There has rarely been an event that quite matches the hype of the release of the iPhone or the iPad, however the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S III definitely came close. What I saw however, was a massive disappointment, a device that failed to live up to the hype. Of course, it has some excellent features, but its downsides seem to be being ignored based simply on the fact that it is a “Samsung Galaxy”, as if just the fact it is part of the Galaxy family means it is superior to everything else.
Take for example the CNET UK review. Here the reviewer gives the phone 4 and a half stars, indicating the only main problems are the interface, and the price (both of which I agree with, but I digress). On the other hand, the HTC One X – HTC’s best handset, and prime competitor to the Galaxy S III, rates only four stars, with the bad points including, and I quote, “Quad-core is overkill for most people” and “Massive handset won’t suit everyone”. Now considering the fact the Galaxy S III is bigger than the HTC One X, and has a slightly more powerful processor, how are these not downsides of the Galaxy S III too? Slight bias?
I could go on about my frustrations with technology journalism, however that’s enough for another post, it just seems to me that a lot of people, and not just this reviewer, place the Galaxy S III higher than its competitors simply because it is a Galaxy phone. Maybe they can’t live with the fact it just didn’t meet expectations. Maybe they have the same affliction as some Apple fans that their phone of choice is better “because it just is” – this is definitely most applicable to the legions of commenters on technology websites who advocate the Galaxy S III without sound reason.
Now before someone says “you just don’t like Samsung Galaxies” I’d like to point out I almost bought a Galaxy S II (an excellent phone, the only major downside being its user interface) so I’m not 100% biased. I will instead, indicate why I think the Galaxy S III is undeserving of the hype it has still been receiving after release.
The Samsung Galaxy Nexus, HTC Sensation XL and probably many other phones introduced ridiculously large screen sizes, around 4.6” to 4.7”. In my opinion these are simply too big. My current phone (HTC Incredible S) has a 4.0” screen which I find very easy to use. When 4.2” screen sizes were introduced I was apprehensive that you needed any bigger a phone, but the higher resolutions and slightly different aspect ratios meant that they weren’t too difficult to handle. But the 4.6” screens are definitely over the top, they just felt awkward to use.
Now Samsung has pushed it further (for mainstream phones, lets ignore the Galaxy Note) with the screen of the Galaxy S III. The screen is a massive 4.8", which is just too much. The size of the Galaxy Note is ludicrous, every time I see someone use one I can’t help but laugh, but I don’t think it’ll be long before that will unfortunately be the standard.
Aside from the size it uses the Super AMOLED technology. I don't care what anyone says, the only major benefit of this type of display is that the blacks are truly black. But this is not worth the stupidly high contrast, inaccurate colours, and retina searing brightness. And to make matters worse, it uses PenTile Matrix technology. The major problem I have with this technology is that I can see a visible grid and this means it doesn’t look as sharp as other displays. Although Samsung claims that due to the high resolution of the device (720p), the fact it is a PenTile Matrix screen doesn't make a difference. I can say now, it does. I have used a Galaxy Nexus, and while vastly improved compared to the Nexus S, I can still see a grid. To me it just defies the purpose of having such a high resolution screen when you add PenTile Matrix technology into the mix.
In my opinion the 4.2” 1280x720 display on the Sony Xperia S is probably the best you can get, but I’d settle for the screen of the HTC One X. Although it is also massive, it isn’t Super AMOLED or PenTile.
The design is beyond uninspiring. While it doesn't look terrible, the rounded plastic design looks like a feature phone of a few years ago. Why did they deviate so much from the Galaxy S II? Probably because of the current legal battle with Apple, but I can't help but find the Sony Xperia S or HTC One X as far more attractive phones. Especially in white. Just look at the pictures:
My final and major complaint with the Galaxy S III is Samsung's TouchWiz interface. What I don't seem to understand these days is why manufacturers still insist on modifying the stock Android interface. Ice Cream Sandwich was a major improvement over previous versions, and it looks sleek, professional and unified. What manufacturers have managed to do now is attempt to skin the interface, but there are imperfections. It doesn't feel cohesive like it should. I know this is prevalent in HTC’s Sense 3.6 (read 3.6, not Sense 4.0 used on the HTC One series). The biggest problem about TouchWiz is that it adds nothing to the user experience. It looks different, things work a bit different, but it is just Android done wrong (in my opinion).
Its interface is bright, colourful, and downright childish. If you want to modify stock Android, then at least do it right, even though I am against the idea. HTC has done it with Sense 4.0, and even Sony’s Xperia interface isn’t too bad (although I've yet to see their Ice Cream Sandwich implementation).
TouchWiz on the other hand is a joke, and I don't know why Samsung is still bothering with it. If you buy a Galaxy S III, please root it and install a better ROM, save yourself the ugly mess that is TouchWiz.
The user interface is probably one of the most important things when it comes to a smartphone. Your phone might be ugly or beautiful physically but ultimately it is the software you’re interacting with the most day to day. It is one huge touch screen after all. What Samsung have managed to do is pair some excellent hardware with terrible looking software. I don’t care how powerful the processor is, the interface is just horrible.
I won't deny the Galaxy S III has some excellent features. The quad-core Exynos 4412 processor is exceptional, as is its Mali-400MP GPU. It has a large 1GB of RAM, the camera is a decent 8MP affair (although HTC appears to have upped the game with its camera), it has a huge battery and so on. If I’m honest, it is an excellent phone for most people. But I can’t see why people would rate it higher than the HTC One X. It has far more flaws. It’s the blind “this phone has to be better because it’s a Samsung Galaxy” that I can’t get my head around.
TouchWiz images sourced from the Galaxy S III review on TechRadar, no copyright infringement intended.