Jul 13 AT 2:02 PM Anthony Domanico 49 Comments

The Samsung Galaxy S III released on all major U.S. networks to much fanfare. It’s not uncommon to hear the Galaxy S III referred to as the pinnacle of Android smartphones, and with good reason. With the latest internal components, amazing external aesthetics and a killer screen, the Galaxy S III has everything the Android user needs and longs for in a smartphone. But will it be the de facto Android smartphone for 2012? Read on to find out.

We’ll note before starting this review that we occasionally do joint-reviews of devices here at Android and Me, and Sean Riley contributed to this review.

1. Form Factor

If you’re looking for a phone that breaks the Galaxy S mold, you aren’t going to find it here. While Samsung finally stood up to carriers and ensured that customers received the same physical device regardless of carrier, the Galaxy S III still feels like a big slab of plastic with a screen. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and the device is super light as a result, yet still feels well-built and solid in the hand.

The Galaxy S III features a power button on the right side of the device, microUSB port on the bottom, volume rocker on the left side, and a 3.5 mm headset jack on the top. On the back of the device you’ll find the camera, with an LED flash and speaker grill on the left and right sides of the camera, respectively. The Galaxy S III comes in two finishes, Marble White (reviewed) and Pebble Blue. The Marble White is a nice finish on the phone, and presents a refreshing change to the customary black slabs in the wild. The Pebble Blue looked equally good in the brief moments I had with that variant of the device, a good choice for those of you who prefer darker phones.

After having my hands on the AT&T HTC One X and the Sprint EVO 4G LTE, I can honestly say that I prefer the form factor of the Galaxy S III, and I think many of you will as well.

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2. Software

When it comes to the software on the Galaxy S III, Samsung has included Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich complete with their customary TouchWiz UI. This isn’t your familiar old TouchWiz; Samsung has pulled an HTC and toned down the UI a bit in order to give the Galaxy S III a slick look and feel. As with Sense 4.0, Touchwiz for Android 4.0 is a pleasant to use UI, the skinned applications actually work well and are in some ways better than the stock version in Android 4.0.

One of the better additions to Touchwiz 5 is the revamped lock screen that brings the same ability to launch four customary applications directly from the lock screen found in HTC’s Sense UI. Most people primarily use only a handful of applications very often; for example, I use Phone, Tweakdeck, Facebook, and the Camera, and set those to the lock screen for quick access.

Samsung differentiates its UI by some of the included applications, one example is S Memo, which allows you to draw on pieces of paper or over screenshots you take from your device, helpful when you want to send something to someone with commentary. Perhaps the most notable added feature on the Galaxy S III though is the Siri-competitor S Voice, which allows you command your phone to perform certain tasks or search for things using only your voice. In our testing, both the S Memo and S Voice performed very well, though I must admit that the latter isn’t quite up to Siri par here. We’re hoping that Samsung and Google could work together to leverage Google Now and S Voice to come up with an unparalleled personal assistant.

DSC_0789 DSC_0790 DSC_0807 DSC_0808

In all, Samsung’s Touchwiz UI remains slightly more polished and user-friendly than HTC Sense, and in my humble opinion at least retains its position as the preferred custom UI on Android smartphones.

3. Longevity

One of the biggest gripes users have with smartphones is the long-term usability, or longevity, of the device. Many people voice concerns that their device won’t get the latest and greatest operating system when it’s released to other, newer devices, and that manufacturers are slow to resolve bugs and hiccups that come with the device.

Samsung has made the Galaxy S III at least partially future-proof. The Galaxy S III includes 2GB of RAM, which makes for an insanely fluid user experience and ensures that the device will get upgrades for at least the next few years, or the life of your cellular contract. Additionally, forcing carriers to adopt the same device with only a bit of bloatware added will likely result in quicker upgrades, meaning it shouldn’t be 6 or more months after an Android version is released for the S III to get the update.

Regardless, the Galaxy S III is a powerful device with top of the line components that will leave customers pleased with their devices for the two years they’ll likely own it. That’s still pretty much a rarity in Android smartphones these days, as most devices are much less pleasant to use after a year or so.

