This summer the Samsung Galaxy S3 received a lot of hype both in the US and internationally. As one of the most anticipated smartphones of the year, it deserves just about every single compliment it receives.It’s the first smartphones that I’m willing to trade my iPhone for and hands down one of the best smartphones out with a $199 price tag. So what’s all the hype about?
|The Good||The Ugly|
|Beautiful design||Cheap build material|
|Fast and responsive||Soft keys are overly sensitive|
|Samsung Gestures||Display colors are oversaturated|
|Upgraded to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (except Verizon)||Bloatware|
Fast and Sleek
The look of the Samsung Galaxy S3 invites you to play with it and it comes alive when you do. Running on Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich), it’s responsive, fresh and snappy. You’d be hard-pressed to resist picking up the Galaxy S3 and swiping through the homescreens and apps. Samsung did an impressive job fitting a vibrant and spacious 4.8-inch display into the Galaxy S3’s sleek and smooth body. Despite the big display, the Galaxy S3 is as thin as a passport with curves in all in the right places.
The volume rocker and power button are the only breaks in its elegant design. An unobtrusive headphone jack sits at the top with a mini-usb charging port at the bottom. With its sleek curves and clean design, the Galaxy S3 makes my iPhone 4 feel sharp and heavy.
The Phone Experience
Have you ever noticed how bad smartphones are at being a phone? My iPhone 4 gives me problems before, during, and after calls daily. The Galaxy S3 has no such problems. In fact, when switching from my iPhone 4 to the Galaxy S3, people noted that I sound louder, clearer, and just plain better. They sound just as loud and clear to me too.
I did encounter two issues during calls. Initially, calls dropped after 15-20 minutes of talking. This was likely an issue with AT&T rather than the Galaxy S3. Still, it makes me paranoid about every call I make on the Galaxy S3 now. Also, in the heat of summer sweat tends to build-up on the screen. It’s pretty gross so you’ll want to keep something around to wipe it off after calls.
Startup times are fair, but could be much better. Apparently, having Samsung and AT&T’s logo on the front and back of the phone wasn’t enough promotion. It takes around 26 seconds for the Galaxy S3 to start up , 10 of which are wasted on displaying Samsung and AT&T’s logos yet again.
Web Browsing on 4G/LTE
AT&T doesn’t pull any punches on its 4G network, which downloads at a rate between 14-25Mbps. Just to compare, my home internet connection through Optimum/Cablevision download speeds are between 19-21Mbps. These Usain Bolt speeds can get just about any page to load instantly. The full desktop version of media heavy sites like The Verge load in less than 10 seconds!
My iPhone 4 takes double that amount time on AT&T’s 3G network, not to mention Safari mobile lacks options for loading the desktop version of sites whenever you want.
Other browser differences include an omnibar (search and url address bar combined) and full screen view, features the iPhone could definitely use to help maximize space on its smaller screen. Still, I missed little things from my iPhone like tapping the top of the screen to quickly scroll to the beginning of a page.
Using Flash and YouTube
If you want to watch a videon on The Verge’s site from your phone you need Flash Player. Flash is generally a huge fail on any mobile device. Steve Jobs went to great lengths to keep it off the iPhone, though it’s hard to see why when using the Galaxy S3.
In less than a minute, Flash Player was installed and videos played without a hitch in rich HD glory. Surprisingly, videos sound just as good as they look from the tiny speakers on the back of the Galaxy S3.
Android’s video playback process is absolutely superior to any other mobile OS. This is especially noticeable when using the YouTube app. According to the data usage dashboard in the Galaxy S3’s settings, I’ve wasted 619MBs of AT&T’s 2GB (2000MBs) data cap watching Adria Richards’ and Wiz Khalifa’s YouTube channels in HD.
With android, you’re not limited to viewing videos in landscape mode. Tapping the play button on a video thumbnail will let you watch the video at the size of the thumbnail. For those that like to multitask, it’s easy to watch a video and continuing reading text around the video. Holding the Galaxy S3’s 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED screen in landscape mode brings videos to fullscreen view. Videos appear vivid and colors pop on the screen, but they’re also heavily saturated and can sometimes seem too dark or not bright enough.
It’s not the iPhone’s retina display, but you certainly won’t be disappointed watching movies on the Galaxy S3’s screen!
Galaxy S3 Pop Up Player for Videos
Oddly, the Galaxy S3’s exclusive pop up player doesn’t work on any web videos. Pop up player lets you continue watching a video in a separate movable window while do other things like tweeting about what you’re watching. Unfortunately, it only works for the videos saved to your Galaxy S3. In a perfect world, you would’ve been able to use the pop up player to watch a livestream on YouTube and tweet about it at the same time. People already do this on their computers, why not bring that functionality to mobile phones too?
If you don’t have a Galaxy S3 and you’re anxious for this feature, try Super Video or Stick it! from the Google Play store is an alternative.
The Galaxy S3 sports an impressive 8MP rear camera with flash and auto focus, industry standards for cameras on high-end smartphones. The front camera is a paltry 1.9MP that looks great on screen, but the picture quality isn’t as nice to see on the computer.
As soon as you tap the camera icon, it instantly loads. It’s so refreshing to not have to wait for a fake camera shutter to open. Colors are vivid and saturated because of the phone’s screen, but pictures actually look subdued and detailed when you see them on your computer. You can really see the details and natural colors from the S3’s photos compared to the saturated tones of my iPhone 4’s photos shown below.
