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First Look at Samsung Galaxy S3 as a 2012 Flagship

ATTENTION. This article is not a detailed review, but a first, albeit a very meticulous look at the phone and its capabilities. We are planning to publish a full review within a week. Sections of he article will expand courtesy of new photos, comparisons and so on. Stay tuned and check out Mobile-Review.com regularly.

Contents:

  1. In the box
  2. Positioning
  3. Design, Dimensions and Controls
  4. Screen
  5. Battery
  6. Connectivity
  7. Storage and Memory
  8. Performance
  9. Camera
  10. Android 4.0
  11. Bottom Line

In the box:

  • Phone
  • 2100 mAh Li-Ion battery
  • Wired stereo headset
  • USB cable
  • Charger

Positioning

The Galaxy lineup from Samsung is a story of never-ending success when every popular model is followed by even a better one. The first flagship in the range was a benchmark in terms of screen, processor and overall capabilities for one year. Even today Galaxy S sells well 3 years after its initial launch. The solution, which hit the shelves in June of 2010, stays attractive today and offers excellent value for money. In the smartphone market you can't find many models with a life cycle exceeding two years. There are only several contenders - Apple iPhone and Galaxy flagships.

Galaxy S2 followed suit and became a cult for Android fans and its record sales confirm its status as the best Android handset to date. Its life cycle promises to be long as well, which testifies to the original potential. The emergence of Galaxy S3, unveiled on May 3, 2012 in London heralds the drop in price of the previous incarnation, which will trigger a boost in sales. The same happened with Galaxy S2 when it improved the sales of the original model. Every next model is a successful sequel and it attracts attention of consumers, who then are happy to purchase the new product. Apple and Samsung follow this successful strategy, while HTC could not do the same. Every year they come up with a phone on par with Galaxy, but they change the model's name thus confusing customers. Galaxy S2 had HTC Sensation as a rival, while in 2012 Galaxy S3 will come up against a very competitive HTC One X. Nevertheless, we don't see the tradition here, which makes the promotion of models more complicated.

The positioning of Galaxy S3 is no different from its predecessors. A flagship is offered to those seeking expensive and feature rich solutions. The secondary target audience is represented by the techies with consumers looking for a phone to last several years following this lead. Unlike one year ago Galaxy S3 has a home rival in the face of Galaxy Note, which offers a bigger screen and a stylus for text input or drawing. The model is different and costs slightly less than Galaxy S3 and this attracts buyers. Samsung even intentionally delayed the Android 4 ICS update for the model not to make it to good and steal the thunder of Galaxy S3. I am sure that customers will not be stopped and will choose Note for its screen and unique capabilities and not only for its lower price.

It is crucial that Galaxy S3 will appear in stores 2-3 weeks after its unveiling on the majority of markets. On May 4 all international carriers started taking pre-orders for the phone, which means it attracts many companies and they will bank on it. Initial sales are limited by Samsung manufacturing capabilities and we have a deficit on our hands. Pre-orders surpassed those for Galaxy S2 by 400%. It is partially explained by its future availability on higher number of markets, but the surge in popularity cannot be denied too. The true test will come when we get first and second quarter sales figures, but I firmly believe it will seriously exceed those for Galaxy S2. You cannot compare this model with Apple iPhone, because Samsung has many solutions in their lineup and no single model can beat iPhone in head to head sales competition. In other words Galaxy S3 is one of the strongest 2012 smartphones competing with the next iPhone and HTC One X (its sales have to be lower due to a different market position of HTC).It is a genuine flagship, which will stay attractive for a long time.

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Design, Dimensions and Controls

To my mind it is worth looking at the phone's design before we concentrate on its features. There are several colors offered complemented by a thin body, which fits the hand well. It reminds me of Galaxy Note with one key difference. Note is difficult to use even with such big hands as mine, while here we have quite an improvement. Its dimensions are 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm and it weighs 133 g. Compare it with rivals: HTC One X - 134.4 x 69.9 x 8.9 mm, 130 g; Galaxy S2 - 125.3 x 66.1 x 8.5 mm, 116 g. As you can judge it is slightly bigger than Galaxy S2, but stays in the same category. The size increase is influenced by the screen.

Initially only two colors will be available - Marble White and Pebble Blue. Later on the lineup will be expanded and we will get a black phone among others.

