It’s tempting to compare the unveiling of the Samsung Galaxy S3 on Thursday (3 May 2012) to that of the iPhone 4S last year.
Both devices got a large amount of attention before their official announcement, with rumours generating high expectations.
When Apple gave rumours months to gestate into high expectation for the iPhone 5 it invariably lead to disappointment, and in Samsung’s case it was no different.
Taking a step back from the rumours of a full HD Super AMOLED Plus display and 12 megapixel camera, however, the Samsung Galaxy S3 is actually a solid device that includes a few interesting new features.
Display: Of RGBG and RGB RGB
But first, let’s deal with the elephant in the room: the display.
Running at 720p (720×1280) on a 4.8-inch screen gives the Samsung Galaxy S3 a slightly lower pixel density to that of the Galaxy Nexus.
Combined with the use of Super AMOLED rather than Super AMOLED Plus means that the Galaxy S3’s display has more in common with the Nexus than it does with the Samsung Galaxy S2.
The major difference between the two types of display is in its sub-pixel arrangement, with Super AMOLED Plus displays able to show more detail.
When just picking up and using the Samsung Galaxy S3 indoors, however, the display was crisp, colours bright, and contrast great.
Super AMOLED Plus is also supposed to be more energy efficient, but we’ll never know what the impact on battery life would be unless Samsung makes an S3 with such a display to benchmark against.
As with other non-Nexus Samsung devices, the first thing I would do with it is replace TouchWiz with a third-party launcher such as LauncherPro.
If you liked earlier versions of Samsung’s custom Android skin, you won’t be disappointed with the interface of the Samsung Galaxy S3 as it’s largely the same with a few minor tweaks.
Eye tracking, missed missed calls (sic)
The two new features of the Samsung Galaxy S3 that seem like they’d make a difference in the everyday usage of a smartphone are the eye tracking, or “Smart Stay”, and “Smart Alert” features.
Though the opportunity to test these features was limited, my experience with “Smart Stay” was promising.
Samsung claims it is able to track the position and movement of your eyes, keeping the screen on while you’re using the device.
Typically smartphones have a universal screen timeout setting where the display is switched off after a set amount of time has elapsed.
The eye tracking feature of the Samsung Galaxy S3 also seems to be able to determine the orientation of your head and adjusts the screen accordingly.
This means the display will no longer thrash between portrait and landscape mode when you try to use the device in anything other than an upright position.
The other particularly interesting feature, “Smart Alert”, promises to let you know of any messages or calls you may have missed when you pick up the device. No more missed missed calls or texts, Samsung says.
Siri-sung (sorry, S Voice)
No hands-on of the Samsung Galaxy S3 would be complete without mentioning Samsung’s clone of Apple’s voice recognition and natural language processing service, Siri.
To be fair, my first experience with S Voice on the Galaxy S3 was in an incredibly noisy environment.
However, it did little to endear me to voice input systems in general.
Perhaps the feature will be useful to those who have their own offices and spend enough time alone to be able to speak to their phones in private.
Asking a smartphone to launch a camera app for you or remind you to take out the trash while in public just seems silly.
Public conversations with a computer system seem to be more suited to asking important things, like opening the pod bay doors or requesting a damage report.
Should you wait on this for your next upgrade?
Though I much prefer the Nexus line of Android devices for the more “vanilla” Android experience, the Samsung Galaxy S3 is a promising offering from the Korean electronics giant.
I for one would wait for the reviews on it and the recently launched HTC One range before making a decision if my upgrade time were around the corner.
Jan Vermeulen attended Samsung Mobile Unpacked as a guest of Samsung South Africa