Samsung Galaxy S3 review
- Great screen
- Decent battery life
- Chock-full of features
- It’s just so big
- Gloss plastic looks low-end
- Some extras seem gimmicky
Samsung Galaxy S3: Ice Cream Sandwich
The Galaxy S III uses the very latest version of Android, 4.0.3, codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich. This is far and away the best version of Google’s operating system, with a cleaner look than before.
Ice Cream Sandwich lets you put these buttons as virtual icons onscreen, like on the Galaxy Nexus. Here there’s a physical home button, an elongated strip in the centre of the phone’s face at the bottom.
Either side are two virtual capacitive buttons. Samsung has rejected the Recent Apps button in favour of Back and Menu options.
Much better. And if you need it, a long press on the home button brings up the Recent Apps screen.
The latest OS doesn’t just offer yet another tempting-sounding treat to get our mouths watering.
It’s a whole new interface which is redesigned throughout in contrast to previous iterations which have felt like layer after layer glued on top of the previous code.
It includes nifty features like face unlock which matches you to a previously taken photo to launch the phone from idle.
ICS brought Recent Apps front and centre – though the S3 has de-emphasised it again. Samsung adds its own refinements, like the capability to take a screen shot by wiping your hand across the screen.
Samsung Galaxy S3: Features
It's the new features on the Galaxy S3 which really stand out. There’s S Voice, which is a voice recognition service after Siri’s heart, designed by Vlingo (a company which is now being bought by Nuance, who contributed to Apple products and, presumably, Siri).
Although it’s competent, it lacks Siri’s wit and whimsy, so you’re best sticking to straightforward commands.
Like Siri, it’s not invariably accurate and it is server-driven so won’t work at all without a decent data connection. Even so, it’s good fun and there’s something slightly magical about it.
Video: S Voice demo
And Smart Stay, which uses the front-facing camera to periodically check if it can recognise a pair of eyes looking at it and if not, it turns the screen off to save power.
There’s also Smart Call, which dials a contact’s number for you by raising the phone to your ear from the contact details screen. True, these seem like nothing more than gimmicks, but they are quite cool ones.
Perhaps the most gimmicky of all, Social Tag uses facial recognition to match faces in photographs with the profile photos in your contacts.
Now, assuming the profile photo isn’t of a dog or a witty poster, the phone shows that contact’s latest status update and makes it easy to call or message them. We can’t see it catching on.
Samsung has tried to create the phone that has everything and it's not far short of the mark.
So there’s NFC, the contactless technology that has yet to find widespread use, though it’s good for Android Beam to transfer contacts between compatible Android handsets.
Samsung takes this one big step further with the inclusion of S Beam which adds WiFi Direct to the wireless transfer connection so you can beam video files quickly between S3s.
You can throw content from the phone to a suitably equipped TV if you find the 4.8in display doesn’t do your movies justice while a feature called Smart Alert makes sure you know about missed calls or messages by gently vibrating or whistling a merry tune.
Samsung Galaxy S3: Hubs
With so many apps to choose from, how do you know what’s good and what’s not? Samsung's Game Hub has a (small) selection of recommended titles. Some are free, and then there are premium apps to pay for. Helpfully some games can be tried before you cough up money.
The Music Hub is now up to version 3.0 (HD) and promises to be “the complete music solution for your Samsung device”. It costs £9.99 a month and promises unlimited streaming.
You can also upload tracks from your personal music collection so you can listen to them everywhere. It has a neat interface and a huge catalogue – 17 million tracks.
The Video Hub is is where to go for movies – though there’s also Google Play, of course, which is arguably more attractively laid out. Like the Game Hub, there are helpful recommendations from best-selling to staff picks.