Samsung Galaxy S III gets reviewed -- the good, the bad, and the copied

Samsung is Apple's biggest competitor and the Galaxy S III will be one of the iPhone 5's biggest competitors come this fall. Alex Dobie from Android Central has done up a complete, and completely massive Samsung Galaxy S III review and come away with his socks knocked off, if not knocked totally for a loop.

Whether you judge a phone’s speed by benchmark numbers, what it can do, or just how quick it feels, the Galaxy S III is the fastest Android phone money can buy -- and that in itself is an achievement. But it’s obvious that Samsung isn’t miles ahead of the Android competition, as it was last year. That means the choice between its flagship and HTC’s is not as clear-cut as it’s been in the past. In fact, the argument between the Galaxy S III and HTC One X is one we’ll save for another day. But in spite of the Galaxy S III's identifiable weaknesses and foibles, the overall package that Samsung delivers is still exceptionally good. And that makes it a device we can enthusiastically recommend to high-end smartphone buyers.

The overall package is remarkably thin, and draws a lot of inspiration from the late, lamented Palm Pre's river stone stylings, including screen ripples and nature tones.

Compared to the current iPhone 4S -- even compared to the rumored 4-inch, 16:9 inch iPhone 5 -- the Galaxy S III has a positively enormous with a 4.8-inch screen. That's 4.8 inches of PenTile HD SuperAMOLED, however, that boasts more pixels than an iPhone Retina Display (1280x720 vs 960x640). It isn't as crisp or clean as the iPhone (or HTC One X) LCDs, however, but most people won't notice or care.

The internals are no less porny -- a 1.4Ghz quad-core Exynos chipset with 1GB of RAM, and the same excellent Sony camera sensor found in the iPhone 4S. This isn't the LTE version yet, however, so the HSPA+ radio maxes out 21Mbps down and upload speeds up to 5.7Mbps (not even reaching new iPad DC-HSPA+ 42Mbps potential). It does support NFC and Wi-Fi Direct.

The Galaxy S III ships with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich which should go a long way to jump-starting the tiny 7% adoption rate Google's latest smartphone OS currently suffers from. Rather than stock Android, however, Samsung has one again shellacked their own TouchWhiz interface. That's a good thing for new smartphone users, for whom it should make things easier and more approachable. For more experienced users, and those who value refined, consistent design language, it's less ideal.

The calendar widget looks completely different to the music widget, which in turn has nothing in common with the clock and weather widgets. It’s small things like this which demonstrate that Samsung doesn’t quite understand UI design as well as competitors like HTC.

Likely because Apple hasn't yet produced a widget system for Samsung to draw inspiration from, not that they didn't get their fare share of inspired by Apple in Cupertino in here as well.

While not Chromebox-level egregious this time, we do get the AirPlay-like AllShare Play -- which actually one-ups Apple by handling device-to-device streaming as well. More comically, we get S Voice which could have been a rival to Apple's Siri but instead is an almost exact clone when it comes to interface. Now Siri's UI is certainly slick, but not so much that seeing someone else innovate something better wouldn't have been welcome. (Which is pretty much exactly how we feel about Apple pinching Notification Center from Android last year.)

Still, Samsung is styling the Galaxy S III as the best, most hotly anticipated phone in the world and, interestingly, unlike last year it may not even be the best phone on the Android Platform. That's thanks to HTC getting back in the game in a big way with the HTC One X. And that's a good thing for Android and for smartphones.

Those are just the highs and lows. There's a ton more to read, so head on over to Android Central's definitive Galaxy S III review, check it out, then come back here and let us know what you think.

Does is set the bar higher for Apple and the iPhone 5? Does it increase the stakes for iOS 6 and WWDC 2012?

