Samsung Galaxy S3 First Look [CTIA 2012]


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.

S Voice

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.

Quentyn Kennemer
The "Google Phone" sounded too awesome to pass up, so I bought a G1. The rest is history. And yes, I know my name isn't Wilson.

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  1. Since Sprint seems to be getting a dual core variant I might as well just get the GNexus : I’ll wait to see the number crunches but I’d rather have software buttons and quick updates. But again I’ll wait and see. Anything to upgrade from my Epic 4G

    1. The 4460 and S4 do not compare.

      1. Neither does vanilla Android and toucwiz

        1. You can easily install an AOKP or AOSP build of ICS on the GSIII, bada bing, bada boom.

          1. I’ll definitely be using a custom launcher as soon as I get this. Go Launcher with ICS theme FTW!

  2. The middle button’s gotta go. I guess they made it all stretched and ugly to pretend they’re not copying the iPhone, but come one Samsung, we know.

  3. Sounds pretty awesome. Bring it to Verizon!

    1. Please, please, please, please!!!

  4. The method to take screen shots impresses me!

    1. me too! its just one of those things that isnt super necessary but get my geek going.

    2. Likewise! It is super convenient. I hope that comes to the Note 2, which is the one I am now pinning my hopes on.

  5. I want NOW O.O

    1. As do I but more for development rather then a regular full time phone.

      1. same but the first like week im definently going to test out all the new features lol

        1. Yeah, good point ;)

  6. awesome hands-on….finally all the features covered.

  7. the s3 back is polycarbonate and it also has gorilla glass 2 which no other phone has yet

    1. polycarbonate is plastic…

      1. its basically the same stuff non-glass sunglasses lenses are made of like (Prada, Oakley, Maui, etc)
        either way this phone will be at home in a Otterbox or a Trident case so the outside material is not too important to me if at lease the screen is Gorilla Glass Dos!!

        1. I’m not a fan of cases. However, if I were to get that phone, it would go str8 in a case. I don’t mind plastic, it’s the gloss that bothers me. But, since I have a Galaxy Nexus, I’m not in the market for a new phone…yet.

  8. Ok this device didn’t impress me initially but aside from the hardware of the device not being to my liking I have to admit that the software within is terrific. They did a great job with it. I really hope the Sprint variant changes it up a bit for the hardware, I may very well choose this over the Evo LTE if the price is right, or I may jump ship and go to AT&T for it. Great hands-on!

  9. That guy looks like a salesman with I’m going to screw you written all over his face!

  10. “Hyper-Glaze” finish. AKA cheap shiny plastic finish.

    1. I don’t see the difference between “cheap” plastic and the plastic used for the iphones. Is the iphone plastic made with the sweat of Foxconn workers, thus more “un-cheap” lol ?

      1. The iPhone 4/4S have glass backing not plastic. However to be fair, I think the plastic is better for cellphone reception.

        1. Agreed!, and just to add on to that, For NFC to work you need a plastic back, no wonder more phones are shifting to plastic backs/bodies!!

      2. hahahahahaah

      3. The shiny finish just looks cheap, I think it’s quite an ugly looking phone – that gloss finish is awful. Luckily I’m not that hung up on looks.
        I think this will be my next phone.

  11. ugly piece of cheap plastic, with ugly cheap touchwiz UI. YUK this thing is gross

  12. “and getting my hands on it for the first was like the day I finally stepped into the 3D era of gaming by buying the original Playstation.”

    …. Really? Lol I promise this Galaxy line generates more hype than Lebron.

  13. Thanks Quentyn and the Sammy guy for this 10min rundown – it pretty much covered everything I want to know about the software features.
    I hope it can tell me who is calling me (with it’s own voice) so I don’t even have to look at it before I decide to answer or decline a call.
    As Q stated, there are some nice interaction features no-one else has yet, and it looks like Apple is going to have to start it’s photocopier up!

    1. My friend’s old nokia has this feature if I remember correctly…it calls out the caller’s name whenever the phone rings. your comment just reminded me of it. :)

    2. If I remember the other video’s I’ve seen, the phone doesn’t have a “voice” feature. Even when asking questions, a la Siri, the results are just displayed, not read. However, there’s gotta be an app for what u r looking for.

      1. It definitely has a “Voice” response, like it would talk to you in pretty much the same way siri would do. But what it might not have is, answers to stupid questions like “Whoz ur Daddy?” :)

  14. @taz89 you shouldn’t be posting comments when you don’t know jack about phones! S3 the first for GG2, when the HTC One X was first to have it you moron!

  15. Well with a review like this, it just make s me want this phone even more.

  16. 3 seconds per frame is NOT fast…..3 frames per second is.

  17. I was hardly able to contain my excitement when I saw it,”

    Really? Are you a teen aged girl at at Justin Beiber show?

    1. No, I just happen to like technology and I’m very passionate about what I do. I’m sorry if I’m supposed to be a monotonous robot, but that’s just not me.

      1. Not sure if that’s passion, or just being weird. It’s a device that 14 months(or less) from now will be so outdated, people will laugh about it’s ancient technology. Will you remember then how much of a stiffy this thing gave you? Will you even acknowledge it happened?

        I appreciate the updates on current technology…..Hell, I found out about Google selling the unlocked Nexus here(Thanks!)…..I just find this teen aged giddiness over products, destined to become junk in under 2 years more than a little strange.

        1. is there any other option? all 2years old phones now are outdated(sgs, iphone4 …), slow cpu and gpu, slow mobile data. In terms of performance this is most powerful phone for now (im looking at benchmarks).

          1. Yeah…..Buy the device unlocked and off contract. My last two were like that. That’s the way it should be.

            Still, that doesn’t explain the over the top excitement. Guess this is a first world problem for me.

  18. All this phone is missing is well made torture test. okay ya it’s pretty and all but will it be able to handle my daily life activities? (gym, school, work, etc)

  19. i love this phone, the blue one is handsome

  20. What would happen if I bought the European model to use here with ATT or TMo? I want the quad core speed. I know the US models will not have it. Would I still be able to use the 4G/LTE speeds on the quad core European model?

    1. then no 4g for you bro.

    2. european model does not have lte. only 21mbps hspa+. will work on att. does not have the AWS bands to use hspa+ on t-mobile. only korean model and US model will have LTE built in.

  21. Why does everyone keep b*tching about “the hideous home button”? It’ll have the four capacitive buttons when it comes to the states, so why does it matter?

    1. Or maybe on-screen

    2. or just 3 capacitive buttons lol

  22. You can open the camera app by voice, but what about shutting the camera, can you also shutting by voice?
    That would be something really really useful for me…

  23. Okay guys, to be clear–the One X, Lumia, and GS3 are ALL made from polycarbonate. The former two apply a matte finish, the latter uses a “hypergloss” finish. Which you prefer is purely opinion, but neither is made out of a cheaper material than the other. And lets remember that the former two dont have removable batteries or expandable storage. Not only is that a benefit the latter has in and of itselft, but that ALSO means 3rd parties can create replacement backs for the GS3 to mix up the look and feel.

  24. Sold.

  25. Dam cant believe i missed CTIA in my home town. Nola. :.-<..

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