Samsung Galaxy S3 Review: Watch Out, IPhone
The smartphone arena just got smaller. It's a two-party system. On one side, Apple and its iconic iPhone -- a shiny testament to Ayn Rand-style ideas. On the other, Samsung, forged in South Korea's bureaucratic "chaebol" mega-conglomerate system, leading a smattering of Android misfits. The fight started in the stores, but now extends to the courtrooms, as lawsuits fly over copied designs and patent infringements.
But Apple's a veteran. Back in the '80s, it fought and ceded the PC to Microsoft. It's mantra at the time: "Think Different." And as the underdog, it had to. But now, Apple's on top -- and Android, with Samsung, is looking to topple the king. Call it a pre-emptive strike -- a Davidian rock-throw, if you will. When the S3 hits stores, it'll have a month-long lead before the iPhone 5 arrives. That's no coincidence Samsung designed and marketed solely to take down the iPhone. And the S3 is locked and loaded with features, and ready for war.
What's the Phone?
First off, it's huge. You need a big body to fit a 4.8-inch screen. It borders on the comically-wide, but surprisingly light at just under five ounces, due to an ultra-thin 0.3-inch profile -- it's just a hair slimmer than the iPhone, of course -- and glossy plastic material, which feels cheap. Nothing stands out about the round design, except for the menu button. Other touch devices leave that out, and I'd wished Samsung did as well. Out of the Android flock, the One X is the sexier, but the S3 has a microSD slot.
Apple has Retina display, but Samsung has more pixels -- 50 percent more to be exact. It's also nearly as sharp -- at 306-ppi rather than 326-ppi, and equally vibrant with deep blacks and bold colors. As the linchpin that ties multimedia together, it's an exceptional canvas to "Breaking Bad" on -- I saw every furrow in Walter White's forehead. If I had to nitpick, placing it next to the iPhone, I did notice the S3 has an every-so-slight tint of blue. Up-close text also looks a bit fuzzier around sharp edges. At normal distances, though, you can't tell the difference.
The 8-megapixel camera takes vibrant photos, but they're not as crisp as ones you'd get from the iPhone and X. You can tweak them with manual controls for brightness, white balance and color effects, among the usual suite of tools. If you like action, the speedy shutter can fired off six shots in a second. There are even apps for face detection, up-close macro shots and scenic panoramas. You can also record 1080p video or chat face-to-face using the front-facing 2-megapixel lens.
Samsung runs on ICS, and it's smooth and intuitive despite Samsung's TouchWiz interface. It tweaks the layout, adding a blue water background to match the nature motif. But generally, it's akin to adding salami on an ice cream cone: totally unnecessary and slightly disappointing. It looks nothing like stock Android, which is cleaner, faster and updated sooner, but my only gripe is my hard time creating folders. TouchWiz, though, is more tolerable than on past models.
Apple has Siri, Samsung has S Voice. Not only can give orders to call contacts, launch apps and take notes, but you can also say "wake up" to turn on the screen or "snooze" to shut off the alarm. Play and change songs, change the volume and snap photos all with your voice. It also responds to gestures, so if you're texting, and you bring the phone up to your face, it'll call that contact. Voice is a big upgrade, but it falls short of Siri in function and snarky replies.
With Wi-Fi Direct and S Beam, meanwhile, you can send photos, music and files with the bump of the phones. Say you want to share a map to that off-the-beaten-track Korean barbecue? Just bump phones. Want to give your sister the webpage to that hilarious sloth video? Don't waste your time, it wasn't that funny.
The S3 runs without a hitch thanks to a 1.5-gigahertz dual-core chip. Big screens sap the juice from batteries, but S3's 2,100 mAh pack lasts over a day with moderate use. That's outstanding. With heavy use, and 4G LTE left on, I clocked in at around nine hours. If you want to prolong the life, turn down the brightness and turn off data -- those are the big hogs.
You'll Want It If...
You're an Android fan. The big, beautiful screen and sharp camera and robust software make it a complete package. In short, if you want one of the best, the S3 is one of the best.
It's Not My Thing -- What Else Ya Got?
The S3 is unmatched at the moment, but take a look at the X as well. Together, they represent Android's finest to challenge Apple. Of course, the battle doesn't begin until the iPhone hits store shelves. But the S3 set the bar high, and it has the dazzle and substance to make you wonder, "iWho?" At least for now.