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • I hope you're wearing your flame-proof suit today, Rene :) The little green robots will come...
  • That phone is hideous to me. Even down to the skin that Samsung puts on top of the UI. The color of the icons remind me of Easter festivities. But I am glad to see products like this in the market. Apple will have no choice but to go one more step to get ahead of the game. Competition is good.
  • Looks like a great phone. If you are buying it in the US, it will only be a dual core and not a quad core processor for some strange reason.
  • Probably because of the LTE chipset. Most quad core HSPA phones are still dual core for LTE.
  • Thanks for the explanation Rene.
  • Actually the North American LTE versions are shipping with the Qualcom Snapdragon S4 Dual Core @ 1.5Ghz & 2GB of RAM, yes 2GB of RAM. That said I will be waiting for the upcoming (rumored) next iPhone at 4" 16:9 display.
  • 2gb ram though
  • What? No QUAD CORE IN THE US?? What is the point of it without Quad Core. It will be hobbled. And Sprint doesn't even have LTE and when they do, it will be too limited to matter.
  • Exactly! I recently switched from Sprint to Verizon and I'm kicking myself for not doing it sooner. Sprint's coverage and data speeds are a joke.
  • Hahaha... Samsung at it again. Love it.
  • This is still no competetion for the iPhone 4s. I have had all the "big boy" phones and nothing (NOTHING)compares to the iPhone.
  • I think I'll wait for BB10!
  • lol - yeah, I think I will too :)
  • yes even I am bored of same old UI and incremental changes - Apple is not getting my money next time.
    Even Android phones with their name-sake differentiation look all same.
    I think BB10 will be very successful when it launches in October - a new UI with so amazing features is something you can't ignore and all the little demos and images which RIM has shown, it seems BB10 will be really amazing..
  • I'm an iOS lover but there's no doubt that actually Android is a step forward compared to iOS. I love the possibility to play a video while surfing the web on the same screen or the possibility to attach an USB pen to the phone and explore the folders on it. When we'll have something like this on iOS? A real file system and the possibility to read an USB pen, attach a file and send it via email is a must for business users.
  • Android has ALWAYS been a step or two or more than iOS.
  • Yeah, but at what cost? Android may be one or even two steps ahead of ios but at the cost of slow, clunky UI. When apple takes a step, they make sure that step is perfect for its customers. Apple doesn't try to always be the first to implement something but when they do implement it into ios it's done RIGHT.
  • its practically the size of tablet...reminds me of George Costanza's wallet. I really like being able to deal with my iphone with one hand. There is not even a spark of interest in me in switching sides.
  • But you've got it all wrong. BlackBerry is the easiest to use one handed. Seriously, that looks like a nice phone. Always good to have options for consumers (although not really an option for ppl that are too invested in their Apple app store purchases or accessories).
  • His opinion, therefore....not wrong
  • I have a Galaxy Note which I can (sometimes strenuously) use one handed. A screen that's .5" smaller shouldn't be any problem.
  • And of course, in your iOS 6 review, you will be just as quick to point out notification center, slide-to-unlock-to-camera, and other features lifted directly from android.
  • Why would he mention those in an iOS 6 review? Those are iOS 5 features. Only if they're further refined. And he did mention notification center in this very article. But anybody can just one-up you and mention that android itself was originally a blatant rip-off of iOS. Kudos on Google's quick shift in direction after the original iPhone was released. If only RIM had had as much foresight.
  • Android was a rip-off of PalmOS, as was iOS. Get it right.
  • Stop being an apple fanboy. Apple ripped off Palm. Android ripped of Apple, blah blah, blah... Competition is a good thing. Funny how Microsoft is coming out of nowhere and will be the choice in the future. Something totally different and fresh.
  • yes Windows 8 and Blackberry 10 OS is what I am looking forward too..
  • This looks like a nice phone, I would consider switching if it wasn't android. You can get lost drilling down to find your apps.
  • I agree, from a hardware perspective, this phone is very nice. Put Windows Phone 7.5 / 8 on it and I would definitely consider it.
  • Yeah that icon on the home screen labeled apps can be so difficult to find.
  • Its good to see a review of a Android counterpart compared to a iPhone that doesn't get bashed throughout the article. I have used Android phones over the last two years, Droid X and Galaxy SII E4GT, before switching over to an iPhone. While I love my iPhone, Android does have a pretty good OS on their hands. Stock ICS is a beautiful OS and runs quite smoothly, but the experience is downgraded when you have skins overlaid on top of the OS. This is the main reason why I switched to a iPhone, I was tired of Touchwiz running on my Galaxy SII. The only thing I miss from Android was the widgets, they truly made the OS unique.
  • All i see is yet another wannabe tablet debuting with an old version of android with a crapware UI baked on top of it. Seems to be sporting more nongoogle crapware as well from Samsung.
    Not sure why people wouldn't just buy a Nexus instead if they need android.
    One thing you can count on with a new iphone. It'll have a new version of iOS along with direct updates from apple with no added bloatware.
  • You do know this is running ICS 4.0.4 which is the latest version of Android?
