The Verge reviews the Samsung Galaxy S III.

Vlad Savov for The Verge:

Hardware.

Designed for humans who don’t mind fake brushed aluminum

As big as the display is, it doesn’t make the phone feel terribly unwieldy. You’ll still find yourself adjusting your grip to reach the top corners, but there’s almost no degradation in usability

I’ve never been a fan of plastic being made to look like metal — it feels disingenuous both on the part of the company selling the product and, subsequently, the person owning it — and I find it makes the Galaxy S III look cheap.

Aside from being somewhat aesthetically challenged, the Galaxy S III feels like a very well built device.

the back cover is made of a glossy and seemingly flimsy plastic

you can’t hot-swap Micro SIM cards on the Galaxy S III

Display.

Regrettably, the Galaxy S III is a step behind the cutting edge of Samsung’s research…leaving it with a 4.8-inch 1280 x 720 Pentile AMOLED display.

This 4.8-inch display can be held up proudly alongside most other AMOLED panels. Sadly, while that may have been a great compliment a year or two ago, the quality and viewing angles of AMOLED have recently been bypassed by refinements in LCD technology. HTC’s One X is the standout demonstration of that — offering unrivalled clarity, color balance, and viewing angles. In all of those respects, the Galaxy S III is one or two tiers below the One X: its display has the usual blue tinge characteristic of AMOLED displays, which gets worse as you begin to look at it off-center.

Relying on the GS III’s automatic brightness is also problematic, as the phone tends to lean toward under-illuminating itself, making it usually a little too dark for comfortable use. Exactly as with the Galaxy S II, the auto-brightness jumps around in discrete stages, making for abrupt changes in brightness instead of a more gradual transition.

On the whole, I’d say this is a display that will serve the vast majority of people extremely well, provided they’re never unfortunate enough to see it side by side with a One X.

Camera.

The Galaxy S III exposes images in accordance with what it thinks you’re trying to shoot…which can result in overly dark or bright areas in images with a wide range of brightness.

Samsung has included a face detection feature in its gallery app, however its performance is hilariously inconsistent.

There’s one major flaw to image recording with the Galaxy S III and that’s autofocus during video. It jumps back and forth in an irritating fashion even when there’s not much in the way of challenging motion in the frame. That really precludes the GS III from being used for semi-professional or otherwise important video.

Battery life, reception, and audio.

you shouldn’t expect it to actually be too far ahead of the competition: its vast 4.8-inch display and superpowered quad-core processor do make full use of the energy available. Under intensive use, the Galaxy S III lasted a solid seven hours before flashing up a low battery alert

Predictably, battery drain was at its fastest when the self-illuminating AMOLED display was turned on

Another note of import with regard to the GS III’s battery is that it houses the phone’s NFC chip. … if you have your heart on set on buying multiple batteries for this handset and using it as a true road warrior’s sidekick, it’ll be something to keep in mind.

Audio output is handled by a single loudspeaker on the rear, which can be muffled easily by pressing a finger against it, but doesn’t seem to suffer too much when the Galaxy S III is laid on its back.

The bundled pair of in-ear headphones are of reasonable quality. They don’t have a particularly wide sound stage and don’t isolate external noise as well as you might expect, but they have strong (slightly exaggerated) bass response and are adequate substitutes for your higher-quality listening gear.

Software.

Android 4.0 may underpin every interaction you have with the Galaxy S III, but Samsung has diligently skinned almost everything about the operating system.

I wouldn’t describe it (TouchWiz) as pretty nor particularly efficient

entering and exiting that menu is done with scintillating fluidity thanks to the excellent processor inside the Galaxy S III. That power is also harnessed on the lock screen, where the default unlocking animation is a water ripple

swiping a contact’s name one way to call and another way to message. You can do that on the contacts list or from within the messaging app….Getting to grips with them just might not be as quick and intuitive as a thoroughly coherent UI.

On the topic of intuitiveness, I’m sure there’s a way to alter the four quick-launch icons present on the lock screen, but after two full days with the Galaxy S III, I’ve still not managed to dig deep enough into the configuration menus to figure out how that’s done.

The Calendar app has been eschewed in favor of Samsung’s own S Planner, which I consider a move in the wrong direction.

Two other aspects of the user experience are troublesome. Firstly, there are still bugs in the UI that have not been ironed out — when waking the phone, you’re sometimes greeted by a quick glimpse of the last home screen you were on before the lock screen appears, and at other times you have to wait for a weirdly long time for anything to show up. That detracts from the otherwise very quick navigation on offer from the Galaxy S III. The second pain point is that you can’t create folders by dragging icons atop one another — you have to pick up an app from the app launcher, drag it to a dedicated “Create folder” link and only then place that folder on your home screen.

