We called the Samsung Galaxy S3 the best handset on the scene when we when we reviewed it a month ago, a bold claim that we didn't make lightly. Now we've been living Samsung's third Galaxy flagship for a month, a twelfth of a year - that's just about enough time to get our grubby mitts accustomed to its niggles and quirks. Do we still rate the S3 as the best mobile phone of 2012 so far, better than the HTC One X and Sony Xperia S? Better than last years iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy Nexus? Yes, we do.
Samsung Galaxy S3: Design
While the design of the Samsung Galaxy S3 didn't really inspire us one month ago with its high gloss and lack of bold statements, one month in the utility of a light, glossy phone has sunk in. Picture the scene, you're wearing fitted jeans, you're sitting down on a crowded train and need to slip your phone into your pocket. With angular thick phones this would involve standing up awkwardly and pocketing your phone , however the S3 is so smooth, so tapered and rounded and so darn glossy that is simply slides in and out of the pocket like a well lubricated, very skinny bar of soap.
It also sits well in the hand and despite its 4.8-inch screen is unimposing in the pocket thanks to the curvature and light weight body. That is has a removable back cover does indeed detract from the cohesiveness and rigidity, but one month into the phone, we have definitely warmed to it more than when we first set eyes upon it. We also still prefer the Pebble Blue variant and its abundance of Hyperglaze.
Samsung Galaxy S3: Screen
4.8-inches, HD Super AMOLED and 720p HD resolution. With some time away from the HTC One X, we stopped noticing its superiority in terms of sharpness over the Samsung Galaxy S3, however side by side, there's no denying it's evident. Having said that, they're both brilliant - two of the best mobile displays on the market. The Galaxy S3 is responsive, offers great viewing angles and good outdoor viewability. Whites aren't quite as accurate, but LCD colours aren't quite as punchy or blacks so deep. A great screen that doesn't feel like a compromise, even a month in.
Samsung Galaxy S3: User Interface
TouchWiz Nature UX isn't without its quirks. It's heavy for starters, loaded with 3D transitions aplenty not to mention a pretty ridiculous amount of water droplet noise with every screen tap. While it's simple to use, it isn't so simple to customise. Things like the lock screen shortcuts can only be changed after delving deep into menus, unlike HTC's ingenious mirroring of lock screen shortcuts to homescreen dock shortcuts. The smart options are also something of a mixed bag.
While some smart options totally blew us away like direct call slotting into our lives seamlessly and tap to top proving handy every now and then, the big mind blowing 'it's watching you' feature, Smart Stay was very hit and miss, notably, because it didn't 'Stay', suggesting it isn't quite 'Smart' enough for our eyes.
We really like the multi-tasking experience on the Samsung Galaxy S3. Not only have Samsung retained Ice Cream Sandwich's stock task manager, activated by long pressing the home button, but they have also kept their task killing pretty moderated. Unlike HTC's new hyper aggressive task killer, every time you reopen an instance of an application, you won't need to reload the page or reopen the app, instead, you can simply flit back into whatever it is you were doing before.
Samsung Galaxy S3: Camera and Multimedia
The camera on the Samsung Galaxy S3 impressed us first time round. Packing what seems to be the same sensor as that found in the iPhone 4S, it's already off to a good start, however with Samsung's considerably more customisable UI offering control over your picture taking settings, it edges ahead. We dissected the camera in our review and in our comparison with the HTC One X, so for more on that just check out those articles, the image quality has held up to our original conclusion. The only additional test we put the S3 through since then has been Instagram, with the results below:
In addition to a range of tweaks you can apply to the photos when shooting, Samsung have also included the most fully featured mobile photo editor we've seen on their Galaxy S3. It's simply sensational with options to create effects, grid up your pictures and retouch to your heart's content. You can also draw all over your snaps taking direct inspiration from the Samsung Galaxy Note UI.