Agree or disagree? We'd love to hear your thoughts. Share your experience and leave a comment below. ♦
Other Reviews From Around the Web:
- New York Times
- Consumer Reports
- ABC News
- NBC News
- The Telegraph
- The Guardian
- The Verge
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Super AMOLED (Gyroscope / Accelerometer / Compass / Proximity Sensor / Ambient Light Sensor)
Best phone I've had... So far.
- Camera; 8 megapixels. LCD flash. Crystal clear pictures, with the flash and even with out the flash. Comes prepared with many settings such as panoramic, black and white, sepia, etc. Also, there's a setting where you can take a picture and it picks the best one out of the bunch. Works amazingly. No glitches.
- The "Smart Stay" option; (Uses front facing camera to detect your eyes. An eye icon will pop up in the notification bar when it's detecting your eyes) Works well in even dim lighting.
- "Touch Wiz;" I like it A LOT better than HTC's Sense UI. It flows with out any glitches or pauses.
- The screen; With it's 4.8" Super AMOLED screen, it's a complete delight doing ANYTHING on the phone. Texting is easier, pictures are completely clear, and videos are in mind blowing quality.
- The speaker; Insanely clear. It's not uncommon for a phone's speaker to break up or crackle during a call using speaker phone but, don't expect that with this phone. Music sounds superb, super clear. The volume is pretty loud. I've had this phone for about 4 weeks and I haven't had to turn the volume up all the way yet.
- The front facing camera; It's only 1.9 megapixels but, it takes great pictures.
- Made with Corning Gorilla Glass; The screen is pretty much impossible to scratch or shatter. No need for screen protectors here.
- Expandable memory; Unlike it's competitor, the HTC One X, you can add a MicroSD card for more storage. The phone comes in different sizes of internal memory, up to 64 GB. (Personally, I got the 16 GB. It was cheaper plus, I have a MircoSD.)
- Hidden back and settings touch button; Conveniently placed on either side of the home button, settings button on the left, back button on the right.
- Great choice of colors; Pebble blue, Marble white, Amber brown, Garnet red, Sapphire black, and Titanium grey. (I got the white.)
- Mic; It's an active noice cancellation mic. It makes you able to hear your phone call better and makes you come in super clear on the other end.
- Dropbox; Comes with 50 GB of storage for FREE.
- Predictive text; With most phones, if you want a Swype keyboard, you have to buy it but, this phone comes with Swype installed into the phone. I find myself using this feature A LOT because it saves a TON of time when texting.
- Social networking apps; Apps such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr update and are viewed with complete ease. Seamless updating. (Of course, it depends on your network and connection. I have At&t, 4G.)
- Video recording; Records HD video. You can also take still photos while you're recording a video.
- Battery; I was surprised how long it takes to kill this battery. I assumed since the screen is huge and vivid, the battery would die quickly. I was wrong. When set on the "power saving" option, it will last me almost an entire day and that's with WiFi usage, app opening and closing, and just browsing the web.
- The "Samsung Kies" software; It's similar to iTunes. You can add music, movies, and videos to your phone literally in seconds. You have to go to Samsung's website to download the software. It's a MUST for any Samsung smartphone.
- The headphones; I don't know about everyone else but, my phone came with head phones. They're white with Samsung written on the side in glittery grey. The strings are covered in a smooth silicone which makes the strings hard to tangle. It has a volume rocker and mute button along with a speaker used for hands-free calling on the right string. Head phones are crystal clear along with call quality.
- Smooth, high quality interface.
- Powerful, easy to grip, comfortable in your hand build.
- Battery; I wish the battery would last just a LITTLE bit longer.
- "S Voice;" Does what I say 8 times out of 10.
- The back of the phone shows finger prints pretty fierce. (Nothing a nice case won't fix!)Was this review helpful to you?
57 out of 59 people found this review helpful.
The Best Android Phone, But Far From Perfect
First off, the display is ridiculous -- it's as good as a tablet's screen. Watching videos is comfortable, and it easily fits in the palm of my hand or in a pocket, so I can take the entertainment with me anywhere I go.
