Saturday, 5 May 2012

Real-user reactions - Our thoughts on the Galaxy S III

The new Samsung Galaxy SIII in pebble blue

At a London-based event on Friday May 4, Samsung announced their next generation flagship handset, the Galaxy SIII. After months of hype fuelled by media and multiple conflicting rumours floating around the web, expectations were through the roof. Unfortunately, because of this there seems to be a phenomenal amount of negativity surrounding the announcement of what was to be the pinnacle of Samsung's innovation. I get the feeling that some people were expecting a holographic display and built in personal teleportation device, which unfortunately did not substantiate. Vlad Savov from The Verge even had a bit of a cry; saying that Samsung broke his heart. Frankly I found it a little over emotional when he is talking about a company releasing a new smartphone, not an estranged lover cheating on him. 

The main criticisms levelled at the SIII since its announcement have been:
  • The design is not what they expected
  • The materials used look/feel "cheap"
  • The Super AMOLED HD screen uses a PenTile Matrix
  • Samsung's presentation seemed kind of kooky, focusing on nature based design
  • The TouchWiz User Experience "innovations" were not very innovative
  • Siri competitor S Voice WTF?

Counteracting the negativity

Firstly if you're spouting negativity about the SIII, this is what NZtechfreak has to say to you: 

While some have criticised the launch of the SIII saying it was as disappointing as the iPhone 4S launch, I beg to differ. The iPhone 4S has an almost identical physical design to the iPhone 4 while most people were expecting a departure from this including a larger screen. The SIII provides not only a larger and higher resolution screen, but a progressive new design which has curves inspired by nature. 

When it comes to design often it's something you like, or something you don't, the rest of the criticisms are arguably minor. Build quality is much less subjective, but often confused with build materials used. The original Galaxy S I9000 and Galaxy SII I9100 both used very similar materials, both of them also had high build quality and durability. As NZtechfreak has stressed so many times, using premium build materials does not ensure high build quality. In fact, while HTC often uses more premium feeling materials, their build quality is often appalling and most of their recent devices have been affected by one issue or another. 

While you might have been shocked that Samsung used a Pentile Matrix Super AMOLED HD 720p display on the SIII, you really shouldn't be - the full RGB stripe technology just isn't ready yet. In fact, you shouldn't even be disappointed, as at over 300 PPI its very unlikely that you will be able to notice any tell-tale cross-hatching or any issues with luminance inconsistency, the latter of which affected the Galaxy Nexus. Sure, it might not best the amazing SLCD-2 display on the HTC One X, but it comes close, and it's a huge step up from the resolution limitations of the Galaxy SII.

While the software enhancements were a major focus; and some feel a major let down, there were actually a few ideas I found to be quite appealing. Keeping my screen on while I'm looking at it might seem fairly minor, but its small usability tweaks like this that become things that annoy you when they are no longer present. Another feature I'm looking forward to is the pop up play functionality, which would allow me to continue watching a video while texting the FiancĂ©e on the train to/from work. 

I'm guessing the video pops up and continues playing

Why I'm buying an SIII

While I can debunk the criticism until the cows come home, some of them may be valid, while others are very opinion based. Regardless, here are some reasons why I'll be buying an SIII.
  • If you don't like TouchWiz, you can replace it with something else. Android is good like that
  • The battery is a very generous 2100 mAh compared to the One X's 1800 mAh, not to mention it is removable, again unlike the One X's battery
  • The SIII supports Micro SDHC expansion, including official support for 64 GB Micro SDXC cards, you'll be able to fit your 80 GB FLAC music collection with relative ease
  • A multi-coloured notification LED is something I've wanted since I got to review the Galaxy Nexus, and it appears that this works brilliantly on the SIII
  • The performance of the Quad core Exynos 4412 at 1.4GHz is pretty stellar with Browsermark showing a very impressive score over 160K and other benchmarks beating every other SoC on the market. It's also likely to be quite power efficient as its fabricated using a 32nm HKMG process

