Samsung Galaxy S III review: first look


Only one smartphone is capable of generating the sort of publicity the iPhone can right now, and that’s Samsung’s Galaxy S III. That phone was unveiled at a glitzy launch event at London’s Earls Court Exhibition Centre.

Click here for our full, in depth, review of the Samsung Galaxy S III

Anyone hoping for a groundbreaking step forward in terms of its hardware, however, might be disappointed. There are no great surprises.

The screen is a 4.8in Super AMOLED 720 x 1,280 unit, the phone runs Ice Cream Sandwich, as you might have expected, and on the rear is an 8-megapixel snapper, accompanied by a single LED flash unit. You might have spotted that the screen doesn’t boast the Plus version of the AMOLED screen technology as the Galaxy SII; the good news is it looks crisp and colourful, and on first impressions, pretty bright too.


Under the hood, meanwhile, is the expected quad-core processor clocked at a heady 1.4GHz, 1GB of RAM and a choice of 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of storage.  That makes for a very, very quick phone. The heavily modified UI (more on this later) feels super fluid and highly responsive, from the rippling water of the lock screen to web pages and menus. We headed off to the SunSpider website to run a quick test, and the S III returned a stonking time of 1,483ms – more than half a second quicker than the iPhone 4S and HTC One X.

Android aficionados will also be pleased to note the presence of a microSDXC card slot, allowing the storage to be expanded by a further 64GB. And we were buoyed by a battery with a huge capacity of 2,100mAh, which bodes well for the S III’s stamina.


Alas, despite all the big words from the Samsung executives, the Galaxy S III’s design fails to excite. There’s nothing like the HTC One X’s polycarbonate body, nor its turned glass edges; instead, the glossy “glazed” finish, available in “Pebble Blue”  blue and “Marble White” feels hollow and plasticky.


It’s slim at 8.6mm from front to back, and light at 133g; the bezel is very narrow and the rounded edges and rear make a pleasant change from the square fare we’ve become used to from the Galaxy range, but physically it isn’t the star we were hoping for.


And there isn’t a huge jump in camera resolution either. What Samsung has done with the S III, however, is beef it up in a similar way to the HTC One X. The camera may ‘only’ shoot 8-megapixel images, but it comes laden with features that should make taking snaps that bit easier.


It will take 20 shots in single burst, for instance, at a rate of 3.3 frames per second. Full resolution stills can be captured while you’re shooting 1080p video and, once you’ve fired of a series of shots, there’s also a best shot select feature, which attempts to pick out the choicest images. It felt extremely responsive in our time with it, although we wouldn’t like to pass judgement on quality just yet.

There’s also a 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera, which is capable of recording 720p video.

The “human” smartphone

Samsung’s big play with its new smartphone isn’t the hardware, but its host of smart, “human” features. According to Samsung, this is a phone that “understands you”, that sees and listens to you.

The headline here is its eye motion sensing technology. Dubbed SmartStay, this monitors the user’s eye movements with the 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera and keeps the screen from dimming or switching off as long as your eyes are on the screen.

It was impossible to test this in any depth at the  launch event, however in our short play with the S III the screen did indeed seem to timeout while the screen was facing away from us and remain on when we were face to face with it.


Then there’s S Voice, which introduces advanced voice recognition — an uncanny echo of the iPhone 4S’ Siri feature. Saying “hi Galaxy” wakes the S III up, for example, and you can ask it to tell you the weather and launch the camera app. It’s  a feature we suspect Apple’s lawyers are going to be examining very closely indeed.

Direct Call extends the Galaxy S III’s smart feature set to its phone capabilities. While texting you can lift the phone to your ear and it will call the person you’re texting automatically. Smart Alerts buzz the phone as you pick it up to indicate the number of missed calls and texts. Social Tag, meanwhile, recognises the faces of your friends in photos allowing you to directly access their Facebook wall from the photo gallery or send a text.

One party trick also worth noting is Pop-up Play, which allows you to keep video playing in a small window, and nip off to do something else — check something on the web, send a text message or update your Twitter feed.


As with many top-end smartphones these days, the S III has a host of features aimed at hooking up with your home entertainment system. AllShare Cast allows video content to be streamed wirelessly to an HD TV with the help of a small box that can be attached to said TV.


The screen of the phone can be mirrored in similar fashion, and there’s also DLNA support which allows for more traditional, home network-based streaming via DLNA, allowing videos and music to be played from other DLNA-enabled  components around the home.


In all, despite all the smart features, beefed up camera, CPU, user interface and screen, the Samsung Galaxy S III has yet to set our pulses racing. Perhaps it’s the plasticky build quality. Perhaps it’s the fact that in no area does this handset stretch out a significant lead on the HTC One X.

But that could all change, of course, once we get our hands on a review sample and spend some quality time with it. The S III will be launched across Europe on 29 May; keep an eye out for our full review closer to the time.

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