Inspired by nature, and awe-inspiring.
After many months of waiting, and not a small amount of hype, the Galaxy S III is finally here, replacing the Galaxy S II as Samsung’s hero phone of the day -- Samsung’s play not only against whatever Apple’s got up its sleeves but also appealing phones such as HTC’s One X/XL family.
Samsung's new hero phone is a white knight (blue is on its way).
The Galaxy S III is an Android 4.0 smartphone with a 4.8in 1,280 x 720-pixel Super AMOLED display available (technically) in two colours, although at launch only the ceramic white was on sale; Samsung’s apparently having some construction issues with the Pebble Blue variant. The rounded shape of the Galaxy S III certainly makes it comfortable to hold, although it’s a matter of taste as to whether the stark white actually appeals to you.
Underneath either the white or blue skin of the S III, Samsung’s packed a 1.4GHz quad-core Exynos CPU. Not only does this thing kick the backside of every other phone on the market in synthetic benchmarks, it’s also just seriously quick in real-world application use. Samsung’s opted for a nature theme with the S III -- it refers to this as ‘inspired by nature’ -- so get used to lots of water ripples and the like if you keep things stock standard.
Samsung’s TouchWiz skin for the S III includes a number of software optimisations, although their utility is variable. ‘Direct call’, which calls the on-screen contact if you hold the phone up to your ear works very well. ‘Smart stay’, which keeps the screen switched on if it detects you’re looking at it only works variably, and S Voice, Samsung’s take on a Siri-like spoken word assistant is still way too flaky to be worthwhile. ‘Pop up play’ -- which lets you keep a video playing while multitasking another function -- is cute but not that useful, especially as its implementation across different video types is spotty. It’s a minor criticism, but the Galaxy S III’s button layout could be better, especially the needlessly thin main home button; the other two capacitive buttons perform admirably, but the home button feels like a weak link.
The Galaxy S III is being stocked by all three primary carriers in Australia, but only in a 3G HDSPA+ compatible variant. It’s a touch disappointing we won’t see an LTE (aka 4G) version in Australia immediately; Samsung has said it’s ‘in talks’ with Telstra about a 4G Galaxy S III, but that could be some time coming. The one benefit of that lower speed is lower power consumption, with the S III having the best battery life of a phone of this size we’ve seen. If you’re a heavy apps or data user you’ll still flatten its 2,100mAh battery within a day, but moderate use should see you through, something other phones often struggle with.
In the 3G arena, the Galaxy S III is an incredibly strong contender; it’s not the fastest Android for data speeds (that’s currently the 4G-equipped One XL) but it’s the best all-round performer, even if some of its party pieces are a bit shallow.
Pros : Extremely fast, great screen, good battery life.
Cons : Samsung’s own apps are mediocre, menu button feels cheap.
Verdict : 9 out of 10. Editor's Choice!
Available from Samsung, retailing for $899 (16GB).