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  • Reviews - Written by on Friday, May 4, 2012 15:56 - 20 Comments

    Samsung Galaxy S III: Preview

    preview Overnight global electronics giant Samsung unveiled its latest smartphone opus: The Samsung Galaxy S III, the successor to its Galaxy S II model which continues to be one of the most popular smartphones sold in Australia. But an Australian launch isn’t yet on the horizon, and rivals such as HTC have already launched new top-end models locally. Is the Galaxy S III worth waiting for? Read on to find out.

    Design
    Over the past several years Samsung has been gradually refining its smartphone style with models like the Galaxy S, the Galaxy S II, the Galaxy Nexus and the Galaxy Note. That’s a lot of galaxies, come to think of it. One wonders whether Samsung is eventually building up to some kind of incredible ‘Universe’ phone which will blow us all away — or maybe it’ll introduce a smaller model, dubbed ‘Solaris’? We can only guess.

    In any case, the Galaxy S III appears to be most similar in its form factor to the Galaxy S II and Galaxy Nexus before it. A large 4.8″ touchscreen dominates the phone’s appearance, surrounded by high-quality plastic in one of two colour schemes — ‘Marble White’ or ‘Pebble Blue’. The back of the phone is also plastic in the same colour scheme, and you can expect most of the normal inputs and outputs found on almost all Android-based smartphones — a headphone socket, speakers, front- and rear-facing cameras and volume controls — in all the approximately normal places. At the bottom of the Galaxy S III’s touchscreen is an oblong menu button and the normal two capacitive navigation buttons on either side. It’s 8.6mm thick, 136.6mm long and 70.6mm wide.

    If you compare the Galaxy S II against the Galaxy S III, it will become apparent that the Galaxy S III has shifted towards more of the design aesthetic that HTC has preferred in recent years — a curvaceous plastic exterior that feels easy in the hand — rather than the design of the Galaxy S II, which harkens back a little to Apple’s more squarish iPhone 4. Where the original Galaxy S looked a lot like Apple’s iPhone 3G, and the Galaxy S II looked a little like the iPhone 4/4S, the Galaxy S III looks nothing like either. But it does look something that might come out of HTC’s labs — which for our money, is a good thing.

    Probably the main thing which you need to know about the Galaxy S III’s design is that it features a much larger touchscreen than the Galaxy S II. For comparison’s sake, the iPhone 4S has a diagonal touchscreen size of 3.5″. The Galaxy S II has a screen a fair bit larger, at 4.3″, and Samsung’s gigantic Galaxy Note phone, which has been dubbed a “phablet” for its bastard positioning in between a phone and a tablet, has a jumbo screen size of 5.3″.

    Similar to the HTC One X (which has a 4.7″ screen), the Galaxy S III has a screen size of 4.8″, meaning that it sits in between the Galaxy S II and the gigantic Note. Those reviewers who’ve played with the phone so far appear fairly satisfied with the Galaxy S III’s size and the way it sits in the hand, noting particularly that at 133g, the phone feels fairly light.

    But make no mistake: If you have small hands, or even regular-sized ones, you are going to want to play with this phone first yourself before you commit to buying it. It is definitely on the large side, and closer to the Galaxy Note in feel than its predecessor, the Galaxy S II. Samsung appears to be banking that a larger screen will attract those tired of the iPhone’s smaler 3.5″ size. But that 3.5″ screen size has proven very popular over the years for a reason.

    One caveat is that the border around the Galaxy S III’s touchscreen is very thin, meaning the touchscreen takes up almost the entirety of the front of the phone itself; meaning that Samsung has been able to keep the physical size of the phone itself within reasonable limits while still up-sizing the actual touchscreen. But we’d still like to actually feel it in the hand first before making a judgement on whether it’s too large or not.

    Features
    Right now, the Galaxy S III is one of the highest-end smartphones on the market, and this shows in its features list.

    It runs version 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) of Google’s Android operating system, its screen resolution is 1280×720 (for very sharp clarity) and based on Super AMOLED technology, it comes with an eight megapixel rear camera and a 1.9 megapixel camera on its front, it has an accelerometer, a gyrometer, GPS, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, a digital compass, a microSD slot and it runs a 1.4GHz quad-core CPU, as well as a specialised graphics chip.

    The phone’s battery is removable and rated at 2,100mAh battery, and it can be bought with 16GB, 32GB or 64Gb of on-board storage space. A micro-USB port provides wired connectivity, and the touchscreen is actually covered with version 2 of Corning’s popular Gorilla Glass, for extra, well, toughness. In short, if you can name it, the Galaxy S III has it, as you’d expect from a brand new, top-end Android phone in mid-2012.

