By KELLY GOHbytz@thestar.com.my
AFTER months of speculation about the Galaxy S III smartphone, Samsung finally let the successor to the wildly popular Galaxy S II out the bag at a glitzy official launch event in London's Earls Court Exhibition Centre.
Much of the rumours surrounding the specifications of the Samsung Galaxy S3 have largely turned out to be true.
The phone sports a 4.8in Super AMOLED HD screen (720 x 1,280-pixels, 306ppi), which is a step up over its predecessor that had a 4.3in screen.
Despite the increase in screen size, the Galaxy S III is only slightly larger at 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6mm compared to 125.3 x 66.1 x 8.5 mm of the S II.
Samsung said that is due to an ultra-slim bezel design that the S III employs.
The weight is now up to 133g from 116g of the S II but it still feels very light in the hand and is comparable to the HTC One X, which has a slightly smaller screen.
Other highlights include an Exynos 4 Quad 1.4GHz quad-core processor, a larger 2,100mAh battery, 1GB RAM, Bluetooth 4.0, Android Ice Cream Sandwich and a mind-boggling host of features to enhance smartphone usability.
"The Galaxy S III is designed to be both effortlessly smart and intuitively simple and it has been created with our human needs and capabilities in mind," Samsung Electronics president and head of IT & mobile communications division JK Shin said in his opening presentation.
Strong user experience
One of the features that Samsung is banking on to deliver an enhanced user experience is called Smart Stay, which ensures that the phone's screen does not go dim as long as the user is looking at it.
The phone's front camera is used to detect the user's eyes and the screen will only go dark when there is no one facing the phone. This comes in very handy when you are reading an e-book or a document and it eliminates the need to periodically reactivate the screen when it dims after a prescribed time.
There is also a feature called Direct Call for the times when you are messaging someone but suddenly decide to call them instead. Using motion recognition and its proximity sensor, the Galaxy S III will automatically dial the contact's number the moment you place the phone up to your ear.
Samsung also introduced Pop up Play, which allows you to play a video in a window anywhere on your screen while simultaneously running other tasks. This eliminates the need to close and restart videos when you want to check for new e-mail or surf the Net.
Next is S Voice, which gives the phone the ability to listen and respond to your words.
In addition to conducting information search, S Voice can be used for device-user communication such as waking up the phone, playing songs, adjusting the volume, sending text and e-mail messages, or automatically launching the camera and capturing a photo.
Shooting and sharing
Speaking of the camera, the S III packs in an 8-megapixel shooter that Samsung claims has zero lag shutter speed (less than one second between shots) that enables it to shoot moving objects with ease.
It has a burst mode that can take 20 continuous shots at 3.3 shots per second, and a best shot mode that will automatically select the best photo out of eight shots.
Like most modern smartphones, the Galaxy S III can shoot 1080p HD videos but the neat trick here is that you can also take stills while recording a video. Meanwhile the 1.9-megapixel front camera is able to record 720p videos and Samsung says it has improved the backside illumination to minimise blur shots in low-light conditions.
The camera app has face zoom where you can just double tap on a person's face and the phone will automatically zoom in for you.
The phone can also recognise faces and can automatically create slideshows of particular people of your choosing. Using face recognition, you can choose to tag your friends and categorise your photos according to people.
With tags in place, you can opt to attach social network information such as a Facebook link to photos, and you can then just tap on the photos to go directly to the link you have specified.
The S III also has a combination of WiFi Direct and NFC technology, called S Beam, that allows users to easily share content between supported phones by simply bumping them against each other.
According to Samsung, a 1GB movie file can be shared within three minutes and a 10MB music file within two seconds.
Sharing is also name of the game here with AllShare Cast, where users can wirelessly connect their Galaxy S III to their television to immediately transfer smartphone content onto a larger screen.
Then there is AllShare Play, which can be used to instantly share any forms of files between the smartphone and your Tablet, PC, and televisions regardless of the distance between the devices.
Under AllShare Play is the Group Cast feature that allows you to collaborate on a document on your handset among multiple friends on the same WiFi network in real time.
Options and availability
There will be two versions of the Galaxy S III, namely a HSPA+ model for markets like Malaysia and an LTE model for the United States and South Korea.
In terms of storage capacities, there will be 16GB, 32GB and 64GB varieties. Storage can be expanded by up to 64GB via a microSD card so you can potentially be looking at 128GB of space.
In terms of colours, Samsung will be having Marble White and Pebble Blue versions at the time of launch but we can fully expect more colour options in the future.
The Galaxy S III will be available in Europe on May 29. While no launch date has been confirmed for Malaysia yet, the company's regional director for mobile business in Southeast Asia, Oceania and Taiwan, Lee Jui Siang said that the local launch will take place "not long" after the European date.