Another controversial point is the use of particular materials. When in February of 2012 partners were shown the prototypes in Barcelona Galaxy S3 had the back cover and sides made of ceramics, but the cost turned to be prohibitive and this plan was scrapped. The position that expensive phones should not use plastic remains not popular, which is proved by impressive sales of plastic Galaxy flagships. Low performance of Galaxy R made of metal shows that consumers prefer plastic. That is why we will not dwell too much on the materials used. You can complain about plastic only if you have to prove that Galaxy S3 is bad. The lion's share of phone owners do not care and are happy with modern plastic. Otherwise Samsung would have easily used metal or another alternative as they have no problems with different materials.

The build here is on par with Galaxy S2 without any gaps between sides, while the back cover is firmly fixed. The cover is thin, but do not expect problems similar to those of Galaxy S2 or Galaxy Nexus. It is glossy, which throws us back to the original Galaxy S, but the key point if it is scratched or not. You will see some scratches, but it is not too bad. My Galaxy S did not get that scratched during its one year use. In broad daylight you can see minor scratches and bald patches, but the phone still looks good. The same can be said about Galaxy Note, though I have been using it only during 4 months. The blue Galaxy S 3 has metal feel on its sides, but it is still plastic. At the top we have a 3.5 mm jack with the microUSB at the bottom. The right side features an on/off button, while the left hosts a volume rocker.

The front has a hardware central key and two sensor buttons on its sides, which is no different from the previous model. Above the screen there is a frontal camera together with light and proximity sensors.

Samsung Galaxy S3 vs HTC One X:

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Screen

A 4.8" HD Super AMOLED screen boasts 1280720 resolution with 16 million colors. The capacitive screen supports up to 10 simultaneous touches. The screen quality is excellent and can easily compete with Retina from Apple iPhone (bigger size makes it more attractive). The same screen is used in Galaxy Nexus and generates no complaints apart from those, who are aware of PenTile technology. In this case every pixel is formed with lower number of subpixels, which can be allegedly seen with the naked eye. In real life you need a microscope to see the difference. Some claim they can tell PenTile the moment they see the screen. I played around by confusing such experts, who complained about eye irritation if I claimed the PenTile was there and felt happy, when I said it was not used, though it was otherwise.

To my mind PenTile is a good example how fobias are born. If you can see subpixels feel free to buy phones, which have more of them. I can only envy that you see the world differently from the majority of people. A word of caution though - modern day TVs have comparable or even lower screen resolution that that of Galaxy S 3. People who can spot PenTile must suffer every time they switch on TV. The placebo effect is as strong in the world of technology as in other areas of life.

Automatic brightness is more aggressive here than in Galaxy S2, that's why I set the brightness manually to the level convenient for me. At the same time it wastes power more. One of the new technologies is called Smart Stay, when the frontal camera catches the way you look at the screen and changes the brightness, when you read for example. I think it is a mere additional feature, which does not work too well now and I am sceptical about its necessity, but it is there.

To my mind the screen quality is comparable with that of Galaxy Nexus, features slightly different brightness, has better fonts details in the browser, but you cannot see it in pictures. The good quality display is clearly above the average, so there can't be many complaints about it.

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Battery

Samsung Galaxy S3. Battery and Operation Time

The phone sports a 2100 mAh Li-Ion battery (Galaxy S2 has 1650 mAh). The manufacturer claims up to 9.5 hours of talktime and 290 hours on standby. In real life the battery is enough to run the whole day (similarly to Galaxy Nexus) and the improvement over Galaxy S2 is clear if you play with energy consumption settings, which are quite detailed. Full charging requires 3 hours.

3 .

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Connectivity

Bluetooth. Version 4.0 (LE). If the paired device also supports this standard then file transfer operates through Wi-Fi 802.11 n at a speed of up to 24 Mb/s. I tested it with a 1 GB file and the average speed was 12 Mb/s at a range of three meters (10 ft.).

The phone supports the following profiles: Headset, Handsfree, Serial Port, Dial Up Networking, File Transfer, Object Push, Basic Printing, SIM Access, A2DP. Work with paired BT headsets is flawless.

USB. For some reason Android 4 no longer features the USB Mass Storage mode and only has MTP and PTP modes left.

USB version 2.0, file transfer rate 25 Mb/s.

The phone cannot have a Bluetooth and a USB connection simultaneously. When the phone s connected to a PC via USB it prompts you to turn off BT disregarding whether the phone is synced with PC or there is an ongoing file transfer which is really a downer. The battery is charging when the phone is connected via USB.

The microUSB port supports the MHL standard which means that it can be connected to a TVs HDMI-in. This solution is a lot more convenient than a separate miniHDMI slot on the phone.

