The Samsung Galaxy S2 was a phenomenal phone when it launched in 2011 and its combination of then cutting-edge mobile technology paired with its flagship status has made it one of the best selling Android devices to date. It wasn't perfect, but that just means there was room for improvement and we're here to find out whether Samsung have responded to consumers by creating the Samsung Galaxy S3 with those improvements in mind.
Samsung Galaxy S3 VS Samsung Galaxy S2: Design
The Samsung Galaxy S2 moved away from the rounded corners and more playful looks of the original Galaxy S and in its place, we were presented with a sharper, harder, design language that feels more grown-up, perhaps more utilitarian, but also more professional. The S3 aims to pull the design ideals of a Samsung flagship in a third direction, with a blend of hard and soft lines, the lightly rounded top and bottom edges creating a happy medium between the extremes of it predecessors and showing elements of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus too, giving a more organic look overall.
Of course materials are still quintessentially Samsung, however the phones new 'Hyperglaze' finish gives the phone a laminated look, with a tactile, high grip outer coating. It's as if a case has been bonded to the body of the S3, unlike any Samsung device we've seen before. The hardware layout remains relatively unchanged, with the power key and volume rocker skirting opposing sides of the phone, the headphone jack on top, the microUSB charging port centrally mounted on the bottom, the centrally positioned camera unit on the back and of course, the two capacitive and one hardware key on the front below the display.
Samsung Galaxy S3 VS Samsung Galaxy S2: Screen
The screen was probably one of the most discussed components before the launch of the S3, with some stating Galaxy Nexus-sized figures and others leaning towards Galaxy Note sizes. The 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED (1280x720 resolution) display that finally came to the S3 dwarfs that of the Galaxy S2's 4.3-inch 480x800 Super AMOLED Plus unit, which in its time was one of the best on the scene.
In the short time we spent with it, the S3's display wowed us with it sharpness and excellent contrast ratio, but as with the plight of so many an AMOLED before it, we could still spot the mild blue tinge on whites at certain angles, which gives the display an overtly-cool colour temperature. That being said this is by no means a deal-breaker, the display still trumps that of the S2 in every way, despite the Pentile layout thanks to the significantly higher PPI.
Samsung Galaxy S3 VS Samsung Galaxy S2: UI
The Galaxy S2 debuted Samsung's newest Android overlay, Touchwiz 4.0 which offered a number of improvements over stock Android, that is of course if you're OK not having a 'pure' Android experience. The inclusion of gyroscope based navigation in tasks like widget placement and web navigation was novel and being able to continually scroll through the carousel of home screens and app screens was a welcome inclusion too.
The S3's new Touchwiz Nature UX offers a familiar experience which keeps the most notable elements of Touchwiz 4.0 in place, albeit with slicker transitions and more aesthetically pleasing touches, like the water-ripple unlock screen.
Samsung Galaxy S3 VS Samsung Galaxy S2: Camera
The Galaxy S2 came out of the gates sporting an impressive 8-megapixel camera twinned with a single LED flash. It offered full 1080p HD video at 30fps and a host of options to customise the experience on the fly such as face/smile/blink detection, imaging effects and image stabilisation. The resultant imaging and video were some of the best we'd seen on a mobile device at the time.
Although many had hoped for the S3 to rock a 12-megapixel snapper, Samsung decided to stick with an 8-megapixel module instead. As we've stated time and again however, megapixels aren't everything, and the quality of the lens makes a big difference for starters. Samsung knew from the off that they'd have to give the S3 some impressive photographic credentials, especially when its rival, the HTC One X shows off such competent skills with its own 8-megapixel unit. We're yet to really stress test the S3's camera, but from what we've seen so far, it's going to be one solid performer.
To put it into perspective, the S3 most notably offers a 3.3 shots per second burst mode, HDR photography mode and users can take photos whilst filming a video simultaneously, all of which weren't possible with the Galaxy S2.
Samsung Galaxy S3 VS Samsung Galaxy S2: Storage
The Samsung Galaxy S2 pleased a wide variety of users with options for both 16GB and 32GB of inbuilt storage and expandable memory via microSD slot. Pleasingly Samsung offers users not only the same storage options as the S3's predecessor (with the same onboard and expandable options), but introduced a 64GB version too, with a maximum combined capacity of 96GBs from onboard and removable storage.
From purchase, S3 users will also be able to push their files to the cloud as either backup to their locally stored content or as extra space if they need it. With 50GBs of Dropbox storage included free of charge for the first 2 years, dropping to 5GBs after the grace period, users will have to fork out extra cash for more Dropbox allowance.
Samsung Galaxy S3 VS Samsung Galaxy S2: Battery
With the Exynos 4 Quad offering up serious number crunching potential, it likely has a thirst for power whilst 'doing its thing'. The Galaxy S2 was one of the first phones to offer up dual-core performance and as such, needed a beefy 1650mAh battery to supply the demand. The S3 is no different, with an impressive 2100mAh cell hopefully supplying enough power for at the very least a day's heavy use.
Until we inspect further, the only indication we have to go on, is the HTC One X's less-than-stellar battery performance, however Samsung has the best overall track record across their library of Android devices with respect to battery longevity, so we can only hope that the bigger processor and bigger power cell work together in perfect balance.
Samsung Galaxy S3 VS Samsung Galaxy S2: Connections
The bar for the S3 had been set so high, with the Galaxy S2 posing as a veritable Swiss-army knife of connectivity options, which are in fact still excellent to this day. The S2 could not only achieve 21Mbps HSDPA speeds, but had Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, an FM radio and even NFC (on select versions). Add to that the MHL adapter for HD video streaming via cable and DLNA wireless streaming and you had yourself a powerhouse of connectivity.
The S3 equals the S2 on every front although no doubt connectivity quality will have been improved with more up-to-date components. Bluetooth has been upped to 4.0 and there's far greater scope for NFC functionality now in comparison to when the S2 ruled supreme. With services like Google Wallet and an increasing number of NFC capable payment terminals, the S3 gets promoted from mobile phone, to wireless wallet too.
Samsung is even offering up a variation of Android Beam, which debuted on the Galaxy Nexus called 'S-Beam' and one of the notable accessories will be a wireless charging station for users to simply rest their S3's on.
Samsung Galaxy S3 VS Samsung Galaxy S2: Price
The Galaxy S2 has spent the past year impressing users with its varied repertoire of features and at launch, garnered a premium price tag to do so. Thankfully with the introduction of the S3 as successor instigating the inevitable price drop, the Galaxy S2 is available as a SIM Free handset for around £325. Meanwhile, the initial SIM Free price of the 16GB S3 will stand at around £549, with other variants costing more and contracts expected to offer it for free from about £35 per month. Find out more in our Samsung Galaxy S3: sim-free prices.
Samsung Galaxy S3 VS Samsung Galaxy S2: Conclusion
We expected the Samsung Galaxy S3 to come out on top here, and indeed it has. That said, there's no denying that the Galaxy S2 isn't far behind, especially in terms of camera and connectivity. At £325, it's also become a great value proposition for anyone looking for an incredibly slender, flexible device when it comes to expandability and power management. The dual-cores aren't going to be slowing down anytime soon and we'd recommend one in a heartbeat to most users. That said, for anyone after the cutting edge, the Samsung Galaxy S3 hits that mark, coupling premium hardware with a more attractive UI and an array of software perks that truly differentiate it from other handsets on the market.