I got to play with the Samsung SGS3 for a while and I’m going to list here most of the impressions I’ve gathered during this time.
From the start though, you should know that I’m an everyday iPhone user, but I had my fair share of Android smartphones in the last years. Enough about this though, let’s see how good this Samsung Galaxy S3 actually is.
First of all you should know that this SGS 3 is Samsung’s new flagship, a follow up for the popular Galaxy S2. It has to face tough competitors like the HTC One X, the Sony Xperia S or the iPhone 4S.
You’ll notice that the Samsung Galaxy S3 is massive. Luckily, the SGS3 is pretty sleek, as you can see here, measuring only 8.6 mm in thickness and weighing about 130 grams. There’s a 4.8 inch screen on the front face and in order to accommodate that, Samsung had to make a large phone, one that most users will hardly be able to use comfortably with only one hand.
And there’s another aspect: the glossy plastic on the back of this smartphone makes the whole thing incredibly slippery, so you should be careful with it, I doubt you’d like to drop it.
The video review
Design and looks
The Galaxy S3 comes in two colors, blue and white. We have the white version here and it definitely looks stylish, with these silver straps on the sides. The entire case is made from glossy plastic, which makes the whole thing feel a bit cheap, while the upper face is completely covered in Gorilla Glass.
Taking a look at the exterior, you’ll notice on the front face that huge screen with a pretty tinny bezel. On top there’s a speaker grill, a 720p front-facing camera, a luminosity and proximity sensor and a notification LED.
Below you’ll find a physical home button which I find less comfortable to use than the round button on the iPhones. In fact, I think a haptic button would have been better suited here, but that’s another story. You’ll also find capacitive Menu and Back keys, but you should know that the Back button is placed on the Right side of the phone, and that might take some time to adapt to.
On the back there’s the 8 MPx camera, with an LED Flash, plus the speaker’s grill.
As for the sides, on top there’s a microphone pin and the 3.5 mm headset port. On the right there’s the lock button, conveniently placed so you could press it with your right thumb. On the bottom there’s the micro-USB port used for charging the phone and connecting it to a computer, plus another microphone pin and on the left there’s the volume rocker.
The plastic back cover is easily removable and beneath it there’s the battery, a micro SIM and a micro SD card slot. Yes, the cover is flexible, but I doubt it will break, so I don’t see any reasons to complain about that.
Overall the Samsung Galaxy S3 felt good in my hand, although it is like I said too massive for my liking. That, combined with the fact that the back plastic face offers little to no grip, made me treat it extra carefully, as I felt like it could easily slip through my fingers, at least for the first hours after I took it out of the box.
Now, let’s get back to that screen. It’s a 4.8 inch display like I already said, with 1280 x 720 px resolution and a Super AMOLED panel. As a result, everything looks stunning on it, from images, to movies, websites and texts.
Yes, the screen on the SGS 3 is pentile, but given the resolution, you’ll hardly feel like this screen offers poorer images than the display you can get on the HTC One X or the iPhone 4S, that use a regular sRGB matrix. In fact, Samsung used pentile screens on their Galaxy Nexus and Note smartphones and I haven’t heard anyone complaining about that.
The everyday use experience
Perhaps the thing I enjoyed most on the Galaxy S3 is how smooth it runs during everyday use. The entire thing worked just flawlessly, navigating between apps and home-screens is fast and the smartphone never froze on me during the whole period of time I was playing with it. Plus, I encountered none of those characteristic Android hiccups that actually steered me towards an iPhone a while ago.
The hardware inside the Samsung Galaxy S3 probably takes the credit for this, with an Exynos quad-core platform and 1 GBs of memory. Some versions of the S3 will also be built on top of a dual-core Snapdragon S4 platform with 2 GBs of memory.
But the software has its merits too. My Samsung Galaxy S3 is running Android 4.0.4, with TouchWiz on top. And while in general Android skins tend to make the entire experience worst than what you get with stock Android, Samsung managed to do a pretty good job here with their TouchWiz UI.