4. Hardware

Many were disappointed to hear that the U.S. Galaxy S III would not be getting the quad-core processor that is offered internationally, but I assure you that the dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor running at 1.5 GHz will change your mind almost immediately. I’ve never seen Android 4.0 run as smoothly as it does on the Galaxy S III. Transitions never seemed to stutter and apps launched instantly. Gaming was no different, I couldn’t find a title in my library that the Galaxy S III wasn’t able to keep up with. Now as noted in the previous section the 2GB of RAM no doubt has its hands in some of this performance, but regardless of how it is being achieved the point is that the hardware in the Galaxy S III will not disappoint.

It’s worth noting that the Galaxy S III also features NFC, which Samsung is leveraging for their S Beam functionality that allows you to quickly and easily share content between devices.

5. Call Quality

Call quality is almost an afterthought for most people at this point; we simply expect that our devices will perform well as phones, which is and will continue to be their primary functionality. I’m happy to report that the call quality on the Galaxy S III was up to par. Both the in-ear and speakerphone produced clear phone calls, and parties on the other end of the phone reported being able to hear me just fine as well.

6. Display

The display was another somewhat contentious point for the Galaxy S III as the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the PenTile  screen was audible from the launch event. Actually seeing the Galaxy S III screen will make you forget any implication that it is in some way inferior. The 4.8-inch 1280×720 Super AMOLED is the best display I have seen on a smartphone. Colors are vibrant, without being over saturated, and text is crisp. Usability in full sun is acceptable, but not markedly better than other smartphones on the market.

I’ve said it before, but I don’t care if the pixels look flawed under a microscope, the reality of using the Galaxy S III is that anything you put on that screen is going to look amazing.

7. Camera Quality

As a Galaxy Nexus owner this was probably the most anticipated feature of the Galaxy S III for me since it is, at least in my opinion, the Achilles heel for the Nexus. When it was revealed that Samsung was using an updated version of the imaging chip utilized in the oft deified iPhone 4S camera I was thrilled and the Galaxy S III lives up to that hype for me. I even appreciate Samsung’s enhancements to the basic camera app.

There are quite a few additions to the camera, but I’ll stick with the three that I found particularly useful. The first and my personal favorite is the “HDR” mode. For those unfamiliar with HDR it basically takes multiple shots at different exposure levels to produce one image with greater contract in light and dark areas. What I enjoyed about Samsung’s implementation is that it doesn’t push things too far and in the end just gives you a very well exposed shot, the flower below is a perfect example, without HDR on the sky was slightly blown out and the foreground looked quite dark. The camera does also give you the unmodified version, so if you are a purist you still have that image to play with later.

The burst mode is another much appreciated feature, especially if you have quick moving children or pets. The ability to have the camera fire off 20 shots consecutively over several seconds without having to tap the shutter repeatedly is a real boon and also prevents the inevitable camera jiggle from tapping the screen over and over. I was less impressed with the “best shot” option which takes what it considers the best photo from the series and deletes the rest, but your mileage may vary there.

Finally I appreciated what amounts to a slight tweak to the panorama mode and that is the little blue frame that helps to show you whether you are straying from your line as you stitch the panorama together. It’s a minor detail that is tremendously helpful for shooting a panorama.

flower-galaxy-s-3 bugdroid-galaxy-s-3 panorama-galaxy-s-3

The Galaxy S III is naturally capable of capturing 1080p video as well and not surprisingly the results there are fantastic. I assumed the detail would be there, however I was surprised by the complete lack of any chop or stutter to the video as I’ve often seen that with 1080p video from previous smartphones. Here’s a brief sample video and if you watch it in full 1080p you’ll see what I mean.