The Galaxy S3 comes with a few free MP3s, videos and apps -- and they're not bad -- but you can download more from Android Marketplace. You basically have complete control over ICS and can customize it to your heart's desire.
As for the complaints about its large size, I don't really have a problem with it. But then again I'm a big man; I guess I could see how the girls would have a hard time with it. There are a few gripes about the "plasticy" feel of the shell. I actually thought this was a plus, since it'll be able to take the bumps and bruises better. With the two-year contract I signed, it should age with time well.
The other reviewers are dead on about S Voice. It sucks. Not only does it not understand commands you throw at it, but Samsung's servers, which process the commands, are sluggish. Siri definitely has nothing to worry about.
Overall, the Galaxy S3 is an amalgamation of cutting-edge technology. It's really better than anything else out there right now. But it's far from perfect. Samsung still needs to refine the device and work out some of the kinks. According to the poster below, Apple definitely has a chance to blow the S3 away when it releases the iPhone 5.
Still, I'd recommend the S3 to anyone considering the iPhone 4S and One X, since you can remove the battery and it comes with a memory slot. I don't think any Apple fan is going to go for the S3, but if you like Android, the S3 is the best out there.
Unfortunately, with all that power... comes all that power. And the S3 guzzles up a lot of battery life. When using the S3 under normal conditions, it'll last me around a day before it dies. But you can buy an extended battery to snap in for more power. If I watch high-definition videos, the battery is usually dead within three to four hours. And after a couple weeks, the battery's durability definitely begins to sap -- it won't last as long as when you first purchased it, so you have to charge it more often. I think I'll need to buy a heavy-duty battery in another few months.
Another thing, the back of the handset gets warm when the processor is running hard. It's not uncomfortable, maybe there's too little RAM or something. I find I often have to clear the RAM to play high-definition games. Or the screen will start to stall. I don't know what most people say, but I find the S3's screen a bit too dim to use outdoors, especially in direct sunlight.Was this review helpful to you?
126 out of 134 people found this review helpful.
Bigger, Better Than the S2
I came from the Galaxy S2, and from a comparison standpoint, the S3 isn't too different -- which is a good thing because I loved the S2! The S3 is like a souped up version with a bigger 4.8-inch display. It's just as good as the reviews say -- wow... crystal clear images, vibrant colors, the works. Samsung really outdid itself on this one.
The processor is ridiculously fast, and everything loads lickity-split. There's tons of storage for apps and the design feels solid, yet light, in the hand. It's not fragile or flimsy at all.
The 8-megapixel camera is excellent. The focus works great for objects in a distance, and the flash is powerful enough to illuminate the darkest of environments. But for me, the best feature is the data limit. I have a capped data plan, so the ability to set a max, say 500-megabytes, ensures I don't get hit with any surprise bills.
I wasn't used to the S3's size in the beginning. But don't worry too much -- it grows on you. Just like the S3 felt a little large...
The S Voice feature, frankly, doesn't work that well. Maybe it's just buggy, but it has a hard time doing what I tell it to do. Hopefully a software upgrade will fix it, but I'm not holding my breath. It's no Siri, that's for sure.
Aside from that, there's not much to complain about. The hype is real!Was this review helpful to you?
57 out of 61 people found this review helpful.
A Verizon Technician's Take -- Poor Antenna Design
I'm a Verizon technician, and after reading the hype surrounding the Galaxy S3, I admit, I had high expectations for this device. Well... after using it for a few weeks now, I can say, the device is a cut above the rest and lives up to its reputation. First, the speed and performance capabilities are phenomenal. However...
When it comes to reception and coverage, the S3 has a few design flaws. First, the S3's transceiver, which sends and receives the signal, is located on the inside part your hand when you're holding the device -- which interferes with the transmission. The best test I've found with this is by laying the S3 on a flat surface, briefly put it in Airplane Mode (to turn off the transceiver) and then to reactivate it and hold it with three fingers -- you should see an improvement in your reception, and proof of the bad antenna placement.
In addition, the S3 gets pretty hot when using it as a Wi-Fi hotspot -- I wouldn't suggest you leave the phone plugged in when tethering, the phone gets really hot. Overall, aside from the antenna design issue and the heat, I'm happy with the S3 -- its features are great. I would definitely recommend this if you have decent 4G Verizon coverage -- three or more bars -- or can live with 3G most of the time.Was this review helpful to you?
