It’s been weeks since the Samsung Galaxy S III was ceremoniously unveiled to the public. Since then, the noise being generated by the handset doesn’t seem to die down. The Philippines is one of the lucky countries to get first dibs on this Android superphone, and I am lucky enough to have had the chance to review Smart Telecom’s version of the Samsung Galaxy S III. HTC was first to launch the One X, its flagship Android phone, and until the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S III, it was the Android phone to beat. Has Samsung taken that throne from HTC with the release of the Galaxy S III? Is the handset worthy of the hype and attention being thrown its way? Read on to find out.
The packaging of the Samsung Galaxy S III is not that great, but it isn’t bad either. Not that it matters but products from Apple and Google have been so neatly and impressively packaged I was expecting the same from Samsung. I was spoiled by these two companies so much so that when I held and opened the packaging for the Samsung Galaxy S III, I was a bit disappointed. Just a bit. I was expecting something fresh and creative since the Galaxy S III is the flagship phone from Samsung and we all know how big the company has grown over the years.
In any case, the Galaxy S III’s packaging is all white, with just a few printed text to be seen, mainly the GALAXY S III printed on the cover. The phone is immediately seen upon opening the packaging, the accessories conveniently hidden in a compartment under the phone. Apart from the phone, the package includes a micro USB/USB port, a charger, a white-colored set of headphones, and the manual of course.
The packaging of the Samsung Galaxy S III may not be impressive, but the phone itself surely is. I was surprised when I held the Galaxy S III in my hand. It was not the experience I was expecting since I knew that for the most part, the phone will have a plastic finish. I was expecting to get that all too familiar plasticky feel, something similar to the one I get when I hold a Galaxy S II. With the Galaxy S III, it’s just different, and in a good way. The handset is very light, I have to admit, but it does not feel cheap. On the contrary, it feels good in the hand. The build is obviously solid and the grip feels natural overall.
In terms of design, Samsung dropped the edgy corners of the Galaxy S II for curved corners. Others say this may have been chosen to differentiate it from the iPhone but I say this design philosophy was chosen to improve the user experience. The back of the phone is tapered at the edges, giving the impression that the design is pebble-inspired. I like the curved and tapered edges. Not only is it not prone to bumps, it translates to a very comfortable user experience. With the phone’s design, it is easy to hold it with one hand, belying the phone’s otherwise huge size. The silver lining on the edge gives the phone a premium look to go with that premium feel. The plastic back cover, if at all, is the only thing that could use some improvement, only because it’s made of plastic. But it’s sturdy nonetheless and it’s glossy so it’s not one to attract dirt easily.
An obligatory hardware tour gives you the home button at the bottom front, flanked on the left and right by the Menu and Back buttons, respectively. On the upper part is the phone’s earpiece and the front camera, together with a couple of sensors. The buttons on the side are somewhat standard in recent Samsung phones: volume rocker on the left and the power button on the right. On the top of the phone sits the 3.5mm headphone jack while at the bottom is the micro-USB slot. The back of the phone hosts the camera, an LED flash and the speaker grille.
The Samsung Galaxy S3’s entrails make it the phone to beat. Not just the Android phone to beat, but the phone to beat. That means it has better internals than the iPhone 4S and any other handset out there. It even edges the HTC One X, and for people who judge phones by the hardware, look no further. The Samsung Galaxy S III sports a huge 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED screen, bigger than the screen on the Galaxy Nexus. It is powered by a 1.4 GHz quad-core Exynos processor that works with a 1GB of RAM. It has an 8-megapixel camera with a 1.9-megapixel front shooter, HSPA+ connectivity, 16 or 32GB internal storage, microSD expansion slot, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11n Wi-Fi connectivity, NFC capability and a 2,100mAh battery.
