The Good The Samsung Galaxy S3 comes fully loaded with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, 4G LTE/HSPA+ 42 capability, a zippy dual-core processor, and a strong 8-megapixel camera. S Beam is an excellent software enhancement, and the handset’s price is right.
The Bad The Galaxy S3’s screen is too dim and Samsung Siri’s competitor, S Voice, is disappointed.
The Bottom Line Equipped with high-end hardware and creative software features, the Samsung Galaxy S3 is a superb, high-end phone with the HTC One X neck and neck.
With the Samsung Galaxy S III (S3), Samsung has done it again. For the third consecutive year, its flagship Galaxy phone is a tidy package of top-flight specs, approachable design, steady performance, and compelling pricing. Starting its U.S. sales debut with five carriers — Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular — makes this smartphone nearly ubiquitous. Samsung’s aggressive distribution strategy gives it a leg up against its chief Android rival, the HTC One X, but it fails to sweep HTC’s finest, and Apple fans will scoff at Samsung’s imitation Siri.
This does not mean that the Galaxy S III (henceforth also known as the GS3) makes no impression. Outside, it has a large bright HD display; Android 4.0 ice cream sandwich; sharp 8 megapixel camera; 4G LTE or HSPA + support; dual core zippy processor; and tons of internal storage and 2GB of RAM. The $ 199.99 price tag for the 16GB version is very competitive and, along with the distribution of its carriers, makes the GS3 a sale price.
Some have pushed Samsung for formulated features and design, and to some extent the critics are correct. Samsung does not set hardware standards with new works, and add-ons to the GS3 software, while interesting and useful, largely create existing Android capabilities. Even though Samsung has continued to release stronger follow-up models than its first Galaxy Galaxy S. Its first is why the Galaxy S II is for sale more than 50 million units worldwide and why GS3 pre-sales beat American records . Samsung has clearly developed the formula to make high-end features familiar, expected and easily accessible – as well as the excellent Galaxy S3, as it shows.
Up close and personal with the Samsung Galaxy S3 (pictures)
Prices and availability
Usually I don’t start the survey with price information, but in this case it’s worth a bird’s eye view which carrier offers what capacity of each color, when and for how much.
AT&T Samsung Galaxy S III ($199.99): 4G LTE in 39 markets; simultaneous voice and data; 16GB model available in blue, white, and (later this summer, and exclusive to AT&T) red
Samsung Galaxy S III Sprint (16GB, $ 199.99; 32GB, $ 249): 3G now, 4G LTE when Sprint launches its LTE network; Google Wallet, unlimited data; Available in 16GB (blue, white) and 32GB (blue, white) models
T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S III (16GB, $ 229.99, $ 279.99 [Value Plan]; 32GB, $ 279.99, 329.99 [Classic Plan]): HSPA + 42; simultaneous voice and data; Available in 16GB (blue, white) and 32GB (blue, white) models
Samsung Galaxy S III (16GB & 32GB, TBD) Cell Phone: 4G LTE in 6 markets, 3G elsewhere; suitable for carrier items; Available in 16GB (blue, white) and 32GB (white) models
Verizon Samsung Galaxy S III (16GB, $ 199.99; 32GB, $ 249): 4G LTE, 258 markets; possible global data roaming, voice / data; Available in 16GB (blue, white) and 32GB (blue, white) models
This is a review of the 16GB GS3 T-Mobile version in pebble blue.
It will not please you with neon colors or cause industrial design; it doesn’t have the sharpest screen on the market; and its case is not made of ceramics, glass or glass micro-arc oxidized aluminum . However, the Galaxy S3 is about the nicest plastic phone I’ve ever seen. Probably tired of hearing about how cheap Samsung phones can be, the company decided to focus on making the outlines more premium – without giving up its lightweight, inexpensive and destructive material of choice.
Peer closely at the phone (it comes in ceramic white, pebble blue, and later a red shade exclusive to AT&T) and you’ll see that Samsung has rounded the edges and corners to attain smooth spines and trim pieces all around. The phone designers also intentionally arranged the backing to give the phone more of a unibody feel.
