Samsung Galaxy S III: Hands-On Impressions

I've finally had some hands-on time with the Galaxy S III. Is it love at first sight? Has Samsung delivered the best phone this year? Read on to find out. Just to make things perfectly clear; this isn't a review.

Once again, this isn't a review. Somebody always complains, but I've only had a few hours to test out the Galaxy S III at the time of writing, and any "review" you read based on that kind of evaluation isn't worth the pixels it's based on.

What I Like (So Far)

I'm in the middle of testing the HTC Titan 4G, so the first thing that struck me about the Galaxy S III is how (relatively) light it is. The HTC One X/XL still pips it in the weight stakes at 129g to the S III's 133g, but this is still a pleasant phone to pick up and hold as long as your tastes run to larger screen phones.

The Galaxy S III really is a brisk performer. For the sake of it, I ran Quadrant over my review sample yesterday — and this is how brisk it is:

I will want some more testing time to see if that gap over the One X does equate to actual in-world usage speed, but it's certainly a case of so far, so good.

The camera with its fast shutter is again a so-far-so-good proposition. I'll definitely need to give it more testing time to be sure, but it's up there in the upper pantheon of smartphone shooters so far.

One of the things that annoyed me about the Galaxy S II (and, for that matter, the Galaxy Nexus) was the slightly flexible plastic back. It was easy to remove but a bit of a pain to properly click back into place. Samsung's still using a flexible cover, but the curvature of it means that it snaps back onto the back cover with a great deal more ease than its predecessors.

What I Don't Like (So Far)

It's not 4G. Sure, you can't always get 4G to work when you want it, but it's still something of a disappointment, and for that matter something of a market confusion point. Samsung's said it's "talking" to Telstra about a 4G Galaxy S III, so if you're keen, should you wait? That could be a very long wait indeed, given the gap between when the original Galaxy S II launched and when its 4G counterpart came to market.

The all-plastic construction of the Galaxy S III feels reasonably robust, but I'm not a huge fan of the slimmed-down menu button. I think it's the slender nature that annoys me. Not to a huge degree, but every time I press down on it, it reminds me how thin it is; a slightly fatter button would have been easier to press.

The lock screen works acceptably well, but unless I've missed a very obscure setting choice somewhere, there's no way to change the default shortcuts that you can swipe up from. Update: As Peter Graham points out, you can change them, albeit by a rather obscure menu setting choice which I hadn't spotted.

My review model — and the only models you can get right now, although Samsung says the Pebble Blue models should be available in a week — is the Marble White variant, and although it's a totally subjective taste thing, it's not entirely to my taste. Before anyone jumps on me for that comment, I should point out that I don't own any white Apple products either — it's just not a technology shade that works for me.

Should you buy one?

Sigh. You didn't read the bit where I said this wasn't a review, did you? But I'm curious as to the early view of Giz readers on the Samsung Galaxy S III, given there are samples out in stores, and Samsung certainly would be hoping that some of you will have headed out to buy one or more. What's your Galaxy S III experience been like so far?


Comments

    What's the reason behind having a physical menu button when you are running ICS? That's a fail to me.

      I personally prefer the Physical menu button. Can't tell you why exactly, it just feels better.

        a superb question, however I presume it's for when using full screen apps, such as games, you still need some kind of physical home button...

          Coming from a galaxy s2 now a galaxy nexus, the home button is very much needed. I can not count the amount of times I hit the home button when typing texts. Love the look but hate the functionality.

    I picked up my s3 last night and am totally in love with it. For me the only thing that's even vaguely frustrating is the unlock screen... and its set of 'nature' themed ring tones. It has some gesture and motion controls that are definitely cool and may

    I picked up my s3 last night and am totally in love with it. For me the only thing that's even vaguely frustrating is the unlock screen... and its set of 'nature' themed ring tones. It has some gesture and motion controls that are definitely cool and may prove very handy with more use. As I am currently on my s3 I can say that the 'continuous input' aka swype system seems to have actually gone backwards some as it routinely fails to accurately capture words shorter than four or five letters. The double post here comes from fighting with continuous input and poking the submit button by accident. That said, it's easy to turn off and not aggravating much at all. Coming from an original galaxy S there's nothing not to love.

