Samsung launched its new Galaxy S III smartphone with great fanfare today in London and our friends at MobileBurn were there to get a first look at the device.
The Galaxy S III sports a new, 4.8-inch Super AMOLED 720p display, but thanks to Samsung's judicious trimming of the bezel surrounding the screen, the phone isn't much wider than last year's Galaxy S II with its 4.3-inch display. The new screen is nice, as we have come to expect from Samsung's AMOLED panels, but it does, unfortunately, use the PenTile pixel layout, which may present a problem for some.
Samsung's tradition of using glossy plastic materials on the Galaxy series continues with the Galaxy S III, and it certainly does not have the uniform feel that the polycarbonate unibodies seen on the HTC One X and Nokia Lumia 800/900 have. The glossy finish of both devices make them seem a bit cheap, I think. They look like a handset from further down the range, though the blue one has a sort've brushed metal finish beneath the 'hyperglaze" gloss.
The rounded design does cradle nicely in your hand, but Samsung's claims that the Galaxy S III "fits perfectly in the hand" are far-fetched. Many users will still have trouble navigating the touchscreen display when holding the device in one hand, though it should be markedly easier to use than the behemoth that is the Galaxy Note.
We didn't have too much time to put the Galaxy S III through a barrage of software tests, but from our quick hands-on, it appears that the new 1.4GHz, quad-core Exynos 4 Quad processor does a fine job at handling Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and Samsung's TouchWiz interface. The Galaxy S II was known as the benchmark for Android smartphone performance when it launched, and the Galaxy S III will likely carry on that tradition. The UI felt very speedy, but when recording a demo of the ability to keep playing a video whilst doing other things, the video crashed, so it isn't perfect.
The interface did glide along without any stuttering or lag, and apps opened quite quickly. It should be noted, however, that owners of Samsung's Android 2.3 Gingerbread smartphones will feel more at home with the Galaxy S III than those that have used a stock version of Android 4.0, as Samsung's TouchWiz interface behaves very similarly on Android 4.0 to how it did on Android 2.3.
As for the S Voice... Well, nobody could get it to open with a voice command. The Samsung reps blamed it on the ambient noise, but I shouted into the mouthpiece many times to no avail. It's also pretty slow to react when it does work. Oddly, it heard everyone fine once they'd opened the app from the app list. The same phrase "Hi Galaxy" worked once the app was open, bit couldn't be used to open the app.
Overall, the Samsung Galaxy S III feels like a very solid handset. Personally, I really dislike the design and prefer the squared-off design of the Galaxy S II. We look forward to putting the Galaxy S III to more of a test and checking out its litany of new software features when we do a full review in the near future.
Samsung intends to launch the Galaxy S III in mainland Europe on May 29, and then in the UK on May 30. A version with support for the 4G networks found in the U.S. is due to arrive later this summer.