There's not much room for doubt that the Samsung Galaxy S III is the most impressive Android smartphone launched this year, and it will surely remain at the top of the heap for months. It's not hard to see its clear advantages over the flagship models from its competitors, as it's more advanced in almost every way.
The European version of this smartphone is built around a quad-core 1.4GHz Exynos 4 processor, which has proved to be faster than NVIDIA's Tegra 3 chip. The U.S. version, on the other hand, will have a dual-core processor.
No matter where this device is released, it will sport a 4.8-inch Super AMOLED screen with HD resolution (which is superior to other HD displays), a huge battery with 2100 mAh, and the Android OS 4.0.4 operating system (Ice Cream Sandwich) backed up by the TouchWiz user interface that's packed with numerous options for gesture management.
Build and Design
No matter what you may have read about this phone based on early impressions, the Galaxy S III is far better in reality than in photos. Its large display is so dominating and distracting, even when turned off, that you simply aren't aware of what the back is made of. That said, the casing is made of a type of plastic material that is exceptionally solid, incredibly resistant to scratches and damage, and particularly light. When holding this handset in hand, you won't have the impression that it weighs 133 grams. Quite the opposite -- it seems lighter.
Its rounded casing edges also make the device's relatively large dimensions - 137 x 71 x 8.6 mm - seem smaller.
One of the more impressive features of the Galaxy S III is its Super AMOLED screen with a 720 x 1280 pixel resolution. This offers a pixel density of 306 ppi on a 4.8-inch diagonal. While its not the maximum we have witnessed on a smartphone, the sharpness, color vividness, contrast, and viewing angle definitely surpass almost all previous devices.
The touchscreen offers an equally pleasant and superior experience than we have seen on Apple's iPhone 4S. It should be noted that Apple's device is 1.3-inches shorter diagonally, which leaves a far different impression in practice. Furthermore, the screen on the Galaxy S III is covered by Gorilla Glass 2 that's mildly convex along the edges. This makes it very pleasant to use, especially when moving your finger left to right across the screen.
Compared to the displays of other phones with a similar size, such as the HTC One X, the Galaxy S III offers a better experience. The best example of this is when flipping through the home screen - a motion that offers a seemingly 3D look. This creates an impression that the screen actually has depth, i.e. a third dimension unlike any other phone. All these advantages can be seen in other situations as well, such as while playing games, viewing photographs, watching videos etc.
The contrast on Samsung's Galaxy S III is very naturally set up; the usage matrix on this device is such that it enables good visibility, regardless of the viewing angle.
Still, a loss of contrast is noticed once the phone is directly exposed to sunlight - this loss is not as bad as on some other devices with Android OS, but is a bit greater than on the iPhone 4S. In this situation, the design of the Android and TouchWiz user interface is a shortcoming, as iOS and Windows Phone offer an exceptionally contrasting user interface that makes them easier to use in direct sunlight. This can be partially solved by choosing exceptionally dark wallpaper, at least for working with the desktop.
Other Design Elements
The power key on this smartphone is conveniently situated on the right edge of the phone, which means that snapping the phone from stand-by can be done with just one hand, without the need to move it a centimeter up or down, as the case was with its predecessor, the Galaxy S II.
Apart from the power button on the right edge, the Galaxy S III has a volume control switch on the left side and a recognizable physical key in the center of the device, just below the display; this is used as the home key. Next to it are two capacitive keys for activating the menus on the left-hand side and the back key on the right. These are all the keys this device includes. There's no seperate camera key.
The bottom of the phone features a tiny microphone and a micro-USB slot which is also used for connecting the device with HDTV via MHL technology. The upper edge includes an additional microphone for video calls and a standard audio output port, while the back features an 8 megapixel camera, an LED flash and a speaker.
The cover which overlays the entire back side hides a battery which can be taken out, a microSD memory card slot and microSIM card slot. Using the microSIM slot, Samsung joined HTC and Nokia which did the same with their top models, facilitating the migration of iPhone owners to these rival handsets.
After the display, the second most impressive feature of the Samsung Galaxy S III is its speed, which Samsung's Exynos 4 Quad core processor is credited for, along with the Mali-400M graphic processor. Unlike the Tegra 3, which NVIDIA optimized for Ice Cream Sandwich, the slightly newer Exynos 4 Quad has been optimized for HD displays, large batteries and the TouchWiz UI that craves power. This is how Samsung has managed to top the competition in this regard, thanks to the fact that it manufactures all of the above elements themselves.
