripple effect across the screen and that seemed a little gimmick but Samsung has put that there to emphasise their tag line of “inspired by nature”. You will also notice on the lock screen you have four apps already loaded so that you can jump straight into those apps from the lock screen although there doesn’t seem to be any option to customize to apps to suit your needs.
On the home screen the four apps on the lock screen stays with an additional option for all your apps.There is a sense of simplicity when going around the interface, it was much quicker to switch between apps and also get into apps from the sleep mode compared to the Galaxy Note and Galaxy S2. You’ve got seven homescreens to fill with apps, folders of apps and widgets. Dragging down the notifications area, the top of the screen are surplus settings that can be toggled on and off, but what we found very annoying was the way we had to scroll across to access the more useful settings like bluetooth and we couldn’t find anywhere to remove the ones that were not needed on daily basis like the sync option.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 is full of cool gestures that fits in perfectly rather than gestures that seemed gimmick. Swiping your palm across the screen will take a screenshot just like the Galaxy Note and You can rearrange your apps by grabbing an app and spinning panning the phone round to move through the homescreens. In the browser you can zoom in and out by pressing the screen with two fingers and tilting the phone back and forth. And, to jump to the top of a list you can double tap the bezel above the screen, it is very similar to iOS one tap to the top method. Turning your phone over can also mute calls or pause music. Most of the cool gestures will have to b activated in the settings menu as they are not pre-selected.
One of the new features on the Galaxy S3 iS the S Voice, which is a voice assistant service that is very similar to iPhone 4S Siri and most Apple fans would say it’s a copy; It has various things that makes it stand out over Siri like support for various languages and designed by Vlingo.
Like Siri it is server-driven so data connection is essential and will work very well with all basic commands although we’re yet to find the emotional/humorous side of it like Siri, sounding more robot than the Siri. One cool option with S Voice over Siri is the ability to activate without pressing a button but just speaking to it and drivers will find that very useful although to also activate physically you will need to select from your apps rather than pressing and holding a button like Siri.
Smart Stay is no doubt a cool feature on the Galaxy S3, it makes sure that your phone stays awake as long as you are awake and looking at it; it tracks your eyes whilst looking at the screen using the front-facing camera to periodically check if it can recognise the user looking at the screen and if it deosn’t, it turns the display off.
Smart Stay feature is most defintely useful because unlike the Galaxy Note or other devices out there you won’t have to keep tapping to keep it awake. The only concern is whether it will affect the battery performance especially when full brightness is used. Other issue was it didn’t work very well in the dark as it struggled to track my eyes.
Smart Call is another feature which dials a contact’s number for you by raising the phone to your ear from the contact details screen and using it it has been seamless to use; it picks up the geature very well and will come in handy maybe when you are in a rush although not sure how many seconds it would save.
Social Tag is still new and could be improved upon; it works by using facial recognition to match faces in photographs with the profile photos in your contacts.
NFC the contactless technology is also included but in my optionion Sony Xperia S has been the only handset or manufacturer to implement this very well with the use of their NFC tags therefore making Samsung Galaxy S3 seem a little like jack of all trades.
Samsung also included S Beam allowing you to beam video files quickly between S3s via WiFi. The S3 can also be used seamlessly with your Smasung Smart TV which is a really good addition but not sure how many people would actually use it.
Making calls , Messaging and Internet browsing
Making calls was very easy and straight forward with the phone book option to quickly scroll through contacts. The contacts can also be integrated with Facebook so all your contacts are all in one place. Call quality was very clear as you would expect a phone of its caliber and signal were mostly on 3G with at least 3 signal bars on average but this can vary depending on what service provider you are using. Internet browsing is also integrated with your Google account which automatically logs you in when you load up the internet; the internet speeds was generally good with no complaint in that area.
The support for flash is also a bonus with website rendering very quick just like it would on a PC or laptop. Messaging is very seamless with a very smooth keyboard for those who like to type fast and landscape support for any one with fat fingers; Samsung has also simplified the email feature with it’s simplistic looks although there were still issues with pinch to zoom when reading HTML content rich emails in the Google Mail App. The lack of support for push email for accounts other than GMAIL also meant that third party app like K9Mail is still needed to have a better experience with the email system.
Performance and Battery
Under the plastic shell is a quad-core Samsung Exynos 4212 Quad processor, which is based on ARM’s Cortex A9 architecture making the use of apps, switching between apps very fluid. A great way to see that is with the pop out play function where you can pop out the video you are watching on top of other apps whilst still playing like a true multitasking ability. To compare to other handsets in the Samsung Galaxy S3 caliber, look at the Quadrant Benchmark below:
is a big selling point for any one who is after a smart phone and the Samsung Galaxy S3 does not fail to impress with its 2100mAh battery, it managed to come out on top when used as rigorously as the HTC One X, the Samsung Galaxy Note and the iPhone 4s. Typical usage was playing a full season of Revenge, making some phone calls, emails, SMS, internet browsing, social media updates and the Samsung Galaxy S3 came out on top. The battery lasted a bout 7 to 8 hours on average testing it every day under heavy usage. Keeping your WiFi and Bluetooth on also seems to drain the battery a lot quicker. The screen brightness on the Galaxy S3 is not the best making us change the settings manually to get higher brightness levels and the battery usage was not affected as much as we would expect.
Video and Taking photos
You can simply drag and drop your video files and play your files thanks to the array of formats the Samsung Galaxy S3 can handle. Video recording on the Galaxy S3 is also very simple with the support for 1920 x 1080 which is commonly known as full HD video format. One thing I noticed is that the Full HD format is also set by default so you need to worry about the format from the get go; with the support for microSD expansion, it also means you can get yourself a big size memory card for HD recordings and the Galaxy S3 will record at 30fps as well. You can zoom in and out in video mode which is a bonus although it becomes very shaky when zooming in and out. The camera is very good for those moments you can’t forget but still needs some improvements like light settings options before it can replace any professional camcorders out there.
Taking Photos With the 8 megapixel camera, you can take some really nice photos, and with the addition of one of the most popular apps Instagram, the Samsung Galaxy S3 is a match made in heaven for enthusiasts. The camera features vast array of options to get the best out of your snaps like burst shot shooting mode that allows you to take 20 pictures rapidly and then choosing the best one, useful if you are on holiday and want to take a photo of you mid-air whilst jumping. Notably also is how quick the pictures are taken, press and before you know it the picture is taken; the only thing missing is a dedicated camera button on the side which we were not to impressed with.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 is the only handset in direct war with the HTC One X with all its features and fast engine under the bonnet. If you are an Android fan, you have a winner here and it can’t be faulted on features and specifications. If you sign up to a 24 months agreement with your service provider, the specifications are built to last so long you might not need to change to a different one in the near feature. For iPhone users, there are still design and ergonomics issues that makes the iPhone stand out like the materials used on the S3. The S3 screen size is still a little cumbersome and some might find the size and issue.
Thank you to Vodafone UK for sending us a handset out for review. you can purchase the Samsung Galaxy S3 from Vodafone for FREE on Pay Monthly plan of £41 which gives you 900 Minutes, Unlimited texts, 2GB of mobile data and 3GB of BT OpenZone access. More info available on Vodafone.