Samsung Galaxy S III Review (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint)

Introduction and Design
In this review we've used the AT&T and Sprint versions of the Galaxy S III. The Verizon and T-Mobile versions are exactly same, with the only difference being that T-Mobile's unit will not have LTE connectivity.


Timing is crucial, right? Well, of course it is, mainly because it can dictate the success or demise of a particular handset. As we’ve seen last year with the Samsung Galaxy S II, it made its way to the US market many months after its initial unveiling – and to top it off, each specific carrier version was different in their own way. So yeah, call it confusion to the max or something else entirely. Thankfully, Samsung’s approach this year with its highly anticipated successor, the uniformly named Samsung Galaxy S III, is more rampant and timely with minimal wait.

No doubt, it’s going to be one of the biggest smartphones to kick off the scorching summer season that’s upon us, but more importantly, there’s plenty of work needed by the Galaxy S III in order to reclaim the coveted top spot in the US Android market. In accomplishing that feat, all four major wireless carrier (and regional carrier US Cellular), are in the process of launching this beauty of a smartphone. Although exact release dates and pricing are still in question with some versions, we can totally agree that it’ll launch SOON and priced at $200 on-contract.

Despite having shed the drool worthy quad-core CPU of the international version, these US bound versions replace it with a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor with 2GB of RAM. Oh yeah, did we mention that nearly all versions (except T-Mobile) will feature 4G LTE connectivity? With that in mind, let’s find out if these US counterparts are still equipped enough to stand on the same pedestal.

The package contains:

  • Stereo headphones
  • microUSB cable
  • Wall Charger
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Product and Safety Information


Having both the AT&T and Sprint versions of the Samsung Galaxy S III in hand for our review, it’s quite evident that the two share the same design of the international version we checked out – albeit, the only single thing separating them are the accompanying carrier names they’re branded with. Just like before, there’s nothing terribly awe-inspiring about its design, but nevertheless, they embody all of the stellar qualities we’d expect to find on any top-shelf smartphone nowadays, like being lightweight and streamlined. Characterized by being inspired by nature, the handset sports some rounded curves to make it very comfortable to handle, but it’s still too unwieldy to use with one hand.

Flaunting a polycarbonate body (available in metallic blue, marble white, and an exclusive red for AT&T), it has enough sturdiness to instill us with some confidence, while its Hyperglaze finish does a great job in keeping it clean looking and providing us with an adequate grip. However, we’re leery about the fact that the rear plastic cover on the AT&T version becomes loose on one corner – but then again, the Sprint version is firmly intact. As a whole, the redesign over its predecessor is OK, but it doesn’t blow us away unlike some other recent entrants such as the HTC One X or Nokia Lumia 900.

You can compare the Samsung Galaxy S III with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

For the first time ever, the physical home button is retained with these US bound Samsung Galaxy S III handsets – whereas before, it was simply replaced with the typical four Android capacitive buttons. Certainly viewed as yet another welcomed change, the home button also activates the S Voice app by double tapping it, and it also activates the multi-tasking pane by executing a long press. Surrounding the home button are the capacitive menu and back keys, which so happen to have this cool soft white glow to them. Above the display, we have a 1.9-megapixel front facing camera, earpiece, light & proximity sensors, and a hidden LED notification light.

Around the sides of the phone, we find its volume control, 3.5mm headset jack, noise-cancelling microphone, power button, standard mic, and microUSB port for charging & data connectivity. Furthermore, video-out functionality can be obtained by using a new MHL adapter – meaning, if you have an old one, it won’t work with this.

Flipping over to its rear, it’s rocking an 8-megapixel auto-focus camera that’s able to shoot 1080p videos. Surrounding it are the single LED flash and handset’s speaker grill, while prying off the plastic covers provides us access to its 2,100 mAh battery, microSIM slot, and microSD card slot.


The US versions of the Samsung Galaxy S III utilize the same display in use with the international one – it’s a 4.8” HD Super AMOLED screen. Sure, some people will complain about it using the PenTile matrix arrangement, but it’s not an eyesore because it’s negligible thanks to its 720 x 1280 resolution. Therefore, it’s pretty sharp and detailed enough for our eyes to make out fine text with ease. And considering that this is an AMOLED panel that we’re looking at, it sports all of the lovable characteristics that we adore about it – like its wide viewing angles, oversaturated colors, and strong brightness output. It’s nothing new that we haven’t seen before, but nevertheless, it’s still one of its main visual attractions right off the bat.

Samsung Galaxy S III 360-degrees View:


The software on these US Samsung Galaxy S IIIs is identical to the one that we’ve checked out already with the international version. Specifically, we find the TouchWiz Nature UX running on top of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich – so yes, it has the best of both worlds out of the box! To tell you the truth, the new software experience is simply what makes the smartphone so refreshing and a pleasure to use. By far, it’s the biggest overhaul we’ve seen with Samsung’s longtime interface, but more importantly, it introduces some new functionality that makes sharing easy and painless. At its core, it maintains all of the refined characteristics of the Android platform – like its wealth of personalization and quick access to certain apps directly from the lock screen. However, it’s doesn’t shock us that they’re stuffed with some carrier apps – like AT&T Navigator and myAT&T on the AT&T model, while the Sprint one packs Sprint Hotspot and Sprint Zone.