    There is a way to change the short cuts in the lock screen .. I found it in the security settings go to security/lock screen options then click on the shortcuts tab at the top of that screen .. it lets you change up the icons. :D

      Excellent! Not exactly obvious, mind you, but at least it can be done!

        The benefits of spending about 3 hours playing last night when I first got it home .. also this is my third galaxy phone so I am used to menu options being in weird places.You would think this would be found in the display section but no .. :/ Ah well .. I am in love with this phone .. such a smooth UI .. although I am using Go Launcher EX which makes much better use of the big screen .. lets you reduce the size of the icons a bit and go 5 icons wide on the screen .. very cool.

    well i had a good play with one down at voda and it was the white version. Personally i really don't like the white ..its feels decidedly cheap for what is supposed to be a flagship phone. Sammy could have done soooo much better with the design I think. The glossy white plastic on the back was just boring. As for the actually screen it is a beauty but again no real difference to the HTC One X or many other current phones on the market with similar screens. I think an Amoled HD Plus screen would have been better again because it is supposed to be again their flagship phone. Design wise it does look dated but i have to admit the curvy design feels good in the hand but i personally think it lacks spunk factor overall. The software is fast and i didn't experience any lag or glitches so for that i think they have done a great job. S-Voice was a bit of a fail as it really didn't understand much i asked and the responses when it did understand were lets just say a bit bizarre. I am going to wait and see what the blue coloured version looks like and then decide whether i will buy the HTC One XL or the S3 but for me personally i think the One XL looks the better phone. I know it hasn't been released officially yet but the 4G and the design (being exactly like the One X but black) are real key winners. Sorry Sammy but i think you may have underestimated just how much the look and feel of a phone matters in a very competitive market. This whole nature concept I don't believe was very well executed...shame really because I really think Sammy can do so much better, in fact i think the S2 design is better.

    What's the OS like - is it actual ICS, or Samsung's Gingerbread version of ICS like the update to the SGSII...

    Seriously, why on earth did Samsung strip all the ICS goodness out of the SGSII ICS ROM, and replace it with Samsung Gingerbreadesque crappiness...?

      My SGSII is running Telstra's official ICS ROM and I think it's great! On the surface it looks the similar because I'm using the same launcher (GoLauncher EX), but all the settings & options are ICS-ed, the task manager is the new ICS style, individual notifications can be swiped away, the back button now functions in a more predictable way, loading icons & system font & progress bars are the new ICS style, new ICS data usage per app & data limiting features are there. I'm finding more stuff every day.

      It's still Samsung-ey, but it's definitely not Gingerbread any more.

    I don't know what people's problem is with the GSII back cover, it's super robust and pops in and out with ease. Sure you might need a bit of a fingernail to open it, but putting it back on is stupidly easy.
    As for the GSIII I don't think I like the curvature, and I prefer the textured back of the GSII to a glossy cheap white plastic-y one.

      +1
      I've opened the back all of one time on my SII to add a micro SD card.

        Why would you need to keep opening the back cover for a micro SD card? Use airdroid to upload and download your phone's files. That's what Android is for.

          I think he means he opened the back only once ever, only to put in a microsd.

      The white version of the GSII wasn't textured on the back like the black one. Anyone know if the pebble blue GSIII will be smooth like the white when it launches?

    "upper pantheon"

    lol.. ok

    Have one right in front of me although it's not mine :( I've got my note! but I'm totally envious. I've got the white one in front of me right now (owner said he was sick of having to sync using itunes ie Freedom) and I can tell you it doesn't feel cheap. it doesn't even feel like plastic more ceramic feeling. Own one or even hold one and you'll know what I mean.

    UI - pretty quick!! i'm comparing it on my note and it makes me cry.. lol

    and Pentile?? what pentile?? The screen is pretty damn good!

    Whats the battery life looking like?

      Battery life doesn't seem very good at this point in time. I'll be monitoring it closely over the next week and will be taking it back if it doesn't improve.

        I've had mine since thursday and havent charged it yet. Its still on factory charge.

