Is the Samsung Galaxy S III a worthy iPhone competitor ? I tested it for you.

On June 22, 2012, in English, Hardware, Review, Samsung, by Stefaan Lesage

A few weeks ago I was invited to a press conference in London where Samsung announced it’s Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone. Meanwhile I’ve had a test device in my hands for a little more than a week by now, so it’s time to write my first impressions and share my opinions with the world.

I originally wrote a Dutch review of the Samsung Galaxy S III, but some people asked me if I could make an English version of that post, so here it is …

Feel free to let me know what you think about it, and if you spot any errors … please let me know as well.

The announcement

The 4.8 inch super HD AMOLED screen is really SUPERB !

The 4.8 inch super HD AMOLED screen is really SUPERB!

A few weeks ago I was invited to a press conference in London where Samsung was about to announce its Samsung Galaxy S III phone.

The Samsung Galaxy S III was presented to the press together with quite a few accessories. Additionally Samsung also announced it would start with some Samsung Branded stores. According to Samsung, the Galaxy S III was going to be BIG. They said the device was ‘Inspired by Nature, Designed for Humans’.

Specs and technical tidbits

The Samsung Galaxy S III has quite some processing power and according to Samsung it is going to compete toe to toe with the iPhone 4s (they didn’t actually say this, but everything they mentioned made me think about it). I won’t be boring you guys with all the detailed specs, since you can easily find those on the Samsung Galaxy S III page, but there are a few things worth mentioning.

The device comes with a Quad Core 1.4 Ghz CPU and comes with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), has a 4.8 inch Super HD AMOLED display, a 1.9 Mega Pixel front facing camera and an 8 Mega Pixel rear camera.

And what does that mean for mere humans ?

Size and build quality

When compared to the iPhone 4s, the Samsung Galaxy S III is big … and I mean BIG! The display on itself is almost as big as the iPhone. Not only does the device come with a big screen, but the quality of that display is great.

If you’re someone who is used to handling your smart phone with one hand (just as I do), then the size might be a bit clumsy or cumbersome at first. In my case it was nearly impossible to press the home button and then touch the upper left corner of the screen with my thumb without repositioning the phone in my hand. Not sure if that is the best translation, but I had to change my grip.

People with big hands (or longer fingers for that matter), or people who are used to handling their smart phone with two hands won’t have any issue with the size at all.

When build quality is concerned … I had some mixed feelings. It’s not that the device feels cheap, not at all, but the back side is actually plastic. The whole back can be removed so you can easily access the battery, the SIM slot and a memory slot. Replacing the battery is possible in the Samsung Galaxy S III and I think that is why they chose the plastic back cover.

The camera

Fathersday Gifts

Took a quick shot of some Fathersday Gifts with the Samsung Galaxy S III.

For a lot of people their Smartphone has the camera they use almost every day, and the camera on the Samsung Galaxy S III is great. Really … it produces some nice pictures. I even heard some rumors that it is actually the exact same camera as the one which you can find in the iPhone 4s.

The camera software / application in the Samsung Galaxy S III comes with some very nice features. In burst mode the device can take up to 20 shots at a speed of 3 frames per second. It can even pick the best shots out of a series of shots, in a similar way the Nikon 1 does. Additionally the camera should be ready to take pictures in less than 990 ms.

The Samsung Galaxy S III has a built in feature to shoot panoramas, which I have been using quite a few times with good results. Some people told me that you can find that feature on almost all Android powered devices. Since this is the first time I’ve been using an Android device … I didn’t know. The camera should also allow you to shoot full HD video (1080p30), but I didn’t test that out yet.

Another nice feature is that the camera detects faces, and you can use that feature to name the faces in your shots in a similar way as Aperture on the Mac. But Samsung went one step further. If the device detects one of your Facebook contacts in a shot, you can quickly and easily share the picture with that contact on Facebook. Same thing applies to mail contacts, and you can easily share the picture with some via MMS as well. (officially that feature is called Buddy Photo Share).

A panorama shot with the Samsung Galaxy S III is really a piece of cake.

A panorama shot with the Samsung Galaxy S III is really a piece of cake.

Some additional Samsung specific features

The Samsung Galaxy S III comes with all features other Android smartphones have, but Samsung added some very specific things to the device. Quite a few of those were shown to us during the press conference in London and they made me think ‘wow, I wish my iPhone had that’. After some testing with the actual device some of those features work amazingly well, some others didn’t.