123 out of 133 people found this review helpful.
Best Screen Yet, Voice Has a Ways to Siri
Coming from the S2, the S3 isn't that much different. Yes, it's a bit larger, but it has the same great feel and even better touch screen! It's absolutely beautiful. Images are lifelike, and watch videos is crisp and clear.
The phone can be too wide for some, but it has a pretty decent grip. Samsung designed it with contours for the hand, so it doesn't accidentally slip out and fall. Like the S2, the S3 is very light, but doesn't feel cheap. And the quad-core processor powers through the most intense of apps. No stalling or hiccups at all!
If you're looking for a media player for movies, television and music, the S3 can't be beat.
The S Voice feature isn't as refined as Siri. The S3 doesn't have a hard time understanding me. In fact, it picks up exactly what I say. But maybe it's a software glitch; it doesn't do exactly as I command. For instance, it sets the alarm for the wrong time.
I would recommend the S3 for anyone looking to upgrade their S2, or people who want the best display on the market. But if you're looking for a powerful set of voice commands, you might want to get an iPhone. Siri doesn't have to worry about a thing... yet.Was this review helpful to you?
43 out of 49 people found this review helpful.
Good, But Things to Consider...
Rather than cover the highlights that everyone seems to repeat, I've decided to run through the list of frustrations I've had with the Galaxy S3 after using it over the past week. First of all, I should say it's a near-perfect smartphone, and I've been very pleased with the performance and features. But nonetheless, nothing is perfect, and here are the gripes...
- The amount of design Samsung put into the S3 is pretty amazing. It's remarkably thin and light, but it doesn't really feel like a "flagship phone." What do I mean? The exterior looks cheap. It's made of a shiny plastic material, rather than the glass of the iPhone, per se, or the "feel" of the HTC One X. Frankly, the S3 doesn't feel that special when you hold it.
- A few reviews here have mentioned S-Voice. And it's true. The software is a mess. I've rarely been able to get it to work right. It doesn't really understand what I'm telling it. For a "main feature," Samsung shouldn't really be touting a something that doesn't work that well. Perhaps an update will improve it, but I wouldn't buy this if you want Siri-like functions on an Android. If you want voice, just get the iPhone.
- I would have much preferred vanilla ICS software. Samsung tries to give you more with TouchWiz, but really, it just makes it worse. Much worse. Rather than making it easier to use, TouchWiz is awful, it's hideous and makes me want to throw the S3 on the ground. If I could reinstall Android 4.0, I would.
Like I said, are these cons really a deal-breaker? No, of course not. The S3 is one of the best out there. But if you're considering it, just be aware of its shortcomings. I'd still recommend it to everyone.Was this review helpful to you?
61 out of 70 people found this review helpful.
Just Got My S3!
I just got my S3 in the mail today. WOW! This screen is AMAZING. If you thought the S2 was great, the S3 totally blows it out of the water. Words can't really describe how clear and sharp it is. Go to a store and see for yourself. Easily the best display on the market.
I haven't played with it long, but I can tell you it's better than the iPhone 4s. The 4G LTE is blazing fast, and added to the fact that you can remove the battery AND add microSD memory -- something Apple won't let you do.
If you're debating between the iPhone 5 and S3, go with the S3. Trust me. Who knows when Apple will ever release the iPhone... In the meantime, I'll be enjoying my S3.
Nothing yet... But I'll let you know if I run into anything...Was this review helpful to you?
51 out of 60 people found this review helpful.
Smart Phone, Dumb Dial
The S3 is a pretty smart piece of hardware. But...
I just got the S3, and it's as good as all the reviews say it is. But... the Smart Dial sucks! Some retarded programmer decided that the S3 should check every letter strings beginning from the first position of the string. For instance, if you want to look for "Adam James" and you type in the letters "James," the contact won't be found. You have to type in the first name too! What's worse, if your contacts are listed with titles -- like Mr., Mrs. or Dr. -- you'll have to type in the titles to find the contact.
So if you're searching for "Mr. Adam James," the "Smart" Dial will bring up every name starting with Mr. Also, since you can't specify a period, or a space, all you can search is "Mr," which also includes "Mrs" contacts. Talk about dumb!Was this review helpful to you?