    There are also quite a lot of software customisations and features which Samsung has added into the mix. To be honest, we’re really not sure of the value of a lot of them, and we’re conscious that many people who read Delimiter prefer to run their phones on more vanilla versions of Android from mod sites like CyanogenMod, viewing phone manufacturer additions as imperfect additions to an otherwise solid operating system; even if they’re not in the same league as the kind of crapware which Telstra likes to bundle with everything it sells.

    However, there are some interesting new software aspects to the Galaxy S III which bear mentioning. Samsung has updated and refined its TouchWiz interface which sits on top of Android; Siri-like voice interaction is possible through a new app, S Voice, there’s a new feature called S Beam which lets fellow Samsung users quickly and easily send each other files wirelessly, you can play media content to a TV via AllShare Cast, and so on. Samsung users will be used to this kind of thing, and it’s gotten bigger and better with the Galaxy S III. I’m sure if you get used to all of these features, they’d save you some time or allow you to do things you probably wouldn’t think of doing otherwise. But they’re still the icing on the cake rather than the cake itself.

    One issue which Australian buyers of the Galaxy S III will need to be aware of is that while the phone does support all of Australia’s 3G mobile networks, 4G performance is far from guaranteed, with Samsung labelling 4G support with the ominous words “dependent upon market”. This means we are going to have to wait a while to find out if Samsung will sell a version of the phone supporting the 1800Mhz 4G networks being built by Telstra and Optus.

    Considering that most people buy a phone only once every two years or so, this is a major issue for the Galaxy S III in Australia. In a years’ time, 4G networks will be quite mainstream locally. Many people suspect at the moment that Telstra is planning to shortly launch a 4G version of HTC’s One X, which is perhaps the Galaxy S III’s biggest rival at the moment (not counting the iPhone 4S, of course, always a contender). If Samsung launches the Galaxy S III in Australia without 4G support, we will be severely disappointed.

    Performance
    With its quad-core customised CPU and new GPU, the Galaxy S III will no doubt be able to handle anything that can be thrown at it in terms of processing power. Perhaps the only real caveats we have about the phone’s performance would be its battery life; if it does support 4G speeds in Australia, and given its large screen size, we’ll want to be putting it through its paces over several days to determine whether it sucks juice as much as we suspect.

    But just for the record, here’s what Engadget has had to say about its performance so far:

    “Whizzing around the native apps and web browser was as pleasant as we expected, pinch-to-zoom pinged into action, while multimedia playback was effortless, irrespective of the software additions that Samsung has thrown into the mix”

    And Gizmodo concluded:

    “The third iteration under the Galaxy S name feels a lot more polished and thought-out than other Samsung products, and zips about comfortably with its powerful engine and responsive display.”

    Sounds about what we’d expect. It’s top of the line and it shows it.

    Conclusion
    Samsung hasn’t confirmed an Australian launch for the Galaxy S III yet, but we’re sure the company is in talks with the major mobile carriers as we speak about its availability. Based on prior experience, we would guesstimate that the phone will launch locally in the second half of 2012, probably closer to Christmas than July, and will be on sale through all three major carriers; Telstra, Vodafone and Optus (as well as Optus subsidiary Virgin and the various Vodafone brands).

    Of course, keen souls will be able to get the phone earlier through retailers like Mobicity, which has already started taking preorders for the device, at $799, $899 and $999 outright price points, depending on how much storage you want with it.

    But the key issue for Australian buyers remains 4G compatibility. If you’re going to buy a high-end smartphone like the Galaxy S III in mid-2012, it is highly advisable to buy one which supports the 1800MHz 4G networks being rolled out by Telstra and Optus, which will be in very widespread in just 12 months’ time. If the Galaxy S III launches in Australia without 4G, we’d find it hard to recommend it. If it launches with 4G, it will likely be close to unbeatable. On 4G, this phone’s fate hangs. Because you can bet that by the time mid-2013 rolls around, there will be a slew of comparable models on offer from other manufacturers sporting that magic 4G label.

    Image credit: Samsung

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    20 Comments

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    1. Aryan
      Posted 04/05/2012 at 4:52 pm | Permalink |

      HTC has clearly won the industrial design contest this round. The first word that came to my mind when I first laid my eyes on the SGS3 was “ugly”. HTC and Nokia have shown that plastic can be beautiful. It’s a pity Samsung went back to the cheap plastic feel of the original Galaxy S.

