Samsung Galaxy S III review: A rock-star phone, but does it deliver?
The Galaxy S III comes with your choice of 16GB or 32GB of internal storage. It also supports up to 64GB of external storage via a microSD slot located beneath the back cover. Some models of the phone include 50GB of free Dropbox storage for two years; the AT&T and Verizon models, however, do not.
Samsung's Galaxy S III is 4G-ready, though connection type and speed will obviously depend on your carrier. The AT&T and Verizon models currently run on LTE, where such service is available, while the Sprint model will be limited to 3G data speeds until Sprint's LTE network has launched. The T-Mobile version, meanwhile, utilizes the carrier's HSPA+-level 4G network.
I had no issues with voice quality on the Galaxy S III; calls were loud and clear, and people on the other end of the line reported being able to hear me just fine. The Galaxy S III does have a series of in-call EQ settings, but I was unable to detect any difference with the optimizations on versus off.
The Galaxy S III has full support for near-field communication (NFC) technology, which enables you to use contact-free payment and phone-to-phone data-sharing services. Samsung has built in support for some interesting types of contact-free interactions; I'll explore them fully in a blog later this week.
Camera quality is becoming an area of distinction for high-end smartphones, and with its Galaxy S III, Samsung doesn't disappoint. The Galaxy S III's 8-megapixel main camera consistently captures sharp shots with vibrant, true-to-life colors and fantastic detail.
In some ways, the Galaxy's camera lags behind the lens used by HTC on its One series -- Samsung's camera lacks a dedicated image chip, for example, and has a more limited aperture range than HTC's -- but it took great-looking photos in almost any environment.
Samsung's Galaxy S III camera is capable of capturing images in HDR mode, which quickly snaps shots at different light exposures and then combines them into a single photo.
The camera also has a "burst shot" mode that allows you to hold the shutter and capture 20 photos in rapid-fire paparazzi style. The interface for this mode is a bit of a letdown, though; whereas HTC made the function available on-demand on its One phones, Samsung requires you to scroll through a menu to find and activate the function before it'll work with every use.
The Galaxy S III has a face-detection tagging feature that's supposed to recognize faces automatically and make it easy for you to share photos with friends. In my tests, the feature was very hit-or-miss; it worked as promised some of the time but just as frequently failed to recognize faces that had been programmed in.
The Galaxy S III's camera is capable of recording 1080p HD-quality video. The phone also has a 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera for vanity shots and video chat; its photos aren't studio-quality by any means, but compared to the majority of front-facing mobile cameras, they're actually quite good.
The Galaxy S III runs a version of Android 4.0 heavily customized with Samsung's TouchWiz interface. The result is a mishmash of interesting features and inconsistent design; you could call it a Neapolitan version of Google's Ice Cream Sandwich.
In terms of the actual interface, Samsung trades the subdued gray-and-blue design introduced in Ice Cream Sandwich for a far more busily colored alternative. Many of Samsung's UI changes seem to have been made merely for the sake of change and at the expense of the user experience: For example, to create a home screen folder in the stock ICS software, you simply drag one icon onto another; with the Galaxy S III, you have to first drag an icon directly from the app drawer onto a "Create Folder" command at the bottom of the screen, then drag a second icon on top of it. Samsung essentially altered the process to make it more cumbersome and less intuitive.
Samsung also packed plenty of bloat into the S III, ranging from its usual set of content-purchasing "hubs" to a series of Yahoo News applications. (The carriers have tacked on their share of garbage as well; thankfully, most of it can be disabled and hidden from view.) Even elements like the home screen widgets -- of which Samsung has added several of its own -- are visually random. The net result is an OS that feels cluttered and busy -- a sharp contrast from the sleek simplicity Google achieved in its base ICS software.
Interface aside, Samsung made some innovative feature additions to the Galaxy S III's operating system -- things that actually do add value to the user experience. One of the most useful additions is something called SmartStay: When enabled, it allows the phone to use the front camera to "see" when you're looking at it and keep the screen from turning off.
- Sprint to resell Google Apps for Business cloud service
- Samsung's S5 mini: Slimmer and slower than S5, but still scans fingerprints
- Privacy-focused Blackphone starts shipping to early adopters
- Why you shouldn't buy the Amazon Fire phone
- A closer look at the new technologies in Amazon's Fire smartphone
- Amazon's Fire phone is 'Prime' example of customer first
- Amazon's expected smartphone already faces skeptics
- Update: Tizen OS declared 'dead in the water'
- LG's new G3 smartphone: Simpler is better
- LG G3 sports quad-HD screen and laser autofocus
- Tips for Driving User Adoption in New Technology Deployment Read this checklist on tips for driving user adoption to see where you stand.
- Big Data, Big Mess: Sound Risk Intelligence Through Complete Context This paper examines the insecurity of the small businesses in the supply chain and offers tips to close those backdoors into the enterprise.
- Using Cyber Insurance and Cybercrime Data to Limit Your Business Risk This paper examines the challenges of understanding cyber risks, the importance of having the right cyber risk intelligence, and how to use this...
- 5 Tips to Secure Small Business Backdoors in the Enterprise Supply Chain This paper examines the insecurity of the small businesses in the supply chain and offers tips to close those backdoors into the enterprise.
- NSS Labs & Cisco Present: Evaluating Leading Breach Detection Systems Today's constantly evolving advanced malware and APTs can evade point-in-time defenses to penetrate networks. Security professionals must evolve their strategy in lockstep to...
- Will the Real Endpoint Threat Detection and Response Please Stand Up? This webinar explores new technologies & process for protecting endpoints from advanced attackers as well as the innovations that are pushing the envelope... All Smartphones White Papers | Webcasts
Our new weekly Consumerization of IT newsletter covers a wide range of trends including BYOD, smartphones, tablets, MDM, cloud, social and what it all means for IT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!