Samsung does not shy away from high gloss and shine in either white or blue models, and it still works. The pebble-blue variety has lighter blue thorns than its steel gray-blue backings, and I like the brushed metal grain for its uncompromising plastic finish. Plus, the phone felt good in my hand every time I took it since CTIA. It is sleek and tangy and seems to warm to the touch, giving it the feeling that it fits your grip. Although smooth, the GS3 is not slippery, and although quite light (4.7 ounces, simply compared to the One X), it does not feel that it lacks the battery or other necessary components. Highly reflective surfaces of the phone are a major drawback of the design.
In terms of size, the GS3 is a great device. At 5.4 inches tall and 2.8 inches wide, it is slightly larger and thicker than Samsung Galaxy Nexus . Samsung seems to enjoy pushing the envelope when it comes to creating smartphone displays that border on minimal territory (the 5.3-inch Galaxy Note even became a cult hit, with around 7 million worldwide sales). contour sides and glossy finish complement this handy handle.
My hands are small enough so I put my phone around to see what others think, regardless of their personal phone choices. Most found the GS3 great at first, but warmed it up when they played. Those with smaller hands than mine usually find it too big. Almost all of them commented on the low weight. My colleagues also tucked the GS3 into the front, back, pocket shirts and pockets; everyone found a way they said they would transfer it (which actually only proves that CNET editors are an ingenious link.)
Above the screen are proximity and ambient light sensors, an LED indicator and a 1.9-megapixel front camera. Below is the physical home button Samsung has kept in this handset, unlike the typical soft-touch navigation buttons we often see on Android phones. Generally, I can climb this button, but the GS3 is a little more comfortable in its cut and narrow shape than if it were a larger rectangle or square. This button is a back button and a menu key that disappears after a few seconds of use. Interestingly, Samsung kept its menu button, not the typical tab of the latest ice cream programs. You can view the latest programs by clicking the Home button.
On the right side of the spine is a power button and on the left you will find a volume swing. You will charge with the Micro-USB power button at the bottom and listen to audio through the 3.5mm headphone jack at the top. The 8-megapixel camera and flash lens are located on the back, with a microSD card slot and a near-field battery (NFC) behind the back cover. The Galaxy S III accepts a Micro-SIM card.
All about the screen: As for the screen size, the Galaxy S III 4.8-inch HD AMOLED display (1,280×720 pixels) fits right in between the Galaxy Nexus (4.65 inches) and the Galaxy Note (5.3 inches), both of which lift on their property. This is almost identical to the HTC One X (4.7 inches). How much you like the size depends on your preference for large screen phones. If you like them on the smaller side, you will find it excessive. If you like to have more real estate on screen for reading and watching videos, you are more likely to approve.
Samsung’s new flagship phone is one of the first Corning phones to use Gorilla Glass 2 , a thinner, lighter and more responsive glass coating material, which, as both companies say, allows colors to shine brighter. I clearly noticed the sensitivity of the screen; sometimes I barely had to clean the display for an answer. The colors looked bright and vibrant with the phone in the dark, but it slid to full brightness and the screen sometimes seemed dark, especially when compared to other full-throttle phones.
As with typical AMOLED displays, the GS3 overdoes it with greenery that stands out more than on phones with LCD screens or when viewing photos of yourself. I uploaded high resolution images with different contrasts and colors on five phones, also with peak brightness of GS3, Galaxy Nexus , Galaxy Note, iPhone 4S and HTC One X. The Galaxy Note’s resolution was slightly weaker than the other four due to its lower pixel density. The GS3 showed a much dimmer picture than the Galaxy Nexus. The colors on the HTC One X and iPhone 4S were brighter and looked truer to life. The blacks looked darker on the AMOLED Nexus screen, but the images on the One X and iPhone 4S had much more detail on which both use flat-panel LCDs (IPS.). some image features look better on the iPhone and some look better on the One X.
