Samsung Galaxy S III: disappointment, gimmicks, or good ideas?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Samsung Galaxy S III: disappointment, gimmicks, or good ideas?
We had planned to do this writeup yesterday, but everything felt too fresh. The Samsung Galaxy S III announcement created a tidal wave of news and we didn't want to just post a knee-jerk analysis of what had been announced, because there was quite a lot of information unpacked at Samsung's London event. The thing is that it didn't all hit solidly. 

The disappointments 

Of course, we have to keep in mind that the expectations were pretty high for the Galaxy S III announcement, and carriers had tried to mitigate those expectations to a certain extent, even saying that "It'll be like the iPhone 4S was to the 4," which turned out to be the most prophetic information we ever saw during the rumor rampage, even though it may have slipped through the cracks. As far as the hardware, this is definitely much more of an incremental update, which is a bit disappointing, but probably what we should have expected. 

Sure, the international version will have a quad-core processor, but that really just sounds good on paper, because in the actual benchmarks that we saw, the dual-core Snapdragon that is expected to be in the US version (and currently in the HTC One X) posted pretty close numbers on Quadrant and actually beat out the quad-core Exynos on a few tests. The screen is essentially the same as that we've seen on the Galaxy Nexus, with the same PenTile matrix, just .2" larger (and without on-screen buttons, which will add even more usable space.) Aside from those two features, all of the other additions are software. And, in the software we get to the usual array of gimmicks and good ideas.

Before we get to the gimmicks though, we want to note one overall disappointment with the Galaxy S III announcement: Samsung almost completely avoided the fact that this is an Android device. Everything in the presentation was made out to be an amazing feature that is only available on this Samsung device. We understand that's how marketing works, but it's still annoying. S Voice leverages the power of the Android voice command service, but adds value in natural language recognition. The Galaxy S III camera has zero shutter lag, but that is a feature of Android 4.0, not that phone. S Beam is simply Android Beam with the addition of WiFi Direct for larger file transfer (admittedly Samsung did at least mention Android Beam on that one.) And, we're pretty sure that Smart Stay wouldn't have been as easy to implement without the built-in facial recognition of Android 4.0. 

All we're saying is credit where it's due. Samsung has built quite an empire on Android, so it would be nice to see a bit more appreciation. We won't even get into how TouchWiz completely hides the UI improvements of Android 4.0, because that's a general disappointment with manufacturer UIs, and not one specific to Samsung. Anyway, on to the gimmicks!

The gimmicks

Let's not fool ourselves, every successful matured platform around has its share of gimmicks, which we define as features that make you say "wow", but don't really add a lot as far as function or usability. If you're showing off what your phone can do, you'll probably use these "features", and they will be the same things that will get you to drop down money in a store, but they don't really help your day to day life all that much. 

Apple has FaceTime and Siri, both of which seem cool, but either aren't used all that much (FaceTime) or have limited benefits when the feature works (Siri). Google brought in Face Unlock to be its gimmick/cool feature of Ice Cream Sandwich. HTC has its blinged out Sense UI. And with the Galaxy S III, Samsung jumped on the gimmick train full force, and showed its own hypocrisy a bit. 

The trouble is that Samsung uses every chance it gets to put down Apple, and even takes shots at Apple followers, but the truth is that Samsung would love nothing more than to be Apple and have that kind of devoted following. And, while Samsung did come up with some novel and innovative ideas with the Galaxy S III, the first feature talked about was S Voice, which is the worst kind of gimmick, because it's really just trying to be better than the Apple version, which doesn't work all that well in the first place. 

Think about it, when S Voice was shown off in the announcement, as well as in our hands-on demo, there was a noticeable delay before it either launched the camera app or gave the weather. This is Android we're talking about, not iOS. You don't need to ask for the weather, you just need to look at your weather widget. And, what is the point of launching an app with your voice if it is faster to simply tap the app icon? The choice is either to start the voice recognition service, then say "I want to take a picture," at which point there will be a delay while the app figures out what you want and launches the camera, or just hit the home button and tap your camera icon. 