Image courtesy of

  • The Mali-400 running at 400MHz is literally the fastest GPU in a phone today. It even beats the PowerVR SXG543MP2 GPU in the iPhone 4S at equal resolutions and thoroughly out-performs the relatively pathetic Tegra 3/Adreno 225 GPU that the One X uses

Image courtesy of

  • The SIII has been confirmed as containing a Wolfson DAC, this means the audio quality will be superb and famed developer Supercurio will be able to bring Voodoo Sound to the device. This is a huge advantage over the SII, which used a cheap Yamaha DAC, and the competing One X which suffers from serious crosstalk issues. The SIII is a real winner for anyone who listens to music on their phone

Thoughts from my fellow AndroidNZ Editors

Gianpy Belaunde @plooneytunes

Simply put, I'm satisfied. I knew the device was being overhyped by both the media and Samsung (which was a mistake, too many teasers on their part). Before the release I believed it would have the Quad-core Exynos, 1 GB Ram but a Super Amoled HD+ display. A part of me was hoping Samsung would be able to include a non-pentile display, which is really the only part of the device that disappointed me. While I'm not a huge fan of the device at this point, I can't be sure until I actually get it in my hands. As far as performance, I know this phone is a screamer and will fly, so I'm not too concerned in that area. Any software related issues can be easily solved by flashing a different ROM on it, so no big problem there either.

Had Samsung included a Super Amoled HD+ display, I would've been impressed - but for what they presented, I'm satisfied.

The Galaxy SIII in marble white

Anita Paling @Neets_

My opinion here is not so much about the hardware componentary of the phone, but about the attitude of the people who have shared their views.  And I guess it's those that have been disappointed.

How quick were people to absolutely slam the SIII?  Really quick. The remarks were flooding in. Lots and lots of any people who where highly disappointed, who wanted more, who demanded more.
I was a bit taken aback. But its made me realise how invested we are with our phones, and our needs for not just a few enhancements but our demands for the newest of technology no matter how new it was. 

I'm all for the latest in technology, but I want stablility too. 

Putting aside our emotive talk, and concentrating on what Samsung has delivered in the design.  This is all about personal opinion people. Everyone is entitled to share their views.  It's not a one size fits all.  The design isn't perfect, for me. I'm not sold on the home button. But I like the shape of the phone, and I think the white is smart. But I'm probably not going to get a white phone ;-)  I am going to get the phone though.

The new Samsung apps also aren't to everyone's liking. Some will freeze them, uninstall them or find ROMs that don't include them.  That's what I love about the Android Development Community. There's just about something for everyone to make their phone, and experince with it, unique.
If I could get S Voice to work with a NZ accent I'd be thrilled.  I love the idea (I presume it's flawless and wasn't just a cross your fingers hope it works) that the phone will stay awake if you're looking at it. Wouldn't it be wonderful to forget about the screen timeout.

There are some really fresh ideas out there, and I'm cetain I'll make use of tagging my contacts in photos.

I think there are lots of changes, plenty of improvement and I for one don't feel short changed.  Ok, if there was one thing I wished it had, the ability for dual SIM.  That would have pretty much made it perfect for my use.

Image courtesy of AnandTech

Nik Turner @onslaught86

Initially underwhelmed, it was the surprise reveal of the DAC and Supercurio's announcing Voodoo support that turned things around. I'd expected a bit more, a bigger wow factor - at the least, a better camera and true stripe screen - and we got an uninteresting design plus a bunch of services and gimmicks I'll probably turn off. All up, it's a nice combination of features that equals the competition, and I think that's a happy compromise to have come to. It is honestly just another Android phone, not the 'magical revolution' inspired by Apple devices, yet the screen size plus the Exynos, a big battery, and the essential SD slot sold me on it as my next phone regardless of how unenthusiastic I was after all the hype and build-up. When the fantastic sound quality came to light, the feeling flipped right around. That's a killer feature, and it's not even on the spec sheet. I can't wait to get my hands on it - Pebble Blue, of course. They can keep their Siri-alike and pop-up video, give me a Wolfson audio chip anyday.

