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Samsung Galaxy S3 Review

  • Significant design change
  • No 4G for now, but maybe on the horizon
  • Available from $49/month with Vodafone
Written by Adam Wajnberg

Samsung’s ascendancy in the mobile space has been fitful, but with the S3 they may have come into their own. Samsung has been in the international GSM market since there was a market, with 1998 being the first year they offered phones outside Korea. They were greeted by Nokia, Motorola and Ericsson, who owned the world through the early part of the 2000’s. Samsung plugged along as the overall Samsung brand burnished its reputation, and in 2007 it broke through as the world’s second largest handset manufacturer. Then the iPhone hit, and HTC responded as the clear challenger to it, by providing feature heavy, cheap and plentiful Android alternatives to the Apple juggernaut.

samsung galaxy s3

Humans FTW!

It took Samsung a lot of hard work to displace HTC, but along the way it did more than that – it completed its rise in late 2011, when it became the world’s largest handset manufacturer, bar none. It displaced Nokia in dumbphones and HTC in Android powered smartphones. But when it comes to iconic brand recognition, it’s still a step behind Apple, who possess a quarter of the world smartphone market with a single handset, immediately recognizable in a lineup.

2011 provided the opportunity for Samsung to ask the world – do you like us? Or do we just provide the best delivery system for Android? Samsung had wrested from HTC the right to make the Nexus, the Google-developed handset that would provide a showcase for Android, rather than the manufacturer’s own skills. At the same time, it released The Galaxy S2, Samsung’s ‘Samsung’ phone, the phone that displayed their manufacturing and design chops.

It turns out people love Samsung for their personality. The S2 sold like gangbusters, surpassing 20 million handsets by Jan 2012. The Nexus is coming down in price, which should see it pick up speed, but the S2 has emerged as the big solo competitor to the iPhone.

One problem – the S2 looks an awful lot like the iPhone.

samsung galaxy s3

Hello handsome

So with the S3, Samsung is taking the opportunity to step away from criticism (and lawsuits) that their phones are ‘me-too’ facsimilies of Apple’s beast. With the iPhone due for a major overhaul at the end of this year, it’s also a chance for Samsung to beat Apple to the punch for once, releasing a next-gen handset several months before Apple gets around to it.

The S3 comes packed with the goods – Slim, smooth design, 720p, Super AMOLED display (with a pixel density that rivals Apple’s ‘Retina’ display), up to 64 GB of storage (with expandable memory for up to another 64GB), Near-Field-Communications chip, 8MP camera, 1080p recording, Android 4.0 and every gosh-darn form of wireless communication you can imagine…

No 4G.

That’s not exactly Samsung’s fault. The S3 supports LTE/4G mobile data on the 700Mhz band, which is in use in Europe and the US; in Australia, Telstra and Optus are using the 1800Mhz band. Samsung will likely release an LTE version for use here, but it’s likely we’ll be getting 700Mhz networks before too long anyway.

Anyway, back to the rest of the phone. With a shopping cart full of goodies, what’s to take from this release that separates it from the rest of the pack?

-    Near Field Communications. NFC has the potential to be a gamechanger in an industry that needs something new. This secure wireless technology is used in Japan and South Korea as a way to turn your mobile into a mobile wallet. Google has been experimenting with their own service, but most retailers are waiting for a major push from hardware manufacturers. Apple, with over 200 million iTunes accounts, mostly backed up with credit cards, is expected to enter this arena. Samsung has less direct interaction with customer spending, but with their ubiquitous hardware and Google’s ubiquitous software, the S3 could begin their attempt to lock down this market.

-    50GB Dropbox account.
Dropbox has maintained its status as the Cloud storage provider du jour, beating back Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive and Apple iCloud. This might be down to Dropbox’ simple-as interface. No bells and whistles – you download software that installs a folder on your various desktop, save items to that folder and voila- they’re available everywhere. Dropbox comes with 5GB free storage, and it’s easy to gain more through referrals – but with Samsung offering a free 50GB account with the S3, why bother with anything else? An iCloud 55GB box costs you $105 a year.

-    Expandable storage. Apple has always been generous with onboard storage, compared to the competition. With the iPod, few competitors could match 80 or 160GB with their hard-drive based players; likewise most phone manufacturers seem unwilling to include more than 16GB onboard flash storage, relying on expandable microSD cards (sometimes. What gives, Nokia?). Samsung is going above and beyond here, providing up to 64GB onboard, and supporting microSD cards up to 64Gb as well – giving you a 128GB mobile computing powerhouse.

samsung galaxy s3

Draw me like one of your French phones

Everything else is more evolutionary than revolutionary, but the design of the phone does present a departure from the S2. With a smaller bezel, Samsung has squeezed 4.8” of display on a body no bigger than the S2. The shiny ‘pebble’ design also gives the phone a smoother, less boxy look than its predecessor, and separates the look significantly from the iPhone.

The S3 comes with Android 4.0 ‘Ice Cream Sandwich on board, with Samsung’s TouchWiz interface over the top. It’s less intrusive than previous TouchWiz releases, suggesting that Samsung has it’s eyes firmly on the phone with this model. And that’s good news. Phones are what Samsung does best, and the S3 is the best Samsung has to offer.

Alternatives: HTC One X, Motorola RAZR, Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Vodafone are currently offering the best overall deal on the Samsung Galaxy S3 - $64/month over 24 months, incl. $750 call credit, 1.5GB data, infinite text to any network and infinite calls to other Vodafone customers. Bonus – double data (3GB) for first 12 months, and first two months free. Click here to access Vodafone’s online shop, to get this offer before June 30.


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