8. Verizon 4G LTE

One of the biggest advantages for the Verizon Galaxy S III is the 4G LTE network, which produces download speeds ranging from 5 to 12 mbps, and upload speeds in the 3 to 5 mbps neighborhood. Of course, AT&T has an emerging LTE network, but it’s not quite grown up yet; many regions are stuck on HSPA+, which offers somewhat slower speeds on average than LTE. Sprint and T-Mobile have LTE networks in development, with both carriers planning on fully-implemented networks by the end of 2013. That’s a long way off, and makes the Verizon our preferred carrier for the Galaxy S III, since it has day 1 access to a fully-implemented LTE network.

9. Battery Life

Battery life on the Samsung Galaxy S III has been nothing short of amazing for me. It still can’t hold a candle to the Droid RAZR MAXX, but with it’s significantly larger screen and smaller battery it does a remarkable job trying.

I was able to consistently get 15-17 hours on a single charge with the SGS3, which is a good 3-4 hours beyond what most LTE phones on Verizon have offered me in the past. These results were without employing any specific battery saving measures so with a modicum of additional effort even the heaviest of users would be extremely hard pressed to burn through this battery in a single day.

10. Price

Safe and sound, back in good old $199. After the last year or so of seeing all the high-end devices on Verizon spiking launch prices between $249 and $299 it is nice to see things come back down to the once reliable $199 mark.

Also with the availability of the microSD slot I see little reason to bump up to the 32GB version since you can pick up a 32GB class 10 microSD card for about $35 on Amazon. Even less if you go with a class 4 card and if you are just using it to store media that should get the job done just fine.

The full retail price of $599 is a bit harder to take, especially since other carriers have it at $549, but the reality is that so few customers opt to go that route that I can’t really penalize the Galaxy S III for it.

If you don’t mind not going directly through Verizon you can also get the Galaxy S III starting at $149.99 from Amazon.

Samsung Galaxy S III10 / 10

Anthony – The Samsung Galaxy S III is set to take the world by storm. We tested the Verizon version of the device, but we’re certain the next statement applies to all variants of the Galaxy S III; it is by far the best Android device released to date, and will likely hold that crown through the remainder of 2012. I thought I wasn’t going to like how big it is, and indeed it is rather large with that 4.8″ screen; but it’s managed to maintain the svelte look and feel of the Galaxy S II line, and thankfully doesn’t feel as big as it actually is. Users should have no trouble holding and using the device with only one hand, which is a common complaint lodged against larger smartphones.

Frankly, if you’re up for an upgrade or looking for a new device, you simply owe it to yourself to get the Galaxy S III, our Editor’s Choice for 2012. You won’t be happier with any other Android.

Sean – Anthony and I agree almost completely on this device. The Galaxy S III is the best smartphone I have had the pleasure to use and were I looking to upgrade today it is absolutely what I would buy.

My only minor complaint regarding the Galaxy S III is the fit and finish, which doesn’t look quite as high quality to me as, for example, the HTC One X. With that said, I prefer the feel of the Galaxy S III in the hand (which is more important to me anyway).

I’ll counteract that minor complaint with something that didn’t make its way into the review proper, and that is that the speaker on the Galaxy S III is an order of magnitude louder than any other smartphone I’ve used. I was able to hear podcasts or music playing on it basically throughout my house if I turned it to full blast whereas I normally can barely hear my smartphones when I leave the room.

The combination of the high-end hardware, the fairly lightly modified software and of course the sheer number of these devices that Samsung is going to have out there should keep the Galaxy S III a relevant and reliable device well into the future.

Anthony loves all things technology, from hardware to apps and games. You can connect with him via Google+ or Twitter by clicking one of the fancy doo-dads above.

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  • oddball

    I’m loving mine and it certainly blows my old Droid X out of the water. And the Dev community has really become a who’s who of the Android modding world. The only downside is the bootloader and that slowed the devs down for about 2 or 3 hours for a workaround and I bet we see a permanent solution by the end of August

    • Neeraj

      Use the command to self test your S3 hardware (for samsung galaxy note too)

    • RocketDroid

      The SIII has a huge critical mass behind thanks to the simultaneous release on all the carriers which is a huge plus.

