Samsung Galaxy S III Review – The Good, The Not-So-Good And The Bad

The Galaxy S III is no doubt the most popular Android handset of this year, at least until the next Nexus from Google is unveiled. Samsung has left no stone un-turned to make sure the handset excels in each and every category, right from the outstanding 4.8-inch Super-AMOLED HD display, a powerful quad-core Exynos SoC to the beefy 2100mAh battery.

If you, however, still have not made up your mind on whether you should splurge so much money on the handset or not, read our short review below to find out.

The Good

Ergonomics – Excellent! The handset is roughly the same size as the Galaxy Nexus, but the rounded bottom of the phone makes it easier to use the phone single-handedly. The missing bump at the back also helps in improving the overall ergonomics of the phone.

Performance – This thing flies! Literally! The quad-core Exynos SoC and the ARM Mali-400MP4 GPU make sure that the phone does not stutter even under heavy multi-tasking. All the games I have played on the handset do not show even a sign of lag, including GTA with all the graphics settings cranked to full.

Apart from the SoC, even the NAND storage used by Samsung in the handset is blazing fast. It took only 10 minutes to transfer nearly 9GB of data from my Mac to the S3’s internal memory. The I/O performance of the handset is unrivalled by any other Android handset.

Storage – One thing I absolutely hate about my Galaxy Nexus is the low amount of storage space.  13.3GB of storage space just does not cut it in 2012, with most games taking up nearly a GB of space.

The Galaxy S III not only comes with 13GB of internal space, but also a microSD card slot to make sure user’s never run out of space.

Sound Quality – Unlike the HTC One X and the Galaxy Nexus, Samsung has equipped the Galaxy S3 with more than audible loudspeaker. Considering how silent these loudspeakers are getting with every new handset, this should come as a welcome change to many.

Samsung has also equipped the Galaxy S III with a Wolfson W8914 audio chip. Original Galaxy S and Nexus S owners who know what this means. The Galaxy S3 is going to have top-notch audio quality enough to rival dedicated audio players.

Battery Life – The Galaxy S II barely used to last a day on 3G with medium-usage. Thanks to Samsung’s under the hood optimizations, and a beefy battery, the Galaxy S III will easily last you a day on medium to heavy usage. Earlier firmware of the handset have had some ‘Cell Standby’ battery drain issues, but that has been greatly fixed via a couple of OTA updates from Samsung. The Galaxy S III might not have the best battery life, but it is right there at the top with the iPhone 4S and the Droid RAZR MAXX.

Developer Support – The Galaxy S and Galaxy S II had one of the best developer community, and the Galaxy S III is no different. The phone already has a stable CM9 port, along with some extremely talented developers like Supercurio and Franco cooking mods for it.

The Not-So-Good, Not-So-Bad

Display – The Super AMOLED HD display on the Galaxy S III is probably the oldest piece of ‘tech’ used in the handset.  The display exhibits typical AMOLED characteristics, with bluish whites, and strange artifacts at extremely low brightness level. Even then, the display holds its own against the S-LCD2 used in the HTC One X, thanks to its black levels and contrast.

However, the naked human eye will definitely prefer the SLCD2 on the One X to the S-AMOLED HD on the SGS3 because of better color rendering.

Camera – The 8MP snapper on the Galaxy S III is stupidly fast. It makes the zero shutter lag on the Galaxy Nexus feel slow. The Galaxy S II packed an awesome 8MP camera, and the Galaxy S III is no different. The sensor inside the SGS3 is slightly better than the one on the Galaxy S2, with a slightly larger aperture. In adequate lighting, the Galaxy S3 can take some fantabulous shots, almost iPhone 4S like.

However, in low-lighting condition the camera is nothing short of a disaster. Pictures come out grainy, with barely any details and look like they have been clicked with a VGA camera. In fact, the Galaxy S II camera performed much better than the S3’s camera in poor lighting conditions. The OTA updates rolled out by Samsung did bring about a noticeable improvement in the camera image quality in low-lighting conditions though, but there is still room for improvement.

It is only because of the poor low-light performance, that the camera on the S3 comes in the Not-So-Good, Not-So-Bad list. If you don’t care about the low-light photography, you will be more than happy with the S3’s camera.

