Some thoughts on the Galaxy S III
It's smart of Samsung to turn the launch into a big event and to promote the Galaxy S as its flagship series of smartphones. It makes it easier to market and lets consumers know they're buying the best phone you make.
I do hope that Samsung will be disciplined and introduce fewer variants of each phone -- they introduced way too many different versions of the S2. I know that they're usually just bowing to the desires of the carriers, but having so many different versions of your flagship sort of defeats the purpose of having one and just tends to confuse people. It's not clear what their strategy will be around the S3, but hopefully they'll show some restraint here.
It's interesting to see Samsung placing such a strong emphasis on software, since traditionally that has not been its strong suit, or even much of a point of differentiation for its products. I'm still baffled as to why Samsung thinks so highly of TouchWiz -- I'm going to come right out and say that it is simply ugly -- and I'm slightly surprised that they didn't go in a new direction with their OS customizations.
Instead they're betting that what's really going to set the S3 apart from its competition is its Siri-like S Voice voice recognition software, as well as subtle touches like Smart stay (which keeps the phone's display on as long as you're looking at it) and Direct call (which automatically dials someone if you're messaging them and hold your phone up to your ear). I don't know how much the average person will care about these things, but I do think that focusing on small enhancements that make a device a bit more intuitive aren't bad things at all. It's often these small details that make the difference between a pleasurable experience and a pedestrian one. The question, again, is whether Samsung can make that integration seamless and fluid.
The other issue this emphasis on software raises (at least for me) is whether it will have an impact on Samsung's ability to push out updates as Google introduces new versions of Android. Samsung's track record here hasn't been amazing -- the original Galaxy S isn't getting updated to Android 4.0 -- and has certainly taken its time rolling out updates to the devices it is supporting. The more customization they do, and the more complex the apps they add on top of Android, the longer it's going to take to introduce those updates. I don't know how much the average consumer cares about this stuff yet, but I do know that enthusiasts care a lot, and many of them are opting for the Nexus phones because they (at least in theory!) will get updates to Android sooner than other phones. If stuff like S Voice means that Samsung takes even longer to introduce OS updates that is going to be a big turnoff for top users.
Speaking of design, I really want Samsung to stop making their phones look cheaper than they really are. HTC has clearly invested a lot in design, and it's paying off with the One S and One X, both of which are beautiful, well-crafted devices (every time I take the One X out of my pocket people remark on it). They talk about the S3's "minimal and organic design," but honestly it just looks to me like a generic (albeit thin) Android phone.
This is sort of nitpicky, but the PenTile display is a turn-off. At this resolution (720p) it's less of a big deal, and I will certainly wait until I actually play with the S3 before passing final judgment, but I can usually tell the difference in how text is rendered when it comes to PenTile vs. non-PenTile. Most people probably won't care, but given how much reading I do on my phone it is certainly a factor for me.
6. Screen size
I'm not all that surprised that they keep pushing the screen size up, and it looks like they've done a good job of keeping the overall size of the phone down so that it's not uncomfortably large for most people. 4.8-inches is going to be too big for some people, but I've personally been surprised by how comfortable it is to use a phone with a 4.7-inch screen -- and how the 3.5-inch screen on the iPhone now feels really small to me. I can definitely tell the difference when typing, my accuracy goes way up on a larger screen. The larger screen on the S3 might alienate some -- there's no one screen size that's right for everyone -- and I suspect they'll introduce a model with smaller screen at some point. (In fact, since this is Samsung they'll probably introduce several.)
When compared to the One X (or One XL), there are already some big advantages. Battery size for a start (and the S3's battery is removable, where the One X isn't). People actually using the One X tell me that it only lasts 4 hours on a charge, so it could only be shortsightedness or Apple-envy that could drive HTC to make a device with a non-removable battery. The S3's battery is 2100mAh, nearly as big as the Note's battery!
Additionally, the One XL (LTE version) only has a dual core processor, which frankly seems a bit dated for a new phone. Hopefully the S3 LTE will keep the quad core processor, and WON'T be a design dictated by AT&T. LTE is now here in Hong Kong, and I'm tired of getting AT&T's castoffs.
And while I know that the S3 hasn't even shipped yet, the big shift towards larger screens for the mainstream makes me wonder about what's next for the Galaxy Note! Maybe the promised 1080p (1920x1080) screen in a 5.6" or 5.8" format, a quad core processor and an even bigger battery to go along with it . Now that's what really gets me excited.
I have to respectfully disagree with you on screen size. I know ZERO people that have switched down to a smaller screen and been happy. I know MANY people who have refused to try a larger screen and insist that it's horrible without using it. But in the light of the overwhelming evidence of manufactures continually increasing the size of the displays, it's clear that people do LOVE the large screens once they try them.
Sitting on the MTR (subway) here in Hong Kong gets you a good look at the phones people are using, and I'm floored by how many people are using Galaxy Notes. They've displaced iPhones here as the most popular phone! And I'm quite hopeful that Samsung realizes it and keeps pushing the envelop with the line.
The iPhone5 is coming out soon, but I'm really feeling like it will be more of a yawn than a scream. Samsung has take the lead at pushing forward the state of the art. Even with some of the compromises they made for the S3 this is still a groundbreaking device. All I expect from Apple is a new 4" screen and a bunch of speeches telling the world that the Apple 4" screen is the biggest ever used in a smartphone! But I guess we'll know in a month or so if Apple is going to release real technology or just marketing rhetoric. Clearly Samsung is focused on actual technology.
I actually do know people who have switched to a smaller screen size, just because you haven't met anyone doesn't mean that there aren't people with this preference. I do agree that most people think the larger screen is an issue before actually using one, and tend to find that they like it once they've tried, but I don't think it's fair to say that this is a universal experience!
I guess the point I was trying to make is that we're a long way away from the OLD days when my old Blackberry lasted for a day and a half (on a single charge) with some pretty heavy use.