Last Thursday I got the Samsung Galaxy S3 I pre-ordered back in the beginning of June, and I have now been playing with it for a few days. There are of course other reviews (mainly of the international version) and overviews of the phone, so I will not list all the features and functions here.
As I am in the US, I received the North American version. It differs from the international version in that it has a dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor and 2GB system memory, instead of the Samsung’s own processor Exynos 4 Quad and 1 GB memory. This is due to the latter processor not supporting the North American LTE networks.
With this phone I am also moving from the Blackberry platform to Android. I have been looking forward to getting a nice big screen and a more powerful phone, but at the same time my biggest fear was the on-screen keyboard. The times when I have been using an iPhone or played with older Android phones in the store, I did not feel like I would be able to type as fast as with the Blackberry’s excellent physical keyboard.
I am coming from the Blackberry Bold 9700, with OS 5. The phone is about 2 years old, and originally came with OS 4. After I upgraded, the phone became more and more sluggish, and I constantly ran out of memory, in certain applications as well as when browsing the web. The GPS started taking longer and longer to get a fix, it could take me 2-3 minutes (if it even got the position) if I was indoors. The screen on the blackberry is also tiny compared with today’s phones, even if it was a very good screen when it came out.
So it was about time for me to get something more modern.
I was very pleasantly surprised with the keyboard on the Samsung Galaxy S3. As soon as I started typing, the correct text came out. The predictive text works very well, as long as I use English. I know there are other keyboards (like Swiftkey 3 that Mitch Cohen blogged about last week) where I can set different languages, so that is not a big deal right now.
The 4.8 inch Super AMOLED screen is just gorgeous, and features a resolution of 720×1280 pixels. The internal memory in my phone is 16GB (32GB and 64GB models are also available or coming soon). The memory can be expanded using microSD cards up to 64GB, and in some markets customers get a free 50GB DropBox account. My carrier, AT&T, opted out of this promotion. I already use DropBox, SugarSync, SkyDrive and Google Drive, so after downloading clients for those services, I can now easily transfer my pictures to my cloud storage of choice.
Just like on the Blackberry, and most other smart phones, the Galaxy S3 has several screens where I can place widgets, icons for applications, and folders containing additional icons. This way it is easy to organize all my apps. On the Blackberry I also used folders, but the lack of available memory caused me to eventually remove most apps.
The default setup came with a number of widgets, but I removed most of them from the screens and opted to just use icons. The lock screen shows the date and time, the current weather, and four icons for applications you want instant access too. To unlock, you swipe your finger over the screen, or swipe any of the four icons to launch that particular application.
I have already modified my phone by adding a custom wall paper, and as I mentioned above, I have organized the icons and widgets the way I want them. To the left you can see a folder open, showing the four applications located in it, in this case IBM Lotus Traveler.
I currently have four screens of icons, of the seven I can have. The first one, the "home screen, is where you end up after unlocking the phone on the lock screen. At the bottom you have five icons of the most frequently used functions, they stay on ever page. The the top of the screen is a notification area, with small icons indication new mail, text messages, twitter messages, etc. It also shows the status for network/wireless connection, battery status, as well as time.
As I mentioned, the keyboard is very impressive, and it exceeded my expectations. I had assumed that I would make a lot of typos, but the predictive text works very well. Or perhaps it is me being too predictable… But the result is that I have very few errors when I type. There are a few small issues, mainly how question marks and similar characters works and that there is no support for Swedish. But as I plan to evaluate a couple of other keyboards, that is not anything that bothers me.
As you can see to the left, when I start typing, suggestions show up above the keyboard. In most cases the suggestion is correct, but in case you want exactly what you typed, the option furthest to the left is what you entered.
You can also see the speech recognition icon to the left of the space bar. I have not used it very much. Speech recognition is of course available everywhere you would use a keyboard, but also on other places, like the S Note application. I have not had time to test the S-Voice yet, nor the face recognition unlocking of the phone or a few of the other advanced functions that is available in this phone.
But I did use the phone to call with. The sound quality is excellent, much better than on my Blackberry. From what I read online, it has active noise cancelling.
I also tested the web browser. As opposed to the Blackberry, it actually load every page I tested.
The browser is fast (especially on wifi or 4G LTE) and seem to render all pages I tested perfectly. However, I created some bookmarks, and a few hours later they were gone. I am not sure what I did, but now the bookmarks seem to stay. The browser support Flash, of course.
Talking about speed, I live and work in the Dallas-Ft Worth area, where AT&T have their 4G LTE network available. And it is fast, as you can see to the left.
The one issue I see with the phone is the battery. Despite having a 2100 mAh capacity, it usually lasts only to about 3pm. However, I been using the phon
e extensively, and I may need to tweak some setting. I have no power saving settings turned on, and usually run either wifi or bluetooth. Since I have 4G coverage, that also uses more battery. So one of my first purchases was a portable charger…
So the summary is that this is an amazing phone, and that my worry that the keyboard would annoy me was not an issue. I am very happy with the phone, just wishing the battery lasted a little bit longer.