For the first time in Android history, all major carriers received pretty much the exact same device with the exact same specs. Of course, the Verizon version still utilizes CDMA technology for their 3G network and T-Mobile uses a different GSM frequency than AT&T, but the externals and internals are almost identical, making this review a little easier for all intents and purposes.
If you don’t have the time to read this entire article, I will preface this review with a bold statement: This device is the closest thing to perfect I have seen in a mobile device and it just may be the device that pushes me back to Android as a primary device.
For people that know me, they know I was a long-time BlackBerry supporter. Every now and then, I will activate my Bold 9650 for a little spoonful of nostalgia. I used a BlackBerry on and off for the better of 5 years before I started to dabble in other mobile operating systems. When BlackBerry started to become stagnant and the majority of my inner circle had traded in their BBM machines for other solutions, I really had nothing tying me to BlackBerry and decided I needed more out of my device. I started with the original Motorola Droid but soon realized Android was still in its infancy. Once the iPhone became available on Verizon, I made the switch and haven’t looked back… Until now.
The Samsung Galaxy III is a combination of well-manufactured hardware and the latest specs with the matured Android operating system of Ice Cream Sandwich (Version 4.0.4). The two come together beautifully to provide users a versatile, yet smooth user experience that I have no hesitation saying is unmatched.
The added features that Samsung’s version of ICS brings in Face Unlock, Android Beam and S-Voice (to name just a few) are welcomed, but what really makes the user experience enjoyable is the hardware acceleration of the UI and the clean, crisp and refined appearance. With help from the 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon™ S4 processor, you can fly through the multiple home screens and menus with ease while not sacrificing any of the heavy lifting.
S Voice, Samsung’s answer to Apple’s Siri, allows users to give voice commands for voice dial, text messaging, search, navigation and more. Comparing the two side-by-side in their current state, I would give the edge to S Voice. There is more functionality built-in and speech recognition is on par with Siri. With S Voice, users have the ability to update their social status and launch an app with a short voice command. iOS6 will add a much overdue update to Siri by adding sports schedules/scores, Yelp reviews and OpenTable reservations as well as movie reviews and facts, which will make the voice assistant more intelligent, but for now S Voice is the leader. I would, however, be interested in comparing S Voice to the native Android voice assistant coming in Jelly Bean (version 4.1).
The 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED is absolutely stunning and should be, being that the resolution is 1280×720. Sound familiar? That’s because the display on this device is true HD. Text, images and movies look unbelievably sharp and photos captured on the 8-megapixel camera can easily replace your point-and-shoot.
While the hardware/specs on this device are stellar, and the software is next to flawless, the major pull to Android is the fact that I rely heavily on Google services. I use GMail, Calendar, Maps, Reader, Talk and Voice every day without exception and having seamless integration with these services makes my mobile life a little easier. Making the Chrome browser the default internet browser adds even more integration with Google services by syncing bookmarks and tabs from the desktop version of Chrome to your device.
Each carrier pretty much provides the same hardware experience, so let’s delve in to the subtle differences in software and performance for each carrier that I reviewed.
The Verizon Samsung Galaxy S III that I reviewed was the 16GB version in white. The white looks really clean and tends to stand out more than most other colors of smartphones. The preloaded apps (read: bloatware) that come with Verizon GSIII are Backup Assistant +, a Verizon App store, Mobile Hotspot, My Verizon, V Cast Tones, Visual Voicemail, VZ Navigator, a VPN client and Color, the social photo/live video app that Verizon seems to love so much. Call quality and reliability is always solid and I experienced average data speeds around 8Mbps while on LTE. The good news here is that while on 3G, the Verizon Galaxy S III has the capability of simultaneous voice and data, which has always been a major marketing tactic used by AT&T in their battle against Verizon. Kudos Verizon. Verizon wins on call reliability and a well-developed LTE network.
My AT&T Galaxy S III was also 16GB, but came in Samsung’s brand new Pebble Blue. Although the Pebble Blue had a rocky (get it?) start, I prefer this color to white, garnet red (July 29 release) and previous versions in black. The AT&T version comes preloaded with AT&T Navigator, AT&T Address Book, YPmobile, AT&T Messages and myAT&T. When I had service, AT&T held the call and calls sounds clear, but I noticed that I didn’t always have service in areas that Verizon has blanketed. LTE data speeds were much faster than Verizon (averaging 12Mbps), however their LTE network is not as developed as Verizon’s, and I frequently saw that my data connection downgraded to HSPA+, when I would move north of Rockville. AT&T still wins on data speeds.
T-Mobile was kind enough to send me a 32GB version of the Pebble Blue Galaxy S III. Although Google Music makes cloud storing and listening to music on the cloud a breeze, it is always nice to have that extra storage space to store photos and video for those times when you do not have cell service. T-Mobile apps include Mobile Hotspot, My Account, Name ID, T-Mobile TV and Visual Voicemail. HSPA+ speeds ranged from 2-5Mbps, which is on par with T-Mobile speeds in the Washington, D.C. area. I am always excited about Wi-Fi calling, as this has come in handy more times than I can count. For the time being, T-Mobile maintains the advantage here.
So my time with the Galaxy S III has come to an end. This device is probably the first Android device that feels complete. The OS has been refined and things can only get better with Jelly Bean. I can’t wait to review the next Nexus device, which at this point will probably be the next smartphone I purchase myself. I feel that Android’s aggressive mobile strategy has now surpassed iOS in features and user experience and will continue to lead the way in innovation and device sales.
It is an exciting time in the mobile industry and the Samsung Galaxy S III has clearly set the standard extremely high.