We've spent some time with a handful of variants of the Samsung Galaxy S III, from the international version to those sold by Sprint and AT&T. Now we've had a chance to test out the version available to T-Mobile customers, a $279.99 phone (with a two-year contract) that is going head-to-head with HTC's One S and, well, not much else. The T-Mobile competition isn't exactly steep, but luckily for potential upgraders there's an awful lot to like about Samsung's latest flagship device.
We initially reviewed the international version of the Galaxy S III, and found that despite somewhat lackluster build quality it's an excellent handset. Samsung's focus with the device was clearly on software, and it shows: from S Voice to the scaled-back TouchWiz, this handset runs Android 4.0 as well as any we've tested. There are some imperfections (we're not totally sold on the Nature UX), and we still prefer a stock Android experience like you'll find on the Galaxy Nexus, but the Galaxy S III is a very good device.
It laps the T-Mobile competition
It's also a very similar device across countries and carriers. Samsung is selling the device as the Galaxy S III everywhere, and the only significant change in the US variants is that the phone is powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor instead of the Exynos inside the international GS III. The quad-core Exynos remains the fastest mobile processor we've tested yet, but the S4 isn't far behind — it powers plenty of high-end phones, and handles the Galaxy S III with aplomb. T-Mobile's device also has 2GB of RAM, which makes multitasking feel smoother than ever.
|Quadrant||Vellamo||GLB 2.1 Egypt (720p)||GLB 2.1 Egypt (1080p)||AnTuTu|
|Galaxy S III (T-Mobile)||4,880||2,206||56fps||28fps||6,389|
|Galaxy S III (AT&T)||5,039||2,352||56fps||28fps||6,746|
|Galaxy S III (Sprint)||4,525||2,167||55fps||28fps||6,420|
|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|
T-Mobile added a bit of bloatware to the device — basically a given with US carriers — but it's not as heaping a portion as we're used to. A few carrier apps come preloaded, like Access T-Mobile and T-Mobile TV. Even added to Samsung's apps and services like ChatON, Game Hub, and AllShare, that's not a bad list, and many of the apps can be hidden or uninstalled.
Call quality was excellent, and so was reception. As for data speeds? Samsung told us the phone would be launching on "the fastest LTE and HSPA networks," the latter of which includes T-Mobile. Speeds weren't quite at LTE levels, but they were still impressive: we saw download speeds average about 9.5Mbps, and uploading speeds at about 1.3Mbps.
The T-Mobile GS III's slight dip in speed comes with a very nice upside: longer battery life. On the Verge Battery Test, which cycles through a series of 100 websites and high-res images with the screen's brightness set at 65 percent, the Galaxy S III lasted six hours and 50 minutes. That's almost 50 percent longer than the AT&T variant, which has a super-fast LTE connection that seriously gulps power. In more practical use, I easily got a full day of life from the Galaxy S III, and without any Netflix streaming or heavy gaming a day and a half was totally feasible.
T-Mobile users can buy the Galaxy S III in Marble White or Pebble Blue, and this was the first time we've been able to test out the Pebble Blue version. There have been some supply issues related to some splotchy appearances underneath the back cover — we didn't experience those, but we're still partial to the white model. The three-toned transition from front to back isn't as sleek as the all-white body, and the brushed metal affectation doesn't work well on the plastic body. Marble White is simpler and more attractive.
It doesn't hurt that the T-Mobile competition isn't very strong
The Galaxy S III is an excellent phone, and it looks even better next to its competition on T-Mobile's store shelves. There's no iPhone to best its app ecosystem, no HTC One X to outshine its display; it's just the GS III and the HTC One S. The One S does have superior build quality, but if you're a T-Mobile customer looking for a new handset, the Galaxy S III is the one to beat.