The phone also supports EDGE class 12 in GSM networks.

Wi-Fi. Supported standards: 802.11 a/b/g/n and the connectivity menu is very much like the one used for Bluetooth. The phone can remember and automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks. It features a one touch connection: you need to press the key button on the router and the phone to automatically connect to a network (WPA SecureEasySetup).

The 802.11 n standard also supports the HT40 technology that doubles the Wi-Fi transfer rate (the other device must also support this technology).

Wi-Fi Direct. This new protocol aims to replace Bluetooth and now competes with BT 3.0 (which uses Wi-Fi n for transferring large files). Select the device you wish to pair your phone with from the Wi-Fi Direct menu the file manager allows you to browse files on another device and transfer files between the devices. You can also browse all the devices connected to your router and push files to them (the other device must also have the Wi-Fi Direct feature).

NFC. The NFC module allows you to use the phone with the apps that support this feature.

S Beam. Samsungs own proprietary technology that allows quick transfer of large files between two devices. So far only Galaxy S3 has this feature. S Beam combines NFC and Wi-Fi Direct. NFC is used to pair to devices while Wi-Fi Direct is responsible for file transfer. This features main advantage is that it is incredibly easy to use a lot simpler than pairing and browsing for files. S Beam will only be available on Samsung devices.


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Storage and Memory

S3 is available with 16 and 32 GB of storage (the 64 GB version will be available a bit later). The 16 GB one comes with 14 GB of free space out-of-box. The phone also supports microSD card of up to 64 GB.

The phone packs 1 GB of system memory and has about 800 MB free after boot. It is plenty for any app but I think a bigger memory would be more appropriate in 2012. Of course, there is no point in growing system memory unless the OS supports larger memory.

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Performance

This is Samsungs first devices that uses the quad core Exynos processor with each core operating at up to 1.4 GHz (pretty sure that overclocking enthusiasts will get it much higher like they did with the previous Galaxy phones).

In all synthetic tests Galaxy S3 is faster than any other phone on the market except for HTC One X the US version (which uses a dual core Qualcomm chipset). It is considerably faster than Tegra 3. In real life the performance is excellent as you can see in our videos. If you prefer objective measurements here are a few of them:

Quadrant Standart

Antutu

Vellamo

Smartbench 2012

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Camera

S3 uses a Samsung own 8 MPix camera module (the same resolution as in S2). However, the camera itself has changed a lot and now boasts of the BIS technology that according to Samsung improves picture quality in low light conditions. Taking into account that S2 camera is still one of the best on the market we had expected nothing less from the successor. Look at the sample photos taken with S3, S2 and HTC One X. Camera received a new mode called Burst Shot that takes up to 20 shots per second. The Best Photo mode allows you to select the best among 8 pictures taken in a row. This is how the camera interface looks like:


The camera now boasts of zero lag it takes picture in almost no time after you press the shutter. It also features the HDR but I find that its effects are insignificant (at least with this early firmware). Here are the photo samples I would like to read your comments on the photo quality:

HDR:

Standard HDR

Zoom:

Galaxy S3 vs Galaxy S2:

Galaxy S2 Galaxy S3

Video. The maximum video recording resolution is 1920x1080 (1080p) at 30 fps. It uses a fixed focus but you can always change it whenever you like. The video quality is on a par or better than similar solutions on the market. See for yourself.

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Android 4.0

We have already reviewed the main Android 4.0 features in a separate article so now I will only be talking about its differences on S3.

Review of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich: Interface and Control. Part I

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich: Standard Applications

In S2 I was disappointed with the voice features being assigned to the Home button with no way to change it. The quality of the voice functions was mediocre and I never used them. S3 features S Voice that reminded me of the Total Recall app. It allows you to quickly set the alarm clock, leave memos and so on. It is not an Android standard app but taking into account that in a year since S2 voice recognition has gotten a lot better it works fine. There are no more accidental Home button presses, you can record up to six your own voice functions (in any language). The latter is not too reliable but it works. Anyway, it is not the main feature of S3.

There is a new video playback feature called Pop up Play which allows you to play videos while working with other apps. I thought that it was a ridiculous idea right until I tried it. The thing is you can easily text or browse the web while watching a video and its really cool. You can drag the video window wherever you want but you cannot scale it.


Another cool feature called Direct Call concerns texting imagine that you are typing a message and decide to call the person rather than text him. With S3 you can simply put the phone to your ear and it will automatically dial the number of the person you were texting to.

