I like the original Galaxy S – I even did a piece on it last Friday. The Galaxy S II was a better phone in almost every way, cementing the Samsung brand into the Android world as the one to choose if you wanted hardware performance above all else. The latest flagship, the S III, looks set to keep Samsung in the limelight and address things that people have wondered about.
The next Galaxy ships with a in-house-design quad-core processor, a Note-rivaling 4.8″ Pentile Super AMOLED screen and Android Ice Cream Sandwich as standard. The phone ships at the end of May to major carriers around the world, and we may see it at the end of June. The phone comes in 16, 32 and 64GB varieties to match the iPhone 4s.
Of course, the new Galaxy is not without its drawbacks, as Samsung has chosen to reinvent its design with the third iteration in the series. Whether its appreciated or not is a matter of personal opinion, however I don’t like it. A flagship should show off the highest levels of design within the respective family, and the Galaxy S III bears no resemblance to its cheaper brethren. The chassis is entirely plastic made through a manufacturing process Samsung calls “Hyperglaze” which textures the plastic to feel like brushed aluminium.
The phone retains a removable battery cover with a large 2100mAh unit to power the flagship through at least a single day of heavy use. The SD card still sits under the battery and isn’t hot-swappable. Micro-SIM use is also now standard, but there’s no reason why it should be here – the phone isn’t a unibody design like the Lumia 800/900/N9/iPhone 4 and doesn’t need a uSIM slot to save space. The handset also retains hardware front-end keys for call answering, ending and a menu button.
On the subject of space (there’s lots of it), the front is dominated by the massive 4.8″ LCD screen. Pentile displays are a common feature now in Samsung’s higher-end mobiles, and its what enabled the Note to work so well as a mini-tablet. The front-facing camera is used to track your eye movement and will switch the screen back on for you if it’s been blacked out – this is called Smart Stay, and will keep the screen brightened for as long as you’re staring at it.
The phone is powered by Samsung’s proprietary Exynos chipset, featuring a 1.4Ghz Cortex-A9 quad-core processor and the Mali-400 GPU. Samsung has abandoned the use of Nvidia’s Tegra in its mobiles, choosing its own ARM-based variant instead. The handset also has 1GB of RAM, although competitors are already releasing ICS handsets with 2GB of RAM for RAM-intensive tasks. In its own right, this phone is as powerful in some respects as some older Pentium/Celeron processors on the LGA478 platform.
Software-wise the phone tricks it up with Samsung’s answer to Apple’s impressive Siri, S-Voice. Now, you’ve got to understand a few things first. Apple controls its entire hardware and software platform, hence the reason why Siri has such deep integration to iOS on the iPhone 4s platform. S-Voice is a software overlay with limited commands, and doesn’t take words in context like Siri does. It can function, however, and will do things like take a picture or check the weather.
It will improve though with time. S-Voice delivers answers to you just like Siri and also features a similar button layout at the bottom of the screen. You can also call it up by the phrase, “Hi Galaxy!”, although thankfully this can be changed. If I ever get my hands on one, it’ll be “Caroline” or “HAL”. Or “Otacon”, because I’m a nerd and like to nerd-freak out all my friends occasionally. Ooh, “Jarvis”, that’s an even better idea. (On a related note, download Rainmeter and apply this Jarvis skin. Feel free to stare at your desktop for hours)
Also featured is an improved version of NFC called S-Beam, which improves filesharing and speeds when using NFC. The Galaxy S III also has Smart Alert (vibrates when you pick the phone up to alert you that you’ve got a notification), Pop-Up Play (which continues playing whatever video you’re currently watching despite switching apps in a smaller, movable screen) and finally a camera app that takes photos while recording video, similar to HTC’s One X capability.
All in all, after watching the Live reveal I’m not sure what to think. On the one hand, its definitely an upgrade to the S II. Hell, its even a far better option for people who would have looked at the iPhone 4s and didn’t feel like getting sucked into the vortex that iTunes creates once you put it on your system. But design-wise I’m not convinced. We’ve already had years of the old Samsung pushing copies of successful Nokias and Sony Ericsson’s to the market.
The S3 is purposely designed to avoid those bitter patent wars but it doesn’t look like the flagship people hoped for. Its just…round. It doesn’t make a bold statement aside from its monstrous size, it doesn’t make itself noticed next to a sharp piece of hardware like the Motorola Razr. Its been transported back to the time when all consumers wanted was good hardware and great battery life, something the Galaxy S III has in spades. I’m not so sure regular consumers will want to go back there again, but only time will tell how much of a hit the phone will be. I’m quite sure the NAG team at HQ will get one for review, so watch out for when that lands for what they think given more time with the phone in regular-use environments.