This is the big issue with Samsung's presentation of S Voice. There is value in it, especially in initiating searches, dictating messages, or perhaps playing a specific song or video (none of which is special to S Voice, since Android has this functionality built-in,) but because Samsung wanted to highlight the natural language addition, the marketing took a hit. S Voice adds value to the stock Android voice command option by adding more natural language support, but in showing off the product, Samsung chose to perform two action that would have been faster without voice command. It would have been far better to say "Play Somebody That I Used to Know", and show how Android gives you the choice to play that through any of the apps available on your device like Spotify, Music, YouTube, etc. That is something that is faster to do via voice, and shows the power of this system over that of the competition, since Siri doesn't yet have those hooks (though Apple has said they will eventually exist). 

The new Nature UX is also essentially a gimmick. It may very well make the phone more enjoyable to use, and it may make for an overall pleasant experience, but there is no real function behind it, which makes it a gimmick. Keep in mind here that not all gimmicks are bad things. Gimmicks can be delightful, but the problem is that gimmicks strive for delight rather than usability. However, not all the announcements were bad. Samsung also came out with some solid ideas that we'd love to see expanded through the mobile ecosystem. 

The good ideas

The biggest difference between a great idea and a gimmick is that gimmicks are designed so you notice it, while truly great ideas may make your experience better without you ever realizing it. And, that is what Samsung hit with the introduction of Smart Stay. This is a feature that we've all wanted, but never even knew it until now. It is terribly annoying to be reading something or watching something and having to keep reminding the device that you're there by nudging the screen, so it won't go to sleep. So, to have your device be able to know when you're looking and when you aren't and control the screen accordingly is potentially an amazing feature. Obviously, we need to see Smart Stay in practice, but given the facial recognition already built-in to Android 4.0, it seems likely that this feature should work as promised. Additionally, auto-tagging friends in pictures with easy sharing from the gallery is another very good idea built on Android's facial recognition. That is another feature we expect to see more in other devices. 

Direct Call is another idea that has a lot of potential, or at least the idea behind it has a lot of potential. Having devices anticipate what you want to do will be a big part of the evolution of smartphones from here on, and a lot of that will be tied to device gestures. We've gotten about as much as we can from touch gestures, now it's about context and how you move your device. Direct Call lets you call the person you're messaging simply by lifting the phone to your ear (and we're hoping this works in various apps like Google Voice, Gmail, Messaging, etc.) HTC added this into Sense a while back by making the ringer volume change whether the phone was placed screen up or down. So, what about the phone automatically launching the camera app if you lift the device into a picture taking position (landscape orientation at eye level, or portrait orientation pointed at the sky (for the ubiquitous "cleavage angle" the ladies love)). Or, your phone could automatically wake up and update various content or launch an app when you pick it up for the first time in the morning. The potential is very intriguing. 

Of course wireless charging is also a great idea, but we've been waiting for that, and would have been somewhat disappointed had it not been part of the phone. 

Conclusion

Overall, the Samsung Galaxy S III looks like a solid addition to the Android ecosystem. The disappointments were really nothing more than hoping for more than was reasonable, the gimmicks still have their uses or can be ignored fairly easily, and the additions are solid enough that the overall experience should be pretty positive. We like the evolution of TouchWiz, even if it buries the evolution of Android, because at least Samsung is aiming for adding moments of delight to what has been a fairly bland, if candy coated experience. S Voice will have its uses, and its drawbacks, just like every voice command system right now. And, the good ideas are good enough that they can subtly make the device much nicer than you'd expect on first glance. 

Related phones

Galaxy S III
  • Display 4.8" 720 x 1280 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP / 1.9 MP front
  • Processor Samsung Exynos 4 Quad, Quad-core, 1400 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 2100 mAh(11.60h 3G talk time)

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200 Comments

1. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

Not bad device, but I'm a bit disappointed. :\

12. cheetah2k

Posts: 2271; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

My disappointments: 1. I thought it was going to be ceramic, not plastic.. meh 2. Quad core Exynos performance is similar to the One X Tegra 3, albeit clocked 100Mhz slower than the One X... 3. Pentile SAMOLED... 4. Similar chassis construction to the SGS2. 5. The brushed metal with gloss looks cheap. 6. No black version (blue and white.. meh) 7. Its huge. Would have rather had 4.3" and 1280x720 resolution

16. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

"1. I thought it was going to be ceramic, not plastic.. meh" Samsung Galaxy S III back is Polycarbonate (thermoplastic polymer) the same as Nokia Lumia 900 and HTC One X.

