The SGS3s all ship running Android 4.0.4 (IMM76D), which is just a few builds short of the current latest version of Android. Atop that is the latest version of Samsung’s controversial TouchWiz theme. Like almost all skins, that means a different lock screen, tweaked notifications shade, main launcher, and settings pane.

On the lock screen, there are application shortcuts which can be customized, along with a few other options. Weather, stock tickers, and an optional gestural camera shortcut are all TouchWiz enhancements. Like SGS2, missed calls or SMSes can also be directly addressed by swiping on their respective icons.

 

In the notifications shade, Samsung has added more power toggles. The bar slides right or left to expose those additional toggles. There’s also the date now printed alongside carrier, just left of the shortcut into the settings app which is standard in ICS. Speaking of the top status bar, TouchWiz also adds an optional battery percentage report - it blows my mind that this has been something you’ve needed to use a custom ROM to get for so long.

 

Samsung’s TouchWiz home screen goes with a 3D box left/right transition rather than the ICS stock planar swipe. For the most part however, the flow isn’t really changed from ICS. Widgets are added from a separate tab in the applications launcher, and Samsung hasn’t overwhelmed with way too many custom ones. The launcher is likewise a horizontally paginated application grid just like ICS. This can be sorted alphabetically or in a customized arrangement where newly downloaded apps get placed at the end of the list.

 

Settings gets a few new options that I think are worth going over. First is the obvious visual change which includes colorful icons that seem a bit corny but aren’t surprising. First is an option to customize the notification LED, but is pretty basic and probably will be supplanted with Lightflow for power users. Under Display is the option to enable “smart stay” which uses the front facing camera and keeps the display on when you’re looking at it, beyond the timeout length. I found that this does indeed work well, as long as there’s sufficient illumination for the front facing camera to see your face.

 
Right - CPU Spy with Power Save "CPU Power Saving" ticked

The next is more interesting - Power Saving. Under here is an option which enables you to change the SoC governor. Tick “CPU power saving” and the maximum MSM8960 CPU clock gets changed to 1.0 GHz instead of 1.5 GHz, giving you a nice savings if you’re willing to sacrifice some performance in turn for running with lower active power draw. I believe GPU clock also gets clamped as well, but can’t pull those directly. Outside of rooting and messing with the governor yourself, and a governor option pane on some ASUS products, this is the first time I’ve seen direct user access to CPU frequency since PocketPC days.

 

Also present are motion gestures, a lot of which I’ve seen before but never really fully utilized. Under security is that options pane I was talking about earlier for customizing the shortcuts on the lock screen, and enabling that camera launch gesture. Samsung also goes with its own browser customizations for Android 4.0.4’s stock browser, but it doesn’t deviate too much beyond just UI changes from what I can tell. Just like previous Samsung devices, I find the browser super smooth - gone are the days where browsing using the stock browser was a shuddery mess, though I still prefer Chrome Beta.

Messaging also looks very similar to how I recall it looking on the SGS2. Dialer also gets a change up and still includes a smart dial functionality.

 

Other than software preloads, which will differ between each carrier device, is Dropbox. Both Verizon and AT&T have opted out of the 50 GB for 2 years promotion, however the other carriers continue to enable this. I was told that the carriers who have opted out have done so because they view Dropbox as a competitor to services they’re backing or selling. I’m now up to 131.2 GB on my personal Dropbox account between free quests, the One series promotion, and SGS3 promotion.

The last part are two S - features. S Beam, and S Voice. S Beam is essentially a WiFi Direct augmented version of Android Beam to enable sharing more content than just what can be sent over NFC’s limited bandwidth. The gist of it is that you can send photos or files (even large video files) using S Beam over the WiFi direct link which gets setup using NFC. For example, from gallery, one can open a video, then put two phones together, tap and hold on the prompt, and NFC takes care of both setting up the WiFi direct connection and file transfer. In practice it works surprisingly well, even for large video files. I played around and saw a rate around 40 Mbps for transfers, which is pretty close to Samsung’s cited “1 GB in 3 minutes” (45 Mbps) speed.

 

Part of S Beam is the TecTiles initiative, which is a combination of the TecTiles programmer application, and Samsung branded programmable 1KB MIFARE tags available in a set of 5 from carrier stores and online. Even though there are other NFC tags available for cheaper, and similar applications on the market, getting this in a prepackaged format into customers hands will go a long way to driving NFC adoption, which until now has been glacially slow. I programmed both my contact data and my WiFi network (hooray, no longer will I type my 20+ character PSK into new phones, at least those with NFC) into tags.