Samsung Galaxy S III Samsung unlock is always on by Molly Wood01:29Replay videoLarge play-pause toggle Samsung’s Galaxy S III Unboxing at Always On AutoplayOnOff 00:00 01:29 Settings
Don’t get me wrong – the GS3’s screen is still beautiful when you’re not looking at it next to another screen, but the comparative darkness of the image is a little disappointing, and this was especially noticeable in my sunny day photography and video. Part of the problem of screen dimming is that some applications, such as the browser, were is actually less bright by default. Even when I changed the system settings to full blast, the browser remained dimmer until I changed its individual brightness settings. Generally, I appreciate the Samsung Energy Saving checks and balances, but checking the settings throughout the phone was confusing.
Interface and OS
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich looks great on the GS3, especially since Samsung used a lighter hand with its TouchWiz interface than in previous versions. With that in mind, Samsung has not fully embraced all of Google’s visual cues, such as the ICS menu (I personally miss this touch interface.) With TouchWiz, Samsung can add things like gestures and access control systems to the drop-down notification menu. There are also unique add-ons to which Samsung has applied Android Beam .
Not every GS3 custom add-on is important, and some, like sharing content through AllShare Play and GroupCast, are overly complicated to set up and use. Although Samsung deserves a kudos for brainstorming and embodying these features, customers will care more about overall camera performance than the ability to tag friends in photos.
S Beam: Built on the Android Beam Ice Cream Sandwich version, the Samsung S-Beam only has NFC and Wi-Fi Direct to “take” larger photos, videos and documents, in addition to Android Beam’s URL sharing capabilities, maps and contact information. Behind, NFC initiates a handshake, and Wi-Fi Direct takes on larger files. The combination may not be innovative, but Samsung deserves credit for packing it for one seamless action. As with Beam, you don’t have to do more than push the back of the phones together, confirm the beam, and pull out the phones. The larger the file, the longer the transmission magic takes.
S Beam worked flawlessly every time I tried it. Samsung really gets the top five for this addition, which goes beyond simple wit and actual utility.
S Voice: And then there’s S Voice. Samsung’s response to Apple’s Siri, S Voice is a personal assistant that embeds Android’s built-in voice actions into a more personal format that Apple has promoted with Siri. Vlingo uses S Voice on the listening and interpretation front (Siri uses Nuance) and sends responses from databases like Wolfram Alpha. You start S Voice by double clicking on the home button, and you can wake up S Voice between teams by saying, “Hello, Galaxy” (this does not necessarily drain the battery faster.)
S Voice can launch applications and turn-by-turn navigation; go into driving mode; voice dialing; tweet; get the weather; make a note; search for contacts; and schedule tasks. It can also take photos, receive and answer calls, search the Internet, adjust volume, send e-mail and text messages, record voices, and launch a built-in music player. It’s also related to Android 4.0 screen lock, so you can use your voice to unlock your phone. As a bonus, you can program four of your own voice commands to open the camera, record your voice, and check for missed calls and messages.
S Voice sounds great in theory, but it didn’t work well. Sometimes it didn’t work at all. Throughout my testing, I used S Voice extensively, asking my phone to do a full range of tasks. Sometimes she delivered what I wanted immediately, such as directions to drive or turn Wi-Fi on and off. In other cases, he had to stuff cotton into his digital ears and repeatedly dress or go over what I wanted. My favorite was when he knew exactly what I was saying, repeated my command (except for the text you can choose voice feedback), and then did nothing. There was also a time when S Voice stopped while removing the alarm, then ignored my further request to finish first.
In general, S Voice is tougher than Siri in terms of syntax, and the software takes some time to process. If I’m not driving or otherwise freehand, it seems to me that it’s faster and less frustrating to set your own alarm or turn on traffic directions before engaging in inflammation. Siri also has a fair bit of slowness and interpretation, but it still performs more consistently in my tests. Follow a more detailed comparison with Siri, and in the meantime, check out our CNET UK editor’s test, in which S Voice clearly only won one of 15 voice test scenarios , a poor indicator that makes S Voice seem more like a beta product than a Siri replacement. I will update this review with a similar analysis.
