When Samsung launched its first Galaxy S phone, it took the smartphone market by storm. Comparisons with Apple’s iPhone were rampant; many people considered the Galaxy S to be at par with the iPhone, not better (in some aspects).
While Galaxy S2 did not do as well as its predecessor, Galaxy S3 certainly is a reason for the Samsung folks to be proud again.
Design and construction
First things first — I love how this phone fits in my hand. It is a powerhouse combining cutting edge hardware and software, yet it feels so light. Perhaps it’s the right division of weight, or the absence of a high-range lens like that present in many Nokia phones (PureView or even N8). The front is dominated by a huge 4.8-inch display screen, two soft keys (back and options) and one hard key (home), a service light that is completely invisible when not in use, an earpiece, proximity/light sensors, and the front-facing camera lens. The polycarbonate back cover, although essentially plastic, is sturdy and does not feel cheap. The phone has rounded edges, a design factor that I personally find very sleek and subtle.
On the right side is the lock key, which when long pressed, gives various device options like Power Off, Restart and Silent mode. The volume rockers are on the left and packed away on the bottom is the USB port. On the top is a tiny microphone and earplugs jack.
Display and Interface
The solid gorilla glass display is absolutely stunning, and the size makes it just right to be passed off as an actual phone, and not a confused “tablet-phone”. The user interface is quintessential of Samsung-Android phones, although I hated how the phone automatically locks after a few seconds (on default settings). Samsung has retained its pull-down shortcuts bar, which is quite helpful in turning on/off Wi-Fl or Bluetooth with a single tap.
Communication and Connectivity
The phone is packed with communication options. A few novel features include transfer via NFC (where you touch the phone with another NFC-enabled device to transfer data and information). However, I wasn’t able to test out this feature, so can’t really say much about its functionality. Along the same lines are Android Beam and S Beam where you can transfer apps and data with other enabled devices. With Wi-Fi Direct, you can even connect to multiple Wi-Fi Direct-enabled devices. All Share Play lets you share content with your PC. However, it did not work with my Windows XP computer.
Samsung claims that the phone is “designed for humans”, and quite right. I loved the small, yet smart features that make you feel like the phone actually listens to you and feels your presence. For instance, Smart Stay feature disables screen timeout if the device detects that your face is watching the screen. This I witnessed when watching videos on YouTube or the stock video player.
Another smart feature is unlocking the camera. You hold the device straight, tap and rotate the device and voila, the camera is launched. However, I found this feature very irritating and invasive, and ended up disabling it from the Settings. Social Tag uses facial recognition to match faces in photographs with the profile photos in your contacts.
The S Voice feature is a bit like Sin i in iPhone 4S. You give it voice commands and it fetches info/performs the command. However, there were too many network issues and lagging problems to truly enjoy this feature. It’s always better to label a product as “beta” to cut itself some slack and get away with teething problems. Samsung, on the other hand, maybe felt too confident to bother with this. Other such “smart” features include enabling the option that automatically calls the latest contact when you bring the phone to your ear. Similarly, I love how placing my palm on the screen mutes incoming calls, songs etcetera. It almost feels like you are gesturing your phone to shush up!
I felt very futuristic with the S3’s face-recognition security option. After setting up and enabling this option. I was pleasantly surprised when the phone recognized my face almost every time, and unlocked the phone. Of course, I had to improve it further by taking more pictures in different lighting and conditions. I would strongly suggest keeping an alternate unlock method like drawing a pattern in case face recognition doesn’t work — you really don’t want to be “locked out of your phone”, just because you are wearing unusual makeup or even prescription glasses! The rest of the security features are the usual Android-Samsung ones.
Calling and messaging
No matter how “smart” a phone gets, calling and messaging are basic yet crucial features. Calling was absolutely no problem, although prolonged calls can get a bit uncomfortable with the huge screen sticking to your cheek. The front-facing camera is of a decent quality, and Skype calls via Wi-Fi were pretty smooth. Hands-free also worked fine.
On the other hand, messaging with one hand was very difficult, almost impossible. Overall, whether it was sending a text, IM, or posting comments on Facebook, I didn’t find typing very comfortable on the S3. It almost seems as if typing was considered too basic to pay any attention to, something that did not go down well with me.
If there’s one feature that I extensively used. it was the camera. I took photos indoors, outdoors, in bright and dim light, and with/without flash. Pretty decent results, I can safely say — especially when it comes to photographing people. I took full advantage of burst mode, where it takes multiple photos, and you can decide which one is the best. Beauty shot automatically attempts to remove blemishes/marks from your face. But in this mode, be prepared for a very slight delay because the processor will perform basic editing prior to displaying the picture. I also liked the way Settings have been neatly tucked away, yet are easy to find without much navigation. The customization options are plenty for those who like to dig deeper.
Videos shot from this phone turned out quite well. When shooting at 1920×1080, I could make out the softest chirp and the slightest movement when I transferred the movie on my PC. Although there aren’t a lot of customization options in Video mode, you can work on major things like changing the white balance and enabling anti-shake. While videos shot outdoors in bright light were gorgeous, indoor videos were also not bad.
I really felt the absence of a dedicated camera button, as touching the soft key each time inadvertently shakes the phone. On the other hand, the front-facing camera is actually not bad, you can even record doable videos. Lastly, combined with Photography apps like Instagram and Pixel-o-matic, taking photos, applying effects and uploading them on social networks can be an addiction very hard to break. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
With a Quad-core 1.4Ghz processor and Mali400MP GPU at its heart, I expected the phone to give me one of the best mobile gaming experiences — and it didn’t disappoint me. Excellent responsiveness and fast graphics makes it a very addictive device. Most of the social (and mostly free) games on the Game Hub are for the casual users, serious gamers should try its Premium range. Personally I didn’t try any Premium games because simply put, I have been too spoilt by freebies to actually buy apps and games!
Multimedia and battery life
Before diving into the multimedia features, let me clarify that I got the 16GB version of the Galaxy S3 — the OS gulps up to 5GB, so basically I was left with around 11GB to store my data. But this didn’t really worry me — I had the option to boost up the storage by utilizing the microSD card, and even Dropbox, which offers a whopping 50GB of storage space!
What I really liked about the phone was how the second you plug in your earphones. The options in the pull-down shortcuts bar changes — you can pause/skip tracks, launch apps like FM Radio, YouTube etc just with a tap. More good news? The phone comes bundled with a decent set of earphones, unlike a few other phones we have reviewed. Sadly, FM Radio was not functionally properly, it kept giving me the alert to connect earplugs (which I obviously had). I certainly hope this was some bug on the testing model given to me, as this can be a major drawback for the phone. I would strongly suggest testing out this matter yourself before purchasing this exorbitantly-priced phone.
The battery life is not bad — considering the enormous display size and plethora of features. Another thing, the battery cover is removable — something that I have always liked.
The ultimate question — is the phone worth our hard-earned cash? It looks gorgeous, performs brilliantly and the software and hardware integrate well. On the other hand, 62k is no child’s play — you can buy an average notebook and feature phone with some extra cash to spare in all that money. But surely, Galaxy S3 will give you maximum satisfaction for the payment you’ve made for acquiring that phone.