Special features:

There are some special new features that Samsung is introducing along with the Galaxy S III. Most of them are designed to ease your life and make the Galaxy S III appear more people-friendly, but we'll let you judge how useful they will be in your case:

S Voice: This is Samsung's version of Siri, so to speak. It's your intelligent personal assistant. You can ask it all kinds of stuff, and in case it manages to “understand” what you've said correctly, there's a good chance that you'll get what you're looking for. We organized a quick head-to-head match vs Siri, and are happy to report that S Voice performed just as well. Here are a few examples of what you can use S Voice for:

- going directly to an app like the camera by saying things like “I want to take a picture”;
- put an alarm to “Snooze” after it rings;
- play music, skip and pause tracks;
- set a timer;
- look up the weather;
- control settings; for example, you can turn Wi-Fi on or off with your voice.

SmartStay: This is actually a rather cool feature, which prevents the display from timing out, while you're looking at it. It works by using the front camera to track your eyes and determine if you're still looking at the phone. Naturally, when you finally doze off, the phone will get a good nap as well (read: the display will turn off).

S Beam: This one uses Wi-Fi direct to let you easily transfer an image or video file to another compatible Galaxy phone. In order to do it, you just have to touch the backs of both phones together, and your file transfer will commence.

AllShare: Samsung is using Wi-Fi Direct connectivity in AllShare now for a complete set of categories like AllShare Cast for video streaming, AllShare Play for file sharing, and Group Cast for sharing screens with multiple other devices on the same Wi-Fi network, pretty cool. The camera department is not forgotten either - the Buddy Photo Share sends photos directly to the people whose faces it's recognized after you take the shot, for example, and you can set it to be automatic. There will be an SDK for application developers to take advantage of the new AllShare possibilities.

Samsung TecTiles:

Basically, they’re programmable NFC sticker tags that are going to be sold for $15 for a 5-pack at carrier stores. Using the accompanying free Samsung TecTiles app that’s available in Google Play, it enables us to scan the tag via NFC, which then performs an action that’s programmed to the chip. For example, we can program the TecTile to place a device on silent, compose a text message, post a tweet, or simply check-in to a place on Foursquare. Obviously, its aim is to increase awareness about the usefulness of NFC, but it definitely has some good personal and business implications. Rather limited with its functions right now, we’re hopeful that Samsung will continue to expand its actions in a timely basis.


Thanks partly to its responsiveness and spacious layout, we don’t find any difficulties composing messages with the handset’s on-screen Samsung keyboard. Between the two, the portrait option is more favorable since our thumbs don’t need to travel as much to press on something – plus, they’re also able to encompass the entire layout with ease.

Since this is an Android 4 device, support for all kinds of email services is available, and if you are a Gmail user, you probably won't find a comparable option (except for the top phones from other manufacturers).

Processor and Memory:

Much like what we’ve seen already with the HTC One X, the US versions of the Samsung Galaxy S III favor using a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor – as opposed to the quad-core Exynos in the international version. Initially, the lower benchmark figures would make some people think that its performance is going to be sub-par, but that’s not the case. Sure, we might see a tiny bit of slowdown every now and then, but it’s still a rare occasion for us to see it. Furthermore, it maintains the same smooth and instantaneous performance as its quad-core packing sibling – so don’t let those benchmark numbers fool you. Oh yeah, did we mention that these US variants are packing 2GB of RAM instead of the usual 1GB? Strangely, the AnTutu benchmark app indicates to us that the both our review units have a RAM amount of 1658.3MB.

Quadrant StandardAnTuTuNenaMark 2
Samsung Galaxy S III US4520611159,4
Samsung Galaxy S III 53351201658,6
HTC One X AT&T4958686357,7
LG Optimus 4X HD37421118452

With the AT&T and Sprint versions, they have 12.05GB of internal storage out of the box, which can then be supplemented by their ever-so-useful microSD card slots.

Internet and Connectivity:

Connected via Wi-Fi, we're presented with an all too predictable top-notch web browsing experience. As expected, pages load in a timely manner, and at the same time, they maintain their fluidity and responsiveness with all actions. Therefore, whether it’s pinch zooming or kinetic scrolling, every process is attached with an instantaneous action. Pushing them to a higher limit with Flash heavy sites, they don’t stutter for a moment with their operations. Overall, they’re more than ideal in providing us with that desktop-like experience.

Surfing the web while connected to AT&T’s 4G LTE network, we’re blown away by the speeds that AT&T’s version is able to deliver. In fact, we managed to obtain max download and upload speeds of 54 Mbit/s and 14 Mbit/s respectively. Without question, it’s lightning fast! Besides that, all versions of the Galaxy S III feature connectivity options like aGPS, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, NFC, and mobile hotspot functionality.