 

There’s also AllShare Play, which allows you to broadcast either a document, files, or photos to up to 6 devices on the same WiFi network. Trying out sharing features was partially why Samsung sampled two SGS3s, so I gave AllShare a shot with my 100+ MB electromagnetics textbook PDF scan from my ECE381 days. Sure enough, it was possible to jointly browse slides and annotate on the two SGS3s - each member of the AllShare session gets their own colored pen for annotating. I could see this being useful if you managed to round up a number of friends with SGS3s. I wish that the resolution was higher, but if I had paginated this book to be single pages instead of spreads it likely would be sufficient to read the body copy and equations.

Last but not least is S Voice. There’s no putting this lightly - S Voice is definitely a Samsung approximation of Apple’s Siri. The promise is a similar level of conversational interaction with S Voice going off and fetching data from appropriate pre-programmed sources and reporting back. A double tap on the home button fires up S Voice, and a familiar tappable microphone interface guides you through voice prompts.

 

You can do a similar list of things with S Voice as you can with Siri, including asking for the weather, calling people, adding tasks, and setting alarms. A few S Voice features that were previously above and beyond Siri (such as launching apps) are now part of iOS 6, but in theory the level of functionality is pretty close. I’m actually fairly surprised about how much the functionality matches, and wonder if this is the new thing that Apple will attack aggressively with litigation. In practice, I found S Voice a lot less conversational than Siri. I still think voice navigation is kind of a trendy feature that ultimately is slower than just using my hands, unless you’re driving and can’t use the phone.

Introduction and Physical Impressions Battery Life
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  • Impulses - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    Did the CDMA variants get skipped because Anand usually reviews those (I think?) And he's been traveling or just luck of the draw? Is the review of the EVO LTE and other One variants still coming? Just curious really, I know sometimes battery life results vary wildly between GSM and CDMA versions of the same basic design, throw LTE in there and still-growing networks and it's something worth looking at. Reply
  • alik - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    Visit http://samsunggalaxysiiicellphone.com/ to get best price and deals for Samsung Galaxy S III Reply
  • Torrijos - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    In a recent article (HTC One X) you plotted a graph of the battery life (time) divided by the battery capacity (Watt-hours), it would be interesting to get it at each review or at least with reviews marking the arrival of a new version of an OS, in order to check whether their energy efficiency is going in the right direction. Reply
  • falc0ne - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    Packed with all the latest technology but in a soap-bar shape. Galaxy SII looks much better.
    Someone said here shame doesn't have "pentaband support". You don't need that. What you need is that the phone you purchase to support the band of your operator. That's all. More than that, lately people usually purchase the phone straight from the operator
    Reply
  • Zoomer - Sunday, June 24, 2012 - link

    That doesn't help if you switch operators often. Reply
  • www.dasinu.ro - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    nice post...http://www.dasinu.ro Reply
  • jjj - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    still a very poor selection for battery tests (just web and talk time,what are you testing dumbphones?) ,no storage perf tests,at this point i'm about to give up on hoping you guys can do better. Reply
  • bmgoodman - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    Can you start doing some tests of Bluetooth, both for voice and music? With my Galaxy SII, I've almost quit using my car's integrated hands-free system. Five years in my car using a Sony Ericsson with the handsfree and I almost NEVER had a complaint. Now people are almost always asking me to call back later! Reply
  • BabelHuber - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    I had the same problem regarding Bluetooth. My good old Nokia Symbian phones supported rSAP. Android, iOS and Windows Phone do not.

    That's why I bought the SGS2, it was the only Android phone supporting rSAP.

    In its wisdom, Samsung has removed the rSAP capability with ICS, though.

    Fortunately Android is an open system, so I could root it and install an rSAP app.

    This was a Sunday afternoon of work, though.

    The app is here: http://www.android-rsap.com/installation.html
    Reply
  • Angry AtAndroid - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    Not Samsung removed it, but that big bully google. It is not supported by android.

    Complaints going on about this for YEARS. See the google code site.
    Issue 4402: rSAP / Sim access bluetooth profile
    1829 people starred this issue.

    http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?can...
    Reply

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