Samsung Galaxy S III: Designed to trump its own Galaxy Nexus

Paul Mah had the opportunity for a hands-on with the newly unveiled Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone. He offers his initial impressions of it.

I was invited for a media preview where we were offered a hands-on session of the newly unveiled Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone in Singapore earlier in the week. The Galaxy S III smartphones shown to us were flagged as near-completed prototypes, though Samsung took pains to emphasize that it is not an actual production unit.

Given its impending release at the end of May in Europe and June in other parts of the world, I think it would be reasonable to say that any changes will be few and minor.

"Organic" chassis is comfortable to hold

Winston Goh, senior manager of Marketing at Samsung Singapore, alluded to an "almost" one piece, "minimal organic" chassis catered towards a more natural experience. The design team has worked hard on the Galaxy S III, says Goh, to tweak every aspect for a friendlier, more intuitive experience.

The Galaxy S III felt more comfortable in my hands than the HTC One X that I reviewed earlier, despite its slightly larger 4.8-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen. I never felt comfortable with holding the HTC One X in my hands, which may be due to the discomfort caused by its mildly angular edges; this certainly wasn't the case with the Galaxy S III.

It isn't often that marketing statements match up to the actual experience, but navigating the setup screens, I found the entire experience to be well-organized and intuitive. You can see the Galaxy SIII below.

Figure A

Samsung Galaxy S III

Performance of the Samsung Galaxy S III

The performance of the Galaxy S III was snappy and smooth, as you would expect from a smartphone equipped with a quad-core Exynos processor. Like the Samsung Galaxy S II however, the Galaxy S III does not come with a dedicated camera button. The camera proved to be extremely responsive, and I was able to take multiple photos in rapid-fire mode - noticeably faster than with my iPhone 4S. Indeed, the iPhone 4S looked decidedly dated beside the large 4.8-inch screen of the S III.

Samsung also demonstrated "Pop Up Play," which allows videos to continue playing smoothly as a smaller, pop-up window, though I failed to conjure up any compelling business scenarios where it will come in useful. You can see Pop Up Play in action in Figure B and additional close-up shots in Figure C and Figure D further below.

Figure B

Besides the half-dozen Galaxy S III prototype smartphones, there were also other smartphones such as a Galaxy S II, a Galaxy Note as well as a Galaxy Nexus present for comparison. What piqued my interest was how the Samsung reps present were completely unabashed when a few members of the media started comparing the Galaxy S III with the Galaxy Nexus.

My brief time with the Galaxy S III led me to conclude that it is in every way superior to the Galaxy Nexus, which was confirmed when I separately pored through the specifications after the session. In a nutshell, the Galaxy S III has virtually the same physical dimensions as the Galaxy Nexus, but is perceptibly thinner even as it squeezes in a slightly larger screen into a chassis that is almost the same size.

In truth, it appears to me that Samsung engineers have deliberately engineered the S III to trump the older Nexus. I've put together a quick comparison with the Galaxy Nexus in Table A below:

Samsung was characteristically mum about the release date for the Galaxy S III in Singapore, though I was able to gather that it should take place in the next 4-6 weeks. As usual, I'll try to get hold of a production unit to review it from a business perspective. Stay tuned.

Figure C

Figure D