23 out of 28 people found this review helpful.
Best Phone of 2012
This is probably the most anticipated phone of 2012 -- right up there with the One X from HTC. The quad-core chip is lightning-fast -- no lag or stalls. Android 4.0 ICS is silky smooth and fluid -- really intuitive. Camera, 4G speed, thin design... it's all great! I tried the One X at an AT&T store and the biggest difference is the sound -- the S3 is much louder and clearer. So if you're an Android fan, there's no better smartphone.
As others have noted, S Voice is not as accurate as Siri, and it takes longer to respond. Hopefully Samsung will update it with better recognition.Was this review helpful to you?
30 out of 37 people found this review helpful.
Verizon/AT&T's S3 Better Than Sprint's
I bought the Galaxy S3 after owning the HTC Evo 4G, and let me just say... it's great! Here are a few quick things I like about the S3:
- Excellent size and weight -- it's much lighter than the Evo 4G.
- Crisp and clear photos with the camera and video. It's one of the best in my opinion.
- Android 4.0 ICS runs and launches apps without delay.
- S Voice seems just like Siri on the iPhone 4S.
- Speedy 1.5-gigahertz SnapDragon chip. The dual-core processor is lightning-fast. And with 2-gigabytes of RAM, the S3 won't lag or stall.
- The S3 comes preinstalled with Google Wallet. If you sign up, they'll give you $10 for free to use. I'll be going to McDonalds to test it out.
- MicroSD slot adds more storage if you need to save more photos, videos and music.
- Removable battery lets you swap it out of you need to. The battery life is also twice as long as the Evo 4G.
- Sprint's network doesn't support 4G LTE. This isn't a problem with the S3, per se, and Verizon and AT&T's versions should be faster.
- The S3 is nice, but you'll have to be very careful with it not to ding it up.
I was debating whether to buy the Galaxy S3 or the HTC One X. In the end, I bought the S3 because it comes with a microSD slot and a removable battery. I love the S3 and haven't regretted my choice!Was this review helpful to you?
25 out of 31 people found this review helpful.
The display is simply amazing. It feels much better in the hand than an iPhone 4S, and the larger screen is just bigger and better. The built-in camera takes great photos, even in low-light, and the music player blasts music and sounds with an equalizer feature, or through the included headphones. Coming from the Galaxy S2, I'm very happy with the S3.
The battery is a drain -- figuratively and literally. If you don't charge it every night, it won't be long before it's dead. If you can spare, getting another battery wouldn't be a bad idea. Another gripe: for international users, the SIM card defines country.Was this review helpful to you?
14 out of 18 people found this review helpful.
Wait for the IPhone 5?
The Galaxy S3 is a great phone, for sure. But for those of you wondering whether to wait for the iPhone 5 or just buy the S3, here's a bit of news that may help:
Terry Gou, the CEO of Foxconn, the maker of the iPhone, urged consumers to wait for the iPhone 5, saying the new model "will put Samsung's Galaxy S3 to shame."
According to media in Taiwan, Foxconn has "an exclusive agreement with Corning" to create a special, large panel glass and "competitors won't be able to secure any such material."
Anyway, I won't dispute that the S3's display is amazing -- like everyone says. And if it's good enough for you, then take the plunge. But it sounds like Apple is getting ready to release an even better display for the iPhone 5, one that puts the S3's already-awesome screen to shame, if Gou is correct.
If you don't care about the screen, it sounds like you'd probably want to buy the S3. But if you want the best screen around, wait for iPhone 5.Was this review helpful to you?
45 out of 69 people found this review helpful.
Glass screen breaks very easily
Sprint service is iffy. Sometimes you pick up and the person on the other end can't hear you. Sometimes you can not get data service even when it's showing that you're in a 4G area. Most of all, the glass breaks very easily, costing you a minimum of $150 plus shipping even if you have insurance, and even though the glass protectors are about $25 on Amazon or eBay. I've been told they also might not cover you despite the $11 a month "total equipment protection plan," if they deem you mishandled the phone by accidentally dropping it. Overall, Sprint's value is very low for what they provide. Not sure about other networks.Was this review helpful to you?
0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.
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