May
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Samsung Galaxy S III is official: 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED display, quad-core Exynos processor and gesture functions

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Samsung Galaxy S IIIMeet the Samsung Galaxy S III. 

While this is the global version that Samsung showed off at its unveiling event, an LTE version of the Galaxy S III phone will come to the U.S., but it isn’t slated until summer, a full year after the Samsung Galaxy Nexus launched on Verizon.

I had a chance to handle the smartphone before the official launch event, and here are my initial impressions of the handset, including a look at some of the newer features of the TouchWiz user interface.

Upside
The 4.8-inch 720p display looks great — everything appears sharp, fonts were crisp, and colors were vibrant. Samsung was not willing to tell me early if the display uses a RGB matrix display (three subpixels per pixel) or a PenTile (two subpixels per pixel) one. I suspect it’s the latter because of the name of the display — it lacks the “Plus” at end, which denotes the RGB matrix version. It’s likely the S III uses the same display found on the Galaxy Note, but for a slightly smaller panel.

While the screen is huge, the phone doesn’t feel big. It’s slightly larger and thicker than the Galaxy S II, but still feels comfortable in my hands. At 4.7 ounces, it’s 0.6 ounce heavier than the Galaxy S II and about 0.1 ounce heavier than the HTC One X. The S III is, however, thinner compared with the One X — 0.3 inch versus 0.35 inch.

Samsung has also made its 2,100mAh battery removable, and the handset will come in three storage capacities: 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB (this latter size won’t be immediately available). In addition, it has a microSD card slot for up to another 64GB of storage. The handset will have 1GB RAM for running applications.

Samsung Galaxy S III
The S III comes with a removable 2,100mAh battery.

 

Like the S II, the S III will feature an 8-megapixel camera. Samsung has learned some lessons from making the Galaxy Nexus, as the S III will have the zero shutter lag feature, too. The company also seems to have gotten some inspiration from the HTC One X, as the S III also sports a “select your best shot” feature after taking multiple shots. The implementation is different, though; the Samsung smartphone will automatically suggest the best image for you based on a few factors including smile detection and facial recognition.

You can also take a picture while recording a video — feel free to guess where you first heard of this feature. Other imaging-related enhancements include contact tagging and automatic photo grouping based on who is in the picture. The front-facing 2-megapixel camera will also have face detection — which keeps the screen awake and from dimming if you are looking at it. It didn’t seem to work when I tried it, but bear in mind that this sample is not the finished retail product.

Besides the obvious hardware improvements and software tweaks, Samsung has also added more tweaks to its TouchWiz UI. These include a new “Pop up Play” video function, which lets you watch a video while doing other things such as surfing the Web or sending text messages. Android Beam (an NFC-based feature) has also been beefed up — it’s now called S Beam and will also let you transfer large files using Wi-Fi Direct (for speeds of up to 300Mbps).

Samsung Galaxy S III
S Beam is like the NFC-based Android Beam, but also works with Wi-Fi Direct for sending large files.

 

The same voice control feature found on the Galaxy Note makes a return as S Voice and you can even use it to wake up your handset. Samsung has also made it part of the Ice Cream Sandwich Face Unlock feature; it now needs to see your face and hear your voice before you can unlock the handset.

Instead of the S Cloud rumors, the S III will come with a free two-year 50GB Dropbox account, twice that of the One X. Lastly, in what appears to be an S III exclusive, the handset will come with Flipboard for Android, a port of the popular news reading app previously only available on iOS.

Samsung Galaxy S III
Flipboard for Android on the Galaxy S III.

 

Downside
For those hoping the rumors about the micro-oxidized ceramic rear are true, well bad news. It’s not. The Samsung Galaxy S III sticks to the same plastic build, only this time it comes in blue or white. While the handset felt solid, the plastic rear just doesn’t give a good grip like the Galaxy Nexus, and it doesn’t feel as durable as the polycarbonate finish of the One X.

Instead of software buttons, Samsung chose to use a traditional physical home button and touch-sensitive keys. I would have preferred the company to have made a bold switch with software keys, hence my disappointment. Also with the Menu key on the left instead of the Back key, I found myself accidentally hitting it while trying to go back. This will not be a problem if you’re used to Samsung’s button positioning, but if you’re like me (I use phones mostly with my left hand), you may find a tired thumb from stretching too much to reach the back button.

Samsung Galaxy S III

[Cnet]

 

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