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A Closer Look at Samsung Galaxy SIII

The Samsung Galaxy S3 is the most anticipated Android Smartphone ever. The Galaxy S III is the device that is finally set to give the iPhone a really tough run for its money. Here's our Samsung Galaxy S3 review.

Samsung Galaxy S3: Design

The design of the Samsung Galaxy S3 is similar to its predecessor but different at the same time. For starters the phone is much more rounded with smooth flowing lines and rounded corners and edges, somewhat like the Galaxy Nexus. It looks much sleeker than the Galaxy S2.

Samsung has kept the physical home button which is saddled by two touch sensitive counterparts for Back and Menu. The Home button is a too thin and narrow and we'd much rather a full set of touch buttons but you can't have everything.

One design flaw is the lack of a Recent Apps button to access the multi-tasking feature of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Instead you have to hold the home button down, not something we found intuitive at all.

The buttons and ports are spread out around the handset with Power on the right, Volume on left, microUSB on the bottom and the 3.5mm headphone jack on the top. The buttons are easy enough to reach and have a nice action, although we would prefer the Volume rocker to be a little larger.

Samsung said the shape is 'inspired by nature'- what matters more is the size, weight and feel. The Samsung Galaxy S3 is very thin and light for such a large phone at just 8.6mm and 133g. It is comfortable to hold, partly because Samsung has reduced the bezel size keeping the dimensions down as much as possible.

The smartphone is almost exactly the same size as the HTC One X at 71 x 137 mm. It’s a really big phone and though it’s comfortable to hold it is sometimes difficult to use, having to stretch across the large screen with one hand simply due to its size. This is coming from a user with quite large hands so we fear that for a lot of users the device will be just too big for day-to-day usage.

The Galaxy S3 handset is available in pebble blue and marble white. The former has a nice brushed finish while the latter a glossy sheen. Both look nice but we prefer the blue option.

Samsung Galaxy S3: Build quality

We can't help but feel the Galaxy S3 has too much of a plasticy feel, mainly brought about by its flimsy removable rear cover which effectively peels away from the back. This is a let-down and not something we want to see from such a 'premium' smartphone with such a high price tag.

Despite the overwhelming use of plastic, the Galaxy S3 feels well made. The thin metal rim running around the edge gives the phone good strength, offering only a small amount of flex when put under strain. The one-piece glass front feels especially nice so ignoring the rear cover it's a good effort.

Samsung Galaxy S3: Hardware

As expected the Galaxy S3 is powered by Samsung’s own Exynos 4 Quad processor, something we actually knew before the launch event. It is a 32nm chip based on the ARM Cortex A9 quad-core architecture and has a clock speed of 1.4GHz. 

Strangely Samsung hasn't specified the amount of RAM but our benchmarking app tells us that it has 780MB which the specification sheet would probably tout as 1GB.

Samsung has managed to achieve the kind of smooth performance only reached by Apple's iPhone. It's the kind of situation where we struggled to make the Galaxy S3, er, struggle.

For example, the phone can play video content in a pop-out window while you do other tasks. If you want proof of performance then there you have it. Other demanding tasks such as scrolling and zooming on a desktop version of website just happen with no lag; the processor puts up no fuss whatsoever.

The biggest lag we found was the short delay between pressing the power button to wake the handset up and the screen coming to life. But even then the delay was minor.

In terms of internal storage, the Galaxy S3 matches the iPhone 4S and has 16GB, 32GB and 64GB capacity options. Much to our delight it also has a microSD card slot for expansion of up to a further 64GB. This choice is a big win in our opinion.

As mentioned earlier the Galaxy S3 is a pretty big smartphone. This is mainly down to its 4.8-inch Super AMOLED screen which has an HD resolution of 720 x 1280.

The Galaxy S3 screen is stunning and comparable in quality to the one found on the HTC One X. It has a high pixel density of 306ppi where individual pixels are not distinguishable offering astonishing levels of detail. Viewing angles are very good; we found reflections in the screen more of a problem.

The Super AMOLED technology means colours a bright and punchy while blacks are very, well, black. It's partly what makes the screen have such an impact on the eyes but users wanting a more natural look will probably find the screen a bit garish.

Wireless charging is a stand out feature which is not only super cool but very practical too.

Other connectivity in the Galaxy S3 includes the standard Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and microUSB as well as near-field communications (NFC) technology and support for the digital living network alliance (DLNA) standard.

Samsung Galaxy S3: Camera

Like most modern smartphones the Galaxy S3 comes with dual cameras. The rear facing one is rated at 8Mp and has an LED flash while the front camera is a 1.9Mp shooter which can record HD video at 30fps.

Since receiving our sample of the Galaxy S3 we've taken a handful of pictures so we'll update this section as we do more testing.

