Samsung Galaxy S3 first impressions

It’s now been two weeks since I took delivery of a brand new Samsung Galaxy S3 (SGS3) and here are my thoughts. I left it two weeks because I was without a micro-SIM for it for most of the first week!

Many of my thoughts are born out of having switch from the HTC Desire HD (DHD) running Gingerbread, so it’s worth noting.

Not so great things

  • Gmail. It’s probably one of my most used apps so I was disappointed that on ICS it removes much of the colour definition between areas. For example, when replying to an e-mail the original email always sits below where you type your reply. On the DHD this was in blue but the SGS3 is all the same light grey, making it harder to focus your eyes at first. Poor usability, IMO.
  • Switching applications. I’d gotten very use to dropping down the notification tray to switch between apps on the DHD, although you could do it by holding the home button. On the SGS3 the top of the notification drop down is taken up with quick settings instead and holding the home button takes just that little bit longer that at first it’s annoying. You soon get over it, though.
  • Motions. A key feature of the SGS3 adverts were the many Motions that make certain tasks possible with a gesture so naturally I started to try these out. I was disappointed when very few appeared to work and I find out that most of them are disabled by default. Considering these are the key selling points of the device I can’t imagine what the thought behind disabling them is! Enabling them was quick and simple.
  • Widgets. There is a thoroughly disappointing lack of widgets. Again, this is probably because I’m used to HTC Sense. On the DHD I had a small clock widget and small weather widget side-by-side on my home screen, leaving room for 12 icons beneath. Now my only choice is to have half the home screen taken up by wide widgets. I couldn’t find decent replacements in the Play store either.
  • Moving icons. On the DHD, moving icons to the home screen panels was a sinch and it would allow re-ordering by dropping icons on top of each other. Presumably that’s a feature of HTC Sense (which I knew I’d miss!) that Samsung haven’t decided to duplicate. Apparently Jelly Bean does include that functionality though so I’ll have it soon.
  • More icons. Additionally, moving icons to the static bar that sits below the home screen panels (to the left of the application menu button) is a confusing and silly process. First, you must delete ones you don’t want which is fine. Then you must grab the icon you want from the apps menu and drag it to a home screen panel first. Once there you can then drag it onto the bottom strip. There’s no instructions on that so you just have to work it out for yourself. In fact, I had to tell my OH’s sister how to do it a few days ago even though she’d had the phone about two weeks longer than me!
  • Stay awake. Remember the advert where the bloke falls asleep on the sofa with his kid and so the phone turns off too? Yeah, that’s a great feature especially when you like to read things as I do. However, you do have to hold it close to you which often means in a position that isn’t particularly comfortable and it can’t seem to cope with anything other than the phone (and you) being completely upright. I’ve had to stop lying on my side in bed in the morning reading the news!
  • Power button. It’s not a great position! It’s on the direct opposite side of the phone to the volume buttons which means changing the volume is a common accident.
  • Notification light. First off, it’s very bright which is nice compared to the DHD which was too dull but when it lights up the whole bedroom from your bedside table at night you realise it’s a little intense. Which leads me to the quick setting that turns notifications off… It removes them from the notifications tray but for some reason doesn’t turn the light off which I would have thought makes sense. Go figure. At bedtime it looks like I’m unhappy with my new phone as I lay it face down to stop it keeping me awake…
  • Mobile data & battery. For the first week I was without a SIM so used the SGS3 purely on WiFi (which showed me just how little I use my phone for, y’know, phone things. As soon as I got the SIM in the battery usage seemed to increase a lot, which was disappointing although probably to be expected.