As usual for a Samsung smartphone, the Galaxy S III's camera application features a lot of settings that let you tweak the photo-taking process. There are different shooting modes (Single, Burst, HDR, Beauty, etc.), focusing modes (Auto, Macro, Face detection), as well as many other options for changing the white balance, metering, quality, resolution, contrast and so on. Video is captured at a maximum resolution of 1920x1080, again with the option to tweak a number of settings like exposure, effects, white balance, quality and so on.

Somewhat expected, since it’s the same camera found with the international version, the quality of its 8-megapixel camera doesn’t change whatsoever with these US versions. As a whole, they’re neither the sharpest or the muddiest results, but it has enough of a balance to deliver some pleasant photos. Of course, colors are punchy enough to add some vividness to the entire shot, but just like before, it tends to overexpose brightly lit objects. Additionally, low lighting shots exhibit a fair amount of noise, but the LED flash manages to counteract those deficiencies – though, it tends to produce a noticeable cooler color production.

The quality of its 1080p HD video recording is definitely up there with the best, if not the best. The image is so sharp and detailed, it makes 1080p video shot with other phones seem significantly blurrier. Shooting at a steady 29 frames per second, videos are smooth with barely any slowdown – however, we notice some jerkiness when shooting with the anti-shake feature on.

Samsung Galaxy S III Sample Video - Anti-shake on:

Samsung Galaxy S III Sample Video - No Anti-shake:


The built-in music player is quite stock-ish at first glance, but it does offer some cool additional features. For example, it features a pretty good selection of EQ presets, but what's even cooler is the so-called Music Square, which lets you choose the type of music you want to listen to, based on your mood, and it'll automatically pick the best-fitting tracks for you. In terms of speaker audio quality, there’s a hint of irritating sharpness at the loudest volume setting, but it diminishes and becomes pleasant at the middle level.

Of course, the Galaxy S III plays all kinds of video at up to 1080p resolution. There's no codec or format that can stop it! OK, maybe there are some, but all the popular ones are supported. And boy do things look awesome on that 4.8” HD Super AMOLED screen!

As we’ve pointed out already, the Samsung Galaxy S III has video-out functionality, but it needs a brand new MHL adapter to work. Still, you might as well invest in one if you’re in desperate need of getting a mirrored experience on your high-def television at home. Then again, you can always go with the wireless route by using the AllShare app.


Already, we’ve pointed out the carrier branded apps preloaded with each respective US Samsung Galaxy S III handset, but in addition to them, our two review units pack different set of apps. Well, the AT&T and Sprint versions share common apps out of the box such as AllShare, ChatON, Flipboard, Kies air, Media Hub, S Memo, and S Suggest. With our Sprint version, it gains Samsung’s Music Hub, Samsung Apps, and Google Wallet.

Call quality and Battery:

Testing out the AT&T Galaxy S III, we’re pleased by the handset’s overall calling quality. Listening to the earpiece, there’s no distortion with voices or background noise to muddy the conversation. Switching to the speakerphone, voices have some sharpness to them, but nevertheless, we’re able to still comprehend voices with relative ease.

In our time using the AT&T version within the greater New York City and Philadelphia regions, its signal strength was steady at all times – with no major fluctuations or dropped calls.

Under the warmth of HSPA+ connectivity with the AT&T Galaxy S III, we’re happy to say that battery life is more than adequate, as we’re able to easily get a single day with normal usage. However, we also managed to use it under LTE connectivity, which quickly drained the battery like no other. Yeah, we appreciate the 50 Mbit/s speeds, but poor battery life is the inevitable consequence with it all.


Frankly folks, we have to reiterate things once again! Simply, the US versions of the Samsung Galaxy S III are still spectacular on so many levels – even despite their choice of using a dual-core Snapdragon S4 chip as opposed to quad-core. Honestly, they’re still capable of delivering a rigorously paced performance that dictates them as top-shelf caliber Android smartphones. And to make it sweeter for most of the versions, they pack support for LTE connectivity for superior data speeds that the international version dreams about in its sleep.

Underneath the hardware specs sheet, the US versions of the Samsung Galaxy S III, much like its international sibling, stand out primarily for the updated TouchWiz experience that they’re packing. For once, it simply feels complete from top to bottom, plus it takes the sharing functionality to a whole new level. Considering that they’ll be priced at that golden price of $200 on-contract, it’s going to be a guaranteed buy for many consumers.

So which carrier version should you buy? Well, that’s all up to you, but if we’re going to throw in some other factors to the mix, the AT&T and Verizon versions might prove to be the most bang for the buck. Why’s that? Well, they both have 4G LTE networks up and running in various markets across the county, so you’ll be able to take advantage of that. In any event, they’re all class-leading devices on their respective lineups, so either way, it’s a win-win situation for you in the end.

Software version of the AT&T review unit:
Android Version: 4.0.4
Build Number: IMM76D.I747UCALEM
Kernel Version: 3.0.8-599060-user

Samsung Galaxy S III US Video Review:


  • Revamped TouchWiz experience
  • Lots of easy sharing functionality


  • The polycarbonate used doesn't give the impression of something premium

PhoneArena Rating:


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