Samsung is top dog in the mobile world at the moment, and this, in part, is down to the success of the last couple of the Galaxy handsets, most notably the S2.
Well, today we get to see the fruits of their labour as they have finally unveiled the third iteration. Has Samsung tried to out-do the competition in the specs-race? Or have they re-invented the wheel? Neither.
At 4.8-inches it’s a whopper (that’s the technical term) while it’s substantially bigger than its previous iteration. It has a screen that’s 22% bigger than the last, but Samsung has managed to keep the overall size only 16% bigger – that’s what we call progress.
Samsung hasn’t put anything in the S3 that’s going to surprise you, but it’s good to see that they have realised specs will only get you so far in the super competitive mobile market. So don’t expect to see a 49 megapixel camera or a screen that’s on par with 4D. This phone is more of a gentle evolution rather than a man-on-the-moon moment.
Instead, Samsung seems to have honed the recipe over the last 12 months and clearly has spent a lot time with its new bed-mate: Android 4.0, as it comes with some much-needed features and tweaks that sets it apart from the general Android riff-raff.
The specs race
Let’s get the hardware stuff out the way first. The S3 comes with a goliath of a screen: 4.8-inches. The screen is packing Sammy’s favourite screen tech AMOLED, the resolution is what many had expected: 1280×720. That works out as 306ppi, naysayers will testify that’s not as good as the iPhone’s, but what you’re getting is a screen on par, but is far bigger, so that’s a win for Samsung in our book.
On the front of the phone, apart from the screen, is a camera that boasts a rather paltry 1.9 megapixels. But those of you who know their sensors from their megapixels will know that’s half the story. The rear camera comes in at a impressive 8 megapixels and is capable of shooting video in 1080p. We’ll call this round a draw.
The brains behind the looks come in the form of a new 1.4Ghz Exynos 4 Cortex-A9 quad-core processor – capable of sending several men to the moon several times over. The phone comes in a variety of storage flavours: 16, 32, or 64GB of storage and (take note HTC) you can supplement this with SD-card storage up to 64GB.
For those of you who live in the future (or US, Japan and Korea) the S3 will come with LTE 4G compatibility. They’ve made room for a host of technologies including accelerometers, RGB light, digital compass, proximity sensors, gyroscope, NFC and a barometer.
All of this tech-goodness has been crammed into a handset that weighs 133 grams, measures 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6mm, and houses a 2100mAh battery; Samsung’s first smartphone with a battery that size.
There are two colours option on offer, the first has been dubbed “marble white” and other is “pebble blue”.
Where Samsung have spent a lot time is fiddling with the software. You can expect an Android 4.0 experience like no other. Some of the notable ones are Smart Stay; this uses the forward-facing camera to determine if you’re looking at the phone, if you are the screens brightness will remain the same, if it determines you’re not it will dim the screen. It might not sound like much but we think that it will save you plenty on battery life, which is a godsend.
Direct Call is another clever piece of software that will auto-dial a contact if you are on a contact message or contact details when you move the phone to your ear. Another clever touch comes in the form of Smart Alert, this will make the phone vibrate in your hand and flash an LED when you pick up the phone after you have missed a call.
S Voice is a Samsung‘s attempt to improve up Apple’s mild-mannered voice assistant Siri. While Sammy’s efforts haven’t been given a proper name, you’ll be able to enquire about the weather; take a photo or a myriad of other functions via voice that you can configured with your own commands.
PopUp Play, will literally pop a video out of its player, rendering it in a small thumbnail so you can continue watching while surfing the web or doing other functions on the phone. The thumbnail is movable around the display, even if it’s pretty small.
From our early impressions the camera on the S3 is going to be best-in-class. There’s virtually no lag between when you press the button and the shot being taken. They’ve added a new function called Burst Shot/Best Photo, it takes 20 shots in quick succession and then recommends the best photo. It will suggest the photo where everyone’s eyes are open or the one with the best lighting. If you disagree you can of course override its decision.
Face Zoom recognises individual faces in view, allowing you to tap the face and zoom in, taking a photo of single person. Like the HTC you can select photos from videos you’ve shot, which is hardly a revelation in our book.
If there are any criticisms of the new s3, it will be that it still relies too heavily on cheap plastics, it still doesn’t have that premium feel of say, the new HTC’s or iPhone.
While we wait for a proper review unit we can only speculate on what this phone is going to be like in our hands. It’s heavier that the S2, so should mean it has a more solid feel to it. But we can’t help but think if this is the best phone on the market why is it predominantly made of plastic, and cheap plastics at that. Surely for the price you’re likely to pay you’d want it made out of kryptonite or, at least, metal.
The S3 will be hitting shelves in Europe by the end of May and will be rolled out worldwide over the summer. Your move Apple.