The Galaxy S III is almost miraculously fast. While the quad-core HTC One X is just as fast, as is the dual-core HTC One S, there are situations when these device start glitching and 'choking' (scrolling and zooming in on Flash-heavy web sites). This is not the case with Samsung's latest flagship model.
Samsung's Galaxy S III is the first smartphone with Android OS which does not lag while performing these functions and is perfectly smooth, fast and precise, scrolling along the site, zooming in or out as much as the user desires. This is the case only on the iPhone as well. However, the iPhone does not include Flash support, which makes a drastic difference.
This is not where the demonstration of Samsung's chipset ends. In a true multitasking process, it is possible to open a special window which will play video, while still using the device to perform any other task below this window, without it glitching and lagging behind. The second, parallel task can be zooming in and scrolling web sites which include demanding objects for the processor, like Flash animations.
Everything is fast -- loading large games, playing videos, flipping forward while watching videos, loading demanding applications, applying filters in photo-editing applications, and booting the device.
All this is confirmed by benchmarks: SunSpider gave Samsung Galaxy S III 1441, HTC One X (quad-core with Tegra 3) 1752 and HTC One S 1729 (less is better). BrowserMark showed that Galaxy S III is almost unbeatable with the score of 169680. According to this test, HTC One X (quad-core) had the score 96912, HTC One S 98522 and Samsung Galaxy S II 104439 (more is better). Finally, AnTuTu Benchmark gave Galaxy S III 11262, while HTC One X (quad-core) had 10850, HTC One S 7201 and Galaxy S II 5903 (more is better).
It seems that Samsung put a great deal of effort into creating a more friendly user interface, in order to bring the smartphone closer to those who have not used it yet. S Voice draws the most attention; this is a system for intelligent speech recognition which is almost an identical copy of Apple's Siri.
When comparing S Voice or Siri, depending on the question you ask, sometimes the answer comes more quickly on one device than the other. Still, the answers are the same in 90% of the cases because both systems rely on the same or similar engines (Wolfram Alpha, Wikipedia etc.). There is one difference between S Voice and Siri -- S Voice understands several languages, while Siri works only in English.
As far as your Contacts, it is possible to set up the phone to vibrate differently for certain ones in the address book, and the Direct Call option automatically dials an open contact when the phone is brought close to the ear. The same is true when reading a text message or a MMS - just put the phone to your ear to start a call to the sender of the text. Furthermore, when the inbox is being viewed, a finger movement to the left will start a new message to the selected contact.
Four icons can be set up on the lock screen with the matching applications being automatically started when the phone is turned on or if they are pulled towards the centre of the display.
Many other practical features have been added in most of the applications that come with the device, from those intended for viewing the photo gallery and videos, the music player, the status panel and working with home and lock screens to the camera application.
Although the rear-facing camera is technically identical to the one on its predecessor, the Galaxy S II, the camera application has had many alterations and, in the end, the Galaxy S III creates evidently better images and especially better videos that can be recorded in Full HD resolution.
The camera is turned on in approximately 0.9 seconds, which is fast, but not the fastest (it takes 0.7 seconds on HTC One X), enabling the user to take photographs and record videos at the same time. The photographs are very sharp, vivid, realistic and, above all, have correctly saturated colors, unlike HTC One X's which seem too artificial. The same thing goes for recording videos; Samsung has surpassed the best competitors in this segment as well.
The 2100 mAh battery solidly deals with the demanding display, demanding chipset and the demanding software. After just several charges, once it reaches its full capacity, it enables two days of common performance, or a day and a half of above average usage with Wi-Fi, 3G and GPS antennas on.
Even though the battery capacity is significantly greater than what is average for top models, in real-world use, it is just slightly better than average. It could be worse though; after the device was launched in London, it was expected that its battery life would be a problem, just like with iPhone 4S.
Once all impressions regarding the Samsung Galaxy S III are gathered, the list of pros is much longer than the cons. One can conclude, quite soon after trying this device, that this is the best smartphone on the market now. It has raised the bar for the competition and the only competition Samsung can expect this year is from the iPhone 5.
On the other hand, the Galaxy S III has minute shortcomings, like the fact that it is not that photogenic, it does not have a special camera key, and that it has too many gestures for the user to learn in order to use it with more ease. Still, these are so negligible that they almost contribute to its charm. This is why this smartphone is a great blow to the HTC One X, as well as a great challenge for the next Apple iPhone.