So we’ve finally tracked down the Samsung Galaxy S3. None of us could get to London to see it unveiled for the first time but Samsung surprised us when they brought it to Pepcom, a side event here at CTIA in New Orleans. I was hardly able to contain my excitement when I saw it, and getting my hands on it for the first time was like the day I finally stepped into the 3D era of gaming by buying the original Playstation.
I would be lying if I said I had no problems with the design of the phone; that’s not to say that I have many problems, though. One pet peeve of mine was the middle button that’s become so prevalent over in Europe.
While I love the middle button (I wish it were on all the phones I’ve owned), it’s not shaped and textured how I’d want it to be. I was a fan of the plastic rectangular button on the first two devices and on the Samsung Galaxy Note. The button works, and it’s easy to use, but it’s ugly.
And that’s pretty much the only “bad” I had to share about the device. A lot of people prefer metal and polycarbonate material over regular plastic material, but I really don’t mind it. When I say I don’t mind it, I mean I won’t be totally ticked off if my phone doesn’t have it. I love those materials but plastic is absolutely fine to me, and it has a lot of advantages over those other materials.
The size of the device was very natural for me. I don’t know if it’s because of my ogre hands, but it didn’t feel odd, nor a chore. I gotten used to the Galaxy Note fairly quickly, and considering this device comes in at 4.8 inches it was fairly easy for me to downscale.
Inside is the 1.4GHz quad-core Exynos chip that everyone’s been longing for. It translates extremely well to the software side of things. Some expressed concern over the snappiness of the phone, but that was on video and I must say that film does it no justice. Playing with it in person is bliss personified in terms of how smooth and fast everything is.
1GB of RAM also sits inside, and Samsung’s provided unthinkable storage options. 16GB and 32GB have been done, sure, but when you introduce a 64GB model AND make room for a 64GB microSD card, you’re ahead of the game. And let’s not even talk about the 8 megapixel 1080p camera on the back and the 2MP camera on the front. They’re simply great, and we’ll talk more about them in the very next section.
With 8 megapixels to work with and a nice flash, not to mention a near-2 megapixel offering on the front, the camera looks great on paper. But the camera specs Samsung won’t be advertising are probably what make the camera truly supreme. With a wide aperture and great back-lighting technology, the camera on this phone is close to unrivaled.
But it’s not about the long list of high (or low) numbers. It’s all about how the camera works. Not unlike what HTC has done for some of their One phones, the Samsung Galaxy S3 has lag-free shutter and lag-free continuous shooting.
Up to 20 shots can be captured at 3 frames per seconds at a time, making for a nice experience when you need to capture something quick. Samsung has always excelled in this department, and everything, from image quality to the feature set of this sensor, is enough to challenge a point and shoot. And the little things which probably had a lot of work put into them, like the phone being able to detect which photo is the best out of a continuous shoot, adds a nice touch.
A natural transition from photo capturing capabilities, sharing also plays a big role in the Samsung Galaxy S3. When you snap a photo, for instance, your phone will be able to recognize the people in those photos based on existing pictures linked to them and will automatically tag them.
A natural extension of that feature is the Buddy photo share. With this, you can snap a picture and it will be instantly shared to all your friends.
Ryan from Samsung presents an excellent use-case for the Phandroid camp. If we’re all trying to cover different ground, we like to make sure we’re not duplicating efforts. Buddy share would allow us to see who has snapped what without having to hunt them down or rely on them to answer a text or Google Talk message.
While gestures have been introduced to the Galaxy S flagship series since the Galaxy S2, Samsung’s taken a huge step with this rendition. One feature that stunned me was the ability to take screenshots of your device by simply waving your hand across its camera.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally turned my phone off, turned the volume down, or had my volume slider in the screenshot because of the need to use buttons. This completely eliminates those problems, and for that I am grateful.
There was also a “jump to top” gesture that would allow you to get to the top of a list or a webpage using two taps of the finger to the top of the device. Unfortunately this only worked in stock apps, and so few of them, but Samsung has noted that they are looking to build on this feature in the future.
As I said in the beginning, it was entirely too loud to use S Voice effectively, if not at all. Ryan gave me a quick rundown of it, though, and as much as I hate comparing things, I have to say that it does trump Siri in at least one area. Whereas before, you had to launch the application or tap a widget to initiate a command, now S Voice allows you to initiate one no matter where you are in the OS.
“Hi Galaxy” is still the default wake-up, but you can say it even if you’re using the browser or sending a text. The feature is also contextual. If your phone is ringing you can pick it up with your voice, or you can silence an alarm simply by saying “snooze.” This level of integration is quite unbelievable to me. Say what you want about Samsung copying you know who and you know what, but it simply doesn’t do that.
This read more like a review, but that’s because the Samsung Galaxy S3 introduces so many new features and concepts that I had to write it in this style. I’d hate to see how a full review would look like. (I spent 8,000 words on the Galaxy Nexus alone.)
While I’m not prepared to make a verdict just yet, especially with the high possibility of extreme customization by US carriers, I’ll say that I would buy this phone off-contract for $800 if I had to — it’s that good at first sight.
[Note]: For the sake of length, I skipped out on a lot of features that were showcased during Samsung’s Unpacked event in London on May 3rd. If you want to see all of what I talked about and more, be sure to feast your eyes on the replay here.