We found the results to be good but we haven't been blown away by the quality. Most pictures were sharp and colours were suitably saturated. One thing the camera coped well with was pictures in a dimly lit room. 

The camera app launches quickly and is easy to use. It also has various handy features including HDR, a burst mode which can shoot up to 20 images and Best Shot which takes eight photos and chooses the best one.

Samsung says it has zero shutter lag, which we found to be mostly the case. A feature called social tag allows you to link people in a photo to social networks like Facebook.

We found the front facing camera produced a brilliantly clear and detailed image with only faint hints of graining – a rare thing for a smartphone.

Samsung Galaxy S3: Software

There are no prizes for guessing that the Galaxy S3 is running on Google’s Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system. To be precise, version 4.0.4 coupled with Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface overlay.

The new improved version of TouchWiz is much better than previous versions with a sleeker and more modern look. There is a maximum of seven home screens which you can cycle through continuously. As usual with Android smartphones you can customise the interface with different widgets, wallpapers and app shortcuts.

At the bottom of the screen is an app tray with four slots for your most used apps and a shortcut to the Apps Menu. We like the notification bar which gives easy access to various settings such as Wi-Fi, Volume, Power Saving mode, Music player controls and, obviously, notifications.

Overall the user interface is just like Android smartphones from rival vendors. However, Samsung has gone all out with extra software features and apps to make the Galaxy S3 stand out from the crowd.

S Voice

One of the most prominent is S Voice, Samsung's voice recognition software similar to Apple's Siri. For starters you can use it to unlock the Galaxy S3 phone by saying something like "Hi Galaxy". More importantly you can ask S Voice to carry out tasks like get a weather forecast, send a text message, set a reminder or play music.

The software worked well most of the time but as we feared there were times when it didn't understand what we said. We also had to wait for a long time while the dialogue was processed. It can tell you where you are by opening Google Maps but couldn't tell direct us to the nearest post office, for example.
There's more bad news here because S Voice told us it was unable to send an email and we found the UK voice to be quite annoying. Generally Siri is a much more polished and usable experience.

Motion Controls

Samsung has added a number of motion activated controls - some we found gimmicky and some were actually useful.

Smart Stay is Samsung's eye tracking feature which ensures the screen does not turn off as long as you are looking at it.

Direct Call allows you to instantly call the contact you are browsing or sending a text message to by lifting the Galaxy S3 phone to your ear. Smart Alert tells you if you have any missed calls of messages when you pick you phone up. Both are handy features for most smartphone users.

Another couple of tricks that we liked are turning the phone over or covering it with the palm of your hand to mute sounds or pause music and double tapping the top of the handset to go to the top of a list you're viewing.

There are a couple of weird and pointless ones like panning the phone to move around a picture you've zoomed in on or moving an app shortcut between home screens.

We like all the neat additions which largely improve the Galaxy S3's usability, even if some are simply needless.


Our Vodafone handset came with a few extra apps but ignoring these, the Galaxy S3 doesn't come pre-loaded with too many apps. This is a good thing and there is still plenty of interesting apps to keep you busy and entertained.

AllShare Play as an app which lets you share content between multiple devices over the internet and via AllShare Cast can you put whatever is on your Galaxy S3 screen on a larger display like a TV, similar to Apple's AirPlay.

For music lovers there is Samsung's Music Hub which has been updated recently. The new service is currently exclusive to Galaxy S3 owners and allows unlimited streaming of music, a store and radio stations for £9.99 per month.

Samsung Galaxy S3: Battery

We've not spent long enough with the Galaxy S3 to give you a full run down on how much battery life the phone offers. Samsung has fitted the phone with a whopping 7.9Wh battery promising rival beating battery life.

To give you a brief idea of its performance we've been using the Galaxy S3 almost constantly during the working day, taking photos and video of the handset and using it for testing to write this review. It's nearing the end of the work day and the device still has an impressive 38 percent of its juice left, most smartphones would have conked out by now with the same amount of usage.

Samsung Galaxy S3 Specs

3G (HSPA+ 21Mbps)
4G (Dependant on market)

4.8" HD Super AMOLED (1280x720)

Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)

Main: 8mp Auto Focus with flash, zero shutter lag and BSI
Front: 1.9mp HD recording @30fps with flash, zero shutter lag and BSI
Video: Full HD (1080p) Recording and Playback

Wi-Fi- a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi HT40, GPS/GLONASS, NFC, BT4.0(LE)

Internal storage: 
16GB / 32GB / 64GB

External memory:
microSD Slot (SDXC 64GB exFAT Support)

136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6mm, 133g

Battery capacity: 
2,100 mAh

Subject to further testing, the Galaxy S3 has turned out to be an excellent smartphone. It offers a good design and build quality. Samsung has put together an impressive set of hardware resulting in silky smooth performance and extensive software features.

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