That and an unlocked bootloader. Ye GODS I'm sick of running stock Motorola builds.

Murray Winiata @NZtechfreak

Readers who caught my editorial on the S3 announcement will know that I had high hopes and expectations for the S3, as did many others.You would think I've come away disappointed, wouldn't you? Well, as it happens I'm not. Quite the opposite in fact - I'm really excited about the S3. Now before you all accuse me of being some kind of Samsung apologist, let me explain.

I was mildly disappointed during the announcement, I must say. Not because there wasn't some ridiculous new tech inside, I'd managed to talk myself down from that ledge with my editorial (which was rather cathartic as it turns out). It was because some of my more realistic expectations weren't met. I'd expected a true stripe matrix, and also a more substantial hardware upgrade to the camera, and got neither.

So how did I get from there to totally excited about it? Well, a couple of hours after the announcement Supercurio tweeted this:

Congrats @wolfsonmicro @broonie for powering @SamsungMobile #GalaxySIII audio #WM1811 ultra low power codec

Shortly afterwards he tweeted a link to his hardware breakdown for the Galaxy SIII, live as he created it. Soon he indicated that the sound quality should be equivalent to the Galaxy S Wolfson DAC, and that Voodoo Sound will work with it (he also indicated that USB Audio drivers are included, but it's not possible to determine if they'll work out of the box without physically testing that).

That's how I got so excited about the SIII. Finally, FINALLY! an Android device where I don't have to compromise on audio quality, and even better one with 64GB internal storage and a card slot with which to leverage that quality. Hello FLAC heaven. For the first time since the original Galaxy S Android users who care about sound quality can get a flagship model with great sound quality. That in combination with a slew of other iterative improvements that I really care about like GLONASS, BT 4.0, Apt-X, retention of a removable battery (with a decent capacity), and the best SoC/GPU in the Android realm was enough to turn me around.

So, there you have it. I'm thrilled about the S3. 

Now if only there was some way to take an edge off the agonising wait to get my hands on one...

Andy Carruthers @Kre8vDeuce

My Sensation meets my needs and exceeds then in many ways, easily the best phone I've owned and even peeps with better kit are impressed with its fluidity and data performance. So why would I be interested in an S3?

Why indeed. Yet this new Galaxy has captured my imagination with its performance and form. So I suspect that once I've gotten my hands on the beast, I'll need to own it.

Pity about that physical home button though.

Chris Turner @CdTDroid

What does the new guy think? I think this is going to be the best device of the year. We were all waiting for the HTC One X and as I and others predicted HTC rushed it a little, The battery is rubbish, the camera has issues, not a good thing for their"Big Come Back". Now comes the SIII finally, After the big countdown website which I thought was a big load of rubbish as it finally ticked over, I was able to get to the magic on the other side only to see some space sheep from another galaxy... Kind of put me off the whole S3 idea for a few days until finally the release came.

With the screen size at 4.8" and the larger removable battery, SD storage and a super fast Quad core CPU I think the Samsung SIII is going to beat the One X by a fair bit.

Hopefully the battery will be good enough and if its not I'm sure there will be another extended battery option like the S2, while the 8MP camera is probably going to be good enough for most as it will surely take better photos than the Note or the S2, some people I'm sure will moan and complain that it doesn't have a 12MP like some thought...

As always... I will of course be buying one and hopefully it will stand the test of time, I haven't been excited about a new device in sometime now but this S3 is stirring the pot a little, If it doesn't
maybe I'll go buy a HTC HD2 for a little excitement! High hopes I have, please don't let me down Samsung. Promise I wont judge until I have one in hand!