The Smart Alert feature notifies you of missed calls or other events by vibrating when you take the phone into your hand. The number of settings for all sorts of notifications is humongous and makes S3 really stand out from the competition.

As always there is support for uPnP only now it also supports SmrtTV so you can stream video, images and other files. GroupCast allows you to create a group with a single Wi-Fi network to collaborate on documents simultaneously. This feature looks very promising for small offices and presentations which can be streamed directly from the phone.

Other interesting features: face recognition in the gallery, automatically send all pictures with a contact to him, receive tags for images, slide show of selected contacts.

An interesting feature vibration alert editor that allows you to create your own vibration tones. It is a very absorbing process and a lot of fun.

S3 has got the S-Memo app the very same as in Galaxy Note. It allows you to draw and write with a stylus only S3 hasnt got one. But not to worry it works so well you can even draw with your nail or use any stylus on sale and still get the same quality as on Note.

I love the new calendar it looks great and is really convenient. Another hallmark feature of S3 is the total integration with popular online services you type in your account data and get everything in one place.

As I said, this is not a full review but merely a first look so I am not going to enumerate everything new. But I want to mention some multimedia features that drew my attention. Firstly, just like its predecessors, S3 is packing all possible codecs out-of-box and can play practically any media file you feed it including nonconverted video and FLAC music. The video players main menu has been retouched and now tells you how many times you have played each file and has animated thumbnails a sort of preview without sound. The player has the chapter selection feature and you can skip to a particular part of a video of any video file.

Now about its music capabilities beginning with the FM Radio. Now the radio app can record broadcasts (will not be available in some countries) and recognize tags (if embedded by the channel). As for the rest it is pretty much the same S2 radio with a higher reception quality.

In terms of music SGS3 is a giant leap forward for the market. Firstly, it has a formidable sound volume margin and you will probably never listen to your music on max. The player has got about 20 equalizers with tons of parameters to adjust. And in the whole, S3 sounds very nice.

The player also has filters that determine what you see in the player menu. S3 is the first Samsung device to get the Music Square: visually it is a square with different moods and years displayed on its sides. You select the moods and the years you wish and you get a suggested playlist. Sony Ericsson had a similar feature called Sense but it required PC sync while S3 does all the analysis itself. It is a great little feature but not a big deal.

Playback through the loudspeaker surprised with very decent quality and clarity of sound even at high volume levels.

I think it is the time I drew a bottom line otherwise I will go ranting forever describing tiniest details which I intend to do in the full review of Galaxy S3.

Screenshots:

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Bottom Line

The call quality is very good I have not noticed any flaws and the ringtone volume is quite sufficient. The vibration alert is similar to Galaxy S2 and is rather smooth.

The price of 550 for Galaxy S3 at the release is comparable to release prices of Galaxy S2 and Galaxy Nexus. S3 is certainly a very well built phone and is a direct competitor of HTC One X which has got a solid body generally seen as an advantage. The displays of these two phones are comparable too as well as their performance (the slightly higher results of S3 are not really relevant). Just as HTC Sensation and Galaxy S2 these two are very similar but as you may remember last time Samsung squashed HTC in sales and S2 became a best-seller. I believe it will be the same story in 2012 as HTC cannot really take on Samsung.

Is it a successful phone? Undeniably yes. I have been using Galaxy S2 as my main phone and I did not switch to Galaxy Nexus because I was really disappointed with its mediocre 5 MPix camera even though I liked the rest of the phone. S3 offers you all you missed in previous phones. A better screen, a bigger battery and a ton of software features well worth switching to it if you like me find Galaxy note just a little bit too big.

The two most important events on the mobile phone market in 2012 is the release of galaxy S3 and the next Apple iPhone which is supposedly going to be released in October. Samsungs flagship has already been sold in record quantities. It is the most functional device on Android today and even though you will never use a great lot of those features it is still one of the best phones on sale. And judging by all the comments it causes on the web I am sure it will be very popular. I have already switched to S3 from S2 and I must say that I am loving it.

In a week or so I will post a full review of Samsung Galaxy S3. Till then check out flagships comparison that will be released a bit earlier. Good luck and dont forget to push those little button below to share this article. Thanks!

Do you want to talk about this? Please, go to our Forum and let your opinion be known to the author and everybody else.

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Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
Twitter
Translated by Maxim Antonenko (maxantonenko@ukr.net), Robert Mugattarov (mugattarov@gmail.com)

Published — 12 May 2012

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com

 

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