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Samsung Galaxy S III for Verizon: impressions and benchmarks

Samsung Galaxy S III for Verizon: impressions and benchmarks


As the Samsung Galaxy S III comes to Verizon, we got to spend some time with the company's new flagship Android phone.

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Gallery Photo: Samsung Galaxy S III for Verizon hands-on pictures
Gallery Photo: Samsung Galaxy S III for Verizon hands-on pictures

Samsung's Galaxy S III has finished blanketing America's wireless industry. The 4.8-inch handset is available on all four major carriers — AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon — plus a couple of smaller companies, and the device is among the best handset available no matter which provider you use. Verizon was the last of the launch partners to release the device, but it's now available for $199.99 with a two-year contract.

When we reviewed the international variant of the Galaxy S III, we found a lot to like. Its quad-core Exynos processor tested faster than any SoC we've ever seen on a smartphone, it has a good display and a terrific camera, and Samsung found a way to change Android substantially without ruining it. Instead of a Google experience, it's now a Samsung one, with S Voice, Kies Air, and plenty of other useful software.

Verizon's software cruft is the worst of the US carriers

Samsung boasted frequently about its ability to bring the same phone to every carrier, but Verizon has a history of adding bloatware apps, software tweaks, and various oddities and annoyances to its devices. We were skeptical going in, but it's not as bad as we hoped — Verizon's presence is felt more than the other carriers, but it's not nearly as bad as many other Android phones. The most notable addition is the infuriating, nagging Wi-Fi status section in the notification pulldown, which does its best to get you off Verizon's network and onto Wi-Fi. Verizon's Galaxy S III is by far the pushiest we've encountered as it tries to make you use Wi-Fi, which is odd for the carrier that boasts so much of being "the network."

Verizon also adds quite a bit of bloatware to the Galaxy S III, which is disappointing. From VZ Navigator to My Verizon Mobile to the company's proprietary Apps app, the glossy red icons jump out at you from every page. There are also a handful of third-party apps added, like Color, Amazon Kindle, and a VPN client called VPN Client. Add all that to Samsung's standard list of preloaded apps, and you've got a pretty cluttered app drawer before you download a thing.

Quadrant Vellamo GLB 2.1 Egypt (720p) GLB 2.1 Egypt (1080p) AnTuTu
Galaxy S III (Verizon) 5,032 2,296 55fps 28fps 6,753
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
Galaxy Nexus 2,002 1,065 28fps 14fps 6,079

Fortunately, the bloat doesn't seem to slow the Galaxy S III down, and neither does the switch from Samsung's Exynos processor to a dual-core, 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4. The Galaxy S III positively screams: everything from intensive gaming to just swiping through home screens is fast and responsive, even if it's not as buttery smooth as we've gotten used to with Android 4.1 on the Nexus 7.

It's as fast a phone as you'll find

One considerable advantage Verizon has is the size and speed of its LTE network. The Galaxy S III takes full advantage, too, though the network's clearly a lot more congested than it once was, because it's much less consistent — we saw download speeds hovering at about 7Mbps, though at good moments that number would go as high as 30Mbps. Upload speeds were more consistent, ranging between 3-8Mbps. Call quality is as stellar as we've come to expect from the Galaxy S III, and reception as consistent as we assume from Verizon. LTE was occasionally spotty, and we'd get only 3G coverage where we'd just had LTE, but that happened on other phones too and seems to be more Verizon's doing than Samsung's.

Battery life is about average for a high-end smartphone. On the Verge Battery Test, which cycles through a series of websites and high-res images at 65 percent brightness, the Galaxy S III lasted four hours and 12 minutes. The test is particularly taxing for an LTE device since the radio takes its toll on the battery. In more normal use, the handset lasted a full day of tweeting, browsing, watching movies and making phone calls, and if we paid attention to Verizon's pestering and joined Wi-Fi networks, it could last even a bit longer.

The Galaxy S III is available for $199.99 with a two-year Verizon contract, and it's worth a long look if you're in the market for a new phone. The Droid Incredible 4G LTE isn't nearly up to par with HTC's other One series phones — AT&T's One X, the One S on T-Mobile, or the Evo 4G LTE for Sprint. That makes it even easier for Samsung to compete, and it easily bests the likes of the Droid RAZR and RAZR Maxx, though whether or not it's better than the Galaxy Nexus is up to you. The Galaxy S III is one of the best Android phones we've tested, and even if Verizon's contributions are more imposing than other carriers', Samsung's latest handset is still one of the best phones available.

Samsung Galaxy S III for Verizon hands-on pictures