21. Mario1017

Posts: 336; Member since: Sep 04, 2011

Difference between the two is that the Sammy is glossy, making it look very cheap. Another thing that makes it look cheap is the stupid chromed plastic casing. They should have made it metal like the EVO LTE

22. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

"Difference between the two is that the Sammy is glossy..." It is called "Hyper Glazeā€ coating.

52. Phullofphil

Posts: 1822; Member since: Feb 10, 2009

You can polish a turd and call it any thing you want but it still looks like sh** and kinda cheep. It's weird to me that how awesom this phone is along with the fact Samsung is adopting a little bit of apples bis unless model from the iPhone and iPad but the outer casing is still not built with quality materials like what are in the iPhone. The other thing is plastic can be made to look les cheap that's where I am disappointed. Another thing I am worried about is my galaxy nexus seems to lack the quality in other hard ware parts such as speaker phone and radio for LTE and such. I really wish Samsung and Motorola would make a phone together. My other concern is for all android phones. What's with the micro USB being universal it's where's out. The walls on the inside of the plug and the connectors need to be made alot stronger mine keeps wearing out. I guess I am kind of on the fence on this phone. It's not that much better than my galaxy nexus too be exiteded. I really like it and might get it but the exenos chip is not as dominating as last years chip was. I think it could be from programs and maybe the bench mark deals us all of the cores in the quad core efficiently yet. Probaly not though bringing me back to maybe I will wait to see if Motorola has anything to offer in the next couple months befor the sg3 comes out on Verizon wich I hope Verizon don't get a special lamer model than the rest

90. Ivan6479

Posts: 250; Member since: Jun 26, 2011

"the outer casing is still not built with quality materials like what are in the iPhone." Listen to you. Lol The only thing on the iPhone that is a quality material is the metal frame around the phone. Try dropping an iPhone and see what happens. (It will most likely shatter.) I have dropped my Galaxy S II numerous times (glass side down also) and I don't have any special case and all I have is a few minor scratches. If it were an iPhone I would be s--t out of luck!!

109. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

I don't express anything, I just say how it is called!

138. AndroidShiz

Posts: 154; Member since: Nov 08, 2011

It's funny how the iPhone was plasticky before the i4, but it was top notch materials and everyone praised it. Now Samsung uses even better plasticky materials and they are considered cheap, even though it's much more durable than glass. Maybe the Apple Tv will be all glass with no plastic. Because plastic instantly just makes it cheap. Need to have all the plastic removed from my car too. Metal and glass is the way it should be. Probably would do much better in crash reports.

57. Mario1017

Posts: 336; Member since: Sep 04, 2011

I know what it's called, that is a very stupid name anyways lol, hyper glaze?? at least HTC used actual names and processes with micro arc oxidation. Just like Phullofphil said, you can take a turd and polish it, still just a shiny turd. The S3 looks even cheaper being glossy.

108. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

I don't express anything, I just say how it is called!

151. taz89

Posts: 2014; Member since: May 03, 2011

so if the gs3 plastic is ''turd'' then so it htc one x as they are both polycarbonate lol just one is matte and one is shiny..some people like shiny some dont...i find it funny that some htc one x owners and future buyers diss the s3 plastic not knowing that the htc uses the same

159. Mario1017

Posts: 336; Member since: Sep 04, 2011

i know they are both poly. but my argument was that making it shiny, makes it look even more like cheap plastic even tho it might not be. and a difference between the S3 and X is that the X is one solid piece of poly. the S3 is only poly on the back (then they "hyper glazed" it), has a cheap looking plastic chrome strip around the side, and the glass on the front doesn't look good at all, especially in blue.

169. taz89

Posts: 2014; Member since: May 03, 2011

the glass is gorilla glass 2 which is much stonger and scratch resistance than the old gorilla glass that is being on the one x..personally i would much rather have a removable battery...i see your point that shiny can make it look but hey some actually like shiny stuffs

201. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

"the glass is gorilla glass 2 which is much stonger" Actually they are the same just 2 is thinner.

189. medicci37

Posts: 1361; Member since: Nov 19, 2011

PA is starting to get carried away with their hide comnent BS. Just because PhoneArenaUser's comment lost the popularity contest, doesn't mean it needs censoring.

