Samsung Galaxy S III User Review

SGS3 Camwhore - Rear Camera

On 24 May 2012 (Thursday), Samsung Malaysia Electronics launched their latest Android Superphone – the Samsung Galaxy S III. In the media launch event, I got my hands on a review unit, which I have shown you the unboxing pictures and comparison to the HTC One X.

Read about them here:-

Now, the time is here. I have been using the phone as my primary phone for the last week plus and am happy to report on the performance and highlights of this highly anticipated Android flagship superphone.

Ready?

 

Hardware Overview

At the expense of sounding like a broken record, since I already covered this in my previous posts HERE and HERE, below is (again) the specs overview of the Samsung Galaxy S III.

  • 4.8″ HD Super AMOLED display
  • 1.4 GHz quad core Exynos processor
  • 16 GB (out now), 32 GB (later) & 64 GB (maybe) internal memory (with expandable microSD slot)
  • Available in 2 colours; Pebble Blue (global shortage) and Marble White (widely available)
  • Powered by Android OS 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (with Samsung TouchWiz UI)
  • 8 megapixel rear camera, 1.9 megapixel front facing camera
  • 8.5 mm thin, weighing only 133 grams
  • Li-Ion 2,100 mAh battery

I really like how thin the phone is, considering it has such a humoungous screen size (4.8 inch). It feels really good in your hands and feels really light, too.

Of course, I have to agree with most of the complains out there about the built quality of Samsung phones. They feel plasticky. Samsung has addressed this concern claiming “SGS3 is polycarbonate, not plastic” in this article here.  But somehow, with the same material as the HTC One X, the latter feels much more solid.

For the full story on the hardware of the Samsung Galaxy S III, check out my unboxing post here.

 

Software Overview

Samsung uses their own skin to all their Android phones called TouchWiz UI. While some hard core techies generally dislike skins / themes, Samsung has one of the nicer UI on Android. It helps make the phone easier to use and understand for non-geeks.

Some of you might argue this point. Google has recently introduced their latest Android OS version 4.X called “Ice Cream Sandwich” (ICS). The Android ICS has been much improved and much more user friendly and graphically beautiful, too. Really, you would be able to navigate and use the phone much easier with this new OS version without the need of phone manufacturer’s skin on top of it.

Then again, I always believe it’s all a matter of personal preference.

SGS3 Home Screen

As the SGS3 Tagline goes, this phone is “Inspired by Nature, Designed for Humans”. Without making a pun about the “Designed for Humans” bit, the phone is indeed very inspired by nature and you can see that throughout the phone.

SGS3 Ringtone selection – Nature themed

No joke! Even their ringtones are all a lot more subtle and consists of soothing nature sounds and relaxation tones. Check out the names of the tones. If you’re not relaxed already, this phone will ease you right up.

The annoyance for me though, was that even the Alarm tones are soothing. WTF? I want my alarm tones to jolt me up!

Anyways, back to the user interface…

Seven (7) home screens

Pinch to zoom on the Home Screen and you’ll see that the Samsung Galaxy S III has a total of 7 screens for you to place and customise all your widgets. Re-arrange the screens the way you please. You also have the option to select which of the screens to be your “Home” screen.

SGS3 App Drawer

As with any Samsung phones, you scroll through the App Drawer sideways, to reveal all the apps you have installed on your phone.

 Click on the downward pointing icon (universal sign for “Downloads”) and you’ll come to the Downloaded Apps interface showing you all the apps you’ve downloaded to your phone.
SGS3 Widget Drawer

Next to the App Drawer screen, the next tab is for “Widgets”. This is changed with the new Android ICS OS, where you can access all your widgets right by the App Drawer. All you need to do is just long press one of the widgets and drag and place it wherever you like on the Home Screen.

SGS3 – default Samsung keyboard

The default Samsung keyboard was not too bad.

Although I purchase my own SwiftKeyX keyboard, I was using the default Samsung keyboard throughout my review and didn’t hate it.

SGS3 Giant Phone Dialer

The phone dialer keypads are a little too huge for my liking. But those with large fingers should be happy, right?

SGS3 Pull Down Notification & Shortcuts

The pull down notification is very similar to the SGS2. You can access shortcut icons to WiFi, Bluetooth, Silent mode, Settings and of course, your notifications.

SGS3 Contacts

The SGS3 address book has not changed much from the SGS2. Like the predecessor, you can link several profile information together into one contact. For example, I can link all accounts and profile for Google, Facebook WhatsApp, etc into one contact entry. Always handy.

