updated 08:35 pm EDT, Thu May 3, 2012
Samsung Galaxy S III includes quad-core processor
Samsung held its "Unwrapped" event in London yesterday to show off its next handset, the Galaxy S III. Electronista attended the unveiling, and spent some time with the handset after an hour-long presentation from the company management. The new model is considerably larger, but not significantly thicker. It offers a high-quality screen, faster processor, a Siri-like voice management feature and a smooth finish in Samsung's latest attempt to best the industry-leading iPhone.
Put side by side, the Galaxy S III is noticeably bigger than its predecessor, the S II. The 4.8-inch screen makes the newer handset about half an inch longer than its 4.3-inch sibling, albeit with rounder corners. The thickness isn't greatly increased, only by 0.1mm to 8.6mm. It wasn't possible to tell if it was lighter, as the devices on demonstration were secured to the desk, but the 133-gram (4.7oz) weight isn't too hard to imagine.
It did feel nice to hold in the hand, and felt fairly solid with little in the way of flex, but the lightness doesn't exactly exude confidence in the build quality. The main front button does feel quite unsatisfactory to press, but that is more a personal preference.
The HD AMOLED display seemed to look better than the S II, with a fairly high level of detail that is seemingly comparable to Apple's Retina tech, but neither the exact information was to hand nor an iPhone 4S available for a direct comparison. It is not a 'Plus' display, meaning that it uses a 'fuzzy' PenTile array with shared sub-pixels, though sharpness did not seem unduly affected.
The S III boasts a quad-core ARMv7 processor, which in the downloaded benchmarks (when combined with Android 4.0 and the ARM-based GPU) showed a fairly hefty amount of power, trouncing the Galaxy Tab, Galaxy Nexus, and Galaxy Nexus S by a considerable amount. Only the Asus Transformer Prime showed to be better in one of the tests.
Samsung's latest TouchWiz overlay really showed the display and processor off, despite the "natural" theming. The lock screen wallpaper rippled like water when it was swiped, removing the news-ticker at the bottom and showing the usual menu system.
The 8MP rear-facing camera coped as well as the presentation said it would. It loaded in one second, and burst-mode took a hefty 20 shots in a short space of time. Again, the presentation-numbered 3.3 shots per second seemed to be what it manages to be capable of doing. Buddy Photoshare, the facial recognition of contacts with optional forwarding of the image to them, wasn't tested due to the limited time with the device.
Another minor feature is the "Direct Call", where the handset recognizes the motion and a proximity sensor measurement range to change a partly composed text message into a phone call. The first attempt failed, but since subsequent tries worked perfectly fine, it could possibly be user error for the initial failure.
Possibly the biggest addition to the phone is S Voice, Samsung's version of Siri. Billed as a natural language recognition system that gives the user complete voice control of the handset, it's impossible not to compare it to the iPhone's similar feature. Telling the S III "I want to take a picture" opens a camera with a little delay, as do other similar stock phrases.
The thinking time does increase for more complex queries, and sometimes the results are unexpected. S Voice wouldn't make an appointment, no matter how the request was phrased, and asking it where to buy an iPhone showed that it perfectly understood each spoken word, but it couldn't answer the question. Observing other users with varying accents showed the system to be a bit weak, only recognizing about half the stock commands.
Also on show were the wireless charging pad, which cannot realistically be tested quickly, and the AllShare Cast Dongle. Connected to a television via HDMI, it allows for the streaming of content from the handset to the bigger screen. There didn't seem to be much of a discernible lag between what the phone displayed and how the TV reacted with a three-foot gap, but again, this is not exactly real-world conditions.
Samsung seem to be taking the idea of making its own handset genuinely comparable to the iPhone to heart. Not only is it attempting to trump the Apple device with power, but it also has a small list of fairly useful accessories to its name. The addition of a "Siri" style service helps it be a real alternative for those who want an iPhone, but on Android.