news Korean electronics giant Samsung this morning confirmed its highly anticipated Galaxy S III handset would launch today through all of Australia’s major mobile carriers, but without a version supporting Telstra’s next-generation 4G mobile network, which is the fastest and least congested mobile network in Australia.
Along with HTC’s One line, Nokia’s Lumia 900 phone and the next version of Apple’s iPhone, the Galaxy S III is viewed as one of the most hotly anticipated phones of this year in Australia. The phone is Samsung’s successor to the Galaxy S II model which continues to be one of the most popular smartphones sold in Australia.
However, although Telstra currently stocks a 4G version of the Galaxy S II, no version of the Galaxy S III was confirmed by Samsung this morning, as the company revealed the local availability of the handset. Telstra has a well-established 4G network covering the CBDs of capital cities throughout Australia, as well as a number of other areas, and Optus is also developing its 4G network in Newcastle, with a view to rolling out the infrastructure around Australia over the next several years. Both are using the 1800MHz spectrum to do so.
The current 4G handsets available through Telstra — notably the HTC Velocity 4G and the Samsung Galaxy S II 4G — are largely seen as re-workings of existing handset offerings in Australia rather than examples of the next-generation of handsets available internationally. In the past several weeks Telstra has confirmed several new 4G handsets, but one of them runs the relatively unpopular Windows Phone 7 operating system, meaning those looking for a high-end smartphone on the telco’s 4G network will be in practice limited to the HTC One XL for now.
Gizmodo has reported from the launch event this morning that Samsung said it was “in discussions” with Telstra regarding a 4G version, which it will “follow with in the future”.
Despite this limitation, there was plenty of good news for would-be Galaxy S III buyers from Samsung’s Australian launch this morning. The handset went on sale locally this morning from 10:30AM from every major mobile carrier in Australia. “The Samsung GALAXY S III is available now at $899 RRP outright for the 16GB device from all operators and is also available on plans,” Samsung said in a statement this morning.
Telstra is currently stocking the ‘Marble White’ version of the smartphone, with customers being able to buy the handset online or from a selection of its major capital city CBD stores. The handset will be available more broadly across Telstra’s network from tomorrow.
The device is available on Telstra’s $79 monthly plan with a $3 handset repayment cost, or on its $59 plan with a $13 monthly handset repayment cost. Business customers can pick up the device for $17 per month on the $59 Business Mobile Maximiser plan from Telstra. All of these deals assume customers are using Telstra’s so-called ‘MRO’ bonus. Vodafone is offering the phone on a range of plans, from $29 to $99 a month, with the phone coming for free on plans worth $79 or above, and costing between $20 and $5 per month for handset repayment on its other plans. The company has offered customers double the usual data quota inclusions if they sign up for its plans with the handset.
Ross Parker, General Manager of Devices and Pricing, Vodafone said: “Our customers have an almost insatiable appetite for mobile internet and entertainment, and there’s a very simple rule we use to size our data inclusions: the faster and more intuitive the phone, the more our customers will use it, so we’re doubling our usual data inclusions specifically for the Samsung Galaxy S III for the first year on select 24 month mobile plans on Vodafone.”
Optus is selling the handset on plans ranging from $50 to $99 per month, with handset repayment being zero on its $80 and $99 monthly plans, and costing an additional $5 and $12 on its $60 and $50 monthly plans respectively. The company is offering customers an introductory offer of two months’ worth of free access fees for the Galaxy S III launch. And even Optus subsidiary Virgin Mobile has gotten into the act, with the company offering the smartphone on a range of plans from $29 to $89 per month, with handset repayment costs of between zero (on its $89 plan) and $20 for its $29 plan.
Like HTC’s One line-up, the Galaxy S III runs the latest version of Google’s Android platform (Ice Cream Sandwich). Its screen resolution is very sharp at 1280×720 in a 4.8″ size, and is based on Super AMOLED technology. The phone comes 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.
To my mind the lack of a 4G version of the Galaxy S III in Australia so far makes the phone much less desirable than it would have been otherwise.
If you compare the Galaxy S III to the HTC One XL, there are a great deal of similarities between the models. Similar screen sizes, similar processing power, very similar operating systems, similar features in general. But the HTC One XL has a huge additional advantage over the Galaxy S III — it runs on Telstra’s 4G mobile network, as well as being able to roam onto the telco’s normal 3G network when necessary.
Telstra’s 4G network just hit 1,000 base stations around Australia. When you consider that most people buy mobile phones on a two year plan and the speed of Telstra’s 4G rollout, what this means is that in a year or so, a huge slice of Australia will be covered by its 4G towers — and new Galaxy S III buyers will only be halfway through their contract.
To my mind, the Galaxy SIII is a fantastic phone — one of the best Android smartphone available in Australia right now, and one of the best phones of any ilk. But when you consider the fact that it’s lacking the 4G speeds which the HTC One XL has — and which I’m sure the next iPhone will also have, when it launches in Australia later this year (if Apple keeps to its schedule) it’s allure looks a little faded. In six months, when many, many Australians have 4G available on their smartphones, will you still be looking at your 3G Galaxy S III and thinking it’s the top of the market? Not really. My advice is to wait for a 4G version of the phone — or the HTC One XL, if you want a top-end Android smartphone right now that can do 4G.
Image credit: Samsung