aNewDomain.net — The Samsung Galaxy S3 is a phone I thought I would love. It has a large 4.8-inch display with great clarity and color. It runs the latest Android Jellybean operating system. It has 4G LTE connectivity and other impressive new. All my peers are giving it glowing reviews. But after my hands-on look with two Samsung Galaxy S3 units, all isn’t coming up roses.
Yes, I did love the large display. Samsung’s Super AMOLED (1280 x 720) display is spectacular. Even in a side-by-side comparison with the iPhone 5’s Retina display, the Samsung looked very good. Very black blacks make it good for watching videos. Colors were bright. Text was crisp.
I also liked the speedy performance of the 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor with 2GB of RAM. As a heavy cell phone user, having a removable battery and a slot to hold a microSD card up to 64GB was also appreciated.
The Galaxy S3 comes in dark blue or white. Both of my review units were white. The Galaxy’s glossy finish is unlike most other smartphones which tend to have matte finishes. I found that, given the large size of the phone, the smoothness of the phone made the phone feel more comfortable in the hand. However, I was unimpressed with the plastic casing, which, although felt solid, made the phone feel just a little cheap in comparison to other phones like the Apple iPhone 5 or the Droid Razr M.
Using the phone is where I ran into problems. A smartphone can have a zillion wonderful features, but the first and foremost feature should be good connectivity. And that is where this Galaxy failed me. In many of my calls I heard stuttering, in some cases so intense that I couldn’t understand the person on the other end of the line. In data use, depending on my location, there were gaps in connectivity. Most of my testing was done in my home town of Pinehurst, NC. While this is not a big city, I have always had good connectivity through Verizon. So I visited Raleigh-Durham with the phone and found that although, for the most part connectivity was better, it was still far from perfect.
I needed to rule out the fact that I had received a defective phone, so I requested another Galaxy from Verizon and they complied. The second phone had similar issues. I put the second Galaxy S3 next to an iPhone 5 and a Droid Razr M, all with Verizon service. In several tests, the iPhone and the Razr connected without a problem and the Galaxy still had stuttering. While on a trip to Tampa, Florida, I used the Galaxy with results similar to those I had in Raleigh.
On a visit to my local Verizon store, I found that my Galaxy had no connectivity in the store while the Razr M made seamless calls. While there I talked to the store manager who had just had two Galaxy S3s returned because of connectivity problems. He said he doesn’t advise anyone in our area to purchase a Galaxy S3.
Samsung reports that it sold 20 million Galaxy S3s in just the first 100 days. None of these people seem to be complaining about connectivity. My take is that this phone just doesn’t perform well under certain conditions and in certain areas. Big city users may be excusing minor connectivity problems because the phone is so fully-featured.
Connectivity problems aside, there is a lot to like in this phone. Although some are still shipping with the Ice Cream Sandwich operating system and will be upgraded to Jelly Bean soon, my phone came with Jelly Bean installed. This brings new features including a Swype keyboard and improvements to the camera including filters and a low-light mode.
Some things in the newer versions of Android are worth a second look. For instance, as shown below, the top of the notification screen gives you easy access to some common settings.
Customizable widgets, shown in screen shot below are always available.
The 8.0 MP rear-facing camera and 1.9 MP front-facing camera both worked well. There is almost no shutter lag. Pictures and 1080p videos were crisp and clear. My side-by-side comparison showed the iPhone photos to be better, but the Galaxy photos were close.
The phone comes with a nice set of ear buds with soft tips, including three alternate tips that you can use to fit your ears. Although they are comfortable, the new iPhone 5 ear buds have better sound.
Special features include NFR, S-Beam transfer of contacts and files to and from other Galaxy devices, and pop-up play that lets you watch videos in a small window while performing other tasks. You can open your phone by having it look at your face and there is a Social Tag feature that uses face recognition to match faces in photography with profile photos of friends. There are plenty of other small, but useful features like S-Memo for taking notes.
The S-voice feature is similar to Apple’s Siri. I did not have good luck with S-voice. Although most voice recognition software has little trouble with my voice, S-voice just didn’t seem to understand me. Perhaps it was also the poor connectivity since these services are server-driven.
The phone: Samsung Galaxy Verizon S3
Carrier tested: Verizon, also available from Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular and AT&T
Price: $199 with a two-year contract
All-in-all the Samsung Galaxy S3 has some great features and also some drawbacks. The connectivity will be a deal-breaker for some. Others will fall in love with its many features. If you are thinking of purchasing, however, I suggest that you get your Verizon representative to say they will waive their usual $70 restocking fee if you have connectivity problems.
- Very good screen
- Removable battery
- Memory card slot
- Decent battery life
- Good earbuds
- Very good camera
- Connectivity problems
- Plastic build
- S-voice needs work