With the Samsung Galaxy S III (S3), Samsung has done it again. For the third consecutive year, its flagship Galaxy phone is a tidy package of top-flight specs, approachable design, steady performance, and compelling pricing. Starting its U.S. sales debut with five carriers — Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular — makes this smartphone nearly ubiquitous. Samsung’s aggressive distribution strategy gives it a leg up against its chief Android rival, the HTC One X, but it fails to sweep HTC’s finest, and Apple fans will scoff at Samsung’s imitation Siri.
That isn’t to say that the Galaxy S III (henceforth also known as the S3) does not impress. From the outside in, it has a large, vibrant HD display; Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich; a sharp 8-megapixel camera; 4G LTE support; a zippy dual-core processor; and tons of internal memory and 2GB RAM. The $199.99 price tag for the 16GB version is highly competitive, and that, along with its carrier spread, makes the S3 priced to sell.
Some have slammed Samsung for formulaic specs and design, and to some extent, the critics are correct. Samsung isn’t setting hardware standards with new creations, and the S3’s software additions, while interesting and useful, mostly build off existing Android capabilities. Regardless, Samsung has continued to produce stronger subsequent models than its first Galaxy S home run. There’s a reason why the Galaxy S II sold over 50 million units worldwide, and why the S3’s preorder sales smashed U.K. records. Samsung clearly has its formula worked out for making higher-end features familiar, expected, and easily within reach — and in the all-around excellent Galaxy S3, it shows.
The good: The Samsung Galaxy S3 comes fully loaded with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, 4G LTE/HSPA+ 42 capability, a zippy dual-core processor, and a strong 8-megapixel camera. S Beam is an excellent software enhancement, and the handset’s price is right.
The bad: The Galaxy S3’s screen is too dim, and Samsung’s Siri competitor, S Voice, disappointed.
The bottom line: Pumped with high-performing hardware and creative software features, the Samsung Galaxy S3 is an excellent, top-end phone that’s neck and neck with the HTC One X.
Pricing and availability
I don’t usually start a review with pricing information, but in this case, it’s worth the bird’s-eye view of which carrier offers which capacity of each color when, and for how much.
AT&T Samsung Galaxy S III ($199.99): 4G LTE in 39 markets; simultaneous voice and data; 16GB model available in blue, white, and (later this summer, and exclusive to AT&T) red
Sprint Samsung Galaxy S III (16GB, $199.99; 32GB, $249): 3G now, 4G LTE when Sprint launches its LTE network; Google Wallet, unlimited data option; available in 16GB (blue, white) and 32GB (blue, white) models
T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S III (16GB, $229.99, $279.99 [Value plan]; 32GB, $279.99, 329.99 [Classic plan]): HSPA+ 42; simultaneous voice and data; available in 16GB (blue, white) and 32GB (blue, white) models
U.S. Cellular Samsung Galaxy S III (16GB and 32GB, price TBD): 4G LTE in 6 markets, 3G elsewhere; eligible for carrier points; available in 16GB (blue, white) and 32GB (white) models
Verizon Samsung Galaxy S III (16GB, $199.99; 32GB, $249): 4G LTE, 258 markets; eventual global data roaming, voice/data; available in 16GB (blue, white) and 32GB (blue, white) models
This is a review of the 16GB version of T-Mobile’s S3 in pebble blue.
An Android Ice Cream Sandwich phone through and through, the S3 is fully loaded with all the Google goodies, and then some. There are the Google apps and services, like Gmail, Maps with turn-by-turn voice navigation, a music player, and YouTube, to name just a few. Wi-Fi, GPS, Wi-Fi Direct, and Bluetooth 4.0 are other communication features, along with NFC (which powers stuff you can do with TecTiles and Google Wallet.)
Video credits to the YouTube channel owner