      I was a little worried that it was getting too much hype and I would be disappointed when I got mine, but it has exceeded my expectations. It’s a great phone and i even like all TouchWiz interface.

      Aside from the locked bootloader, the two other major downsides are the lack of Google Wallet and the loss of the free 50 GB on DropBox for 2 years. I am going to have to seriously reconsider Verizon upon contract renewal if they keep sabotaging their phones.

  • Matt

    I thought the Korean version was the only one that had 2gig RAM?

    • http://www.anthonydomanico.com Anthony Domanico

      you thought wrong. I think it may be the only one with quad core AND 2GB RAM, but the U.S. models definitely have 2GB RAM

      • Matt


  • redraider133

    I’m loving mine. These are the type of devices android needs. I can see it bringing in a lot of people who had bad experiences with android in the past back to android.

  • http://www.infotainmentempire.com pekosROB

    Great review, I have been loving the shit out of my GSIII the past week since I got mine. I have burned through almost 2 GB of data since then (mostly music streaming).

    I’m guessing it’s more the 2 GB of RAM than the S4, but I have not suffered any lag from the homescreen rewriting process. This is a godsend for me, that was my biggest gripe. So big that I almost never used widgets before because of the lag. I also use Launcher Pro and it has run smoother than before on this device compared to the other 3 Android phones I’ve had (and of course the OS improvements and hardware contribute to this as well).

    All in all, I’m still surprised at how awesome this device is and still can’t get over its newness to me. It is right up there in performance with my Transformer Prime, if not better.

  • Louis A

    Thanks for the review. I am really on the fence as to getting this phone. I am waiting to get Jelly Bean for my GSM Gnex but this phone is looking so good I am wanting to consider selling my Gnex to get it. I wish Samsung gives a time line as to when this phone will get Jelly Bean.

  • ElvisonD

    Tmobile here…and Oh man…this phone is one of my best investments…hands down, this is a hell of a machine…weeks in and i still can’t believe how great it is =)

  • GRAW

    This makes me want to return my GNex and get this instead.

  • Ardrid

    Great review as usual. While I certainly have no personal experience to argue with the 10/10 score, I will say that my experience with the Captivate is enough to sway me away from the GS3, even with this stellar review. I just don’t have much faith in Samsung at this point. With all the goodness of JB, I’m inclined to wait for the GNex successor.

    • http://www.technogasms.com Sean Riley

      This hardware definitely outdoes the Nexus, but I can’t argue with wanting to stick with the Nexus line. I’m really torn at the moment as I was ready to upgrade until I put JB on my Gnex and damn it’s good.

  • Galen20K

    my 32GB Pebble blue Galaxy S III on T-Mobile is such a Monster, I can’t believe how crazy sick this phone is. Seriously if you have any doubts and regardless of your carrier, you owe it to yourself to at least pick one up and try it out for a week.

    • Richard Yarrell

      Tmobile is crazy fast with the Gs3. A great experience

      • squiddy20

        And you tell me not to be “leaving comments that others have expressed”? Ha ha ok. As if your comment was anything different.

  • johnny

    Class 10 SD cards are a joke and a half. What you want for performance is one with high RANDOM WRITE SPEEDS. And class 10 have worse then class 2 in that field. High sustained read write is great if your only transferring movies to and from your device that’s about it

  • jamal adam

    And here I thought that a perfect score was impossible. Great review of an amazing phone.

  • Nathan D.

    The duck was cool to watch :-) But a ten out of ten I can’t remember a score like that for android if at all.

  • SGB101

    I think your totally wrong about the screen it is over saturated, it make it very eye catching but is not realistic, the same trick Sammy does with their tvs.

    Also in a side by side comparison with the one x, text is a lot sharper at a usable distance.

    We have both at home, I like the saturation of the sg3 but prefer the crispness of the X. Also prefer the saying of the sg3 but prefer the sense to wiz.

    Over all I like the Sammy better. Would like to get my hands on a US variant tho.

  • kazahani

    “I don’t care if the pixels look flawed under a microscope, the reality of using the Galaxy S III is that anything you put on that screen is going to look amazing.”