Samsung Galaxy S III Specifications and Features
- 4.8 inch HD Super AMOLED (1280×720) display
- Quad-core 1.4GHz processor
- Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
- 16/ 32GB User memory
- microSD slot (up to 64GB)
- HSPA＋ 21Mbps
- WiFi a/b/g/n, WiFi HT40
- NFC, Bluetooth 4.0
- Full HD (1080p) playback
- 8 megapixel autofocus rear camera with Flash & Zero Shutter Lag
- 1.9 megapixel front camera with HD recording @30fps with Zero Shutter Lag
- Accelerometer, RGB light, Digital compass, Proximity, Gyro, Barometer
- S Beam, Smart stay, Social tag, Direct call, Smart alert, Pop up play, S Voice
- Pebble Blue and Marble White
- 36.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm
- Battery 2,100 mAh
The 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED screen with 1280 x 720 resolution is one of the best features of the Samsung Galaxy S III. It renders sharp, dynamic and crisp images. Things simply look stunning on the display. Never mind the “pentile” arguments that are being thrown around. The Samsung Galaxy S III has a very good display, one of the best in current handsets. It is at par with the retina display of the iPhone 4S and the display on the HTC One X. It also has nice viewing angles. The display is glossy, so you would expect some glare when you’re outside but it’s not bad. When the brightness is on full, you get good viewing experience even when you’re outside.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich with a TouchWiz UI running on top. Ice Cream Sandwich is of course not the latest available version of the Android OS, that honor belonging to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. It’s not to say that ICS is not good, it’s just that Jelly Bean has many improvements over ICS. This is not an issue anyway since Samsung will surely be offering a Jelly Bean update in the future, and if rumors are to be believed, that future could come very soon. Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean are the best versions of Android, and even for the OS alone, the Galaxy S3 is already worth the purchase. Android has many advantages over the other operating systems, although these other operating systems admittedly have advantages over Android. But as a personal choice, I prefer Android over the other operating systems, iOS and Windows Phone included. What I like most about Android is its flexibility, not to mention its effectiveness as a mobile platform.
Samsung Galaxy S3 runs with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI on top. I have grown to like the TuochWiz in time. It was not as attractive the first time it came out, being then bested by HTC’s Sense UI. Now, Sense has gone more complicated and quite clunky compared to the TouchWiz. And where TouchWiz’s simplicity compared to Sense was its weakness before, it has become its obvious strength now. On the Galaxy S3, the UI is simply buttery smooth. The transitions and animations are a sight to behold, especially on the high resolution screen of the handset. If it’s as good on the ICS version, I am amazed at how good it can be on Jelly Bean with its Project Butter enhancement.
The Galaxy S3 has several enhancements that make it stand out from the other handsets in the market. It has Smart Stay, a feature that lets the display stay on as long as you’re still looking at it, and goes to sleep the moment you’re eyes stay closed. Imagine you’re in bed reading something on the phone’s display and when you suddenly fall asleep, the phone’s display goes off, saving you battery in the process. It also has a Direct Call feature. What this feature does is it dials a number by merely lifting the phone and palcing it on one’s ear. The screen should be on messaging mode though. This works when you are composing a message and decides you are better off dialling the number instead. It also has Smart Alert, a vibrating feature that serves as a reminder that you have a message or a missed call after you have been away from your phone for a long time. The Galaxy S3 also has Popup Play, a nifty feature that lets users play HD video while on other applications like email or SMS messaging. There’s also S Voice, an obvious take on Apple’s Siri. S Voice works most of the time, but at times, it’s quite hard to use it. Its features are also quite limited compared to Siri.
The Samsung Galaxy S III offers Android Beam it’s a better version. S Beam uses NFC and Wi-Fi Direct connections to transfer files, even large files like videos. It works by tapping two Galaxy S III phones and holding it until it registers, and then tap on the file you want to share. The other party simply has to accept the transfer. This only works between Galaxy S3 phones though, but it’s a good feature as it makes it possible to easily transfer 1GB movie for three minutes and a 10MB music file for two seconds, and it all works even without a Wi-Fi or cellular signal.
