User Interface and Experience
The Galaxy S III runs the latest version of Android (version 4.0.4) and comes with Samsung's TouchWiz enhancements. One of the ways Samsung has really differentiated the Galaxy S III from other phones is with its software features such as S Voice, S Beam, Smart Stay, AllShare, and more.
Out of the box, you'll find seven fully customizable home screens on the Galaxy S III. Each carrier has customized these screens slightly. You can view a thumbnail of the home screens using pinch-to-zoom controls.
One of the features Apple heavily promotes with its iPhone 4S is its Siri voice control system. While voice control functionality has been available for a while, it wasn’t used by the masses until Apple released this feature. Indeed, anyone who has used Siri will tell you that "she" can be quite handy to have around, when she works. Samsung's S Voice functionality works much the same way as Siri: You can use plain English to tell the phone what you want it to do.
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For example, with S Voice, you can set alarms, update your social networks, get navigation instructions, ask basic questions, etc. During our tests with the Galaxy S III, the performance and accuracy from S Voice was comparable to Siri on an iPhone 4S. As with other voice control functionality, the feature isn't perfect and it does make mistakes, but all in all, it's a very cool feature to have and one that we're glad Samsung took some time to polish.
Another cool feature is Smart Stay. Samsung's Smart Stay feature will keep the screen awake as long as you're looking at the display. With Direct Call, the phone will recognize if you lift it to your ear while composing a message to a friend. And instead of staying on the message screen, the Galaxy S III will automatically start dialing your friend's number.
Anyone who's ever set their phone down, missed a call or message, and forgot to check for messages after picking up the phone will appreciate the Smart Alert feature found on the Galaxy S III. With this feature, the phone will vibrate to let you know if you have missed calls or messages.
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In addition to the many handy features and functions Samsung integrated into the Galaxy S III, there are also many sharing features. For example, S Beam lets you place two Galaxy S III phones back to back to quickly and easily transfer pictures, music, videos, or other files. During our test with this feature, it worked perfectly and we were able to transfer web pages and photos quickly and easily.
Samsung's new TecTiles is another feature that's really enticing with the Galaxy S III. Although this phone won't be the only one that is compatible with TecTiles, the phone and the feature are launching at the same time. TecTiles are programmable NFC tags that you can use to control many features and functions (see the video on the first page for some examples). For example, you can program a TecTile to automatically change phone settings for a particular location, send a text message, open apps, and much more.
To test the TecTile functionality, we downloaded the free app from Samsung from the Google Play store. The app makes it very easy to program and reprogram a TecTile quickly and easily. In mere minutes, we had programmed a TecTile and tested it – it worked flawlessly. We can definitely see using these NFC tags in a variety of situations to quickly and easily adjust phone settings, launch apps, set your alarm, etc.
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Each of the Galaxy S III variants will come with a different set of preinstalled applications depending on the carrier. Our two test phones from AT&T and Sprint didn't have a lot of extra apps, but there were some of the standard carrier additions such as AT&T Navigator, myAT&T, Sprint Hotspot, Sprint Zone, and more. Sprint's variant of the Galaxy S III also comes with Google Wallet, which you won't find preinstalled on the other versions of this phone. In addition to some of the carrier-related apps on the Galaxy S III, you'll find a few Samsung additions such as S Memo, S Suggest, and Samsung Apps.
When using the phone, we were impressed at its speed. You can definitely tell a difference in the responsiveness from this phone compared to phones with slightly older (and slightly slower) hardware. Pinch to zoom controls were fluid and responsive, and the phone responded smoothly and quickly to our requests.
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The Galaxy S III's 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED touchscreen supports a resolution of 1280x720. The screen is vibrant and sharp and viewing angles are excellent. When looking at the screen outside under direct sunlight, you'll notice some glaring but that's common for smartphones with high gloss displays. Overall readability of the screen was better than average under direct sunlight.
When placing and receiving calls, call quality was excellent. We had no complaints with the calling capabilities and the people we spoke with said they could hear us clearly and we sounded well.