Good

  • Screen. It’s lovely. I knew I wanted a bigger screen but oooh this is nice. It’s so much nicer to browse around the web (incl desktop) and read stuff. I spend at least half an hour reading in bed in the morning before I get up… it’s great!
  • Quick settings. The pull down notification tray includes 10 quick settings icons for things like wifi, mute/vibrate, power saving and others. That’s really useful because previously I’d had to use up home screen space for quick settings icons.
  • Stay awake. It doesn’t work great all the time, but in general it’s incredibly useful. You don’t tend to notice when it works but you can see when it’s checking (a little eye icon appears) and realise that it saves lots of tapping to wake up the phone.
  • Weight. It’s so light! I’ve never known something so light, and it feels really good in your hands. I quite often find myself holding it at the bottom between my thumb and two fingers which just feels quicker and easier than grabbing the whole phone as I had to with my (now hefty feeling!) DHD.
  • Size. I’ve mentioned the screen already which is great, but the SGS3 is also incredibly thin. It kinda needs to be because any more bulk would make it a bit of a brick, but it adds to the lovely feel in your hand.
  • Camera. The camera loads really quickly and takes pictures really quickly. It also returns you to the camera quickly too, allowing for multiple photos in quick succession.
  • Syncing and uploads. When setting up, the SGS3 invites you to link not only with your Google account but with Dropbox and automatically upload all your photos there over wifi. I already auto-upload to Google+ but having them in Dropbox means they are automatically transfered onto my PC and therefore onto my backup hard drive too without any effort.
  • Battery. It’s awesome! I deliberately spent a whole day on mobile data only, using the phone heavily and it lasted the full day without issue. Not only that but it doesn’t seem to suffer from faster drain towards the end of it’s battery life as I had with the DHD (which had become a little annoying on battery usage). I confidently leave the flat with full sync on and it doesn’t blink. I went for a bike ride the other day and used Endomondo to track me (using GPS). When I left the battery was at 98% and I was out for 45 mins and the battery only sunk to 91%. The DHD would lose about 40% of battery doing the same.
  • No annoying apps. The SGS3 does come with pre-installed apps that you know you won’t ever use but unlike the DHD they didn’t bother me – I had no interaction from them and they just sit there keeping to themselves.
  • Chrome. CHROME! I use Google Chrome religiously and so having it on the SGS3 is fantastic – it knows what I’m typing in before I’ve even typed the third letter and all my bookmarks etc are there straight away. Beautiful!
  • Face recognition. Ha, this is cool – you can unlock the SGS3 by just looking at it. It recognises you, and unlocks with a code or pattern as a backup. I wonder what’ll happen if I shave the beard off…

Overall

It’s just lovely. Feels nice, looks nice, is quick and easy to use. Apart from the niggles that mostly arise out of the move from HTC Sense this is a great phone and well worth the expense.

7 thoughts on “Samsung Galaxy S3 first impressions”

  1. Thanks Philip – really useful post, though for a different scenario. I’ve had an S2 for a couple of years. Switched from iPhone 3G in order to assess Androids. Now deciding between going back to an iPhone or just upgrading to S3. So to get your take on new functionality, and a second angle on my past S2 experience, has been invaluable.

    If you were making the choice iPhone4s vs GalaxyS3, what do you think *you* would you go for? [BTW – I’m getting an iPad in any case, to benchmark main social media services on these.]

    1. Well, I had an iPad once… I thought it was fantastic. Then I got my Desire HD and quickly began to see it as superior to the iPad. Basically, the integration and functionality that Android offers over iOS makes iOS incredibly frustrating because the lack of communication between apps and iOS itself is really limiting. With Android, most apps will have a share button somewhere which will result in a huge list of other actions/apps you can share to. It was laughable that one of the big features of the 4S was the ability to share photos to Twitter. With Android that’s a given – you can do that with any Android phone.

      I sold my iPad because compared to Android it was disconnected from everything else and became irrelevant unless I just wanted a bigger screen. So absolutely 100% go for the SGS3. Rumour is the big ‘improvement’ for the iPhone 5 will be a new connector… not only is that woeful but it comes soon after all other mobile manufacturers agreed to use a common standard. Instead, Apple wants you to fork out a fortune for a ridiculous amount of accessories.

  2. Very interesting Phil, thanks. My current gripe with my SII is that the battery drains dramatically when the phone is in a low-signal area. It becomes very, very hot and then drains within half an hour.

    1. I have a friend with an S2 who has experienced the same recently. Sounds like a hardware fault to me so a return might be in order.

  3. I got the Galaxy S3 last week, and am already fully in love with it. Admittedly, I came from a year and half/two years or so Xperia, which was heavy and clumsy, so my experiences are a bit different.

    I think that my favourite bit of it really has to be the huge screen, and the nice sound. Just wish I’d found a way to queue songs in the music player – do you know how to?

    1. I don’t actually use the music player so I couldn’t tell you I’m afraid, no. There are probably better players on the Play store though!

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