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Tech Report – Samsung Galaxy S III

With the constant conveyor belt of new Android phones, it’s easy to get blasé about the latest Super AMOLED screen, 8-megapixel camera, or yet more built-in apps. But every so often, an Android smartphone comes along that is a true game-changer; a smartphone so striking and so advanced that it sets a new standard for everything else that follows. Such a phone is the new Galaxy S III from Samsung.

Although it is bound to be compared to the iPhone 4S – considered by many to the “best” smartphone on the market – the Galaxy S III is really a very different animal. Its size, operating system, user interface and, above all, its media sharing tools are so unlike the iPhone – and most other smartphones – that it ends up being in a category of its own.

First the basics: the Galaxy S III is huge. The 5.4-inch x 2.8-inch super thin frame supports a 4.8-inch (yes, Super AMOLED) display, which boasts a startling 1280 x 720 pixel count. The result: spectacular images and a screen big enough to make it seem like you are watching movies or playing games on a mini-TV.

The Galaxy S III features an 8.0 megapixel rear-facing camera with zero shutter lag and an LED flash, and a 1.9 megapixel front-facing camera for video chat. Both cameras can also capture HD video. There are also a host of additional camera features which are new to the Galaxy series, including face-tagging, Burst mode (where you can take 20 shots in quick succession), and Best Shot, which suggests the best shot out of 8 burst frames. There is also Cartoon mode and a host of sharing features, which we will get to later.

The Galaxy S III runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, Google’s latest mobile operating system, and comes pre-loaded with all the usual Google apps and access to the 400,000 app Google Play Store. The S III is sold as a 16GB or 32GB version, and there is a microSD slot to support up to 32GB of additional storage. The removable battery holds up to 15 hours of mixed usage time.

But as discussed above, it is in the “extras” that the Galaxy S III clearly makes its mark. A great example is the SmartStay feature. SmartStay uses the front-facing camera to periodically scan for your pupils. If it “sees” you looking at the phone, it keeps the screen nice and bright; if you look away, it will dim the screen to save battery.

Another feature, Direct Call, allows you to go from texting someone to calling that person just by lifting the phone to your ear – no dialing or screen taps necessary. You can instantly mute incoming calls and notifications by turning the phone over or laying it face down on a table. You can answer an incoming call just by pressing the home button.

And then there are the sharing features. Once you put a name to a face, the Buddy Shot feature will instantly recognize that person in all future shots and give you a one-tap option to share the photo; ShareShot uses Wi-Fi-Direct in the background to automatically send photos to friends as you shoot them, instead of e-mailing or texting them later; GroupCast allows you to share files and folders with other phones; S Beam allows you to transfer media between Galaxy S III phones just by bumping their backs together.

The Galaxy S III also includes S Voice, an attempt to mimic Siri, the much-talked about virtual assistant on the iPhone 4S. Unfortunately, early tests of S Voice haven’t been impressive and it’s the one area of the S III that appears underdeveloped and rushed.

Two other big pluses for the Galaxy S III are its price and the fact that it’s available across all four major networks. At $199.99 for the 16GB version and $249 for the 32GB version, the Galaxy S III is very competitively priced. The Galaxy S III also runs on each carrier’s fastest network, for example Verizon’s 4G LTE service.

Although comparisons with the iPhone 4S are inevitable, they are also unfair. With the Galaxy S III, Android phones have reached a new level of maturity and sophistication, commanding an appreciation for their own accomplishments without reference to anyone else’s vision or system preferences. But however you want to evaluate the Samsung Galaxy S III, it comes through with flying colors!

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