    4g capability is hardly a requirement for a new phone at the moment. OP has no idea. Sure in a few years when everyone has caught up and there is actually enough coverage to justify it, then yes it will be a mandatory feature of a new phone. At the moment it's just a "nice to have feature, when you can GET coverage and when it actually wants to STAY as a 4g connection and not dither between 3g and 4g".
    Plainly put, get off the bloody 4g bandwagon you muppet. It doesn't matter right now.

      Yeah no 4G is not a problem, it would be stupid to release a 4G version...

      .............so that you stay off 4G to keep it quicker for me! haha
      NO 4G PHONEZ EVA!!!!

      4G is what led me to buy the HTC One XL - I'd probably have gone the SIII if it had been 4G just as a change from HTC and for the AMOLED screen (I like how the black is totally black).

      I live and work in Sydney metro so 4G is reliable for me (so looking forward to moving from Voda to 4G!).

    Gave one of these a quick play today. Random thoughts:

    - The UI is a lot better than Sense
    - Its got the same 'glass pane' effect Android tablets do, but it actually looks good here
    - The pentile display is noticeable, especially next to a One X, but it's probably the best as far as pentile displays go
    - The auto brightness is REALLY aggressive.
    - Smart Stay is... Interesting. Glancing away at the One X had it turning the screen off instantly at least once
    - The Samsung branding is kind of ridiculous. Is there really any reason to call 'Calendar' 'S-Planner'.

    Also, while I was looking at it a random Harvey Norman employee told me that 'If I want quad core, get the One X'. Not sure what that was about.

    TL;DR: Probably the best Android phone on the market, but would be better running stock to avoid the S-Ridiculousness.

    Got mine today. Again, 4g over 3g is a moot point.
    Used the Nexus for a few weeks and really enjoyed it, however as good as it was it already felt dated.
    Loading the GS3 up and things are BLOODY fast. apple have some catching up to do. I have an iPhone 4S as my work phone and my old phone was the HTC Desire. This is heads and shoulders above both.
    Screen is vibrant and not over-saturated, camera is as snappy and quick to load as OP has mentioned.
    Loading my contacts and programs onto it was as easy as one would imagine being Google, enter google account details, all contacts and previous applications loaded onto the phone automatically, over the air, no problem. This is a HUGE point where apple has failed time and again, and one of the main reasons I lean more towards Android over Apple these days.

    We got them in to work today, we are an Optus dealer. I played with it for a bit today, and the only thing that really got me was the screen. The Exynos seemed sluggish to me compared to the One X (which is conveniently located right next to the SIII) although I will give props to Sammy for the screen. It was pretty amazing and the unlocking was just so nice to look at. I unlocked it a few times just to see it. I still think my money is better spent on the One X.

    damn i wish i did buy the One X, you know i was playing with the One X and i did kind of feel it was faster.

    Fail for me, physical menu buttons and way toooooo big

    I picked one up yesterday and moved my micro SIM card from my aging iPhone 4 into it. Iv been using iPhones since 2008 and im more or less over the incremental if not australia-obselete changes that come with each model. So far im enjoying the galaxy S III, its sleek and light, slips out of my pocket easily :( and has a sqwillion features.

    I got my phone yesterday and it's awesome. I replaced the launcher and the lock screen with Go (launcher x locker). it feels good in the hand and it looks great

    I had a play and its OK, but why is it so expensive and cheap looking? The One X is a much better buy with similar specs, and alot better build quality.

    I currently have a galaxy note thats after killing 2x S2 i love the note the S3 would have to be something special for me to spend the money or upgrade to the S3 hopefully its a little more robust than the S2

    After using my Galaxy Note 5.3 inches screen size for internet browsing, I visited a Vodafone store to test the new GSIII which even with its 4.8 inches screen size looked nice and clear but rather small. Imagine when I browse my wife's Iphone 3GS 3.5 in . Ahhhhh..what's that ! ..Samsung, by creating the Note, has spoiled me and so far spoiled more that 7 million people around the world !!... Thanks Samsung!!

    Nup, no reason to change from my apple prison reading any of your comments so far. Love the 4gs, retina blows all droids away, quad core makes everything snappy and 8 hours of full use, 24+ hours light use battery life works well for me. Besides, don't mind iTunes, used to it now. Least I don't have to think about Trojans or 96 versions of droid...suck it up droidz

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