Samsung Galaxy S3: Key Features
- 4.8in Super AMOLED screen
- Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich
- 8-megapixel camera with LED flash
- Quad-core 1.4GHz CPU
- S Voice speech recognition
- Face recognition
Samsung Galaxy S3: Look and Feel
The first impression that strikes you when you pick up the Samsung Galaxy S3 is that it is a lot smaller than you might expect. That 4.8in Super AMOLED display hasn't pushed the device to a size where it is is big enough to make you question whether this is a phone or a tablet, as is the case with the Samsung Galaxy Note.
If anything it looks like the illegitimate child of a Galaxy Note and a Galaxy S2, with the spawn taking enough of its DNA from the S2 to look more like a phone. The Galaxy S3 measures 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6mm, compared to the slimmer, shorter and less-wide Galaxy S2 which measures 125.3 x 66.1 x 8.49mm.
The second impression you get on handling the Samsung Galaxy S3 is that it doesn't have that nice heft that Apple's device has when it sits in the palm of your hand. When you pick up an iPhone it's a solid device and even if that means it adds a few extra grams, it just feels right. When you pick up the S3 it feels plasticky and insubstantial. If that didn't bother you with the Galaxy S2, then welcome to your new favourite phone. If it did, then you're unlikely to make this your new phone.
Looking at the smartphone's layout, the button positions are similar to the S2 with the physical Home flacked by Back and Menu capacitive buttons on the the left and right respectively. One issue this raises is that Samsung is staying away from the convention of using back, home and app switcher buttons on new Android devices which have Ice Cream Sandwich.
The front-facing 1.9 megapixel camera has also been shifted from the left to the right of the screen on the Galaxy S3, although that shouldn't affect its performance.
Samsung Galaxy S3: Performance
When it comes to specs and features, though, we finally have a device that is worthy of the ridiculously overused title 'iPhone killer'. The iPhone's Retina display has kept many of the Apple faithful from worshipping at a different altar but it's easy to see some of those halos slipping once they get a look at the Galaxy S3.
The 4.8in AMOLED screen has a resolution of 720 x 1,280 pixel, identical to the HTC One X, giving it a pixel density of 306ppi. While this falls just short of the 324ppi opn the Retina Display, the difference is imperceptible. While AMOLED screens do have issues, such as contrast shift and oversaturation, Samsung seems to have dealt with most of these with the Galaxy S3 screen, which they should be applauded for.
The feature most likely to be used by S3 owners to try and win over iOS fans, is the device's video playback. The quad-core 1.4GHz CPU on the Exynos 4 quad chip is powerful enough for the HD playback to be minimised to a tiny window and yet still keep playing while you perform other tasks.
Better yet, that video can be dragged around the screen to any position you want so it's always in the perfect spot to avoid getting in the way of the phone's other functions. It's a great little feature, even if it may turn out to be something of a gimmick.
The performance factor we're most looking forward to testing out in a full review is the battery life. Samsung has packed a 2,100mAh battery into the Galaxy S3, which compares very favourably to the 1650mAh cell featured in the S2 and in the One X. It will be interesting to see how this increased juice deals with the increased screen size and more powerful processor.
Samsung Galaxy S3: Voice Control
The iPhone 4S was a bit of a let down when it launched last October, but one feature which was new and revolutionart was its voice activated personal assistant. Where Siri rules iOS devices, Samsung now has S Voice. It all starts like you're chatting to one of your mates and uttering the phrases like "Hi Galaxy" or "Hi Buddy" is enough for the Galaxy S3 to ask what you want to do.
In practise, this seems to be very hit and miss when the background noise is loud. The overriding words that could be heard in Samsung's bustling test pods at the S3's launch were "Hi Galaxy", followed by the automated response "I didn't catch that. Please try again" (or "I don't understand" if the follow-up command had been missed).
Half an hour later, when many of the hacks had been lured away by the refreshments it was a different story and the S3 could suddenly make sense of your wake-up command and the follow-up orders.
With journalists from all over Europe eager to get their hands on the phone we even heard the "Hi Galaxy" and following commands being understood in a number of languages (S Voice can currently handle 10 languages).
Search queries such as "What time is it in London now?" were all understood and correctly answered. However, it is a shame the commands to control the Samsung Galaxy S3 didn't seem to go further - in our limited tests - than performing a task such as opening a program. It's great to be able to say "Take a photo" and have the camera open but it would be better to be able to repeat the command and have the image automatically snapped.
Samsung Galaxy S3: Cameras
It might not have the 12 megapixel camera those rumours suggested it would, but the 8 megapixel version that has been included is a decent enough camera.
Oddly, the front camera drops from two-megapixels to 1.9-megapixels in the specs when compared to the Galaxy S2 - although if you can tell the difference the 0.1-megapixel makes you probably deserve to win a free S3.
The rear camera shoots full 1080p video, while the front camera will still manage 720p HD video and even capture separate still images while it is doing it.
Samsung Galaxy S3: Smart features
We're looking forward to getting our hands on the smartphone for a much more extended delve into the features that were announced at the UK launch. The first we'll be itching to test are many of the device's 'Smart' features.
For instance, Smart Alert is designed to make sure you never miss that important message or call again. Imagine your boss calls early in the morning while you're in the shower to change meeting plans at the last minute. Rather than picking your phone up and heading into the office oblivious to the message he left you, the phone actually buzzes when you lift it so you know you missed the call.
Another incredibly useful addition is Smart Stay function, which should stop that annoying phone habit where the screen closes after a set time just because you haven't touched anything. After all, who wants to see the screen go dark while they're reading a page of a book?
Eye detection technology will stop this happening and as Samsung said at the launch, the phone only sleeps when you do.
Smart Call, meanwhile is another tiny but clever change that could prove useful if you make a lot of calls. If you are looking up a phone number and then lift the phone to your ear the Samsung Galaxy S3 realises you want to make a call and connects you.
Until we do post that full review, check out how much the Samsung Galaxy S3 will cost when it is launched on 29 May.