It’s here, the Samsung Galaxy S3 has arrived. Well, almost. Depending on the carrier, you may not see it for a week or two, but the time is certainly upon us. Are you ready for one phone, in two colors, on all carriers? Are you ready for 2GB of RAM? How about a phone that lets you and your friends share the world with a couple of clicks? Do you want to be a part of the next Android global phenomenon? This is the phone that is supposed to bring all of that – let’s see if it did.
- Specs: You can’t argue with the legitimacy of the specs for the Galaxy S3. On top you have a 4.8″ HD Super AMOLED display that is gorgeous, a top-of-the-line 8MP camera in the rear, front 1.9MP camera, 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, 2GB of RAM, incredibly loud speaker, 2100mAh battery, expandable storage up to 64GB, and internal storage up to 32GB. This phone is as top tier as it gets.
- Performance: People are going to roll their eyes at the dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor in this phone since we can’t seem to get anything else in this country, but you’d be a fool to discount it. Qualcomm knows what they are doing here, folks. This phone flies. If you want one of, if not the smoothest experiences on a smartphone to date, you are looking at it. There are zero stutters, the transitions never lag, and multi-tasking is a breeze. Once you figure out the navigation button system, you are going to be blown away by the speed of this 2GB RAM and dual-core processor combo.
- Camera: The 8MP camera on the GS3 is pretty awesome. It’s super fast (instant shutter), takes better than average pictures under lower lighting, and shoots in burst (20 instant pics) and all sorts of other sharing modes. The software can be customized to your liking, it takes stills during video, and the facial recognition in it works incredibly well. If you were looking for one of the top smartphone cameras available today, this is one of them.
- Build: This phone feels just as solid in hand as any other phone you will hold this year. It may be made of plastic and not some fancy oxidized ceramic, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall apart. Samsung has taken heat in the past for having “cheap” feeling phones, however, this is not one of them. It has just enough weight to allow it to sit nicely in your hand, yet it’s light enough to make you feel at ease. You also have Gorilla Glass 2 on the front to give you a bit of extra protection.
- Screen: Yep, it’s pentile. Do we care? Just like with the Galaxy Nexus, we don’t. The pixel count is high enough that your eye isn’t going to pick out anything horrendous. Also, Samsung confirmed to us that while this display is still the same HD Super AMOLED tech used in the G-Nex, that it has actually been improved a bit. It wasn’t a big enough step up to call it a “Plus,” but it is better. After looking at it for the last week, I would tend to believe that it has been improved, with colors appearing clearer, brighter and truer. Looking at the macro shots below though, may tell a different story depending on what your eye sees. No matter what, it looks beautiful to the naked eye.
(Click to enlarge)
- Design: I’m torn a bit on whether or not I truly love the design of the Galaxy S3. I hate the physical home button, menu and back keys, and also dislike the white back plate of the white version. For whatever reason though, I seem to have fallen in love with the blue color chosen for its counterpart. It would be a lie if I said that this phone equals or bests the HTC One X in terms of design, however, it remains a looker and has already caught the attention of many of my friends. I could do without the shiny finish that tends to attract fingerprints at times, but it’s not a deal breaker. Overall, the GS3 is designed very well.
- Battery Life: While I’m still waiting to get my hands on Verizon’s Galaxy S3, so that we can test the battery life on LTE, I’ve had no issues with the AT&T version. Over the last week, I have been able to push this phone through a full day with ease. I have to admit that I haven’t done much gaming yet, but there has been plenty of settings tweaking, Beaming, WiFi-direct connections, and camera work that all would crush a battery in hours in the past. This Snapdragon S4 processor may be our cure for battery life until the new LTE chips are released. Also, we should note that the battery is removable, so if the 2100mAh of juice aren’t enough, you will likely have the option to upgrade to a bigger one.
- TouchWiz: Look, I’d rather do without an Android skin if I had the choice, but Nexus devices are the only ones giving us that experience at this point. Skins are here to help OEMs differentiate their products and Samsung has done a solid job here. While the “nature” theme is a bit obnoxious at times, the feature add-ons like Share Shot, S Beam, and all of the camera software tweaks are fantastic and a joy to use. Not only that, but you have system toggles in the notification bar, easy connectivity to friends and networks, and more customizable options in settings menus than we have seen in some time. Samsung focused on giving owners of the GS3 quick ways to connect and share content with friends – they have more than succeeded.
