Here at the Samsung Unpacked event in London, I have lovingly held, swiped, poked, and fondled the new Samsung Galaxy S3 for a whole 10 minutes. Unfortunately they’re not letting us take a handset (or one of the pretty blue-and-white clad booth babes) home.
For a start, let’s get the hardware and software specs out of the way. Hardware-wise, the S3 handset that I used had a quad-core Exynos 4 processor under the hood. The screen, all 1280×720 pixels of Super AMOLED, despite being a PenTile display (see below), is utterly beautiful.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 runs Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich. Unfortunately the S3 doesn’t run the unadulterated version of ICS found on the Galaxy Nexus, but for the most part the TouchWiz tweaks and flourishes are tolerable. The Galaxy S3′s interface really looks nothing like Ice Cream Sandwich — though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
As for actual functionality, the Galaxy S3 positively flies. Buttons are responsive. I didn’t experience any slow downs when running multiple apps, and switching between apps is very rapid. Compared to my Nexus S running CyanogenMod 9 (ICS), the Galaxy S3 really is rather snappy (but I guess that shouldn’t be surprising). It’s rather odd having a big, iPhone-like home button, and to be honest it’s quite hard to hit while keeping a stable grip on the phone — the price you pay for a huge screen and tiny bezel.
If you followed the announcement, the bulk of the Galaxy S3 unveil revolved around a ton of new apps and widgets. Unfortunately, because almost all of these features involve sharing with friends, I wasn’t able to test them properly. I did try out AllShare Play, which is like iOS’s AirPlay but on steroids — you can instantly share videos and photos with any number of other Galaxy S3 users or DLNA-compatible media devices on the local network.
The phone itself feels very light and graceful. There’s no getting around the fact that it’s a big phone, though. I’m 6’5″, and I have hands that were lusted after by the school basketball team, but the Galaxy S3 still only just fits in the palm of my hand — and even then, because it’s so thin, it kind of cuts into my fingers and the base of my palm. Regarding the rumored, ceramic backplate, I can neither confirm or deny — it felt pretty plasticky to me. The blue and white phones both look lovely, incidentally.
S Voice, the Samsung clone of Apple’s Siri, works very well, even in a noisy environment. The video embedded above doesn’t do it justice (I’m miles away from the phone’s microphone).
This post has been updated numerous times, with photos, videos, more feedback, and so on. We’ll have another post looking at the Galaxy S3′s software tomorrow.