Samsung’s iconic Galaxy S series has a new face. The Samsung Galaxy S III leads the charge for Android against their bitter rivals. But did Samsung really bring their “A-game” for the SGSIII? This question and more are all answered in our full BriefMobile review.
- 4.8″ Super AMOLED HD display
- 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor
- 2GB RAM
- Android 4.0
- 8 megapixel rear camera with zero shutter lag
- 1.9 megapixel front-facing camera
- 16/32 GB on-board storage
- 2,100 mAh battery
Samsung’s devices have never been known for having a high-quality build, and the Galaxy S III is just another reminder of that. When I first saw the HTC One X, I instantly thought it was a beautiful device and using the device further confirmed that thought. With the Galaxy S III, I had the exact opposite reaction, in fact I was about to write it off purely based on the press shots. But as they always say, don’t judge a book by its cover.
Samsung did something new with the Galaxy S III by keeping the design the same among all variants. How they got the carriers to agree to that, I don’t know, but I won’t fight it either. A universal design will really benefit users and manufacturers. Accessory manufacturers will not have to create a different case for each variant. Samsung must hope this will create a, dare I say it, iPhone like ecosystem.
The Galaxy S III is all plastic, though Samsung has given it a faux-alluminum look. Like I said before, it may not pop out at you in pictures, but seeing it in person is a completely different story. The device is just beautiful. The front is one sheet of glass and all the edges of the device are curved. There is a silver lining around the device that really looks nice. The device is not curved like the Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus, but that is not an issue at all.
The button placement is the same that has been on past Samsung devices. On the top is the 3.5mm headphone jack, while the power button is on the left. On the right is the volume rocker and the microUSB charging port is on the bottom. Also on the top is a sliver to pull off the back of the device. Under the battery cover is the 2100mAh battery and microSD card slot. Under the display is the physical home button, menu button, and back button. One of my bigger complaints about the Galaxy S III is the placement of the home button. I felt that it needed to either be bigger or shifted up, closer towards the display. I often found myself pressing just above the actual button. This is also made harder by the monstrous size of the device. Having to reach from the notification bar to the awkwardly placed home button is a challenge.
The Galaxy S III is available in both Pebble Blue and Marble white. I got both of the colors in for review. Overall, I found myself using the white model more. Because of the plastic back, they both collect fingerprints, but they are less noticeable on the white model than on the blue.
Samsung may not have the best build quality, but its screens make up for it. Big time. The Galaxy S III features a 4.8-inch Super AMOLED HD display with a resolution of 1280×720. You may notice that the name is lacking the “plus” branding found on other Samsung devices. This does not mean all that much. Basically, the Galaxy S III uses an RGBG , or PenTile, subpixel structure, not the more standard RGB layout. You’ve heard people complain about the PenTile layout on other devices, but on a screen with such a resolution like the Galaxy S III, it’s not noticeable at all. The colors on the display are vivid, while text is crisp without any pixelation.
How does it compare to other displays on the market? To put it bluntly, it blows everything else out of the water. It makes my iPhone 4S look like a first-gen device and the HTC One X just looks washed out in comparison.
The auto brightness on the device is a little wonky, as it tends to be darker than it should. I set it at 75% and did not have any problems with it being to dark. Weather you have it at 75 percent or 100 percent the display is really bright. The viewing angles are also excellent. One thing I had an issue with is the performance in sunlight. This has always been a downfall of the Super AMOLED panels and was to be be expected, but in direct sunlight, it is nearly impossible to read the Galaxy S III display.
With the Galaxy S III, Samsung also introduced the latest of its TouchWiz. No it’s not called TouchWiz 5, but rather TouchWiz Nature UX. That’s quite obvious once you power the device on. All the sound effects sound like water droplets, or something of the like. I think it gets annoying rather quickly, but you may feel different.
Obviously there is more to Nature UX than just new just sound effects.
- Share Shot – Create a temporary photo sharing network with a group of friends who are nearby at the same party or event; photos can be taken by any member of the group and shared with the entire group
- S Beam – Share pictures, videos, documents and more by simply touching two Galaxy S III devices’ backs together
- S Voice – Featuring natural language recognition, you can control the apps and services used most with words instead of touch
- Pop Up Play – Videos can be played in a small window while customers use the rest of the display to complete other tasks such as typing emails, organizing calendars and updating their social networks
- Evolved camera capabilities – Burst Shot mode instantly captures 20 continuous shots and Best Photo feature selects the best shot to display
One of the biggest features in TouchWiz Nature UX is obviously S Voice, or Samsung’s Siri. Though, it’s an insult to Siri to call it that. S Voice is just not good. It was definitely rushed to the market and Siri appears to have taken Samsung by surprise. The voice recognition is not good. I found myself having to repeat a phrase multiple times, while Siri would pick it up on the first try. Another problem is that S Voice does not integrate with Google Apps, such as Play Music. That’s how I store all my music, so asking S Voice something like “Play Coldplay” is pointless, as it does not index music from Google Play, only music in the Samsung Music App.
From a design standpoint, TouchWiz Nature UX does not offer all that many differences. The icons have changed slightly, and you can now add five apps to the dock, as opposed to four in previous iterations of the skin. There are also some visual tweaks in Nature UX. There is a new carousal effect when scrolling through the home screens, similar to what is found in HTC Sense. The app drawer has also changed slightly. There are two tabs at the top, one for widgets and one for apps. There is also a button that let’s you see your downloaded apps.
