The hype has died down, the launch is dusted and done, and Samsung's Galaxy S III is here… sort of. Is it going to be the blazing stellar inferno of a phone everyone was hoping for, or just a faded black hole? Also, what can you do if you want one right now?
My inner voice is screaming at me to cut it out with the astronomy metaphors right now, and you know what? It's right.
Samsung's launch on Friday of the Galaxy S III generated a lot of interest, and not without merit. The Galaxy S III is intended to be Samsung's "hero" phone for the year, and it's got quite the pedigree to live up to. Not so much due to the original Galaxy S, which was an acceptable enough smartphone, albeit one that I personally found far too crash-prone to use on a regular basis. And believe me -- I tried.
The Galaxy S II was a different kettle of fish. It was the phone that got me to switch over to Android for a while, the phone that Gizmodo readers voted the best of 2011 -- and that I wholeheartedly agreed with, even though I did nearly give Giz publisher Danny a heart attack when I suggested I'd give the prize to the iPhone 4S.
Will the Galaxy S III live up to that kind of pedigree? It's a tough call, although not all of that is down to Samsung specifically. The S III had the kind of pre-launch anticipation usually reserved for Apple phones, and there's a segment of the population that would always see a phone that didn't conform to their precise expectations as being a disappointment.
It is disappointing that Samsung Australia isn't yet ready to play its cards when it comes to Australian launch availability for the Galaxy S III. Its official statement on the matter reads:
"Samsung Electronics Australia is pleased there is continued interest about our GALAXY range in Australia, but we have no plans to make any announcements at this time."
That's not a sign of confidence; at a guess I'd say Samsung has put out a statement rather than stay completely silent in order to have some mindshare by the time the next iPhone strolls along. Whether the Galaxy S III will emerge before then is hard to say.
The obvious point of comparison for the Galaxy S III isn't the iPhone 4S, by the way. Not that there won't be some switchers between camps -- with Samsung hoping they'll fly the Galaxy S III's way. No, it's the HTC One X, a phone you can already get in Australia right now. They're both targeting the same superphone space, from large screens to ICS to high end processing power. Both have their own skins on top of ICS, but they're both relatively light skins, rather than the complete takeover that used to permeate and infest the Android world. The big difference is that you can get an HTC One X right now.
Samsung's certainly not been shy in using the "Galaxy" branding on any number of devices, from tablets to entry-level phones and even potential competitors to the S III, and that too is a challenge for the new phone. It's a larger-screened phone, and Samsung already has the Galaxy Note for that; either the S III will eat into Note sales, or those with the Note won't quite see the value in the SIII's software set and processor advances.
Likewise, locally there's the Galaxy S II 4G; a fine if now slightly dated phone, but one that will have an edge on the first imported models into Australia. Nothing is certain right now, but I'd wager a guess that unless we wait around six months for the S III -- which is exactly what happened with the Note, so it's not out of contention -- then it won't be the LTE version we see here. As a reminder to the readership; the current 4G networks -- both Telstra's and Optus' -- use 1800MHz LTE, although Optus has run some trials in 700MHz LTE. An overseas 700MHz LTE phone won't connect to any 4G network in Australia yet, and most likely not for several years.
There's a number of direct importers offering the Galaxy S III for pre-order, banking on being able to get hold of European stock by the end of the month if you want to go down that route. Mobicity has the 16GB S III for $799 including shipping if that's to your taste. Expansys is promoting the phone heavily, but not listing a price that I could find.
Shifting over to UK importers who'll ship you one, Handtec will send you one for £416.49, a slight reduction on Clove's price at £429. The import models are 3G quad-band, so they should work smoothly across all network carriers, although you may miss out on whatever bundled apps Samsung does offer with the S III once it does finally ship here.