SGS3 Data Usage Monitor

By far, one of te handiest feature on Android OS 4.X ICS is the Data Usage monitor function built into the software. No longer do you need to download 3rd party data monitoring apps like 3G Watchdog. You can now set data limits, alarms and notifications to watch your phone’s data usage.

Scroll down this screen, you’ll also get to see what apps are using the most data. You can then choose to kill them one by one. Super handy!

SGS3 Multi-Tasking

Long press the physical “Home” button on the phone and you’ll get to manage your Multi-Tasking function. Tap on the app you wish to open. Swipe the window sideways to kill the app. Coolness!

SGS3 Stock Browser Bookmarks

The stock browser on the SGS3 is one of the better ones that I have used. Look, I can sync my Google bookmarks across multiple accounts with my phone!

SGS3 Stock Browser – Incognito mode

I didn’t have to download the Chrome browser app, which is only available to Android phones running on the latest Android OS 4.0 and above. The stock browser can also handle browsing in “Incognito mode” like your Chrome browser on your desktop.

SGS3 Samsung pre-installed Apps

As usual, you will see a bunch of pre-installed Samsung Apps in the phone already. Some of them are available in previous Android phones (SGS2 or Galaxy Note) like (Clockwise from Top Left) S Suggest (Samsung’s marketplace that suggests apps for you to check out), S Planner (Samsung’s calendar app, with side tab navigation), S-Memo (handwriting and drawing app).

New functions added on this SGS3 includes – AllShare Play (Samsung’s Cloud Storage solution, which also allows collaboration feature) and (middle) Ch@t On (Samsung’s version of WhatsApp which is also available for download for other platforms.

 

Samsung Galaxy S III – Killer Features

There are so many killer functions that Samsung has included in this Samsung Galaxy S III. Check out the video introduction below from Samsung Mobile to give you an overview of these functions.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idb4Wx4e3co

In the video, you’d get to see functions such as;

  • Pop Up Play (0:55) – The mobile version of Picture-in-Picture; where you can continue to watch a video popped up in a corner on your phone, while you continue to do other tasks like send messages, browse the internet, etc.
  • Camera
    • Zero Shutter Lag (1:20) – Absolutely no delay from when you click the camera capture button to snapping pictures.
    • Burst Shot (1:25) – Allow you to take up to 20 shots continuously. Good for action shots.
    • Best Photo (1:31) – Camera snaps 8 pictures, processes it and then recommends you the best photo of the lot.
  • Smart Stay (1:55) – The phone sensor recognises when your eyes is not looking at the screen anymore and dims the screen display.
  • Direct Call (2:19) – While you’re SMS-ing someone, just pick up the phone and place it on your ear and the phone will automatically call the person.
  • S Voice (2:31) – Yup, the voice activated command, which supposedly understands “natural language” (just like Siri).
… and much more.
S Voice was a function that was already available in previous Samsung phones, but have been said to have been significantly improved this time round.  It was demo-ed at the Media Launch event. I came home and played with it, too.
SGS3 S Voice

As you can see from above, I still had some problems with S Voice tying to comprehend my voice commands. Also, I noticed that the response time was a little slow. It takes an average of 3-4 seconds for him/her/it to respond. Not including the times “it” missed my command, misunderstood me, or couldn’t give me the right result.

Like Apple iPhone’s Siri, I still feel this is more of a novel feature. Cool to play with, but not really widely used or that necessary.

Camera

Let’s talk about the camera. As you saw the killer features in Samsung Mobile’s YouTube video above.

The Samsung Galaxy S III boasts an 8 megapixel rear camera, with Autofocus and LED Flash. The front facing camera, on the other hand, is a 1.9 megapixel camera.

Samsung talks a lot about the camera on this new SGS3, it has been seriously improved. There are a bunch of really cool camera functions added on, to make SGS3 stand out from the rest of the Android phones out there.

If you follow me on Twitter, you’d probably already seen me camwhoring with these pictures here…

SGS3 Camwhore – Rear Camera
SGS3 Camwhore – Front Camera

The flash on the rear camera can be a little too harsh. Low lighting was supposedly improved, but once again, I was a little disappointed.

Here are some sample shots…

Yeah, I look like a white faced ghost in the picture above with the Flash on, right? Eesshhh…

All is not bad, though. Because in the bright lights of the day, or in a properly lighted room, the images actually turns out quite well.