      Not to mention that TouchWhiz… looks so out of place. Does Samsung actually think that they are adding value by those cartoonish oversized icons?

      Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good phone, and I’m sure millions will buy it and be happy with it, but if you don’t care about removable battery and Micro SD card, I’d say the HTC One X is the phone to buy right now.

      • Katie
        Posted 04/05/2012 at 5:17 pm | Permalink |

        Again with the attack on the look. Look is very subjective – you can say it’s ugly, but it maybe pretty to somebody else. And remember you’re not buying a wife. You’re buying a decent mobile computer.

        What’s not subjective? Hardware specs and performance. Compare those and your post above may have some points, instead of attacking what is subjective issue.

        Btw – you’re missing something big, NFC. It will be a default for all, no more optional, and i think there’s big future for it.

        ANyway – http://www.anandtech.com/show/5810/samsung-galaxy-s-iii-performance-preview

      • Apollo
        Posted 04/05/2012 at 5:18 pm | Permalink |

        HTC? Hell no. That Lumia and N9 – hands DOWN the best piece of design out at the moment.

        One solid Polycarbonate Unibody, Vaccuformed around its internal components. Amazing. Its even won design awards. It feels incredible. Cant wait for Windows Phone 8, if Nokia can do this with WP7 – WP8 hardware HAS to be good.

        I honestly dont know why people complain about plastic. It doesnt FEEL premium, but when you drop it – it definitely bounces rather than shattering on impact – ala iPhone 4. As a network, we see more damage to iphones, but more software faults on android. The technical downside of a unibody design, is the removable battery. That Tegra chews the juice, I’d imagine people on the phone alot will need secondary batteries – which is a game breaker.

        This is award winning hardware right here – guess we’ll have to wait and see it in hand.

        • Best of all worlds
          Posted 06/05/2012 at 10:18 pm | Permalink |

          I read over at http://myphonefactor.in/2012/04/windows-phone-8-version-of-samsung-galaxy-s3-coming-in-october/ that Windoze 8 is coming to the Galaxy III anyway later this year.

          Will there be dual/multi boot, or virtual machine support?

          Android, Windoze, OSX, Linux, all one on platform and readily accessible all the time?

          Convergence is here folks.

          All we have to do is solve the ‘micropayments’ billing problem for each time a program is run or a media file is played (Bill Gates raved on about this in 1998) and we have the future in our hands.

          After all, it is just a pocket size portable computer with a spot of connectivity, isn’t it?

    2. Aryan
      Posted 04/05/2012 at 4:54 pm | Permalink |

      Also… one more thing, a menu button? Really? Google has been pushing developers away from a menu button and encouraging them to use the Action Bar… and Samsung adds a Menu button to its ICS device? This is such a big disappointment.

      • Apollo
        Posted 04/05/2012 at 5:10 pm | Permalink |

        Its one of those things thats debatable, personally – I cant STAND all capacitive buttons. It shits me to tears when you accidentally hit one of them and it either goes backwards in a menu, webpage or brings up search. Its excruciatingly annoying. Having at least one button, makes it much easier to sort out which end of the phone is which when you’re trying to feel around the side table at night to find it and turn on the backlight.

        • AJ
          Posted 04/05/2012 at 7:23 pm | Permalink |

          umm the point was not about the home button but the MENU button which is not used in ics

          • Apollo
            Posted 04/05/2012 at 7:29 pm | Permalink |

            I was just making a general statement, but i’ll accept that. +1.

      • Katie
        Posted 04/05/2012 at 5:21 pm | Permalink |

        If it’s there, it is there. Why bother?
        Are you a developer? If yes, and wants to follow GOOG’s guideline, then you can just ignore it.

        Not a biggie.

        It’s not like because of aesthetic only you then get rid of USB ports, or makes battery fixed inside a closed casing…

    3. George A
      Posted 05/05/2012 at 1:14 am | Permalink |

      There’s a competition to win a Galaxy S III going on at the moment! It’d be so great to get one for nothing!

      • Best of all worlds
        Posted 06/05/2012 at 10:23 pm | Permalink |

        Free advertising, plus duty and taxes…

        You have to join TWO social networks.

        Bah!

    4. Simon Reidy
      Posted 06/05/2012 at 3:19 pm | Permalink |

      I’m let down by this phone. Perhaps its just the videophile purist in me, but I can’t believe people here aren’t more pissed off about it being another pentile screen.