    I agree with TouchWiz, its crap. But the great thing about Android is that you can download countless numbers of Launchers (Apex and Nova for stock UI) and different icons if you so please.
  • You do know 4.0 was released way back in November right? Galaxy Nexus ring a bell?
    Here we are 8 months later...
    Many ask, buy a 4S now or wait for iphone 5? If i'm considering an android, i would ask buy this crappy bloatware Samsung phone running an 8 month old OS that may never see an update or wait til November for an android 5.0 Nexus?
  • Even though ICS is from November, it has been getting updates (ergo the .4 at the end of 4.0.4). ICS 4.0.4 is the latest version of ICS, which is it's most up-to-date software.
    Personally, I loathe TouchWiz. And 4.8 inches is too big for me. Anywhere from 4 inches to 4.3 inches is the sweet spot.
  • Ok you do realize that both iOS and Android have done very similar things with there OS updates yes 4.0 came out in November as well as iOS 5 when the 4s came out, since then the Android OS has updated to 4.04 and iOS has updated to 5.1.1 both OS seem to do OS updates every year if you want to go on basis of stock 4.0 to iOS 5.0 android did a complete overhaul where iOS added a bunch of features to 4.0 to make it 5.0 everything thing else visually is the same.
  • And iOS5 was released well before ICS... Your point? Is iOS5 outdated? I can tell you Apple's apptray is far less advanced than Google's mobile OS. ICS isn't old and the version coming with this phone is the latest. TouchWiz isn't bad. It's less heavy and intrusive compared to Blur or Sense from my experience. I really think the picure in picture is very cool. All this from a big Apple fan and current iPhone 4S user. No wonder we get called blind sheep. Know what you're talking about before you open your mouth.
  • Old version of Android? Do your research before attempting to bash something. I agree with the opinion of TouchWiz though. Yuck.
  • Good thing with ics you can disable all those crap apps. And 4.0.4 is the latest version of Android. Do a little research next time ..
  • Four inches is fine.
  • ...
    Fill with obligatory "That's what she/he said" joke.
  • OK Robin...we understand...LOL!
  • thanks robin, i'm glad you are back from your operation!
  • The SIII looks nice, but I'll stick to the Galaxy Nexus.
    I will, however, jump ship if the iPhone 5 gets a bigger screen (and I don't mean longer).
  • This isn't the LTE version yet, however, so the HSPA+ radio maxes out 21Mbps down and upload speeds up to 5.7Mbps (not even reaching new iPad DC-HSPA + 42Mbps potential). It does support NFC and Wi-Fi Direct.
    Why do you compare a phone with a tablet more than double the physical size? Does not make sense...
    And why do you believe the Galaxy S III is competition to the Iphone 5.1? I mean the Galaxy SII was released in May....the iPhone5 will in about 5-6 Months! Just not comparable!
  • I meant the Galaxy S III
  • I saw the s3 today it is uncomfortably huge and you apple lovers cannot really talk about copying :>
  • Orval and Wilber Wright invented the first airplane. Boeing, Lockheed, Airbus, Northrop Grumman are all copy cats. Shame on them!
  • "Likely because Apple hasn't yet produced a widget system for Samsung to draw inspiration from". Really? Why would Samsung or even Android want to copy something that apple doesn't even have? Can't we just stop with the whole copying thing? There are only so many ways to make a phone or an os, just like there are only so many ways to make a zombie movie. iOS and android both have their upsides an both have flaws.
  • The "copying" finger pointing is out of control. Why do people hate? The "copying" can only be good for consumers. The Prius was a smash hit. Now everyone and their mom is "copying" Toyota which is good! If I were to buy a hybrid vehicle, I can now choose from Chevy, Ford, and whoever else manufactures hybrid vehicles. It's a win for consumers and it keeps manufacturers on their toes to stay competitive. Stop the hating and start the loving!
  • I agree. I just re-read my post an what I meant to say is can we stop with the whole argument that company X is copying company Y when it's over something little like the skins of the icons, widgets, rectangular shape, etc. I've owned a Fascinate and a 4s. The only similar thing I could find is some of the icon skins in touch wiz, which I never used. Oh and both phones are black.
  • Misinformation is misinformation. Be more educated about stuff when you post, Rene.
  • Where was I wrong? Educate me.
  • To heck with the virtual assistants. That SIII screen is SOOO MUCH BIGGER. No Squinting. SIGH.... But it's creep to think your phone knows when you're looking at it.
  • Why highlight the "copied" part?
    Do you also do it each time iOS has a feature that Android had before it?
    Lets face it, everyone copies everyone... And that is a good thing.
  • Why is it so big???
  • Hahaha, (obligatory 'that's what she said joke')
  • Exactly how I feel, ICS itself and the Galaxy S3 owe a ton more to the Palm Pre than consumers will ever realize. Damn shame
  • Im an iOS user since the first iphone.I have all current idevices in active use. But the only thing which makes me hate Apple is Rene. What a blind follower of the Apple cult. One more retarded, stupid, pointless article.
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  • I decided to upgrade my flip phone which all you could do was talk and text and the web was a joke. I upgraded to the Samsung Galaxy SIII Android and it took me awhile to get used to it but now I love it. I still get unlimited talk, text and 500 MB of Data. I was paying $50.70 with the flip phone for unlimited but I was glad to find out it was $45 a month. I also love talking to the phone and having it answer back to me. I am on limited income and could never afford the S4 or the S5 and really pleased with it.