Review: Samsung Galaxy S III: reaching for greatness

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(Yes, Android fans, I'm sure you're all complaining already about the four stars out of five rating. Actually, it's not really a 4/5. It's 4.5/5, or 9/10 in decimal; but our system doesn't give us the capability to award half-stars. You'll see where the missing point went. Now read on.)

Samsung's Galaxy S3 is an important product: given that smartphones now outsell PCs, and that Samsung has about a quarter of the entire smartphone market (spread among various products), it's entirely likely that the S3, its top-end product, will be the computer acquired by more people than any other in the next six months. More than HP or Dell. Word of 9m ordered (that's by carriers, but they should know their market) indicates that the S3 is expected to sell really well.

Partly that's because Samsung has acquired a giant following outside Korea. According to ComScore, in the US its phones (feature- and smart-) now make up the largest single supplier, with 60m of the 234m in use among those aged over 13.

The S3 is also interesting: Samsung really, really wants to be the alternative or equal to Apple - distinguishing itself from Android rivals through not just high-class hardware, but also through software and services. The S3 includes S-Voice, a voice-driven service that was available in the S2 (rather as Siri was available on all iPhones until Apple restricted it to just the 4S in October), and its marketing makes much of the potential of S-Voice.

I used an SGS3 (as I'll call it) as my mobile phone for slightly over two weeks. (I've used Android phones in the past, so I have accounts set up, and plenty of experience with it; see this review of the Nexus S, for instance.) A lot of comparisons here are to the iPhone because it's the only really high-end phone with comparable features that isn't running Android.

So let's start.

Appearance: taste that
Screen size: watch this
Setup: not quite down pat
As a phone: receiving you now
Battery life: excellent
Defaults: the soul of the machine
Notifications: say what?
Touchscreen and scrolling: mixed
User interface: more than one way to skin
Web browsing: read on
Camera: hold it there
Services, S-Voice and So On

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