My handsome colleague, Calvin
Food Porn – Chilli’s deep fried chicken wings

The zero shutter lag is really handy. My disappointment is that it wasn’t so much zero seconds once the flash is on or on auto. 🙁

Also, when the Flash is on for Instagram, it does this…

I remember that Instagram updated their Android app to support HTC One X’s camera. I think, they probably need to update the app again, this time to support the Samsung Galaxy S III’s camera.

 

Battery

The removable Li-Ion battery in the SGS3 is boosted up to a 2,100mAh version. To put this in perspective, the previous SGS2 uses only a 1,650mAh battery. This is significant improvement.

However, you might be concerned that the large screen on the SGS3 might drain the battery much faster, and think that it won’t make much of a difference.

In my week long use of the phone, from moderate to high usage, I have to say – I am impressed.

Here’s how my average daily usage of the phone is like:-

  • 3X Gmail accounts on push (meaning I get the notification as soon as the email comes in) that I check every half an hour or more
  • Social Media (Facebook and Twitter) on push
  • Twice a day sync of RSS reader app
  • Apps open in the background (WhatsApp, Google Talk, Google+ Messenger, Facebook Messenger)
  • 2-3 pictures taken a day (either with built in camera or Instagram)
  • Approx 5-10 phone calls a day, lasting about 5 mins each

Forget about the occasional use of other apps – when I open attachments in Gmail, read/edit files on Dropbox, Google Drive, sometimes using Calendar/Calculator, etc.

28may12 – 14h 44m (Day1 of moderate use)
30may12 – 15h 3m (Day2 of moderate use)
31may – 17h 49m (Can easily hit 18hours or more)
2jun12 – 17h 27m (17.5 hours and nowhere close to Low-Batt status)
3jun12 – 13h 37m (Lots of RSS reading)

On average, the phone lasts about 15 – 18 hours on a single charge. To me, when I had phones dying on me by 7pm everyday, this is quite impressive.

The days when the battery barely lasted 14 hours, was when it was a boring weekend and I was playing with my phone a lot. I was browsing, chatting on WhatsApp, reading my RSS feeds. That seems fair to me – with the heavy usage of the phone, it still managed to last that long.

Giant *THUMBS UP* to Samsung for the battery life!!!

 

Pricing and availability

Samsung Galaxy S III will be on sale at the Recommended Retail Price (RRP) of RM 2,199.

However, it is not officially on sale for outright purchase as yet. Although Samsung has indicated that it will be widely available in June 2012. It is currently on sale with all 3 major telco operators in the country.

Maxis SGS3 Plan starts at RM999 (Click HERE)
DiGi’s SGS3 Plan starts at RM 1299 (Click HERE)

DiGi’s plan orriginally allows purchase of the phone starting from RM 999, but those selected unit was sold out. Lucky for the early adopters. For the rest of you slow pokes, too bad.

Celcom’s SGS3 Plan starts at RM 1,398 (Click HERE)

Celcom had a roadshow for the Samsung Galaxy S III over this weekend, where the queue was apparently super long. It also allowed customers who came to the roadshow in blue to purchase the SGS3 for the low price of RM888 and a whole lotta other freebies and goodies. Check out LiewCF’s coverage on his blog here.

 

Should You Buy It?

Of course!

Considering the Samsung Galaxy S II sold about 20 million units (according to Samsung), no doubt this updated, sexier and newer version of Samsung’s flagship Android phone is gonna do spectacularly well.

Throughout the course of a week plus, when I had my SGS3 with me. I turned heads. I get stopped by people asking me if it is indeed the Galaxy S 3 that I have in my hands. They’ve asked to see it in their hand, they watched the vivid screen resolution, felt the speed of the phone’ processor in navigating the UI, they like the size and the weight. In summary, I think I might have already sold the phone to these people.

No doubt, people will be comparing this phone to the HTC One X – the other Android flagship superphone. Personally, both has its pros and cons. I personally own the HTC One X. After a week plus of using this Samsung Galaxy S III, I really don’t feel like giving it back.

I have a sense of comfort using Samsung devices. I owned the Samsung Galaxy S II for a long time, I had the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, I reviewed the Samsung Galaxy Note and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus, I have (and still use) the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 (review coming soon).

Go ahead. Head out to the operators’ roadshows, outlets and centres to feel the Samsung Galaxy S III now. I’m sure you’ll love it!

 

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