Hands On: Samsung Galaxy SIII – Winds of Change
The winds of change are blowing through the halls of mobile technology, as Harold Macmillan, the former British prime minister once advised admittedly for an entirely different reason. Less than a year ago the lines outside stores as well as endless media speculation about form factors and features, were reserve for phones designed and sold exclusively by Apple. The launch of the Samsung SIII in England, along with lines and hype, rivalling anything we have seen before, highlighted just how far Samsung have come from a maker of me-to devices, to lust worthy cutting edge mobile tools.
The latest version of the Galaxy range, which first launched in 2010, is the Galaxy S III. What we wanted to know is the new Galaxy SIII worthy of all the hype, speculation, and the massive build-up? The SIII hit a few shelves in South Africa the last week of May and is going into full launch as from the 7th of June.
As confirmed tech addicts the team at Techhuman got our hands on one of the few pre-launch models on sale in South Africa, and put it through our stringent test procedures. OK we have to admit we were not particularly stringent, mostly due to the phones owner not being really keen to leave it with us for very long. Hands on and for the short while we had it we were blown away and can report that this is one hell of a device.
The boys in the office finally fell into two camps, the first was that as amazing the SIII is from a technical and usage perspective, it was too big physically, and the 4.8” screen was just too large for everyday use. The other camp, who I might add tried to run off with the SIII, thought it was a perfect size for a mobile phone. Despite its screen size the Galaxy S III was only slightly bigger and taller than the older Galaxy SII. The smooth curves and rounded edges, as well as its super slim profile of only 8.6mm thick, made it very easy to hold and use. The only issue even for those who wanted to elope with the SIII is one handed operation was not as easy as, for example the 3.7” Apple iPhone.
The Galaxy SIII, very much like the competitive HTC One X, is at the cutting edge of Mobile technology. Samsung also manufactures almost every part of the technology in the device, from the screen though to the processor and final the memory chips themselves. This gave Samsung the edge as far as pushing the envelope and push they did. The galaxy SII has a quad core processor running at 1.4 Ghz coupled to a separate video processor, which together make the SIII incredibly fast and smooth in actual use.
The stand out feature is however the screen; it has an almost print like feel. The Super Amoled screen has incredible contrast and colour saturation, all of which can be adjusted via the software from eye popping vivid, to fairly natural, depending on your taste. The key elements of the screen are its very high 720p or HD resolution, coupled with high brightness in both low light and direct sunlight. I personally find Samsung Amoled screens a little too vivid and oversaturated, especially when compared to the similar resolution Super LCD screen on the HTC One X. The downside to LCD screens as opposed to Amoled, is the blacks are not nearly as deep, and the screens are not as easy to read in bright light or direct sunlight. The latest version of Gorilla glass V2 is used which imparts a silky smooth feel to the huge screen, as well as making touch very sensitive and fluid.
The Samsung Galaxy SIII launches with the latest version of Android 4.0 or Ice Cream Sandwich. On top of the basic Android build Samsung have fitted the SIII with the latest version of its Touchwiz UI Interface. Touchwiz 4.0 is a cleaned up and enhanced version of the user interface from the Galaxy S II, and this is again where the winds of change become apparent. Samsung went all metaphorical with the marketing on the Galaxy SIII, using terms such as “Designed for Humans” and “Platinum organic form”. As vague and fuzzy these terms may be, there is no doubt that Samsung have put huge effort into the interface and software features of the Galaxy SIII.
Touchwiz 4 is clean, functional, and very usable; my personal favourite in vanilla Android interface replacements is the HTC Sense interface. Touchwiz is simpler that HTC Sense and more iPhone like in overall presentation. It is fast, effective, and includes all the elements you may want in a high end Android device. The standout software features are all seamlessly blended into the overall l interface and include, in no order, S Voice, an Apple Siri like speech interface, Social Tag, which allows you to link photos in your device photo album to social media, direct call from a messaging app, no fiddling just lift the phone to you ear and it dials the person you were messaging. Smart Stay, which is an eye tracking feature, whereby the phone will not go to sleep as long as you are looking at the screen.
Of all these new features I found the direct call and the Smart stay to be the most useful. Samsung have come a long way from the first generation Galaxy phones, and most of this journey is software and integration of cutting edge technologies into features that you and I will actually use. In the short time I had to play with the Galaxy SIII, I found the interface intuitive, easy to use and the various features useful as well as time saving, all without you needing a degree in rocket science to use them.
I have barely touched on all the features of the Samsung Galaxy S III. I must mention one area I found to be truly excellent on the SIII and that is the sound quality. The Samsung is the first device to match the iPhone 4S in sound quality. The separation of sound as well as clarity and lack of distortion makes music a pleasure to listen to on the Samsung. The various multimedia players for audio and Video, also do a very good job. The other standard features of Android, such as maps, email and other Google apps, are present should you wish to use them. The Galaxy S III also includes 50 gig of Dropbox storage, handily doubling the 25 gigs on offer on the HTC One X.
The question I get asked the most, is which phone should I buy, and now it’s between the Samsung Galaxy SIII and the HTC One X. Life would be simple if I could simply say one or the other. Both are cutting edge technological masterpieces of mobile design. Overall the form factors and technical attributes are very similar, and both represent the best you can currently buy in mobile phones today. The Samsung Galaxy S III feels slightly plastic and lower cost, compared to the solid polycarbonate body of the HTC One X. The up side to the Galaxy SIII is that the battery is removable and there is place for an SD card slot, so memory can be replaced. The HTC One X on the other hand feels more premium and has 32 Gigs of memory built in from the start. The Galaxy SIII feels marginally faster and has many unique software tweaks and features that the HTC does not.
I have not answered the question of which is the one to get. They are both insanely good devices, which are a significant advance on all Android devises that have come before. The HTC One X and the Galaxy SII surprisingly have a very different feel, both do push the envelope of current mobile technology. I have to give the Samsung the edge in software innovation, but the One X has a better build and feel. Both are excellent performers and will vie for phone of 2012. So, back to the question, the best answer I can give, is try them for yourself. They have very different personalities and may appeal to different people. Perhaps when I get a Galaxy SIII review device which I can spend more time with, I can be more definite.
As the winds of change blow, Samsung are emerging as a leader in all ways in the smartphone market. Not only have they outsold the competition in sheer units, but the Galaxy SIII highlights how far they have come on the innovation front. The hype and rumour mill had Samsung pushing the envelope much further, but in reality the Galaxy SIII pushes far enough to deliver another blockbuster device to the market. Samsung will no doubt sell a ton of these amazing phones.
Go see for yourself if you are in the market for the latest and greatest mobile phone. The Samsung Galaxy SIII will be available all over South Africa from MTN and Vodacom, and no doubt the other operator’s shortly. The packages I have seen appear competitive and reasonable for a high end device of this capability.