During a keynote event at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre in London, Samsung launched their next generation Galaxy S III smartphone After 15 months, it’s time to replace the Galaxy S II as the Korean phone maker’s flagship device. From the live stream, you have to color me impressed. Now let’s take a look at what the Galaxy S III has to offer in terms of both hardware and the software feature-set.
Galaxy S III Hardware Features
In terms of pure specifications, the Galaxy S III is a beast of a mobile device by all appearances. However, For those expecting a pocket busting Galaxy Note type experience with that 4.8” screen, you will be pleasantly surprised. The slim bezel keeps size to a minimum. The phone itself is just barely larger than the Galaxy Nexus with both height and width, but it’s a bit thinner.
This phone was designed with both photographers and videographers in mind. As you can see above, you have a quality rear camera, a front camera capable of taking HD video at 30FPS, and it’s all backlight illuminated for better low light performance. In photo mode, you have a couple of burst options. Option one, it can take up to 20 photos in a burst. Option two, which Samsung calls Best Photo, takes a burst of 8, then automatically picks the best of the bunch to keep. It can even remember faces and automatically tag to your social networks. Lastly, this phone can take video and photo stills simultaneously.
Galaxy S III OS and Software Features
The Galaxy S III runs Samsung’s skinned variant of Android 4.0 Ice Cream dubbed Touchwiz Nature UX. As you can tell from the name, this skin draws heavily from nature when it comes to (motion) wallpaper, ringtones, and other system sounds. It was rather impressive hearing a splash and seeing water ripples when the lock screen was touched.
Remember those six different sensors that you read about in the spec sheet? Well, it looks like Samsung is putting them to good use throughout the phone’s features. Everyone’s run into that little hiccup where if you’re reading something and forget to interact with the screen, it will go into powersave mode and you’ll have to wake it back up and re-enter your password. It’s necessary for security, but its annoying to say the least. Samsung has a solution for that – it’s calling Smart Stay. The front-facing camera will monitor your eyes and facial expressions and as long as it’s in front of your face, the phone will not go to sleep. Quite frankly, I’m surprised this solution wasn’t thought up sooner. Hindsight may be 20/20, but this just seems common-sensical.
Smart Stay is just the tip of the iceberg. Next in the lineup is Smart Alert. Let’s say you leave your phone on your table and forget that it’s not in your pocket. When you pick it up, the phone will buzz to notify that you had some important notifications, like missed calls, while you and your phone were separated. Not exactly mind blowing, but useful nonetheless.
The Direct Call feature allows you to call whoever you’re messaging by simply bringing the phone up your ear in normal call position. The Galaxy S III’s sensors will interpret your motions and make the call accordingly. You don’t have to do a thing. Lastly for this section is S-Voice. For all intents and purposes, this is Samsung’s version of Siri, with maybe a couple extra bells and whistles like hardware control.
Back in October, Google and Samsung announced Google Beam with the Galaxy Nexus. For those not familiar, it’s technology that allows file sharing by simply touching two phones together back to back using NFC. The Galaxy S III has its own slightly customized version called S-Beam which also brings Wi-Fi into the mix. While the feature looks promising, it has a major drawback in that both phones must have this feature. Best case, it’s backwards compatible, you’re limited to the SIII and the aforementioned Galaxy Nexus. Worst case and its a one phone party for the moment. The NFC technology also works in the more traditional mobile payment function as well.
Android users who would like to mirror the content on a larger screen, ala Apple’s AirPlay, have finally gotten their wish with All Share Play. All you need is your phone, Samsung’s HDMI dongle, and app developers to add the API into their app. Full screen games and smartphone driven presentations are only a click or two away. There is also a subset of this called GroupCast which allows collaborative screen sharing between users on a common Wi-Fi network.
Samsung is also rolling out a trio of “hubs” for gaming, video, and music.
For international users, the Galaxy S III will launch in 3G HSPA+ form on May 29th in Europe. LTE users including the U.S., Canada, and Japan will have to wait a little longer into the summer. All said, the Galaxy S III is set to roll out on 296 cellular providers in 145 different countries. As a diehard iOS user, I have to admit Samsung has peaked my attention with the Galaxy S III the way I thought the Galaxy Nexus would. If you’re a higher-end Android user in search of a new phone, this might be one to watch.