After a two year contract with an HTC Desire and its rubbish camera, I splashed out on a new Samsung Galaxy S3. I find it difficult these days to locate genuine opinions and commentary from real users of any product - search engines seem just full of professional, commercial reviews, thinly-disguised spec-sheet regurgitations, and helpless dead-end forums. So hopefully someone will find this useful...
- Early reports of the device looking like a blob designed by lawyers are way off. I think it looks sleek and symmetrical, and feels solid. Not quite as sleek and not quite as solid as my wife's iPhone 4S, but it cost a lot less.
- The device is very thin and light - almost to the point of being insubstantial. I worry that it might blow out of my hands in the wind when holding it up as a camera.
- The camera is a lot better than the Desire. I haven't done a test against the iPhone 4S, but my initial subjective feeling is that the 4S is still very slightly better. In terms of usability, the camera software is very nice, running fast with zero shutter lag.
- The video quality is phenomenal! Comparable at-a-glance to the output from my EOS 550D DSLR with £700 worth of lens. Bear in mind the at-a-glance qualifier, but I'm genuinely impressed.
- The screen is absolutely not too big. My thumb doesn't reach across the whole surface, but you just get used to interacting with it in a different way. The screen is beautiful - of equal clarity and brightness to the 4S, but bigger - and that's a good thing. Not sure I'd want it to be any bigger though...
- Samsung is a stain upon Android. The device came pre-loaded with all sorts of crapware - some kind of Samsung-proprietary chat client, some form of Samsung app store, some knock-off music hub. It's all parasitical nonsense designed transparently to upsell you into yet another proprietary ecosystem. Not that Android isn't the same, but if there's one thing worse than one ecosystem it's two. The user is trampled beneath the competing visions of Google and Samsung in several places throughout the UI. Fortunately, you can kill most of the crapware, one at a time.
- The Galaxy S3 auto-mounts on my desktop Ubuntu 12.04, but not on my laptop installation. I believe the relevant keyword for the issue is "MTP", but I found it easy enough to work around by running an SSH server (I use SSHDroid) on the phone and connecting through Nautilus et al. via sftp://email@example.com:2222.
- I don't care for benchmarks. The thing is fast. Very little noticeable lag navigating around any app...
- ... except for the boneheaded deafult configuration of S-Voice. It comes out of the box ready to hear your commands after a double-press of the home button. This means that a single press of the home button triggers a delay while it waits to see if you're going to press it again. It's a maddening, pointless lag, and you can happily disable it by going into the S-Voice app, and unticking "Launch S-Voice" from the settings menu.
- Speaking (ha-ha!) of S-Voice, it's not quite as good as Siri ("What's 3+7 times for?"), but that's OK because they're both gimmicks with marginal utility. I wouldn't be surprised to see a lawsuit heading Samsung's way for this particular app.
- There doesn't appear to be a way to put the camera shortcut on the lock screen if you use a lock pattern.
- The calendar app creates all new events in a calendar named "My Calendar", by default. This calendar does not sync to your Google Calendar. While you can choose to save the event in a different calendar, you can't change the default. I'm not sure if this is Samsung's doing, but it sucks, so I use the Jorte calendar app instead, which seems cleaner and saner and auto-syncs to Google Calendar very easily.
- I've gotten used to using a new phone quite rapidly, with the exception of the placement of the on/off button on the right hand side. It still seems a little too easily accidentally pressable.
- The battery life is worlds better than my old Desire, but the iPhone 4S still smokes the Galaxy S3 in terms of longevity.
- Oh, and you get 48GB of Dropbox space free for two years! Sweet!
Overall, I'm extremely pleased. I find the iPhone 4S cramped and one-dimensional in comparison. Samsung have proved that a big screen works. They just need to stop pulling a Sony by infecting their own great hardware with their primitive evil software.