As a competitor to Apple in the smartphone and tablet markets, you’ve got to give Samsung points for tenacity. Buffeted by almost continuous lawsuits from Apple, some of which have blocked its products from sale in lucrative markets, the company has continued to work on its phones, and its newest phone, the SIII, is the official phone for the 2012 Olympics. The improvements from the original Samsung S to the SII were evolutionary, but with the SIII, the company isn’t just avoiding the key points of Apple’s many lawsuits against them; they’ve begun to produce a remarkable and distinctive phone in its own right. The SIII starts with a daunting list of features that makes it a formidable contender in the smartphone market.
Each user will find something interesting and downright pleasing in this new model, but there are some additions to the SIII that’s worth serious consideration. It’s fast. You really don’t need a phone to be fast in the way you hope your new laptop will be, but it’s a pleasant surprise to find that no matter what you ask the SIII to do, it responds briskly.
All that extra horsepower (the new phone sports a quad-core central processor and a powerful graphics processor) makes the odd gratuitous graphics effects possible and the Android swipe to wake on the SIII is like skimming water. No, really. The screen mimics water responding to your finger during the swipe so well that it’s a little unnerving. It’s sleek. The SIII is actually a little bigger than the SII, but it’s also thinner and more ergonomic. The SII felt like a phone, with a little bulge at the back that was useful during calls but all wrong for almost everything else. I’ve got large hands and the SIII feels right for me, but you should try it out for feel and usability. Samsung has made the new model feel not just thinner and more rounded but, if such a thing can be imagined, more pocket ready. It has the feel of the Galaxy Note with none of that device’s heft.
S Voice mostly works, but it’s designed more for function than whimsy. By opening up the voice recognition to digital learning, it’s likely that the Siri competitor will get more positive hits outside of the United States, but the process also demands a bit more from a prospective user. There’s a good range of default software on the device, and the Google Play store is becoming a sleeker, richer resource for software over time.
That said, the SIII feels like a great product that’s being hamstrung by its operating system. The Android OS is unquestionably the best response to Apple’s iOS available in the smartphone market to date, but it’s also an alternative that falls short on its selection of apps and delivers spotty updates. To this day, updating Android on any smartphone remains something that most casual users would never consider doing and finding great apps remains an adventure for those willing to go through the hoops necessary to be able to access Amazon’s substantial appstore as well as Google’s puzzlingly named Play store.
The SIII uses several tricks to preserve battery life—it senses when you’re looking at it and puts the device to sleep faster overnight. The phone seemed to deliver 30 per cent more battery life over my experience with the SII. If you’re comfortable with an Android-based smartphone, the SIII ticks almost all the checkboxes you’ll be looking for in a device and adds a few new spins that make it an aggressive competitor in a crowded marketplace.
Screen size: 720 x 1280 pixels with a pixel density of 306 ppi
Android 4.04 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
MicroSD card slot (up to 64GB)
Stereo FM radio