Text and photos by Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
During the deep dive briefing with Samsung two weeks ago, I had the chance of comparing the new Samsung Galaxy S III with its predecessors the original Samsung Galaxy S and the Galaxy S II. It became clear that while the earlier Galaxy models were aimed at being the best technology that Samsung could offer at the time but the Galaxy S III is being fielded as a game changer designed to challenge our perceptions of what a smartphone should be.
Coming to Canada on June 27th, the Samsung Galaxy S III will be available from most carriers including Bell, Rogers, Telus, Mobilicity, Wind Mobile and others. Hit jump for my full review.
As Samsung explains:
The SGH-i747 variation of the GALAXY S III will be available from Bell Mobility, Virgin Mobile, SaskTel, TELUS and Rogers Wireless. The SGH-iT999 model will be available from Videotron, Wind and Mobilicity.
On one hand it is the flagship smartphone that Samsung designed to avoid patent conflicts with Apple and I can safely say, there’s nothing here that’s reminiscent of the iPhone, at least not physically. Sure, there is an attempt to compete with Apple's Siri using the Samsung S Voice but for the most part, the SGIII is a very different device from the Apple iPhone 4S.
The Galaxy S III is also the smartphone Samsung hopes will propel to the top spot in the hyper competitive Android smartphone market, that’s why it has loaded it with everything it could pack into the slim body.
With some stunning specs including a brilliant 4.8-inch HD super AMOLED Pentile screen with a 1280 x 720 pixel resolution, an ultra-thin and light 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm profile, a 1.5 GHz Quad core processor, 2 GB of RAM and a new 8MP camera capable of 1080p video.
What the specs don’t reveal is how the Galaxy S III was designed to connect to people on an emotional level. Inspired by nature and imbued with almost preternatural ability to sense when it is being looked at, it aims to understand what its user wants or needs.
The organic and nature-inspired character of the GSIII is evident with the relaxing nature sounds one hears when interacting or unlocking the screen as well as the whistling sound that tells you that there’s mail or a new message coming in.
The Nitty Gritty
Samsung has often handicapped great phone releases with somewhat chintzy plastic bodies. These have kept the weight down and allowed some slim designs but the overall feeling compared to competing products was subpar.
The Galaxy S III is still made of some polycarbonate and when I saw the first photos of the device I lamented that all that great technology and potential would again be wasted in something that felt cheap and mass produced.
But the Galaxy S III feels like quite the opposite. Sure it is covered in shiny plastic but the entire front fascia including the control portion is covered in Gorilla Glass 2 which serves to keep things rigid. The plastic used to cover the rear seems treated for improved grip and, at least in the white model, seems reasonably smudge free. Our white review model’s screen seems almost inlaid into the case, the feeling of precision is evident.
Samsung is really pushing the envelope with an 4.8” screen but for many users this stunning display is the point of no return. Once you spend some time looking at this stunning screen and interacting with it, it seems silly to go back to anything smaller. Yes, there are some disadvantages such as one handed operation for people who are used to smaller phones
This becomes evident if you use your smartphone for video, reading, maps, navigation and most specially mobile gaming. Going back to anything smaller than a 4 inch screen
The larger 2100mAh battery is unprecedented in size and capacity for this type of smartphone but it comes in quite handy since the SGIII needs power to feed the larger screen, faster processor and graphics plus the high speed LTE data connection which is a battery hog.
Experience and performance
The Samsung Galaxy SIII is the fastest smartphone in the market today and quite possibly the best Android smartphone in the market right now. The speed is simply stunning. Boot-up time is under 5 seconds and this is really fast. Android boot up usually takes longer with devices that have some overlay running over Android since there are more applications to load than in stock Ice Cream Sandwich.
Surfing the web is actually enjoyable on the SGIII, the pinch to zoom speed and accuracy is superb and the powerful graphics performance is unparalleled. The fact that you can take an HD video, compress it into a thumbnail and have it floating on you screen while you surf the web is a really cool feature and also proof that there is some serious computing power under that slim exterior.
Watching videos on that bright and crisp screen is a delight and this version of Samsung’s Super AMOLED screen seems to have better overall colour performance and accuracy than previous releases. It is notably clearer than what I can experience on my Galaxy Nexus even in lower brightness settings.
This makes it an ideal carputer or at least a very usable GPS for vehicels (using a vehicle mount, which Samsung says is coming). The large screen, voice control capability and LTE data connectivity make the GSIII one of the best smartphones to use in a vehicle for navigation, receiving calls and looking up information on the fly.
I also like some of the customizations that Samsung has built in. You can assign special vibration patterns to certain people in your address book. This means that you can tell who is calling even when the phone is in silent mode because there are different identifiable vibration patterns that one can use.
Samsung has also integrated various innovative features Motion Recognition lets you call someone back by just raising the phone to your ear after a missed call. S Beam lets you share content with another user by simply tapping the phones together invoking the NFC (Near Field Communication) features.
Face Recognition identifies faces in your photos and then provides direct links to their contact page, Facebook or Google+ profile. Going a step further, Buddy Photo Share lets you send photos simultaneously to all the contacts that happen to be in the shot, provided that their email addresses are part of their contact file. This all sounds great on paper and each of these functions are comprised of various automated tasks but the average user may find these more a hindrance than a help unless they’re really intent on sharing automatically.
Finally, call quality and the handsfree function is superb thanks to loud and well placed speakers. This is an outstanding smartphone for handsfree calls, performing better than many similar but thicker smartphones, which is surprising since it is so thin.
Samsung smartphone cameras have been a bit of a mixed bag. Some, like the one used in the Samsung Focus, was very good and managed to accurately capture various scenes. Some of the other phone cameras however, were a bit too washed out for my liking.
The camera on the Samsung Galaxy S III is very good. Not only is it fast to deploy and can even be used in that insane burst mode (10 photos per second, that’s even faster than many mid-range DSLRs!). The best thing about this camera is the zero lag performance and many users will like the built-in settings for panorama, HDR and the beauty shot. Samsung’s camera software is more than adequate for most types of snapshots and even some more creative types of photography. Instagram-fixated Android users will get a lot of mileage from this 8 megapixel camera.
Video performance at 1080p HD is solid, well balanced and creates video that compares in quality to some of the cameras we’ve tested this year. Users can also edit video on the fly with the included software and direct uploads to YouTube are fast and easy.
The Samsung Galaxy S III is the bleeding edge of Android smartphone technology and functionality right now. In terms of specs, this one is loaded to the hilt. The 1.5Ghz dual core processor, 2 GB of RAM and up to 32GB of memory (expandable even further thanks to a microDS slot) rivals the specs of leading tablets and even some notebooks in the market.
This may be the most creative and multimedia-friendly Galaxy smartphone yet. Is it the right smartphone for you? That really depends on how you like Samsung's nature-focused vision of how Android experience should be. It is really worth checking out.
Rating 4.5 out of 5