    Amen brother. GNex and GSIII both have fantastic, crisp and beautiful displays.


    My kid was also brainwashed by similar reviews and hysteria of United Salespeople of America on the sites like this one and wanted Sgs3. I went to At&t store to look and buy this miracle. And i was shocked in disbelief. I expected everything but not this one. The One X nearby was literally ripping sgs3 off with twice the brightness and great white colors compared to greyish bluish dim neighbour. I loaded same website on the phones and placed my SGS1 side by side to compare and was shocked even more. Sgs3 looked even much dimmer and less appealing then old tech! Wow! Worse, in addition to less brightness it showed more reflection. I gathered the crowd and laughing asked the sales rep if the unit on display was broken and let him to pump the brightness manually. He was sweating trying everything but failed. Then i asked if we can take the phones to compare outside on the day light casting the obvious doubt that we will even see anything on sgs3. Got the shit in respond that despite of less brightness and more reflections it is better outside but policy does not allow him to take stuff out. hahaha…The moronery of sales is invincible. So as always I’m proud to rattle dumbos with this post. Now unicellulars go and downvote it lolol lmao

    • RAPTOR

      I made a picture, here is the SGS3 vs OX. “Enjoy”


      • thebearingedge

        That might be the browser brightness. I saw the same issue on mine, found the browser settings and ratcheted up the brightness to match the rest of the UI. Looked burning bright white again.

        • RAPTOR

          That was anyone first suspicion but all was on maximum. Tell EXACTLY what did you do.

          • Matt M.

            Mine had the same problem. Hit the menu button inside the browser and scroll down the list. It is under Brightness and colors. You can set the brightness level.

    • counsel dew

      Everyone not agreeing that others might have an opinion that is right for them needs to pick up a dictionary and look up the word… bigot. Unless your IQ is below 80, we should be able to agree the decision is subjective…

  • jt

    For someone contemplating the new iphone what would u objectively say? I have a Mac & most of my family & friends have iphones they love. “it just works” is tempting where my midlevel Samsung has been nothing but problems with no manufacturer support. Plus I read Mac Os ML will be even more compatible with ios

    • Ardrid

      It really depends on what your needs are. If you don’t mind Apple’s closed ecosystem and/or don’t need granular control over your phone’s settings, applications, home screen, etc., then I think an iPhone would suit you just fine. If you’re more of a power user and/or enjoy customizing your hardware to your heart’s desire, you should give Android a shot. My personal vote would be either the HTC One X or, preferably, the Galaxy Nexus, though you obviously won’t go wrong with the Galaxy S3 either.

  • Jorge Vieira

    10/10 wow didnt expect that. it is def and awsome phone I cant wait to get it in my hands!!!!!!!!!!

  • thebearingedge

    I’ve been gradually becoming more and more of a rabid Android fan for the last couple of years and I have to agree, the SGS3 (mine’s T-mo) is tits. Even stock, my experience was never laggy, and never slowed down – even as I opened every app during that honeymoon phase of getting a new device.

    Somehow, the CM9 7/12 nightly works perfectly for me, though not for everybody. My current opinion is that the ONLY way an android phone could be sweeter is to have a stable CM10 or Stock Jellybean.

    I thought about switching to an HTC One, after the GPS debacle on previous Galaxy phones. After doing a bit of research and learning that the Note had a killer GPS, my faith was restored. The SGS3 has not disappointed.

    I’m in love.

  • Jerry

    How come you didn’t talk about how much bigger the Verizon Galaxy S3 is compared to the Sprint version…

    I wanted an s3 for Verizon ..since sprint’s network sucks now.. and it doesn’t even have 4G but the size was a turn off

    ill stick with my s2 at least it has 4G

    • Dirge

      What are you talking about? Both versions of the S3 are 4.8″

      • Jerry

        Same screen size doesn’t mean same footprint… the GS3 is thicker for Verizon.. it doesn’t feel as good in the hands because of it

  • sunrise

    15-17 hrs on Verizon 4G LTE on a single charge? Really?