One of the biggest changes in TouchWiz Nature UX is the lock screen. You now unlock the device by swiping left or right on the “water.” Taking a cue from Sense, there are now 4 customizable app icons along the bottom of the lock screen that allow you to directly enter an app. You can also now add weather and news to the lock screen. Finally, you can unlock the device with your voice by setting a wake up command in the settings. All of this is great. It use to be that you had to use a third party app such as WidgetLocker to add any sort of functionality to your lock screen.
One thing you will notice on the Galaxy S III is the lack of a multitasking button. To bring up the multitasking menu, you simply long press the home button and a menu nearly identical to the one found in stock Android 4.0 will pop up. Simply swipe left or right to delete an app from the list.
Now, man does that stupid nature theme get annoying. On nearly every screen press some stupid sound effect is played. It normally is a water faucet sound, and it will get you some really weird looks in public. Sure, you can disable it in the settings, but I don’t understand why it is opt-out, rather than opt-in. Pretty gimmicky if you ask me.
Overall, TouchWiz Nature UX is a great improvement over TouchWiz 4, and is the best Android overlay out there. It is by far the cleanest and most consistent piece of Android software yet. If I couldn’t use Ice Cream Sandwich, TouchWiz would be my second choice.
When Samsung announced the U.S Galaxy S III models would not have the quad-core Exynos processor found in the international version, many people wrote it off and vowed to buy the European model. Those people may want to think again. The device is powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8960 S4 processor, which is the same chip found in devices like the EVO 4G LTE, One S, and One X. It really gets interesting when you take a look at the RAM, though. Hoping to make up for the lack of quad-core, Samsung crammed an extra gigabyte of RAM into the device, making a grand total of two. You’ll have about 1.6GB available for use, but TouchWiz takes about 350MB away from that.
The Galaxy S III really performs like a champ. Scrolling between home screens is buttery smooth with most wallpapers, but if you set a really graphic intense live wallpaper from the market, it will definitely lag. This was also the case with a few transitions here and there, but it was much improved over devices like the Galaxy Nexus.
In the benchmarking app Quadrant, the Galaxy S III scored nearly 5,000, which is an outstanding score and far better than any other phone out there. In Vellamo, it averaged just over 2,100, while in AnTuTu, it was able to consistently pull in scores of over 6,400. In Linpack, the Galaxy S III scored nearly 200MFLOPS.
Call quality on the device was excellent. The person on the other end of the call often could not tell I was on a mobile phone. Speaker phone quality was good as well, though when I turned it up all the way there was some noticeable crackling.
Data performance is another story. The Galaxy S III is compatible with LTE, though Sprint does not have an LTE network yet. That obviously means you are stuck on Sprint’s 3G network and it is not pretty. In my tests, I was able to get about 500kbs down and and 900kbs up. This day in age in the mobile industry, that is just unacceptable. Sites take forever to load and video streaming is incredibly inconsistent. It is very, very hard to recommend a phone that has that horrid of data speeds.
Like many other elements of the device, the camera on the Galaxy S III is excellent. Pictures are crisp and sharp. Pictures taken with the Galaxy S III have a much higher resolution than those taken with the One X.
With Nature UX, Samsung also made some great improvements to the camera app itself. There are now built in options for burst shot, HDR, smile shot, beauty, cartoon, and panorama shots. The panorama option is great. It is really intuitive and fast. The face detection feature is not very good at all. With several identical shots, the software recognized the correct faces in just one of them. I found HTC’s face detection software to be a lot better.
Shutter speed on the Galaxy S III is nearly instant and the device focuses very quickly. The macro mode is great for taking close-up shots of stuff, as well.
One thing that has been disappointing on nearly every Android phone has just been decent. Sometimes, I can make it through a day, but others I can’t. With the Galaxy S III, however, I could always make it through a day with the 2100mAh battery in the device. Battery life was truly excellent. A day for me consists of web browsing, music, Twitter, Google+, and some texting. I usually kept the display at 75%, though I didn’t notice that much change when cranking it up higher.
As I mentioned before, the Galaxy S III features NFC, which hasn’t really had much use until today. Alongside the device itself, Samsung will be selling programable TecTiles. TecTiles are NFC tags that can be programed to perform certain tasks. First you have to download the Samsung TecTile app from the Play Store, then you tap your device on one of the tags to program it. You can have it change phone settings, launch an app, join a WiFi network, or show a custom message such as “BriefMobile is the best site around!” The TecTiles cost $3 a piece and can be bought in packs of five.
The Galaxy S III is a phenomenal smartphone. The design is stunning, even if it tends to attract finger-prints and doesn’t have the best build quality. The screen is just gorgeous. The blacks are stunning and the text is as sharp as a tack. The performance and camera are both outstanding, as is the battery life. Sadly, the device is a victim of Sprint’s poor, poor network. S Voice is also just awful, but who really uses it any ways?
At either $199 or $249, the Galaxy S III is truly the best Android smartphone out there. Its strengths easily make up for its weaknesses. For anyone looking for an Android phone, this is the one.