Video shot at full HD is also pretty slick. A steady 30fps and rich colours make for a perfect companion to a sunny day or well lit event. The fact is however that noise creeps in as soon as the lights go down and it's more noticeable than in photos. No worse than most other camera phones, however not quite as good at handling it as the leaders, the HTC One X / S and Nokia 808 PureView.
Music functionality is also improved in a big way on the GS3. Samsung's music hub wasn't something we fell in love with, though it does offer a quick way of getting music content onto your Samsung Galaxy S3 thanks to 7 Digital integration. We definitely enjoyed the Samsung music player more. Despite not mentioning it heavily in our original review, a month in and we're using it a fair bit and love how customisable it is, with options to add and remove on-screen shortcuts. There are a couple of features you'll either love or hate such as Mood Square, a square to help you pick your music depending on your mood, however at the crux of it is a very competent player that you can make work around you after a one time set-up. Lovely.
Video is played back across a range of codecs on the Samsung Galaxy S3's native video player. It looks eye grabbing on the screen and definitely remains a highlight of the phone a month in. We originally love the floating video window when we originally reviewed the phone. This shows off the quad-core processing power not to mention multi-tasking capability of the S3 by turning your playing video into a small floating window. This allows you to get on with background tasks while you carry on watching, working seamlessly even with full HD video content. We used it about five times in the month, less than we anticipated, however when we did use it, we got a flutter of "This is so, so sweet". Sadly, the feature doesn't work with apps like Netflix.
Samsung Galaxy S3: Connectivity and Storage
On both these accounts, the Samsung Galaxy S3 prevails. Connections galore, it packs Wi-Fi, 3G, Bluetooth, NFC and Wi-Fi Direct which it uses in a really cool way for S-Beam. This connects devices via NFC then rather than using Bluetooth, uses Wi-Fi Direct to transfer files at a speed of up to 300 MBps with compatible devices.
Web browsing is a joy on the S3 - especially once you install Chrome and make it your default browser. No Flash - no problem, everything is quick and HTML 5 is much better suited to mobile devices anyway. If we were the likes of Samsung, we'd push out Chrome as the default browser in future phones as Asus and Google have done in the Nexus 7.
Physical ports are kept very simple with a micro USB port that doubles up as an MHL port for exporting HD video. There's also a 3.5mm headphone jack up top, naturally. Under the hood and Samsung offer the S3 in a 16, 32 and 64GB version. There's also a micro SD card slot for expandability up to an additional 32GB, giving you a potential 96GB. In your pocket. 96GB in your pocket. That's almost 100GB of storage, in your phone, in your pocket. Brilliant, even a month in.
Samsung Galaxy S3: Performance and Battery
The Galaxy S3 is still running smoothly. Its quad-core Exynos processor shouldn't have any real reason to slow down and it doesn't save for the very occasional judder. It's a very stable phone, with just a couple of applications seizing up since we got it, none of them being Samsung's own apps. Call quality is also very good as is general signal and browsing speed.
In stark contrast to our prior handset of choice, the HTC One X, the main area we're mightily impressed by the Samsung Galaxy S3 is battery life. There have been a lot - and we mean a lot of people disgruntled by our adoration of the S3 based on its batteries longevity, but our love is justified.
In isolation and compared to a feature phone, the S3's full day of juice might seem paltry, but compared directly against the competition - all the other smartphones on the market and particularly flagships, with the amount we use the phone, we were surprised every time we hit 10PM and it still had life left in it. This sense of security in a mobile is priceless, and what's more, if it's not enough - just get a spare battery, because you can.
Samsung Galaxy S3: Conclusion
The Samsung Galaxy S3 has moulded into our lives form fitting around everything we do and providing a reliability we haven't experienced with many smartphones of late. Good to great across the board, we could ask for better design and a cleaner UI which we hope for in the next iteration. In the meantime, we're more than happy tinkering, toying and generally savouring our time with what we reckon is the best phone currently available.