    Haven’t been able to get that at all. Half way through work day and the phone needs a charge, and that is with absolutely no internet usage, only text messages, emails and voice calls.

    • RAPTOR

      Wow, Sunrise. …is this THAT poor battery? one more bad news. Can you please install app called Battery Snap and publish the graph with usage pattern after several days? will be more clear what is wrong there

    • http://www.technogasms.com Sean Riley

      Don’t know what to tell you, I can only report what I experienced with the phone and I never once managed to kill it in under 15 hours and the same usage pattern even with the extended battery in my Gnex won’t make it 12 hours.

      I’d also be interested to see what your battery plot looks like to see what it is that’s doing the damage. The one thing I do not do a lot of is make phone calls, probably an hour at max a day, so if you are making a lot of calls it’s possible that is a big drain that I would not have seen.

  • Ryan

    The screen has a nice size but it sucks and it is way to dim, even inside. Touchwiz is garbage, worse than stock AOSP in some regards. Samsung still had trouble with their GPS chips or sensors. It is responsive but given the problems I will pass on it. I do not know what the author is smoking, sense is way better than touchwiz will ever be. In fact, Samsung should take their s3 profits and buy or license sense and put touches in the bit bucket.

    • bobmob

      Sense is bloated crap that can’t even do multi-tasking, sorry you didn’t buy the superior Gnex or GSIII both of which destroy One X and soon to be de-funct and bankrupt HTC. I made sooo much money shorting HTC stock

  • msgnyc

    I feel like I’m in kindergarden or something reading through these posts…

    Anyways, the GSIII is definitely a nice phone. I just wish it came in black……

  • bobmob

    I still take the Gnex over this any day. My Gnex with CM10 is much smoother than the GSIII and the dev community is #1 on Gnex nothing will ever come close to the dev support on it.

  • cba

    i want this meanmachine, but its hard to get with a cheap contract, i dont use – say nice financed in germany

  • ricky0702

    Fantastic phone. Received my white 16GB pre-order yesterday, and have been having fun with it ever since. I’m impressed with the battery life considering it’s using the battery-hogging 4G LTE signal. Speaking of which, I am coming from a 3G phone and I have to say that 4G is a godsend; I live in Riverside County, CA and get great 4G signal — this thing loads web pages just
    as fast as a high quality WiFi connection. The display is beautiful and is usable in direct sunlight.

  • George Stevens

    It has smart telecom application. the most amazing Features of Samsung Galaxy S3 are wireless charging and Wi-Fi channel bonding it doubles up the speed of wi-fi.

  • DKK

    Can anyone say what the GPS performance is like on the S III? I know “If I want real GPS buy a dedicated unit” but it is nice to have fast functional GPS on my phone. We have both the S4G and Vibrant and GPS is terrible on these.

  • robinthoms2

    I recently got an S3 and have had nothing but good things to say about it. I love the larger screen. The brightness didn’t really seem an issue unless in direct sunlight. As for the internals, I ran several games: Deadspace, Eternal Legacy, Shadow Gun. They all ran smooth so the 1.5 GHz dual core is definitely able to hold its own. Using Quadrant it scored around 4900, so 3D benchmarks were all good.
    Top 7 Unique Features of the Samsung Galaxy S III

  • Russell White

    Unfortunatly, the Samsung Galaxy S III which you are talking about is not capable of taking the World by storm since it is not a Global phone. This is a deal breaker for me and probably for others who use Verizon. At this time I will go for the iPhone 5 which, on Verixon, is 4G and Global.

  • scubabum

    I don’t understand why the Sprint/Verizon S3 phones are not the global-version (as compared to their iPhone5). May be Sprint/Verizon tries to save some $$$ by ordering less-capabilities phone.
    I think Samsung would save money if they only have to produce 1 model for the US market, similar to
    what Apple does with the iPhone5. But may be Samsung does not have the same clout/power that
    Apple has.

  • Ezy03

    just needs better build quality