Of course, TouchWiz brings a bunch of changes over stock Android and also replaces some of the standard Android apps with Samsung proprietary ones. You get some interesting widgets, a different dialing pan, a different notification panel with toggles for important functions like GPS, Wi-Fi, sound and others and the battery indicator.
The lock screen is slightly different as well, as you’ll just have to swipe the display to unlock it. Or you can swipe on top of the apps at the bottom of the screen if you want to quickly access those ones.
Samsung also pushes their motion features on the S3, that allow you to call a contact by simply putting the phone to your year, muting the ringer when turning the phone upside down or just keep the screen alive as long as the camera on top detects that your eyes are looking at it. And yes, these are not necessarily new features, but it’s nice to see them implemented on the SGS3.
Samsung also brings in S Voice, which works alright I’d say even if you have an accent, like I do. It’s just a bit too slow though. There’s also the S Planner, which is Samsung’s version of Calendar and that looks a lot different than the regular Android app, but you’ll like it once you get used to it. And then you have the S memo, that you can use for sketches and notes or Samsung’s proprietary Apps store.
Speaking of Apps, while Google Play still has its issues and lacks proper organization, you’ll find most of the needed apps in there. And, unlike what you can find on Apple’s App store, most of them are cheaper or even free. There are still some specific apps that are just better implemented on iOS.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 can handle multimedia content and games. There’s a pair of nice headphones in the pack, the music app is quite cool and adding content to your phone is incredibly easy, like with all Android devices. Movies will play well even with the standard Multimedia Player, including 1080p titles as well. Playing clips from Youtube or other sources ain’t a problem either. And there’s also this nice feature that allows you to watch a clip in a tiny screen while performing other tasks, like browsing or navigating through the screens, but only works with te native Media app.
As for games, you’ll find a bunch of them in Google Play, but the offer for quality titles designed for high-resolution displays is still quite limited.
Of course this phone had no problems with taking calls and it didn’t loose signal. Not even when in crowded areas. It’s also suitable for messaging, thanks to the big screen that makes typing comfortable even for those of you with bigger hands.
And then there’s the camera, which I can say it’s quite good on the S3. Can’t say that if it’s better or not than the one on the iPhone or on the One X, but I can say that they are pretty close. The 8 MPx pics are looking good, but if you want wide-pictures you will only get 6 MPx stills.
The interface is pretty standard, there are plenty of settings and filters to play with and the camera can also take burst shots or panoramas. As for the video, you get 1080p 30 fps clips and they are not bad at all.
In fact, I’m quite confident this camera can replace your holiday point-and-shoot without a problem and will take good pics and clips as long as there’s enough light around.
The battery life of the Samsung Galaxy S3 is quite impressive, as I was able to push it for an entire day and still have something left in the evening, which does not happen on the HTC ONE X or the iPhone 4S. With sporadic daily use, the S3 will actually be able to last for about 2 days on a single charge, which isn’t bad at all for a top-smartphone like this one.
Prices and availability
In terms of prices, the Samsung Galaxy S3 sells for about 600 euros without a contract, but I’m sure most of you will buy it from the local operators, subsidized and bundled with different plans.
In the US you can get the Samsung Galaxy S3 from all the major carriers, including Sprint, Verizon or T-Mobile.
In the end, the Samsung Galaxy S3 is for sure a proper Flagship in Samsung’s arsenal. With its massive screen and body, it might not be suited for all of you, but if you can deal with the size and you’re into Android, this is good. Yes, there are things some wish that would have been done in a different way on this smartphone, but that’s always the case with highly anticipated devices, they can’t satisfy everyone.
I for one liked the screen, the slim body, the snappy daily performances and the good battery life. I’m still not completely fond of Android, as an iOS daily user, but that’s another story. Plus, I would have enjoyed a rubbery back panel for the SGS3 that would have provided better grip, so I won’t feel like I could drop the phone every ten seconds or so. But that can be solved with a proper case that you should actually get if you plan to keep your Samsung Galaxy S3 in good shape.