Samsung Galaxy S III: To buy or not to buy?

So, I just finished reviewing the Samsung Galaxy S III.

Samsung Galaxy S III Phone

It's a funny thing, reviewing a phone as highly anticipated as this one. As I wrote in my review, the Galaxy S III is a true rock star device -- practically a celebrity -- what with the insane attention leading up to its release and the larger-than-life marketing Samsung's wrapped around it ever since.

I think all the hype has a lot of people thinking the Galaxy S III is hands-down the Android phone to own right now -- the latest and greatest, bar none, with every other device looking like dirt in comparison. Let me tell you something: That simply isn't the case.

Don't get me wrong: The Galaxy S III is a great phone. A fantastic phone, even. There's a lot to like about it. But that doesn't mean it's the best phone, period. With the ever-increasing number of impressive high-end Android devices out there these days, such a singular distinction is almost impossible to achieve.

Here's the truth: The Galaxy S III is one of the best Android phones available right now. So is the HTC One X, with its phenomenal screen and top-of-the-line camera. And the HTC One S, with its spectacular build and design. And the Galaxy Nexus, with its unmatched (and untouched) pure Google Ice Cream Sandwich experience. Personally, I'd pick any of those over the new Galaxy S III, even if they don't have the same level of hype surrounding them.

That's not to say you should, too; it just boils down to personal preference and priorities -- in other words, what you want in your phone. The Galaxy S III has sexy hardware and stellar performance. It also has a great camera, a removable battery, and the option to add external storage. Those are all pretty enticing features.

At the same time, though, it has a woefully flawed button approach, and its software -- while filled with some interesting and innovative features -- is a far cry from the sleek simplicity of Google's stock Ice Cream Sandwich OS. (Don't even get me started on the upgrade implications.) HTC's phones aren't stock ICS, either, of course, but they're far more forward-looking in terms of UI; between the buttons and the interface, the Galaxy S III feels in many ways like you're living in Android's past.

For some people, that won't matter. And that's perfectly fine. My point is that just because the Galaxy S III is getting a lot of attention -- and, to its credit, has some very impressive qualities -- doesn't mean that it automatically trumps everything else.

In the big picture, Samsung's making it increasingly clear that it's working to build its own brand, its own following, and its own ecosystem. Samsung's newly appointed CEO reinforced this concept in a recent speech, where he discussed the need to strengthen the company's proprietary smartphone software and focus on creating a unique user experience.

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Why I became an Android purist

The Galaxy S III reflects this ambition. The phone is about much more than its individual parts; it's about the overall experience those parts add up to provide. And that experience clearly revolves around Samsung's -- not Google's -- vision for what an Android phone should be. The ultimate question is whether that vision works for you.

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Take a few minutes to step into my shoes, and I suspect you'll get a little closer to figuring out the answer. I spent several days using the GSIII in place of my own personal phone, and along the way, I experienced plenty of highs -- and plenty of lows. The way I see it, it's my job to nitpick and focus on all the good and bad qualities of a phone. It's your job to decide how much all those things matter to you.

My in-depth journey starts here:

Samsung Galaxy S III review: A rock star phone, but does it deliver?

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