There are a variety of camera options to explore; you’d expect to see most of them on a DSLR camera. Several shooting modes are available including panorama, HDR, and burst shot. Settings such as ISO, exposure values, white balance, and metering can also be adjusted on the fly. Need to turn off the shutter sound? There’s an option for that! If you spend a lot of time sending photos to friends, try the buddy photo option. It tags your friends in pictures and instantly shares it with them.
Just be careful about leaving smudges on the camera lens. There’s a noticeable difference in the picture quality attributed to smudges (see below). So, be sure to give the lens a quick wipe before you start photographing.
S Voice, Gestures and Smart Stay
Other features exclusive to the Samsung Galaxy S3 include S Voice, Smart Stay, and a new list of gestures. S Voice is Samsung’s answer to Siri from Apple. Samsung provides a nice selection of commands for using S Voice. You can set a “wake up” command that starts up S Voice, answer phone calls, create calendar appointments, snooze alarms, and even open apps.
While using it, I had a ton of trouble getting the “wake up” command to work properly and turned it off altogether after several attempts. S Voice is pretty good at recognizing what you’re saying, but the app itself sounds like one of those old school type and talk programs from the 90s. Noticed how I called S Voice an app? That’s because it feels like an app, separate and standalone, rather than a seamlessly integrated component of the entire device.
Samsung has incorporated some really cool gestures in the Galaxy S3 that are fun to use. With Direct Call, if you change your mind in the middle of texting someone and decide that you want to call them, simply put the phone to your ear and the Galaxy S3 will call them. Swiping the side of your hand across the display will take a screenshot. Turning the phone over will mute calls or pause playing sounds. Additionally you can pause on-device media by simply placing the palm of your hand over the screen.
Smart Stay is a fairly simple feature that has a lot of problems. With Smart Stay, the sensors on the front of the Galaxy S3 keep tabs on your eyes. If it detects that you’re looking at the screen, it will prevent the screen from turning off until you stop looking at it. This is the perfect feature for bookworms and media addicts that read lots of content throughout the day. Every smartphone should have this feature!
Yet, Smart Stay is absolutely worthless in the dark or if you’re a dark-skinned person. I frequently have problems getting Smart Stay to recognize my eyes unless I’m in an extremely well lit area. The way Smart Stay behaves reminds me of HP’s discriminating webcam blooper back in 2009 when one of their webcams wouldn’t recognize a black man, but had no problems tracking a white woman.
With a 16GB harddrive expandable to 64GBs via a microsd slot, there’s a lot of free space to use on Samsung Galaxy S3. I really hoped this device would provide an easy, hands-free way of transferring photos and videos to a computer since it’s supposed to be so cutting edge. I tried using the WiFi Direct feature to do this, but it isn’t made for that. Bluetooth transferring is way too slow and I had too many pictures to send via email. Begrudgingly, I grabbed the USB cord thinking I could plug-in the Galaxy S3 and drag and drop everything from my iMac. Simple, right? Not quite.
First, I had to download the Android File Transfer software to access my phone on my Mac. Android File Transfer is no iTunes. You can do two things with it: transfer files and delete them. There’s no syncing of apps, books, or even a music management option. Why? Well, Google prefers that you let them take care of the syncing “in the cloud”, wherever that is.
After about 10 minutes of my screen being inactive while transferring files the phone’s connection to the app was cut off due to inactivity. This NEVER happens with an iPhone.
The saving grace of the Android File Transfer app is that files transfer rather quickly, unlike iTunes.
To test the battery life, I started charging the Galaxy S3 at 12:10pm with only 17% battery life remaining. During the first 30 minutes of charging, I read my RSS feeds using Feedly with Smart Stay enabled. After an hour, battery life rose to 50%. Sounds impressive, but my iPhone reaches 50% much faster. After 2 hours of charging, battery life was only at 94% and I didn’t have time to wait for the extra 6% because I had a meeting to get to.
Despite how fast a 4G connection can be, 4G is a huge battery drainer and should only be used when you really need it. Knowing this made me hesitant to take the Galaxy S3 out without a charger. You might be thinking, just turn off the 4G connection. You can’t on the Samsung Galaxy S3. In fact, it’s the first 4G smartphone I’ve ever used that doesn’t make 4G an option and it’s absolutely frustrating if you’re trying to squeeze out as much battery life as possible.
Still, I left my house with a prayer that the Galaxy S3 would make it through the day. After 9 hours of traveling, Instagramming, recording several videos, tweeting, foursquaring, reading Walt Disney’s autobiography on the Kindle app and checking email with 4G always on, the Galaxy S3 still had 23% battery life left in it. This number far exceeded my expectations.
Overall, the Galaxy S3’s battery manages to hold up pretty well even with the constant 4G connection. If you’re planning any late night expeditions you’ll want to have the charger on hand. If you really need the extra battery life try turning off wifi and mobile data when you’re not using them, lowering the screen brightness, disabling a few gestures or anything from S Voice that requires it to run in the background.
Rating – 8/10 Stars
Despite the hiccups of S Voice and lack of options to turn off 4G, I’m giving it 8 out of 10 stars because I genuinely enjoy using the Samsung Galaxy S3 more than my iPhone. It feels incredible, is a head turner on the NYC subway, and its display was made for wasting hours of my life on YouTube. The Galaxy S3 is elegant and carries an exclusive feel to it. The speed of both the phone and AT&T’s 4G network makes this a powerhouse phone for any power user.