Sharing software: Multimedia sharing is the focus of the Galaxy S3 with the four main ways of sharing your stuff with different tools, such as DLNA and Wi-Fi Direct.
AllShare Play uses DLNA to share media on your Samsung TVs, tablets, and phones, so you can play videos made on your phone, on your TV, and perform actions such as volume control on your handset. The web repository element gives you access to content on other devices by clicking on a third party SugarSync.
GroupCast , which you can use as a presentation service, is used by AllShare Play. It takes seven steps (including password and PIN) to set up sharing, but once you do, you can share the folder – like slides or photos – on all the phones you invite to GroupCast. Any device can control screens and comment on pen strokes that disappear after a few seconds. Samsung should let the GroupCast leader lock it in place.
Buddy Photo Share is a neat additional feature in the camera that can email or send a message to a photo you just took to the person you noticed in it. The photos are displayed in the “received” folder in the recipient’s gallery.
ShareShot is a camera mode that uses Wi-Fi Direct in the background to automatically send photos to your friends when you take them, rather than email them after the fact. Several people can contract – if they are about 100 yards, about the length of the football field. Photos also appear in the gallery. When you switch shooting modes, you lose ShareShot.
My problem with these tools is that some of them have a non-intuitive and uncommon user experience. It’s not always obvious how to get to the feature, how to subscribe to others, and how to find your shared content later.
Samsung Galaxy S3 torture test is always on by Molly Wood09:35Replay videoLarge play-pause toggle Samsung Galaxy S3 … AutoplayOnOff 00:00 09:35 Settings
The Android ice cream sandwich phone is full, the GS3 is fully loaded with all the goodies of Google and then some. There are Google applications and services, such as Gmail, turn-by-turn voice maps, music player, and YouTube. Wi-Fi, GPS, Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth 4.0 are other communication features along with NFC (allowing you to work TecTiles and Google Wallet.)
Although you only have one keyboard option – Samsung – you can get Swype-like behavior with T9 Trace, which is enabled by default. It seems to have the same highs and lows, depending on your input style. You can also download Swype separately.
Gestures have always been one way to distinguish Samsung, and for fans of motion control GS3 – as never before. Most are off by default, and if you want them you need to hunt with different settings (most of them are in the “Traffic Settings” submenu). Some notes include flipping the phone to mute the call, lifting the phone to your face when sending SMS messages. instead, initiate a call and tap the lock screen, rotating the phone 90 degrees to open the camera (the last nice touch is not difficult, but to be honest, the camera hardware button just seems easier).
Another neat Samsung setting is SmartStay, a program that periodically scans your students from the front camera. If it “sees” you are watching, it does not obscure the screen, which is useful when reading, watching the media or studying the map. It works at intervals before the screen timeout begins. I also like the ability to customize which icons go on the GS3 lock screen. You can choose from favorites such as dialing, messaging, camera and maps.
The T-Mobile GS3 comes with many pre-loaded applications. First, Samsung applications. It comes with the aforementioned AllShare Play, Kies Air to share Wi-Fi across devices, games, music, and media hubs and additional Samsung applications. There is also a ChatOn chat application, S Memo and S Suggest (application collection).
T-Mobile-appointed apps include Access T-Mobile (a shortcut to your online account), T-Mobile Name ID, T-MobileTV, T-Mobile hot spot, and the visual voice mail service. You’ll also see Flipboard, Messenger+, and the calendar, calculator, and clock, in addition to Dropbox. T-Mobile’s GS3 extends Samsung’s Dropbox offer, which extends 50GB free online storage for two years (AT&T and Verizon apparently declined).
Camera and video: Samsung has used some great 8MP cameras in Samsung Galaxy S II phones and I am pleased to announce that this 8MP camera lens with backlight sensor and LED flash is worthy of a flagship phone. The GS3 has many software applications that I will get to, but before playing with the modes and effects, I wanted to see how well the camera works in automatic settings.
