The HTC Evo 4G LTE's undisputed reign as Sprint's best Android phone might be over — Samsung's Galaxy S III is coming to the carrier starting tomorrow. We reviewed the international version of the handset a few weeks ago, and unlike most devices that review holds nearly all the information US customers need too. That's because Samsung pulled an impressive coup and was able to release the same phone with the same name on all four major US carriers — Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile — along with C Spire and US Cellular. No matter where you buy it, you're buying the Galaxy S virtually unchanged from the device we reviewed across the pond.
What hasn't changed is more important than what has
We spent some time with the Sprint Galaxy S III variant ahead of its launch, and by and large found we're not jealous of our UK friends. The international version of the Galaxy S III has a lot going for it: its quad-core Exynos processor is blisteringly fast, its camera is excellent, and from S Voice to Kies Air its software adds features to Android that actually make sense. On the flip side, the build quality and display are solid without equalling the HTC One X (or the Evo 4G LTE), and Samsung's unwillingness to provide timely updates for its phones remains a problem. Still, we'd place the Galaxy S III among the best two or three Android phones on the market, and almost nothing was lost in translation as the phone came to America.
The only major change Samsung made while Americanizing the Galaxy S III was to swap its proprietary Exynos processor for a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 SoC, plus 2GB of RAM. The quad-core Exynos is the most powerful smartphone chip we've tested yet, but the S4 is close behind, and as we've seen a lot recently Android seems to be the limiting factor in a phone's performance — there's really no practical difference between the two chipsets. The S4 benchmarked slightly below the Exynos in our tests, and oddly the Sprint GS III variant consistently scored slightly below the AT&T version. None of the differences are particularly significant, though, and all are in the top tier of Android phones, with the HTC One X, Galaxy Nexus, and few others.
|Quadrant||Vellamo||GLB 2.1 Egypt (720p)||GLB 2.1 Egypt (1080p)||AnTuTu|
|Galaxy S III (Sprint)||4,525||2,167||55fps||28fps||6,420|
|Galaxy S III (AT&T)||5,039||2,352||56fps||28fps||6,746|
|Galaxy S III (international)||5,283||2,008||101fps||59fps||10,568|
|HTC One X||4,430||1,614||65fps||32fps||11,322|
|HTC One S||5,141||2,420||57fps||29fps||7,107|
In our review of the Evo 4G LTE, we called the handset a great phone in need of a great network. Sprint's LTE is coming slowly but surely, but it's not even close to being available everywhere yet. Sprint's 3G is anemic, to put it lightly — the highest scores we saw were 224Kbps down and 529Kbps up — and the problem was only exacerbated by the fact that not six inches away from our review unit sat an AT&T model that was streaming at nearly 10Mbps up and 15Mbps down.
Sprint's network needs to catch up to its handsets
We had some reception issues with the Evo 4G LTE that caused a number of different problems, from battery life to call quality. The Galaxy S III had no such trouble: its reception was consistent and solid, and call quality was excellent as a result. The microphone and speaker on the GS III are good enough to make us want to make phone calls again, and Sprint's data woes certainly don't affect a phone's core competency.
Network issues aside, there's one thing for which Sprint deserves applause: there's almost zero bloatware on the Galaxy S III. There are two Sprint apps, Sprint Hotspot and Sprint Zone, and that's it. Samsung preloads a few more, from the handy Kies Air to the not-so-handy More Services, along with apps for services like S Voice and S Suggest
Battery life is solid, about what we've come to expect from a smartphone: it'll last you a full day, but you'll need to charge every night. Oddly, our battery test crashed the Android browser on the Sprint Galaxy S III but not the AT&T variant, but as we used both phones we found that they're both good without being epically long-lasting.
You can buy the Galaxy S III for Sprint beginning June 21st, at $199 for the 16GB model or $249 for 32GB (both require a two-year contract). Be sure and check out our full review for much, much more on the phone, but suffice to say it's one of the two best Android phones on Sprint, and one of the two or three best Android handsets, period.