Wearing its newly appointed crown of the world’s best-selling mobile phone manufacturer, Samsung released the latest incarnation of its flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S3. Here, we take a closer look at the handset that promises to be the closest competitor to the iPhone.
It was never going to be an easy launch for Samsung. After usurping Nokia as the leading mobile phone manufacturer, the Galaxy S2 was announced as the world’s best-selling mobile phone and attention shifted to what the Korean company would do next. Speculation and rumour began to reach iPhone proportions, cementing the smartphone’s place as one of the most sought after gadgets on the market. So how does it hold up?
Samsung has given the body of the S3 a refresh with a curved top and bottom and metallic strip circling its edge. The central home button has become wider and remains the only button on the face of the phone. The body of the phone is 11mm longer than the S2 and 4.5mm wider, which makes it the longest handset in its range. The screen has grown half an inch bigger and at 4.8-inches is slightly bigger than the HTC One X but positively dwarfs the iPhone’s 3.5-inch screen.
The casing of the phone is smoother than the s2 and without the protruding camera lens, the hold and feel of the phone is pretty sleek. The back panel comes off, enabling you to remove the battery, sim and SD card and does feel a little flimsy. This does, however, contribute to the phone feeling really light. It’s 17g lighter than the S2 and also lighter than the much smaller iPhone 4S.
Phone Set up
The SIII is packing a supercharged 1.4 GHz Cortex A9 quad-core processor, which makes it a fast and responsive phone. It ships with Android’s 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich on board, which takes full advantage of these high-level specs. Multi-tasking is a big selling point of the phone and the Pop up Play feature enables you to write text messages, or flick through photographs while watching video.
The phone comes with memory options of 16, 32 or 64GB and with a MicroSD card enabling up to another 64GB, size will never be a problem. With the HTC One X offering a fixed total storage of 32MB, this may sway many people.
The central home button sits next to illuminated menu and back buttons, which is similar to the S2’s set up. Pressing down the home button displays a list of the most recently used apps, while a double tap brings up Samsung’s S-Voice, it’s competitor to Siri.
During my time with the phone, I was a little disappointed at the somewhat divergent battery life. Light use would result in prolonged life and I ran over two days without recharge, however taking advantage of the phone’s features, camera and 3G would suck the life out of it, with a 12-hour run if I was lucky.
Samsung was determined to push the boat out with the S3 and introduce a range of headline grabbing, innovative new features. But are these imaginative enough to sell the phone on their own? What do you think?
I thought this was a strange name for what is an innovative use of the facial recognition system. The front-facing camera senses when you are looking at the handset and automatically brightens the screen, making reading and browsing that much easier. This should, in theory, also save battery life. I really liked the concept, although did initially question whether I’d have the phone switched off if I wasn’t looking at it, so wouldn’t I want it bright all the time?
S-Voice is Samsung’s answer to Apple’s Siri, so for this to be innovative, it has to be different, or work much better. During my time with the phone, I didn’t necessarily think it was either of that. Whereas S-Voice has better in-phone integration, offering voice activation for the camera, among others, Siri feels slightly more responsive.
There’s a theme beginning to emerge here. While Apple fronts everything with a lower-case i, Samsung is pushing the upper case S and it carries this through in its S-Beam feature. This enables users to quickly and easily share content and large files by placing two Galaxy S3’s back-to-back. With only one handset available to me, I wasn’t able to take advantage of this feature, however this was one feature that got me quite excited. Imagine transferring video or photographs taken on holiday, or when out-and-about between you and your friends without having to go through the fiddly and data-consuming process of texting or emailing them out.
Camera and Video
The S3 retains the 8MP camera and instead concentrates on improving its functionality and features. And this is one area that Samsung has come up trumps.
The camera adopts the shutter’s zero lag time that featured on last year’s Galaxy Nexus and adds to it a multi-shot feature that enables you to quickly fire-off photographs in quick succession. The camera also has the ability to pick out what it thinks is your best shot of the lot, using smile detection and face recognition. In fact, the facial recognition did get a little tiresome when thumbing through the gallery to show off the quality of shot, only to be greeted with yellow boxes covering every face in the photo.
When recording video, you can take still shots simultaneously, a feature similar to the HTC One X. The quality of the video was good however and records in 720 x 1280 HD. These looked great on the crisp Super AMOLED screen.
The quality of photograph taken with the camera is good and deals with great shots taken in close up, moving shots as well as outdoors and in. However I noted a few examples of lens flare and an inability to deal with varying shades of light, which you can see to a certain extent below. I didn’t experience the same issues with the HTC One X, and I felt that the latter’s quality was a degree or two better.
The following are a selection of examples taken with the camera from when the Olympic Torch came to town. See if you can spot Cliff Richard…
What I liked:
– The responsiveness of the handset is great and Ice Cream Sandwich is a much-improved version of Android, which the S3 takes full advantage of.
– The phone looks beautiful and despite its size, is light and comes with a real wow-factor.
– Samsung Galaxy S3 deals are starting at £26 a month on contract with a free handset, making this a cheaper alternative to the iPhone 4S.
What I didn’t like:
– The battery life isn’t great. It feels as though Samsung has traded this in for a lighter phone.