Samsung Galaxy S III Smartphone Goes on Sale Abroad to Mixed Reviews

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2012-05-29 Print this article Print

Samsung’s Galaxy S III, it’s agreed, is a powerhouse with a great camera. Contested are its exterior material, Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface, the GS III’s sensor-driven features and whether it’s better than the HTC One X.

The Samsung Galaxy S III, expected to be this summer€™s Android blockbuster, went on sale in 28 countries May 29, and the early reviews are trickling in. Samsung also launched Music Hub, a cloud-based music service that€™s for now exclusive to the S III.

The United States, alas, was not among those 28 countries; the Galaxy S III is expected to arrive on U.S. shores later this summer, likely along with the Pebble Blue option the smartphone is to come in, which has been delayed€”apparently, it€™s a tough color to get just right.

Early thoughts? The phone is big but still comfortable to use, the camera is good, the quad-core processor a powerhouse, battery life impressive and S Voice€”software that lets a user voice control the phone€”very Siri-like indeed. Which is to say, the user experience is by no means flawless and should undo any fears regarding the weirdness of interacting with a robot-like super phone.

As for the GS III€™s distinctive ability to watch a user and anticipate his or her needs, reports of futuristic-like experiences are hard to come by. More common are complaints that the GS III didn€™t wake up when spoken to, or€”in low-light conditions, apparently the GS III€™s kryptonite€”went dark while a user was reading the screen. (Though some did have a good experience with Smart Stay, finding it to solve the problem of the phone turning off while one is reading something lengthy.)

More across-the-board were comparisons to the HTC One X, another Android 4.0-running smartphone with a large, bright screen, a thin, white plastic body and extensive camera features.

€œIf you begin to notice that this review mentions the One X a heck of a lot, then  you€™ve already cottoned on to one of the major themes that will dog not only these paragraphs but also the GS III€™s entire existence,€ Sharif Sakr wrote in his review for Engadget.

SlashGear called the design €œnot a daring aesthetic,€ while The Verge€™s Vlad Savov noted he wasn€™t a fan of plastic pretending to be a higher-grade material.

€œAside from being somewhat aesthetically challenged, the Galaxy S III feels like a very well built device,€ wrote Savov. €œIt's thin, light, and shaped just right to make handling it a joy. While I still prefer the sharper looks of the HTC One X, the Galaxy S III feels gentler and easier in the hand.€

Reviewers went into some detail about the display, which is not an S-AMOLED, the very cutting-edge of display technology, since the latter is not available for a display of the GS III€™s size. Still, by most accounts, the 4.8-inch 1280 by 720 Pentile AMOLED display is lovely, especially at a battery-squeezing levels of brightness, but it€™s no HTC One X, which offers a €œstandout demonstration€ of what a smartphone display can be, according to The Verge.

Regarding the GS III€™s battery, the Verge reported going 7 hours one day, before seeing a battery warning, while another day it lasted from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

SlashGear found Samsung€™s newest iteration of TouchWiz to be a €œconsiderable improvement,€ though Engadget described the Android skin as creating a €œgeneral sense of busyness€ that fans of iOS, used to no widgets, and Windows Phone, used to no clutter, will likely be turned off by. Further, it called it €œunforgiveable€ that Samsung should put a skin on Android that undoes Google€™s work to point of making version 4.0 feel like Android 2.3.

That said, Engadet€™s Sakr did like a few TouchWiz additions, such as the free 50GB of Dropbox storage, the ability to swipe contacts to call or message them and Samsung€™s Smart Stay and Social Tags. The latter two are among the robot-like features mentioned above, which Samsung made a big deal of during its introduction of the phone at a May 3 London event.

€œYou speak, it listens. It turns off when you look away. €¦ It€™s resting, waiting for you to wake up,€ said a smooth-talking, Paris-based Samsung executive at the event.

SlashGear€™s experience, however, was that basics like calling a contact and setting alarms went smoothly, but things like number recognition proved problematic.

€œPerhaps most frustrating,€ it added, €œis the ability to wake up the Galaxy S III using a spoken instruction €“€œHi Galaxy!€ by default, but user-customizable. Samsung bills this as a way to access S Voice without even needing to touch the phone, but more times than not it ignored us entirely.€

In summary, The Verge€”while tempering it comments by noting that Samsung€™s €œchronic failure to update its devices on time,€ if at all, may drastically change the user experience down the road€”called the GS III a €œtechnological triumph.€ Samsung got €œthe overwhelming majority of things right,€ wrote Savov, adding, €œThe camera is easily the best I€™ve used on an Android device, the processor claims the title of benchmarking champion and the customizations layered on top of Ice Cream Sandwich are mostly unobtrusive and sometimes even helpful.€

SlashGear concluded: €œNo, this isn€™t the epiphany in metal, ceramic and glass we were hoping for from Samsung, but if the company had to compromise in some places on the Galaxy S III, we€™d rather accept a somewhat plasticky handset with the incredible performance, brilliant screen and great camera than a nicely-dressed dog.€

Engadget, meanwhile, called the GS III €œmore than the sum of its parts€ and a solid improvement on the Galaxy S II. Still, it added, the worst thing about the GS III is that, €œNo matter how hard it tries, it just isn€™t greater than the sum of the HTC One X€™s parts.€ 

Convinced? No waiting required there€”the HTC One X is currently available in the United States on the AT&T Wireless network.


Michelle Maisto has been covering the enterprise mobility space for a decade, beginning with Knowledge Management, Field Force Automation and eCRM, and most recently as the editor-in-chief of Mobile Enterprise magazine. She earned an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University, and in her spare time obsesses about food. Her first book, The Gastronomy of Marriage, if forthcoming from Random House in September 2009.

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