For the most part, the photos are mostly sharp edges and lots of colors. The camera didn’t work out well – there were problems with white balance on indoor shots, and shadows on outdoor shots, as well as photos of landscapes were more attentive than close-ups. As advertised, the GS3 has virtually zero shutter lag; in fact, she processed hair photos faster than One X.
I compared about 20 shots indoors, outdoors, day and night, taken with the GS3, One X and iPhone 4S, phones that CNET praised for their great smartphone cameras (you’ll find 10 images each camera shoot-out .) I took the same pictures from the same positions, focused on the same sections, and resized and cropped the photos equally. The results were a toss-up; no phone camera usually outperformed the others in close-ups, full blown images, color temperature and focus, but I managed to get great shots with all three. In some photos, the GS3’s colors were brighter, clearer and more balanced. In other photos, One X best captures shadows, colors and definitions; and others, as before, the iPhone 4S beat the other two.
(You can compare standard studio shots in this smartphone photo gallery.)
Additional features of Samsung software are also useful and easy to use. There is face marking when the software recognizes the face, and the HDR (which is already in the iPhone 4S and One X) appears on the screen. Shooting mode is also new to the GS3. You can shoot 20 frames fast, or turn on Best Shot to choose from eight shots. The software looks for logic, like open eyes and sickle-nosed smiles, offering your favorite. There is also a new cartoon mode and the aforementioned ShareShot and Buddy photo sharing modes. I really like Samsung’s efforts to deeply integrate the camera with the address book, trying to make photo sharing even more seamless.
By tagging and sharing away (which, in my opinion, is cool and useful enough), I have to give the One X a nod for a smoother camera experience overall. The editing and switching tools between gallery and camera were more evident on One X.
The photo quality from the front camera was also good enough for video chats and snapshots, but of course it didn’t compare to the rear camera.
The Galaxy S3 comes in 16GB and 32GB versions and can hold up to 64GB in external storage.
Video: The quality of the video was very strong: the sound was loud and clear, the colors were clear, and the streaming and recorded video played smoothly, without any jerks. The same goes for downloaded videos, though a brighter screen would be useful at times, especially when playing dark films such as Sherlock Holmes.
There is a small feature related to video that is nevertheless impressive. When you start a video from a gallery, you can upload it to a floating thumbnail. You can then drag this thumbnail across the screen by performing other actions, such as answering text. The video quality is good
(720p in fact), and the videos choose where they left off. I’m still waiting to find a natural impetus to use it though.
Putting the Samsung Galaxy S III video camera to the test by Jessica Dolcourt01:01Replay videoLarge play-pause toggle Samsung Galaxy S3 Torture Test at Always On AutoplayOnOff 00:00 09:35 Settings
Did you know that you can make videos on a 1.9 megapixel front-facing camera and play it back as HD 720p? The video quality was better than expected, but maybe a little too close for comfort. Shooting this way will easily allow you to set up solo videographers and check out the scene while shooting.
Call quality: I’ve tested the Samsung Galaxy S3 on the T-Mobile network in San Francisco and elsewhere in the Bay Area. A quad band GSM phone (850/900/1800/1900 MHz), the GS3 also supports HSPA + 42, the fastest T-Mobile network, which can theoretically reach a download speed of 42 Mbps. The calls sounded pretty good on the phone. The background was quite clear, but the voices at the other end of the line sounded a little gloomy, and the volume, while perfect at maximum volume or just below, in a mostly quiet office location, was too soft in louder environments like windy streets San Francisco.
Fortunately, the phone comes with many listening settings, like the equalizer during a call, and an on-screen volume knob that can be pressed to dramatically increase the volume. This button erased my volume complaints. I also noticed that while the voices sounded mostly natural, when I was listening hard, it was as if my subscriber had a digital spine.
My main test call companion, who listened to the landline during repeated test calls from one another, said I sounded empty and rude, also sounded. On the bright side, I was pleasantly vocal, otherwise I sounded quite natural and even, whispering or screaming. Clarity of calls was another important point.