38. ph00ny

Posts: 2055; Member since: May 26, 2011

2. Quad core Exynos performance is similar to the One X Tegra 3, albeit clocked 100Mhz slower than the One X... Are we looking at the same benchmarks? Samsung didn't just use a better underlying hardware but they've also optimized the software (ie browser)

41. abhishek48

Posts: 164; Member since: Feb 19, 2012

"2. Quad core Exynos performance is similar to the One X Tegra 3, albeit clocked 100Mhz slower than the One X..." Have u even see the benchmarks, 161k browserkmark, over 100k of one x, 103 fps glbenchmark over 60 of one x. Right now this is the most powerfull device, but only for 3 months note 2 will take the crown. pentile matrix is the only real problem

71. TimTebow

Posts: 70; Member since: Feb 14, 2012

Have you seen antutu, cf-bench, quadrant, smartbench..... not that powerfull... sunspider/browsermark are more browser dependent anyway. 2.5 ghz quad core Krait will probably rip Sammy's ass.

170. taz89

Posts: 2014; Member since: May 03, 2011

by then samsung will have there own a15 chips so that will be the real competition and not the current exynos 4

175. abhishek48

Posts: 164; Member since: Feb 19, 2012

Of course i have seen, it has 20% in all benchmarks... GLBENCHMARK 103 FPS(GS3) vs 60 FPS(Onex) . its the GPU which makes diference MALI 400, Its the gpu in ipad 3 due to which apple is jumping and selling.... so the gpu is way more powerfull here.. the cpu cores in SoC are same so its the integration optimizations which brings 20% more. and above all 1. we know the legendary browser of gs2, it runs flash as if its nothing and pinches and zooms at 80-100 fps.. simply the best browser on any mobile.. where htc sensation and evo 3d were laggy s**ts.. infact most droids browsers lag some whatwith heavy flash.... but gs2's browser was exception it has not been able to port it to other devies.. SO THE GS3'S BROWSER IS EVEN BETTER. 2. Laggy video recording in HTC onex just 23 fps when camera is moving.. s**t... no fix yet. SO GS3 IS MOST POWERFULL MOBILE YET, when quadcore krait will come with aderano 320.. EXONYS 5250 with mali t604.. 6 time the powe of mali 400 will smoke it... BIGTIME

198. BenCjamin

Posts: 80; Member since: May 13, 2011

If it ever comes out. By that time Samsung will have a octa-core by the time qualcomm gets quad-core. lol

190. babyk

Posts: 379; Member since: Nov 03, 2011

correction only gpu won

56. dallas90733

Posts: 36; Member since: Mar 06, 2011

I agree with everything you said!, except number 7. IMHO this is the ONLY thing ( Screen size) that might help it sale a lil better; but if you compare this to the HTC E4G LTE, well HTC is the better phone

59. CX3NT3_713

Posts: 2360; Member since: Apr 18, 2011

Why would you want a 4'3" screen??? Yuck

61. nnaatthhaannx2

Posts: 820; Member since: Oct 19, 2011

My opinion: 1: Glad it's lightweight, but I actually care about build quaity and the weight being symetrical so it FEELs right when you hold it. I could care less about the actual material. 2. Who said that? I have a feeling that it easily surpasses it. 3. Agreed, but at least we got 720p.... 4. Not too much wrong with that, keeps the iconic look 5. I (personally) could care less 6. Yeah, black ones usually are better. 7. 10000+% AGREED the bezel isn't that small, and a small bezel isn't good for cases sometimes, but 4.3-4.5 would of been the ideal range in screen size. Makes me mad that they went this big. I am assuming they did this due to the success of the Note, but still, 4.8 is just too big, no matter the bezel.

85. akshaye.shenoi

Posts: 24; Member since: Apr 16, 2012

Should've been glass. Agreed it is fragile but GOD it looks sweet.

93. chriski333

Posts: 22; Member since: May 05, 2012

wow man u need to chill dont like it dont buy it i for one think it will be a great phone also this will be my first galaxy phone and im very excited for it

149. MEeee

Posts: 438; Member since: Oct 19, 2011

Bunch of crying babies. The design is nice and I'll buy it when it comes out. Move on with your life and if you don't like it, then go buy something else. Why bitching?

150. MEeee

Posts: 438; Member since: Oct 19, 2011

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