      If you can overlook the over-saturated colours, S-AMOLED is great, but only with the “Plus” part. I’ve compared the Galaxy Nexus’s pentile screen to my iPhone 4’s screen on numerous occasions and the iPhone 4’s LCD kills it for pixel density, colour accuracy, lack of weird artifacts on saturated colours, and fine detail due to a full sub-pixel arrangement. The only thing the GN wins on are blacks, and while that’s important for large home theatre displays in darkened environments, better blacks means approximately zilch on a smartphone for 90% of usage scenarios.

      The SGSII on the other hand, while lower resolution, looks a lot more accurate than the Galaxy Nexus to my eyes. I expect I’ll probably prefer the SGSII’s 480p screen and the iPhone’s 640p to the SGSIII’s 720p pentile screen as well.

      What I’m getting at is pentile is a cheap cop out. Even at high resolutions it doesn’t come close to a proper RGB layout. Plenty of tech journalists that got hands on time with the SGS3, have already claimed that the HTC One X’s true 720p LCD craps all over it and I don’t doubt it.

      If you don’t believe me, just take a look at this for an example closeup of the SGS3’s screen! the signal bars are supposed to be white!

      Given the Galaxy S II had such a great quality Super AMOLED Plus screen, I guess it must have been too costly or difficult to develop a 720p Plus screen, so Samsung have gone with a display very similar to the Galaxy Nexus, which I personally think looks like shit by today’s standards. A very big let-down after Samsung built so much hype for this phone.

      And as for the tacky plastic home button and cheap plastic casing; Yuck! When will Samsung learn? The HTC One X’s minimalist but tough design shits all over this. The One X has a far superior quality build, regardless of aesthetics.

      Sure the Samsung is super fast with its four cores, but given the phone is ruined by so many layers of Touchwiz crap, you’ll probably need a custom ROM/ Vanilla ICS to get the most out of it anyway.

      If I were buying an Android phone tomorrow it would be the One X. Hands down.

      Flame away :)

      • Posted 06/05/2012 at 4:42 pm | Permalink |

        Reviewers who have gotten their hands on the Galaxy S III so far haven’t been phased by the pentile screen, Simon, but I agree with you that all-round, the HTC One X is looking like a better device.

        Of course, I wouldn’t buy a non-4G device at this stage, so I’ll probably be waiting for the One XL, if it ever launches on Telstra.

      • Apollo
        Posted 08/05/2012 at 11:29 am | Permalink |

        The whole reason the RGB Super AMOLED + sold well is because it really is beautiful to look at. What made it impossible to fix or replace was 2 things:

        SuperAMOLED+ had inherrent cost issues associated. It was exceedingly expensive to make and to replace, when the glass broke you’re up for a whole new display, (currently about 265.00) because in the AMOLED+ the glass is hard fused with the Glass.

        Stock availability. Samsung just cant make enough. According to Samsung’s own fiancial release last month, AMOLED was in such high demand that Samsung themselves couldnt produce anywhere near enough to keep up with demand. They had to build an even larger facility in Malaysia, just to keep up with demand for the standard AMOLED model. If Samsung (who incidentally is the worlds largest producer of both mobile and desktop components) cant keep up with their own growth, you can hardly expect them to maintain the display in their flagship device.

        The point you make on HTC’s design is fundamentally flawed. When I’ve tested many many maaaaany handsets that arrive on Vodafone in the last 12 months, almost ALL HTC handsets have had either serious software flaws, or problems with connectivity. HTC’s handsets perform poorly in a full coverage area, whereas Samsung’s plastic housing performs excellently. Samsung’s one of the few remaining manufacturers other than motorola that still have an external antenna port. Its nice to have a metal housing and sure it feels good – but ask HTC how the original Sensation on launch did. It wasnt good.

        I agree that the OneX is a better overall package, but A: Samsung has the market strength to beat the competition into oblivion with price and B: The specs are just better. Exynos destroys the Tegra, this is a well known fact now.

        As for Touchwiz, I’ve said this to you before – Touchwiz on the Galaxy S2 outperformed all other Androids purely by hardware and optimization. Its not everyone’s cup of tea – but its performance is clear.

        • Apollo
          Posted 08/05/2012 at 11:31 am | Permalink |

          Correction to myself – Outperformed other androids except the Nexus.

        • Simon Reidy
          Posted 08/05/2012 at 3:11 pm | Permalink |

          I don’t doubt most of what you have to say Apollo. Makes sense. Sounds like you know a lot more about S-AMOLED production than me so I ‘ll take your word for it on the production problems. However, whether you can actually live with a pentile screen happily is a separate matter, and obviously comes down to personal preference.