One of the best features of the Samsung Galaxy S3 is the camera. The handset has an 8-megapixel rear autofocus camera with zero lag. It delivers stunning photos with sharp resolution and balanced color reproduction. The camera software offers a host of options including shooting mode, scene selection, self-portrait mode, including a host of other adjustments on exposure, contrast, level of fineness, white balance, ISO, resolution and metering. Shooting mode offers choices for Single Shot, Burst Shot, HDR, Smile shot, Beauty and Panorama.
Needless to state, the camera on the Samsung Galaxy S3 is replete with features you’d be hardpressed to find anything lacking. The handset also has a front-facing camera with 1.9 megapixel resolution that’s capable of HD recording @30fps. It also has zero shutter lag.
Here are sample photos taken with the Samsung Galaxy S3’s camera.
The Galaxy S3 helps the user choose the best photo with its Best Photo feature. If you shot several photos in succession using the burst mode, it can help you select the best photo from out of eight shots. This is quite handy if you’re in a hurry to post your photos online, or simply show to your friends the best shots from a batch of photos. The phone even keeps track of your friends through its Social Tag feature which shows their status when you look at their photos.
Performance Battery Life
I have already mentioned how fast the Samsung Galaxy S3 is. It’s very fast, very smooth and very quick. I have no complaints about its speed in performance, really. I have used many phones and the speed on the Galaxy S 3 is one of the best, in my opinion. And it should be, considering that it is running on a quad-core CPU. I am glad that that the power is not lost on anything.
Opening apps is fast, it’s almost instantaneous. Playing games, apps and what have you is a delight on this device. And with the phone’s delicious screen, the experience is quite something. In terms of smoothness, I can compare it to the iPhone’s. And this is Android ICS running, not Jelly Bean. I am excited to see how this phone will perform on Jelly Bean, which is gaining positive reviews in terms of responsiveness thanks to its Project Butter enhancement. Here’s the score of the galaxy S3 on the Quadrant test. It got 5246, higher than the score of the HTC One X.
Battery life on the Galaxy S III is good enough. Not quite sufficient if you use your handset the way I use mine. I am constantly tinkering with my phone, either browsing, playing a movie or playing games and apps. If I’m not doing any of these, I’m probably reading an ebook or something. So it’s but natural if a phone’s battery dies on without having to last the entire day. But if you’re a normal user, with only a few running apps, and possibly uses the phone’s features sparingly, you’d find the battery life of the Galaxy S3 to be somewhat satisfying. Its 2,100 mAh battery should last you about 12 hours or more.
Speaking of browsing the internet, the Samsung Galaxy S3 from Smart Telecom features HSPA+ connectivity. As such, the handset takes advantage of the HSPA+ network. The internet speed on HSPA+ is comparable to desktop browsing at optimal speeds, so it’s really a pleasure to browse the internet using the Samsung Galaxy S3. HSPA+ connectivity is one of the reasons I liked the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, and it’s again one of the reasons I love the Samsung Galaxy S3. Needless to say, the lack of HSPA+ connectivity is the reason I felt limited by the internet speed on the iPhone 4S.
There is no doubt about it. The Samsung Galaxy S3 is the superphone to beat. It sits on top of the smartphone hierarchy, with the HTC One X, and to a certain extent, the iPhone 4S, merely in its shadows. The Samsung Galaxy S3 has the hardware chops to back up its position and the performance to prove its greatness.
It not a perfect phone by any means. Its build makes you want to long for something sturdier. The HTC One X arguably is better than the Samsung Galaxy S3 in this front, and even the iPhone 4S can rightfully claim that it is built with better and stronger materials. But in terms of overall features and overall performance, the Samsung Galaxy S3 clearly beats them all.
If you’re going to get the Samsung Galaxy S3, Smart Telecom offers the handset free on Unlimited Data Plan 2000. The handset is priced at PhP 32,990 on prepaid. It is available on marble white and pebble blue colors.