Samsung's Galaxy S III Is A Missed Opportunity
Here is my write up on the Galaxy S III from my site (techtempest.com)
On Thursday, Samsung held an event to announce their new flagship superphone. Up until the last week before the release, Samsung did an impressive job of keeping the device under wraps. Rumors started soon after the Galaxy S II was released. Some unrealistic expectations were a quad core processor clocked at 2.0 GHz, 2 GB of RAM, a 12 MP camera, among others. However, some of these have proven to be attainable. Soon after the Galaxy S III announcement, LG announced their upcoming Optimus LTE2 with 2 GB of RAM. Months ago, the HTC Titan was released with a 16 MP camera. So what do you actually get? Here are the specs:
- 4.8″ Super AMOLED 720p display
- 8 MP rear camera and 1.9 MP front camera
- 16 and 32 GB models, expandable by microSD
- GPS with GLONASS
- 2100 mAh battery.
- High throughput wi-fi
- Near field communications
- Samsung’s Exynos 4 Quad processor with four cores clocked at 1.4GHz
- 1 GB RAM
- an 8.6mm thickness
All of these look great on paper. What’s there to complain about?. Let’s go through these in order.
First off is the absence of the word “Plus” from the display tech, denoting true RGB pixels, a fact quickly pointed out by LG in their LTE2 reveal. Super AMOLED Plus displays lack the PenTile displays that do not have accurate color representation, sacrificing display quality to achieve higher resolutions. The Galaxy S II featured a Super AMOLED Plus display at 800×480, even though there were already 720p phones. It was assumed that the tech was not ready and they would develop it for the Galaxy S III. LG quickly pointed out that its Optimus LTE2 would feature a “True HD” IPS, unlike that of its Korean neighbor. Most people will still walk away impressed by the vibrant display. Once they have noticed the pixel arrangement of a PenTile screen, however, it can never be unseen.
The Galaxy S III also gets an upgraded camera, albeit mostly in the form of software features. It has a burst mode where you can select the best from a set, a quick start-up time, and new sharing features. While that would be impressive, with ImageSense included in HTC’s One Series it seems like less of an accomplishment. The One X further one ups the Galaxy S III with the inclusion of better optics and the dedicated image processing ImageChip. No doubt it will still be a servicable camera, but with the competitive landscape, this is clearly not a selling point.
The radios are one of the Galaxy S III’s strong points. Stronger N wi-fi,NFC, more modern GPS, along with HSPA+ and LTE in some regions. There is nothing missing here. LG took another opportunity Sammy didn’t with the 2 GB of RAM in their Optimus LTE2. Fortunately, phones with 1 GB seem to be keeping up just fine with the latest applications.
One of the most awaited features of the Galaxy S III was Samsung’s new quad core Exynos processor. Shortly before the Galaxy S III reveal, Samsung announced the chip, which was clocked lower than the Tegra 3 (without that low power 5th core). Benchmarks showed that having four cores does not translate into better performance. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 went head to head with Tegra 3, besting it in most categories. The results were the same with the Exynos 4 Quad. While battery life has not been tested on the Galaxy S III, the S4 lasts longer on a charge than the Tegra 3. Fortunately for customers of every major carrier in the states (except T-Mobile), it seems that, like the One X, the LTE version of the Galaxy S III will be using a different processor. It is likely that it will be the same Qualcomm chip.
Speaking of the battery, the included 2100 mAh battery is bigger than many extended batteries. It is slightly bigger than the one in the One X with the bonus of being removable. Again, LG’s Optimus LTE2 is better still at 2150 mAh. Regardless, it should last through a normal day’s use, unless its new features have an impact on battery life. More on that later.
One of the rumors was that, like HTC’s One S, it would have a ceramic body. Unfortunately, Samsung seems to favor cheap feeling plastics, and that did not change this time around. The Galaxy S III looks like it would have a brushed metal finish. Instead it has the same feeling as its previous flagships. Coming it at 8.6mm, it still has a very small footprint and sleek profile.
With these mediocre specs, how does Samsung expect the Galaxy S III to set itself apart from its competitors? Through a slew of new software features, of course! These are actually pretty nifty. Like HTC they have a special 2 year free upgrade from Dropbox, but to the tune of 50 GB! They get an early exclusive on Flipboard, to make reading web pages easier. Pop-up play is a new picture in picture feature that lest you take notes while you watch a video. The most touted features the Galaxy S III brings, though, are voice command and eye tracking. It uses the front camera to avoid turning off the screen while you are looking at it, and has Siri-like voice interactions. There are add-on features like Samsung’s version of iTunes match, and a version of HTC’s media link HDMI adapter.
Overall, this seems like a solid phone. When compared to the iPhone, however, and the HTC One X (or EVO 4G LTE), it is clear that Samsung missed a step in the new iteration of its Galaxy S lineup. Unfortunately, one of the most awaited phones of the year turned out to be a let down in a lot of ways, and the worst thing is that the majority of the issues are easily fixable. The Galaxy S III should continue Samsung’s streak of setting records with its flagship lineup, but unlike it the Galaxy S II it will not dominate the Android ecosystem. For now, the HTC One X (or one of its variants) is still the phone to get. For those with an aversion to HTC Sense, the Galaxy S III is a great alternative. In the end, the usability of Android phones continues to improve with manufacturers looking to make interactions more natural, a big point in Samsungs Galaxy S III announcement.
P.S. One question: on the One X virtual buttons debate. Does the menu button on screen take the space the virtual buttons would on the Galaxy Nexus, since they have the same resolution, or does the GNex resolution not count the virtual buttons? I guess what I mean is are the complaints about the design discontinuity or actually losing screen real estate?