Monday, May 7, 2012

Samsung Galaxy S3: A great leap sideways?

2012 is strange. We are five months in and I have yet to see a gadget or announcement that is truly jaw-dropping, except for Canonical's Linux on Android project.

But, you say, there have been many events: the continuing fall of Nokia, iPad 3, HTC's One X, and... Galaxy S3? How could i possibly not feel excited about Galaxy S3? Question is: how excited are Samsung themselves?

Samsung I9000 Galaxy S

Well, from left to right, here are the official press shots of Galaxy S3, S2 and S. For S and S2, Samsung chose to display the TouchWiz desktop with widgets. S2 looks particularly enticing with an array of beautiful widgets showing off the Super AMOLED Plus's high contrast and rich colors, and also Samsung's attempt to harmonize its widgets lending the desktop a cohesive feel.

And then, look at the S3. First of all, it just shows a lockscreen in grey hues. The clock features a font that is NOT Roboto. The notification bar appears to be exactly the same as previous Galaxy. In other words, just by looking at that screen, you cannot tell that it is Super AMOLED and features Ice Cream Sandwich. So, just how excited are Samsung themselves?

Samsung's presentation in the London unveiling was distinctly Apple-like in many respects, i.e. all smoke and mirrors. It showed of S Voice, a fancy take on Android's built in voice recognition platform, and came off as an imitation of Siri. Therefore, Samsung effectively validated Apple's fraudulent claim of being a pioneer of voice recognition in mobile phones. It also showed some motion-based features that seemed an extension of what HTC does with Sense.

That is not to say that the S3 itself is not a cracking piece of kit. With a quad-core processor, 4.8 inch display, 2100 maH battery and card slot, it addresses many of the foibles I had with my current favorite phone, Galaxy Nexus. As far as looks and materials are concerned, I find everything quite elegant except for the butt-ugly button at the bottom and the two capacitive keys flanking it. I believe in day to day usage that area will be really hard to reach.

Ah, but here's another question: With Galaxy Nexus now selling for Rs37k and the S3 likely to be priced in the 50-60k range, which is the better buy?

The problem is, the dual core handsets by Samsung, including Nexus, GS2 and Note, are amazingly fast and consistent in performance. Especially Galaxy S2 and Note, thanks to their dual core Exynos processors, are blazingly fast. Crucially, you can get AOSP Android (that is what Google's PURE version of Android) ROMs on all three either built-in or via flashing.

Which brings me to the major let down for Galaxy S3: software. It is now clear that HTC Sense and Touchwiz skins designed for Android 4.0 are nowhere near the visual sophistication of AOSP Android, and in effect take away much of the glamour and seemlessness of the software. S3 and One X also have buttons and that alone marks a big step backward in terms of usability. They also make a mockery of the large HD screens, and at first glance make you feel as if the phones are running 800x480 resolution.

So S3, while still the best new phone of 2012, is perhaps not the BEST phone of 2012. Dual core processors are fast enough, and none of the dual core phones make you wish, "Oh, I wish it were running a quad core processor".

While my final impressions will only come when I have had a chance to actually use the device, right now it seems a great leap sideways for Samsung.

1 comment:

  1. It is the best phone/tablet for 2012-1/2 2013..but it could be the best for 5years +, if samsung just would let money in making things last too long..leap motion, coming soon..