Samsung Galaxy S3 call quality sampleListen now:
Always a problematic loudspeaker feature has been a winner on the GS3 as far as these things go. From my end the voices sounded a little thicker, but still nice and clear. The volume was high, so I dialed it to the maximum. The worst feature was the hum that I felt every time my test partner spoke, even when the volume of the phone was low. At the other end of the line, my test partner noted a normal level of echo from the surrounding area. He said I sounded almost the same as I did in standard mode, but maybe a little more surprised.
Data speeds: The HSPA + 42 4G T-Mobile network has proven itself GS3 here in sadly demanding San Francisco. I have been using the Speedtest.net diagnostic program in various Bay cities for several days. Most of the time I managed to get fairly steady speeds from 8.5Mbps to a peak of 16.58Mbps. There were also several gutters; the worst was just 0.84 Mbps, but for the most part I got into the 9 Mbps range up to 13 Mbps. Download speeds have never risen above 1.54 Mbps. In real life, I was able to quickly upload and upload videos, download webpages, and more. For example, I downloaded Sherlock Holmes: The Game of Shadows through the 4G T-Mobile network. It took 6 minutes and 11 seconds to download the movie, which takes 147 minutes.
Data performance on the GS3 will vary by carrier. AT&T and Verizon both have 4G LTE, T-Mobile has its HSPA+, Sprint’s version will ride 3G, and U.S. Cellular has a nascent, limited LTE network. I’d expect Verizon and AT&T’s network speed to surpass T-Mobile’s, which was still swift. One thing I should point out is that Qualcomm uses a slight variation of its processor in T-Mobile’s GS3; the MSM8260A version (the same found in T-Mobile’s HTC One S ) does not have LTE radio but is configured for HSPA +.
Internal performance and battery: Like the HTC One X, the Galaxy S3 has a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, which Qualcomm boasts is the fastest ever. For the most part, I had little complaints about GS3’s internal performance. However, I noticed that it takes a little longer than I thought it would take to switch tasks and open phone apps. Of course, when I kept my phones close, HTC One X usually opened and closed things faster: camera, Gmail, settings, maps, gallery, and more. The phones were unlocked at about the same speed.
The GS3 has a 2100 mAh battery, which is large but not typical of such a large phone (Note, for example, 2500 mAh.) I ruthlessly tested the GS3, with the screen at full brightness for an extended period of time, with frequent downloads and streams and lots of activity S Voice. Therefore, while I will need to continue to test the battery during “normal” circumstances, I understand that battery life can last up to a considerable amount of time. However, you should expect to recharge your phone daily, as it would with most other smartphones.
For all of its battery-consuming features, the GS3 also includes power-saving options in various settings throughout the phone – check the main settings and submenu menus as well as the application’s settings menu to determine ways to reduce.
Due to its combination of form and function, the Samsung Galaxy S3 differs in its location and price tag. However, by many measures, the Galaxy S III is not the best Android phone on the market. The HTC One X has a brighter, more detailed screen, stiffer build quality, and extra features like Beats Audio that work all the time. In addition, Samsung’s Samsung Voice has repeatedly failed to understand and accomplish tasks, both in the US and in the UK. On the other hand, the GS3 has a great camera, expandable storage (which the One X doesn’t have), and doubles the RAM. Sharing the S-beam with WiFi Direct is a huge blow, and Samsung has improved its camera software. Without any X in the photo, the GS3 would be the undisputed king of Android.
And here looms ghost iPhone 5 , which is expected to fall in the fall with 4G LTE support, a 4-inch Retina display, a faster processor and a more advanced camera. Hype alone will delay the purchase of GS3.
Samsung’s effort here is clear; the company is trying hard and taking risks. Evolving Voice Actions to S Voice was no mean feat, and I hope the programmers work out the kinks in the next update. I also hope that Samsung will offer a more satisfying screen that stands up to the competition. Would I recommend buying the Samsung Galaxy S3? Absolutely, and it is without a doubt my favorite Samsung phone available today. Yet I slightly prefer the One X for AT&T subscribers, and I wouldn’t recommend the GS3 to iPhone fans who prize the crystal-clear Retina Display and Siri.