Smart Alert

This is one of the nice and handy features. During the day, I tend to put my phone on my desk. And then people ask me for help, or I need to go to a meeting, and that is how I sometimes miss a call or a Text message. No big deal, at least if an alert informs me about it when I get back. And that is why Samsung created the Smart Alert feature.

You missed a call or a Text Message? No problem, when you pick up your Samsung Galaxy S III it will briefly vibrate to inform you about your missed call. Now, isn’t that a nice feature or what ?

Direct Call

Another nice feature I’m quite happy about. Let’s say my wife sends me a text message, and I start to write my response. After a few words I’m starting to think ‘well … I could as well call her up’, and I bring the Samsung Galaxy S III to my ear, and it automagically dials my wife’s phone number.

Smart Stay

I tend to use my iPhone or iPad to read things, and I hate it when the screen dims or the device goes into sleep mode because I’m not touching it. That’s exactly what Smart Stay is for. It uses the front facing camera to detect if you are still looking at the screen. Smart Stay will not dim the screen for as long as it sees that you’re watching it.

That is the theory … in my tests I found out that it wasn’t always working as expected. In less than optimal lighting conditions it started to act strange from time to time, and it wasn’t working at all in the dark. In all honesty the device gave me a warning about mixed results in bad light though.

S Voice

Everyone said Siri on the iPhone was a gimmick, and now … the Samsung Galaxy S III has a similar feature called S Voice. I have been using Siri quite a few times in the car to send a text message or call someone so I was quite curious to see how S Voice would perform.

In all honesty S Voice outperformed Siri in some tests, and Siri out performed S Voice in others.

S Voice has a serious form of amnesia

S Voice has a serious form of amnesia

Let’s be serious, my English isn’t all too bad, but I do have quite an accent. But still, I had the impression that S Voice understood all the commands I tried, even while the engine of the car was running, and yes … it even understood my wife’s name without any problems. With Siri I had mixed results, especially in the car with the engine running.

But S Voice isn’t Siri. S Voice doesn’t learn like Siri does. When I asked Siri ‘Call my wife’, Siri told me the first time she didn’t know who my wife is, and I had to tell Siri who she had to call. But from that point onwards, when I told Siri to call my wife, she knew she had to dial Tania’s number.

I did the same test with S Voice, and S Voice didn’t know who my wife was either, so I told S Voice to call Tania. But the next time I asked S Voice to call my wife, she didn’t even remember who my wife was … I never had that myself … not even after a night out with too many beers 🙂

Just like Siri, S Voice also has a few network issues. When I tried to do some more tests to make the necessary screenshots for the Dutch blogpost, S Voice wasn’t cooperating at all. The only response S Voice could give me was : ‘Network operation timed out. Please try again’.

Android and the Android / Google eco-system

Key settings are accessible via an easy to access pull down panel

Key settings are accessible via an easy to access pull down panel

Since this was my first hands-on experience with an Android device, I thought I might tell you guys how it felt. Well … we all have prejudices and I might have quite a few against Android. But I won’t be saying out lout that iOS is better than Android or that Android is inferior to iOS. They are both similar … yet completely different.

Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) runs really well on the Samsung Galaxy S III. I was really impressed with how well the Google Address book and Facebook Contacts were integrated into Android. The ICS Task manager is superb, and the way additional pages with widgets and tabs can be put to the left and right of the home screen is really handy. Instead of flicking through 4 pages, you simply have to flick 2 forward or 2 backwards.

The little pull down menu which allows you to access some key settings like bluetooth and wifi is really a nice feature Samsung added to the device. No need to go search in your Settings App where you can find the option to disable Roaming data or turn on Wifi Sync.

Conclusion

Well … as a conclusion there are 2 very important questions which need to be answered.

The first question is if the Samsung Galaxy S III is a decent competitor to the iPhone 4s? In my humble opinion … it is. The Samsung Galaxy S III comes with quite a few features which I don’t have on my iPhone 4s (at least not without buying an additional app).

The second question is if I would by a Samsung Galaxy S III. Well … I’m not quite sure about that. But that’s probably because I’m using two iOS apps which aren’t available for Android, and probably also because I already invested quite some money into iOS apps. If I didn’t I would seriously be hesitating.

The Samsung Galaxy S III surely is some serious competition for the iPhone … not only in features, software but also in price.

One Response to Is the Samsung Galaxy S III a worthy iPhone competitor ? I tested it for you.

  1. […] Stefaan is a lovely Belgian who speaks English quite well, but he asked me if I’d proof read his review of the Samsung Galaxy S III smart phone. I was happy to oblige, I think I missed my calling, I could have been a professional […]

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