          I’m sure many people will be more than happy with the pentile screen on the SGS3, but I’m not alone in being let down by it. Peter Rojas (created Engadget back in the day and now runs GDGT) nailed my thoughts exactly:

          “the PenTile display is a turn-off. At this resolution (720p) it’s less of a big deal, and I will certainly wait until I actually play with the S3 before passing final judgment, but I can usually tell the difference in how text is rendered when it comes to PenTile vs. non-PenTile. Most people probably won’t care, but given how much reading I do on my phone it is certainly a factor for me.

          So again it comes down to personal preference. Like Peter I do a lot of reading on my phone, and love ultra-sharp text and accurate colours, so the display quality is by far the most important factor to me. Even at 4.6″ 720p, I can notice the pentile arrangement on the Galaxy Nexus in a lot of situations, particularly with a white background and black text (i.e. the entire Internet ;) ) so I have no reason to think the SGS3 will be any better at 4.8″. I acknowledge the difficulties in delivering a S-AMOLED Plus screen, but its just a shame Samsung couldn’t overcome production issues in time for their flagship phone. Given the previous Galaxy phone was a Plus screen, it wasn’t unreasonable to hope that the new model would be as well.

          As for Touchwiz, we’ll just have to agree to disagree there. Performance issues aside (which certainly shouldn’t be an issue now with Exyons!) I just find it all round ugly and don’t think it adds much to vanilla ice-cream. I’m not a big fan of any skins really, but overall I think Sense 4.0 is nicer to look at and use.

          And as for build quality, well again it sounds like you know more about faulty phones than me. I was referring simply to the case and overall construction quality of the One X . I don’t think anyone could hold the One X and think it feels cheaply made. Its a really big leap forward for HTC in the design department in my opinion. I’m just not a big fan of plastic phones. I’m not 100% sold on your claims about connectivity issues with HTC phones though, as I notice no tangible difference in connectivity, reception or call quality switching between my iPhone 4 and old HTC Desire and I have several friends with various HTC phones who are happy with them. I have far more issues with my Telco’s coverage and congestion, than I do with any hardware connectivity problems of phones I have owned.

          Anyway, good post. I found it interesting. I’m certainly not out to bag the phone. As I said I’m sure many people will love it. It’s just not for me.

          • Posted 08/05/2012 at 3:38 pm | Permalink |

            I guess we agree to disagree here. :)

            In any case, with regards to handsets – finally getting out of my degree (and away from a storefront) and into a Network Engineer’s position with Vodafone / Optus has really changed my opinion of alot of manufacturers.

            HTC specifically, purely because from a network connectivity point of view, they’re far behind their counterparts (whereas Motorola seem to have hit it on the head all the time). Software, personally i wish Samsung would do away with Touchwiz, the Samsung Engineers never hear the end of it from me :) While SenseUI is a pain in the ass, because it does overlay so much – it can become a buggy mess – ala Android 2.3.6 on the Sensation and 2.3.4 on the Salsa.

            Nokia seems to have found a happy medium between premium feel with plastics.

            As a point of note, the Galaxy S3’s feel (from what I hear from my overseas overlords) is that it feels, operates and looks very similar to the Galaxy S2 LTE / 4G. The process of “Hyperglazing” or whatever Samsung’s called it – is used on the S2 LTE.

            Im intruiged as to what it feels like – apparently its “made for humans” . :D

            • Simon Reidy
              Posted 08/05/2012 at 3:51 pm | Permalink |

              lol. You have to love that line. Good to know all their previous phones were made for aliens and robots :)

              In fact Samsung’s entire marketing campaign with all this nature stuff, and their “made for humans’ keynote was just mad. I watched it first thing in the morning and I could have sworn someone slipped some acid into my morning coffee. The short out-of-context advertising snippets were truly bizarre!

              Another thing of note, I hope all these extra software functions Samsung is including don’t delay the SGS3’s Android upgrade path for too long in the future. I think we all know that Samsung have a rather inconsistent history in getting their phones up to date in a timely manner.

              • Posted 08/05/2012 at 4:27 pm | Permalink |

                Yeah, its definitely improved.

                I loved the presentation, it was excellent. They really danced around the iSheep thing, but didnt quite mention it. Probably skirted the line so they could get up Apple’s nose but not enough to anger their legal wranglers.

                What I really want to see, is Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. I think if Windows can get some serious momentum in the desktop space, they’ll really pickup market share – purely from a unified system. I’ll be getting a Samsung W8 Slate come October, ICS on a tablet just isnt quite there yet.




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