Although the lock screen is bereft of any music playback controls, it can be used to pause anything you’re listening to — just by placing the palm of your hand over the display. The same action works when playing back video as well, while a lateral swipe of your palm across the screen will take a screenshot. Both are part of Samsung’s deluge of motion controls, though they’re arguably the only ones that will get any consistent use after the initial surge of curiosity.

with S Beam you can use the NFC connection to initiate a Wi-Fi Direct linkup between the Galaxy S III and another compatible device to transfer far bigger files. There are two problems with this. Firstly, I’ve yet to see Android Beam work reliably, and my attempts to send an image and a Maps location over from the GS III to the HTC One X were met with resolute failure. … The second issue is simply one of scarcity — the only phone you can have S Beam relations with at the moment is another Galaxy S III.

More tweaks from Samsung include the ability to Direct Call a contact you’re composing a text message to by just lifting the phone to your ear, and a Smart Alert that will vibrate the phone when you pick it up after an extended period of idleness to inform you of missed calls or unread messages. The former has a spectacularly narrow set of legitimate use scenarios, but works, for what that’s worth, and the latter misleads more often than it helps, making me think I only just received a new message or email.

Smart Stay is yet another software feature…the front-facing camera tracks your eyes and if it identifies that you’re still looking at the handset when not interacting with it, it won’t switch the display off at the usual screen timeout time. … try using it in the dark and Smart Stay becomes decidedly dumb. I’m not begrudging the inclusion of this feature, it’s reliable most of the time and has its uses, but Samsung didn’t need to overstate its intelligence the way it did …

Say hello to Siri for Android, as produced by Samsung. If you harbored any doubt as to whether or not Samsung ripped off Apple’s voice assistant, let it go now. That’s not to suggest that Apple invented voice commands on mobile phones — Samsung had the Vlingo-powered Voice Talk on the Galaxy S II — but the look and feel of this application takes so much inspiration from Apple’s effort on the iPhone 4S as to deserve being labelled a clone.

S Voice consistently chews up my words when I try asking it questions, although it works better when instructed to schedule an appointment or set an alarm. It can also be used as an unlocking mechanism once you pre-record a pass phrase. That adds to the face unlocking option that’s native to Android 4.0 in being frustratingly unwieldy and planted firmly within gimmick territory — more than once I was stuck repeating “hello” without any recognition from the phone.

Kies Air requires that your computer and Samsung smartphone are connected to the same Wi-Fi network, then gives you a URL to punch into your desktop browser, and asks you authorize yourself once you’ve tried accessing the phone’s storage in that way. Once in there, you’ve got a litany of options, including downloading and uploading files, checking and updating your calendar, and making changes to your contacts, messages, bookmarks, and ringtones. For extra security, you can lock some of these categories on the phone so that they’re not accessible from the remote computer. … Is there a better way to wirelessly sync a smartphone? Not to my knowledge.

Performance.

Although it’s clearly an extremely powerful device, the Galaxy S III faces a peculiar problem: Android’s Play Store and general software ecosystem lack the applications to push the GS III to its full potential. At the present moment, the only real difference between the dual-core Snapdragon S4 and Samsung’s new quad-core Exynos is that the former has shown itself to be more power-efficient. Both will handle any Android game you throw at them, and there are no guarantees that the the GS III’s extra power will result in a tangible real world advantage before it comes time for you to upgrade your phone again.

Wrap-up.

One thing that goes consistently overlooked with respect to Samsung’s phones is the company’s ignominious track record with Android software updates. There may be worse offenders out there, but Samsung’s chronic failure to update its devices on time (or at all) is a significant black mark for a brand looking to lead the way in almost every other respect. Thus, as much as I may enjoy the Galaxy S III today, I have to temper that enthusiasm with the knowledge that its long-term future may not be as rosy as that of a stock Android device or one produced by HTC.

That having been said, the Galaxy S III is a technological triumph. Not at first sight, perhaps, but Samsung has done the overwhelming majority of things right. The camera is easily the best I’ve used on an Android device, the processor claims the title of benchmarking champion, and the customizations layered on top of Ice Cream Sandwich are mostly unobtrusive and sometimes even helpful. They never really gel into one coherent user experience, meaning you’ll have to learn what each new feature does individually rather than intuiting it from the phone’s general behavior, however that’s a trifling complaint when compared to our usual disappointments with Android OEM skins. TouchWiz may still have its illogicalities, but it’s been cleaned up and streamlined sufficiently to make it an adequate alternative to Google’s stock experience. While neither the display nor the construction materials on the Galaxy S III are the best possible, both represent acceptable compromises that help Samsung balance out the rest of its class-leading spec sheet.

I presented this, on purpose, with quotes and no comments. There’s some good stuff in the review too, to be sure, but I wanted to make a point.

What’s the point? The score.

8,5 out of 10.

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