Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone first impressions

Three days ago I finally got around to setting up the Samsung Galaxy S III review unit that I’d been given. Here are my initial impressions after a few hours of playing around on the long weekend.

These comments should be read in light of what I wrote for Technology Spectator in terms of this new smartphone being a shot across the bows for Apple. But bear in mind that I’ve never used an Apple iPhone, so I can’t make direct comparisons.

I’m also upgrading from a very bashed-around two-year-old HTC Desire, as seen in the photo above. That means a jump from Android version 2.3 to 4.0, and I’m not making clear distinctions between Android improvements and Samsung-specific features — but then I don’t think average users do either.

In other words, this is definitely not a proper review. “First impressions”, I said.

The phone is pleasantly slim and light, but a little too big for comfortable one-handed use.

As I mentioned in the Technology Spectator story, your thumb can’t reach all the way across — at least not without holding the phone in an awkward position from which it’d be easy to drop the thing. I stand by my description of it as a mini-tablet.

It’s also too big for the front pocket of my pants, which is where I usually carry a phone. I’m still not sure how I’ll deal with that.

It’s way faster than my “old” HTC Desire.

That’s what happens when you quadruple the number of processor cores, right?

It’s not pre-loaded with too much Samsung shit.

Of course that may change once the telcos start loading it up with their own supposedly must-have apps. Prepare yourself to be disappointed.

SamsungDive, the service that lets you set up remote tracking and wiping of a lost or stolen phone, is broken.

In both Firefox 13.0 and Safari 5.1.7 for OS X, the current versions, it just won’t stay logged in. I suspect it’s something to do with the way cookies are handled between the different Samsung domains, samsung.com and samsungdive.com.

And if you log in to SamsungDive using the phone’s browser, the landing page isn’t even properly rendered: it’s missing the vital “Register your mobile phone now!” button. An average user would have given up long before I did.

There are user interface problems elsewhere in Samsung’s apps.

As just one example, when logging in with your Samsung account password for the umpteenth time to try to set up the remote wipe, I kept failing to notice that the “OK” button wasn’t below the email address and password fields where you’d expect it to be, but up the top of the screen! Check the picture. I don’t know even.

I found, as expected, the typical Android generalised low-level untidiness that comes from a suite of cool new services being assembled from originally unrelated components.

When you buy Apple, obsessive attention to detail is what you pay for — though it’s a fine line between that and mental illness.

There’s untidiness throughout Samsung’s website too.

The product registration form doesn’t even include the Galaxy S III as an option yet! Samsung Kies, the tool to upgrade the phone’s firmware via a USB cable, is described as Windows-only in one place but the Galaxy S III support page offers an OS X download too.

And finally, I got the impression that the battery life and the camera are both rather good. I’ll play more with the latter soon.

Overall, though, my emotional reaction to the Galaxy S III is a positive one, but with a tinge of dissatisfaction at the edges thanks to those little inconsistencies. Whether that changes over the next week, and in which direction, remains to be seen.

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2 comments

  1. Marc Lehmann’s avatar

    I’m an iPhone guy with some size envy around these new bigger devices from the competitors. A slightly bigger screen would be good. p.s. you have a handsome hand and holding posture there Stil. You should get an agent and manager for that.

  2. Stilgherrian’s avatar

    @Marc Lehmann: I’ll let the hand comment slide for now… but I will say that my feelings about the screen size have solidified. Yes, the bigger screen is a Good Thing. But the thumb-can’t-reach issue is real — and the smooth plastic case feels as if it’s quite slippery when my hands are oily or sweaty. I’ll have more to say about that in due course.

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