The Bad

Design – The Galaxy S was a cheap iPhone lookalike from Samsung.  The Galaxy S II looked like a smart looking ‘matured’ Galaxy S.

The Galaxy S III has been “Made for humans” by Samsung. Sadly, most humans on Planet Earth have not really appreciated the looks of the handset. Some, like me, have found the handset to be downright ugly, while others have not found it to be particularly attractive.

Build Quality – The Galaxy S and S II had terrific build quality, all thanks to the plastic used by Samsung to make the phone. Even though the Galaxy S III is made of plastic, the phone is much more fragile than before. In quite a few drop tests done by other bloggers, the Galaxy S III could not survive a fall from shoulder height with the Gorilla Glass 2 on the handset shattering into pieces.

TouchWIZ – Samsung has made a lot of progress with the Nature UX on the Galaxy S3, but it still does not stand a chance against stock Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. TouchWIZ may trump stock ICS in terms of features with Smart Stay, Direct Call, and Smart dialer etc.

However, TouchWIZ looks dull and ugly compared to stock ICS. There is no UI consistency in TouchWIZ, with the magazine like Swipe UI missing in some places (like Dialer) creating confusion. The inclusion of a menu button instead of ICS styled Recent button adds to the confusion. Also, nearly every list menu in Samsung’s stock apps are *long* I understand TouchWIZ is necessary for Samsung to differentiate its product, but the company can also offer an option to disable TouchWIZ for advanced users

Conclusion

If the looks and the poor build quality of the handset does not bother you, the Galaxy S III is THE handset to buy. Not only is it much faster than its closest competitor, the HTC One X, it also has better battery life, music quality and better developer community support.

Sprint Rolls Out Ice Cream Sandwich Update For The Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch

Over the last couple of days, Samsung and AT&T started rolling out the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update for the AT&T Galaxy Note, Galaxy S II and the Skyrocket HD. Not wanting to be left behind, Sprint and Samsung have also started rolling out the Ice Cream Sandwich update for their variant of the Galaxy S II – the Epic 4G Touch.

Apart from a tons of bug fixes, performance and stability improvements, the Ice Cream Sandwich update brings with it some new features as well. This includes Face Unlock, improved copy & paste mechanism, inbuilt data monitoring tool, some visual improvements, a new lock screen and much more. Sadly, all the visual goodness introduced by Google in stock Ice Cream Sandwich has been largely spoilt by Samsung’s TouchWIZ interface.

The update is being rolled out via OTA, and should be available to all Sprint Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch owners within a couple of weeks.

Samsung Treats Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus Owners With Some Ice Cream Sandwich

Samsung has already updated its flagship 2011 handsets, the Galaxy S II and Galaxy Note to Ice Cream Sandwich. The company however seems to have forgotten the ICS update for its tablets, with only the Galaxy Tab 7.7 (P6800) receiving the update until now.

Joining the Galaxy Tab 7.7 with some Ice Cream Sandwich love is the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus. The Tab 7.0 Plus is a budget oriented Android tablet from Sammy, and packs in a dual core 1.2GHz OMAP processor and a GB of RAM. It is quite surprising that Samsung has updated the Tab Plus before the Galaxy Tab 10.1, and 8.9, which were the company’s flagship tablet for quite sometime.

The Ice Cream Sandwich update for the Tab 7.0 Plus brings with a nice speed boost and stability improvements, along with improved keyboard and copy & paste system. There is also Face Unlock, inbuilt data monitoring, H/W acceleration and more. The update is already live in certain regions of the world and is available via OTA as well by using Samsung’s KIES software.

Hopefully, Samsung will be rolling out the Ice Cream Sandwich update for the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Tab 8.9 soon as well.

Galaxy Note Android 4.0.4 Update Brings PopUp Play And Ability To Unlock The Device Using A Custom Signature

Apart from rolling out the Ice Cream Sandwich update for a bunch of its handsets and tablet, Samsung also started rolling out the Android 4.0.4 update for the Galaxy S II and the Galaxy Note. While the Android 4.0.4 update for the Galaxy S2 does not bring any major changes or features, the Korean company has included some new features for the Android 4.0.4 update of the Galaxy Note.