- Call Quality: Voice calls all sound great on the Galaxy S3. I’m not a massive talker, but every time I placed a call and talked for more than a few minutes, I could hear the other party as clear as ever.
- Network Connectivity: Ahh yes, connectivity. After the disaster that was the radio situation on the Verizon Galaxy Nexus, you have to be wondering how the GS3 fairs. So far, this AT&T device has been stellar. Now, that doesn’t mean that Verizon’s CDMA/LTE version will be of the same quality, but I get the feeling that Samsung knows where it failed with the G-Nex and has corrected it. No dropped calls for me and no major data drop outs or hand-off issues to be reported.
- Accessories: You should be beyond excited over the fact that Samsung forced all carriers across the globe to adopt one design and not give them the opportunity to change it. You will have more accessories to choose from than you ever imagined. There will be docks from multiple accessory dealers, cases galore, extended batteries that aren’t confusing, and so much more. I hate to bring up the iPhone, but you may know in the near future exactly what their accessory world is like.
- Pricing: Options are always good, aren’t they? Samsung is releasing this phone with 16GB or 32GB of internal storage and has priced each version at $199 and $249 respectively. Well, except on T-Mobile where the pricing is beyond confusing. If you are going with AT&T, Verizon or Sprint, you get the pricing I just stated which is on-par with other top tier phones. Be sure to keep in mind that the expandable storage goes up to 64GB, so even if you choose the lesser 16GB version, you’ll still have the ability to add on a ton if you need it.
- Color Options: Again, how can you not like options? For the first time in recent memory, Samsung is releasing an Android phone with 2 color choices at launch: ceramic white and pebble blue. Both look great, but I’d give the blue a slight edge over the white. And thank you Sammy, for not making either of them charcoal or black. Hooray, for color!
- Physical Home Button: Why Samsung!?! Why did you include this navigation key setup? The Android team, with Ice Cream Sandwich, wanted the world to move away from a menu button and physical nav keys, yet here we are with the biggest device of the year sticking to them. I hated the physical home button on the Galaxy S2 and I still hate it with the Galaxy S3. It just doesn’t feel natural or convenient to have to physically press in a button to get back home. Not only that, but it isn’t pretty either.
- S Voice: One of the big selling points for the GS3 is going to be their Siri knock-off dubbed S Voice. As someone that has tried just about every single one of these voice recognition and activity services, trust me when I say that this one isn’t going to change the world. Does it have a bigger repertoire than many? It does. Does it outperform them all? At times. Will it become an integral piece to your smartphone experience? Well, even Siri hasn’t with iPhone users, so I doubt it will with this phone.
- TouchWiz Styling: For as much as I praised TouchWiz in the “Good” section above, I have to be fair and bring up some of the parts that drive me nuts as well. For starters, this “nature” theme is completely silly. I do not want water all over my phone, nor do I want it to sound like a dripping faucet every time I press a button. Even in its 2012 form, TW remains too cartoony for my liking. I tend to prefer more minimal looks with clean lines, and subtle colors, two things that Samsung has migrated far from. The feature set in TW is impressive, but the look is still lacking.
- Keyboard: When you pick up a Galaxy S3 over the next couple of weeks, install a 3rd party keyboard immediately. The keyboard included sounds awesome on paper with Swype-ish trace typing and predictive text, however, it does neither well. The swiping action over words is hit or miss and the predictive texting is so aggressive that you almost never know what you are typing and will find yourself questioning how it decided on the predicted options. Swiftkey’s newest beta is still your best friend.
- Bloatware: Since it’s not a Nexus, it’s going to have bloatware no matter what carrier you purchase it from. Thankfully, you can hide most of it and uninstall some of it. Some day, we may win this battle and be able to fully remove it from our phones the way we can a computer, but that day is not here yet.
Sharing With Share Shot, S Beam and More
Is the Samsung Galaxy S3 the greatest smartphone ever made? That’s a tough question. It is one hell of a smartphone though. This and the HTC One X are on a level of their own at this point in 2012, with each offering a few pluses over the other. Both have incredible screens, great internal hardware, amazing cameras, and are the complete package. For me though, the software add-ons to the GS3 give it the edge. Phones are now so powerful that manufacturers need to turn to software to try and separate themselves and I feel like Samsung has done that here. While TouchWiz has its quirks and a silly nature-inspired theme, it’s moving the industry forward in a great way through its ability to share so easily with friends and family. You cannot go wrong with this device.
*We had both the AT&T and T-Mobile versions of the phone in our possession for review purposes thanks to Samsung.