The first impression I came away with was not that the screen was the best on the market, although it has a depth, responsiveness and sharpness that bests, to my mind the HTC one X, although I wasn’t able to compare the two directly. nor that the huge 4.8” screen was too big, although it’s heading that way. The compelling thing about the S3 is the package it offers. like the iPhone 4S after the 4, it offers iterative improvements over its predecessor, but the total effect is to create a radically innovative new device.
In among those things is a new sensor that tracks your eyes – so long as you’re looking at the S3’s screen, it won’t dim or lock itself. Yes, you could just set the screen timer to longer, but “Smart Stay” means you don’t have to. in use, the feature seemed to work very well, with a little icon indicating the phone is watching your eyes.
On a similar note, if you’re looking at a contact, or a message from a contact, the S3 automatically dials that person when you put the phone to your face. It’s one less button to press.
An improvement to voice control, called S-Voice, that lets users control their phone using normal, natural language. so it’s like Siri, only it does more – you can say volume up, for instance, and the phone will filter out the noise of the song it’s playing so it can hear you. The S, we assume, stands for Samsung.
Elsewhere, the phone adds useful features that, for instance, can automatically share a photograph you take with people whose faces are recognised, called ‘Buddy Photo Share’, or display social media profiles directly on a photograph when those face are recognised. These are features that are useful rather than revolutionary, but they feel like they will be obvious standards in the near future. Tagging groups and offering an automatic slideshow zooming into the faces in a picture are also useful additions. Samsung, unless the patent wars cause further upset, is setting new standards.
When it comes to features such as S-Beam, which transfers files quickly between devices by touching them together, or sharing the phone’s screen content with other devices, these are increasingly becoming more widespread industry standards, as indicated on the new Motorola Razr, which offers similar concepts. The Samsung processor is fast enough to allow crystal clear video to play in a window on your homescreens, which again is nifty, but not vital.
Are there areas where the phone disappoints? The camera is just 8MP – good, but not market leading – although it has been upgraded to offer a 20-shot burst mode and the automatic selection of a best picture. The firm insists on pre-loading apps which I don’t see much use for – while Dropbox (including a remarkable 50GB of storage for two years) and Flipboard are useful, the Music, Game and Video Hubs will have to offer remarkable content to outplay the entirety of the app store, Google Play.
I didn’t get long enough with the phone to talk about the battery life – a 2,100mAh battery is big, but this is a demanding phone that users will have on more than ever before, not only thanks to the screen that stays on because you’re looking at it. Samsung assures me that the performance will be better than the SII; it needs to be much better. It’s good to see, however, that one of the range of optional accessories will be wireless charging, via a special back and charging pad ideal for the bedside table.
Overall, the device is in many ways much like its predecessor: does it feel as solid or heavy in the hand as the iPhone? No, although it’s certainly a lot bigger. Is it a different, superb product in its own right? Absolutely. On spending just a short time with the S3, I’m confident in saying that it’s a worthy successor to the globally popular S2. But I also want to see how much all those new features make a real difference in everyday use to form a fuller opinion.
Screen: 4.8” Super Amoled HD displayStorage: 16/32/64GB depending on model, plus expandable MicroSD cardCloud storage: 50GB Dropbox for two yearsColour: Pebble blue or marble whiteBattery: 2,100mAh (wireless charging optional extra)Camera: 8MP rear; 1.9 MP frontResolution: 720 x 1280 px (306ppi)RAM: 1GBDimensions: 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.55 mmWeight: 133gOperating system: Android 4.0.4Processor: Exynos 4 Quad (1.4GHz)