The Android 4.0.4 update for the Galaxy Note brings with it Samsung Galaxy S3’s PopUp Play feature. This feature will allow Note users to play a video on their phone in a floating window, while they message their friend or browse the internet. Perfect for the big screen of the Galaxy Note!

Apart from this, the update also brings the ability to unlock the phone using a custom signature, which makes use of the S-Pen that Samsung has bundled with the phablet. Definitely a unique way to unlock your Note! The update is available in certain regions of the world via Samsung’s KIES software.

While all these new features will definitely please a lot of Galaxy Note users, I’m not sure what Galaxy S2 owners will feel about it. The Galaxy S2 was and still is one of Samsung’s hottest selling handset, and the company never really added any new or noteworthy feature when it updated the handset to Ice Cream Sandwich. On the other hand, Galaxy Note owners first got access to a premium suite of apps with ICS and now PopUp Play along the ability to unlock their device using a custom signature with the Android 4.0.4 update.

A guide to manually install the update on your Galaxy Note can be found here.

AT&T Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket Tastes Ice Cream Sandwich

It’s raining Ice Cream Sandwich updates for Samsung devices. Yesterday, Samsung and AT&T started rolling out the Ice Cream Sandwich update along with a “Premium Suite of apps” for the Galaxy Note. Joining the Galaxy Note is the AT&T Galaxy S II Skyrocket.

Like the update for the Galaxy S II, the ICS update for the Skyrocket does not bring any major visual changes. The UI has been spiced up a little, but the simplicity and elegancy of stock Android 4.0 has been completely spoiled by TouchWIZ. Apart from the UI changes, Ice Cream Sandwich brings with it tons of other new features including GPU rendering for better performance, a much faster stock browser, the ability to monitor 3G data usage, enhanced keyboard and copy-paste mechanism, an updated lock screen, and more.

The update is available only via Samsung’s KIES software, and not via OTA. While installing the update won’t wipe your phone clean of any data, I will highly recommended Skyrocket owners to factory reset their phone once they install the Ice Cream Sandwich update on their phone.

Motorola and AT&T Unveil The Atrix HD; 1.5GHz Qualcomm S4, LTE, 4.5-inch Display For $99

Last week, the Motorola Atrix HD was accidentally revealed by the Google owned company. Today, Motorola has gone ahead and officially announced the Atrix HD. The Atrix HD will be coming to AT&T’s LTE network, and sport a design similar to the RAZR/RAZR MAXX. The handset will also be using a Kevlar back as seen on the RAZR/RAZR MAXX.

Internally, the Atrix HD is like any other latest dual core handset to be released in the United States – a Qualcomm 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 processor, an Adreno 225 GPU, and aGB of RAM. Apart from this, the Atrix HD sports an 8MP camera at its back, and a 1.3MP front-facing camera. The 4.5-inch display on the handset has a 720p resolution, and packs ‘ColorBoost’ technology.

Other usual specs of the handset include GPS with A-GPS, microSD card slot, mini-HDMI out port, 1080p HD video recording, on-screen navigation buttons, and a bunch of sensors. Unsurprisingly, the Atrix HD runs on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich with a yet-to-be-named Blur incarnation, which includes some nifty features like Smart Actions, and a new Circle widget.

While AT&T and Motorola have not announced a release date yet, the Atrix HD will be hitting the carrier for only $99 on a two-year contract, making the phone a very tempting buy.

 

AT&T Galaxy Note Tastes Ice Cream Sandwich With Premium Suite Of Apps

Here is some Ice Cream Sandwich filled news for AT&T Galaxy Note owners. Samsung and AT&T have finally started rolling out the Android 4.0 update for the ‘phablet’. The Android 4.0.4 update for the Note barely brings any major UI changes that Google introduced in stock Android. There are a few minor UI changes though, including new Wi-Fi/Bluetooth toggle buttons, and a revamped Settings menu etc.

Apart from the visual changes, the Android 4.0 update brings with it quite a lot of new features including Face Unlock, a new lock screen with quick access to the camera, the ability to access the notification bar right from the lock screen, People’s app, enhanced copy and paste functionality and more. The ICS update for the Note will also enable the hidden NFC functionality in the phone, thus allowing access to features like Android Beam.

