Samsung Galaxy S III: Hands-on with a smartphone sensation

Samsung Galaxy S III: Hands-on with a smartphone sensation

We took Samsung's latest Android phone for a test drive and found a svelte design, a killer display, and some other cool features.

The global Samsung Galaxy S III just launched last week in London, but we got to use it Tuesday at the CTIA 2012 mobile show in New Orleans.

I only got a brief look at Samsung's latest and greatest, but I found many things to like about it - and just a few I wasn't so fond of. Keep in mind that this is not the US version of the Galaxy S III; the 4G LTE and HSPA+ phones won't debut until this summer.

Samsung has done a nice job with the design of the Galaxy S III. It is thin and light with a slightly curved body. The 4.8-inch display has a very small bezel around it, giving you more display but without making the phone gigantic.

It comes in two colours, white and "pebble". The white phone looks nice, but the "pebble" color, which is sort of a bluish-gray, is much more attractive in my opinion. It has this cool "brushed" look on the back, too. The Galaxy S III feels very much like its predecessor the Galaxy S II: Light, but a bit on the plasticky side. It doesn't have that durable, solid feel of the HTC One S or One X.

If you're not a fan of the hardware home button on the Galaxy S III, don't fret: The U.S. versions will likely have your standard three capacitive-touch Android navigation buttons (Back, Home, Recent Apps).

Quad-Core Processor

The global version is powered by Samsung's 1.4GHz Exynos 4 Quad processor. I have a suspicion, however, that the Samsung quad-core processor is not compatible with U.S. LTE networks. If true, we might see a different processor on the S III phones in the United States. Despite my badgering, Samsung would not comment on what sort of processor the U.S. versions will have.

The phone felt quick and speedy through the user interface and while browsing the Web. Apps were responsive, and videos ran smoothly over YouTube.

As you might recall, Samsung has some strange marketing around the Galaxy S III claiming that it "follows your every move." Creepy? Maybe, but one of the features is the ability to track your eyes via the phone's front-facing camera.

When you have the phone in front of you, the screen will stay lit and not lock after a few seconds. If you pull the phone away (or fall asleep playing Angry Birds), the screen will turn off. The feature worked pretty well when I tried it out.

Siri's Cousin?

The Galaxy S III also has an Apple Siri-like feature called S Voice. The Vlingo-powered, voice-activated application works pretty similar to Siri in that you can use it to look up answers (also via Wolphram Alpha), schedule appointments, call somebody and more.

You can do some other neat things that Siri can't, however, like say "Snooze" to turn off your alarm or program your camera to automatically take a picture whenever you say "Cheese!" S Voice had a difficult time understanding me, but too be fair, I've never had much luck with Siri either.

Another feature I wasn't too fond of is the onscreen keyboard. I wasn't really a fan of the Galaxy S II keyboard, and it looks like this one hasn't changed too much from the one on its predecessor. The keys are too narrow and small, and I made a lot of mistakes while typing out a message.

The lighting in the Samsung meeting room wasn't so great, so I didn't get to fairly test the camera. Despite the yellowish, dim lighting, however, my pictures looked pretty sharp.

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