You may have watched the launch of the Galaxy S III live from London, almost six weeks ago. At some point you may have been horrified with the nature theme (pebbles, water, etc) and the “made for humans” catch cry. Honestly, I still cringe a bit when I see a commercial with those words in it.
Perhaps you were disappointed with the plasticky (actually polycarbonate) materials used in its construction or the Pentile pixel arrangement used in its display. These issues were well discussed in the tech world immediately following the launch.
If your response to these issues was a concerned or negative one, you certainly weren’t alone. It was with these same thoughts “buzzing around” in the back of my own mind that I nervously attended the Australian launch of the Galaxy S III a couple of weeks ago. Since then I have been carefully considering the pros & cons of the most eagerly awaited Android phone of 2012.
Throughout my time with the Galaxy S III I have compared it with my own daily driver – the Galaxy Nexus; which is (in my opinion) the standard-bearer for Android 4.0 phones in terms of the software experience.
In my own mind, the primary question from the very outset has been this: Is the Galaxy S III a phone that I would want to make my own? Is it worthy of my choosing? Is it worthy of yours? Basically, could I recommend it? Let’s see.
What can be improved
Some of these issues here present are long-term areas of need for Samsung to work on. Some of them may be deal-breakers for you. Some of them are minor. Here we go…
Auto Brightness tends to jump around a bit. It doesn’t adjust gradually, which would be ideal, but rather it jumps quickly from dark to light and vice versa. I noticed it more in the first couple of days of use – honestly, I’m not sure if the phone adapted to it’s differing environments or maybe I just got used to it. Thing is, other phones do it better.
Still on Brightness, it seems Samsung has opted for a slightly lower default auto setting than most other phones I’ve used – probably to save battery. My Galaxy Nexus is quite similar. Maybe it’s an Amoled thing? I certainly don’t notice it on my Nexus S. Galaxy S II is Amoled though and plenty bright. Anyway, it’s too low at times.
Here’s another subject to set the Cat amongst the Pigeons: Touchwiz4. Samsung’s insistence on a Colourful, Cartoony, Gingerbready user overlay. To be frank, I actually didn’t mind it too much. It’s a matter of opinion I guess. I realise some people hate it! Personally, I prefer the Holo Theme of stock Ice Cream Sandwich that appears on the Galaxy Nexus. Samsung don’t want to put off previous Galaxy S owners – I get that. Still, it’s getting a bit old now and it messes with Android 4.0’s core design language. That’s all I’ll say. If you want more detail, we regularly discuss these things on the Ausdroid Podcast and usually rant about them!
Home & Capacitive Buttons..
The Home Button. It’s harder to press than the ones on the previous Galaxy S phones. It’s kinda narrow and takes some getting used to. I don’t like it. I hope they change it in the next model. People with big fingers may find it quite difficult. Let me know in the comments. Is it just me?
Although I love having more display at my disposal thanks to the capacitive buttons being below the screen, in practice the operation is a lot slicker and more accurate with on screen buttons. My Galaxy Nexus is just plain easier to use with on screen buttons. I will say, however, that the “return” of the menu button being down the bottom is quite welcome. The 3 dot action button is something Google hasn’t perfected yet, in my opinion.
If 4G (and Dual Carrier HSPA+ when outside 4G areas) is really what you’re after and you’re in an area that supports it, you don’t want the International version of the Galaxy S III. Sorry to be blunt, but it’s just not there. Admittedly, this is only a concern if you’re going with Telstra right now,here in Australia. Telstra may release a 4G version soon. We’ll have to wait and see. Personally, I had no issues using HSPA+ on the Galaxy S III.
I found it was fast enough to do 99% of my tasks without any drawbacks. The 1% would probably be if I wanted to upload or stream a very large file – like a 1080p video perhaps. If you’re a 4G evangelist, feel free to list the advantages in the comments section. In the areas I moved around Melbourne I regularly saw speeds between 4-12 Mbps in the downlink and 0.3 to 3.6 Mbps in the uplink. If you need more than this I would suggest the HTC One XL. You can read our review here.
Design & Construction..
Lastly: The Design. The front looks OK. The back is uninspiring at best. From the side it looks quite good: Surprise, surprise! Although, up close its fake metal rim is just that – faux metal. ie Plastic. The Galaxy Nexus is more visually appealing and that’s not saying much. The white One X has a leg up in this area with a stunning design which is beautifully crafted. By comparison, The Galaxy S III is Plain Jane. It’s not ugly, but not gorgeous either. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder so you be the judge for yourself. Note: It is amazing how much vanity plays a part in smartphone ownership!
Is the design a deal breaker? You must answer that for yourself. For me it’s not. Does that mean I wouldn’t like it to be more visually appealing? No way!
ConclusionThe Galaxy S III is easy to recommend to anyone looking for a Top-of-the-line Android phone. Opinion is divided on whether it’s better than it’s biggest Android competitor – the HTC One X / XL. Check out our reviews of those phones too!
If a fast, fluid experience is what you’re after, there’s really no better Android phone at this time than the Galaxy S III. Samsung has matched powerful hardware with optimised software to create an enjoyable experience that will last all day thanks to great battery life.
If you’re a design snob (It’s ok, I’m a coffee snob) you may prefer the One X. If you’re a 4G snob you’ll likely prefer the One XL. If those things aren’t crucial for you then I would suggest the Galaxy S III is as good as it gets right now in terms of overall features (many I cannot list due to space) and performance.