The update also brings with it Premium suite of apps specially optimized for the Galaxy Note and its S-Pen, including enhanced S-Note and S-Memo apps. The update is being rolled out via KIES at the moment, so if you own a Galaxy Note, you need to download and use Samsung’s KIES software to get a taste of Ice Cream Sandwich on your phone..err..tablet..phone.

A guide on how to manually install the Ice Cream Sandwich update on the AT&T Galaxy Note can be found here.

Karbonn Launches The Smart Tab 1 Tablet For Rs.6,990

Karbonn is already known for launching low cost handsets in the Indian market. Now, the company went ahead and launched an entry-level Android tablet, the Karbonn Smart Tab 1. This device runs on the latest Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich) Operating System. The Karbonn Smart Tab 1 will compete with the recently launched Micromax Funbook. Flipkart, the popular online retailer in India is already selling this tablet in India. If you are planning to buy one, then check out the complete specs after the break.

Shashin Devsare, Executive Director, Karbonn Mobiles, said:
“After creating an unprecedented buzz in the national and international market by bringing in technologically advanced and feature rich product range for the masses, we at Karbonn Mobiles intend to engage the audience with our latest offering of the ‘Karbonn Smart’ ecosystem. Through this ecosystem, we wish to bring to our informed and enlightened consumers, technologically advanced networked devices encapsulating an avant-garde tablet and smartphone range which bring to the consumers products which are amongst the best in the world in terms of battery backup, internet surfing, audio-video playback and engaged user interface.”

The Karbonn Smart Tab 1 features a 7 inch capacitive touchscreen display, sporting a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels, 1.2 GHz X-Burst processor, Android OS 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich) OS, 2 megapixel camera, full HD (1080p) video playback, 1 GB internal memory, MicroSD card slot, 32 GB expandable memory, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, HDMI, 3G support through USB dongle, 3D gravity sensor and a 3700 mAh battery.

The Karbonn Smart Tab 1 comes with a price-tag of Rs.6,990. This device comes pre-loaded with useful apps such as Karbonn Smart Browser, Karbonn Smart games, Times of India, Economic Times, Facebook and much more. Karbonn is also planning to launch Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) powered tablet in September. To get this device, head over to this page at Flipkart.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich Update Now Available

After rolling out the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update for the Galaxy S2 and the Galaxy Note, Samsung has finally turned its attention to its Honeycomb powered tablets. The Korean company has started rolling out the Ice Cream Sandwich update for the Galaxy Tab 7.7 in certain regions of the world.

While the ICS update for the Tab 7.7 will not bring major visual changes, it will definitely bring a nice improvement in the overall performance and stability of the tablet. The firmware also fixes quite a few bugs present in the previous firmware for the Galaxy Tab 7.7, including the ability to transfer data from the internal memory to the external SD card without any corruption or permission issues.

At the moment the update is only available for the Wi-Fi variant of the Galaxy Tab 7.7, and is available via OTA as well as via Samsung’s KIES software. Samsung should hopefully show some Ice Cream Sandwich love on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Tab 8.9 within the next one month.

Ice Cream Sandwich Gains Double Digit Market Share With Jelly Bean Around The Corner

While Android as an OS is growing at a phenomenal rate, what is disappointing to see is how many devices are running the latest version of the OS. Google announced and released Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich last year in late-December. Since then, the Ice Cream Sandwich adoption rate among third-party Android makers has been down right disappointing.

Google has once again released updated data on the distribution of the Android versions, and Ice Cream Sandwich stands at a miserable 10.9% overall. Gingerbread still takes the majority of the share with nearly 64% of the devices still running it. Sadly, there are also nearly 22$ devices that are still running on pre-Gingerbread Android versions, like FroYo, Eclair and Donut.

With Android 4.1 Jelly Bean hitting AOSP sometime in mid-July, the Android update scene is going to get worse. Don’t expect Android 4.1 to land on any Android device before late-September or early-October. Readers should also keep in mind that Gingerbread will continue to have a major share in Android’s distribution because nearly all the low-end phones being sold in developing markets come with Gingerbread pre-installed, and are not capable of running Ice Cream Sandwich.