Now, about those pre-loaded apps. You'll find a grand total of 49 applications when you boot up the device for the first time --that's the most we've seen of the three US models we've reviewed so far (AT&T had 42; Sprint, 47). What's on board here? Access T-Mobile, Amazon, Game Hub, Mobile Hotspot, Music Hub, More Services, T-Mobile Name ID, T-Mobile TV and Visual Voicemail. Also, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that the Music Hub is nothing but a pretty icon at the moment -- it doesn't actually launch the app but instead tells us that service will be available soon.
Visual Voicemail is a nice feature to have, but the transcription service commands a monthly subscription fee. Access T-Mobile just takes you into a web browser and lets you view your account information. The Mobile Hotspot shortcut feels a bit cumbersome since the ability to tether comes included in the Galaxy S III, but the most useless shortcut of all is for More Services, which is essentially just a subsection of Samsung Apps (an app market already featured on the GS III).
Of the 49 built-in apps, we found 10 couldn't be uninstalled or disabled. Interestingly enough, the only piece of T-Mobile software included on this list was More Services. If you simply can't stand seeing this (or any other) icon taking up space in your precious app tray, TouchWiz includes an option to hide those apps from sight.
T-Mobile is one of the carriers that has chosen to include a complimentary 50GB of Dropbox storage space (something that AT&T and Verizon refuse to do). As it is, this is better than the 25GB allotment for HTC One S users, but the difference feels even more drastic when you factor in the microSD reader included on the GSIII. For kicks and giggles, we did the math on total storage space included with both phones (and that includes Dropbox): the HTC One S offers 41GB, while the GSIII starts with 66GB, going all the way up to 146GB (the discrepancy depends on whether you purchase the 16GB or 32GB model, and if you get a microSD / microSDXC card to supplement that storage). And we're not even counting any other cloud services you might use. If you take a lot of high-res photos, have a large movie library or store your entire music collection on your phone, Samsung is easily the better choice for you.
Performance and battery life
Allow us to echo the sentiments of our last Galaxy S III review: the T-Mobile model performs on par with its US brethren, though none of the Snapdragon S4-powered phones can match the I9300's quad-core Exynos chip. If you observe them closely enough in a side-by-side comparison, you may see a rise in overall performance (especially in graphics processing), but unless you're the nitpickiest of power users you won't notice that delta. The top of the US market is dominated by Snapdragon S4 at the moment, and we've always been completely satisfied with how smooth and polished everything is. We didn't see any stuttering when multitasking, playing games, or using the internet -- in fact, we couldn't spot any tiling at all when loading the Engadget home page on the stock browser.
Below you'll see two tables: the first one offers a comparison between the GSIII and the HTC One S, its primary competitor on T-Mobile. The second table illustrates how this model compares with the rest of the Galaxy S III units we've reviewed so far.
T-Mobile hasn't done much to tweak the Galaxy S III's battery life, as the 2,100mAh juicepack cranked through our standard video rundown test for eight hours and 58 minutes before powering down. Even though this is the shortest we've seen so far for the lineup of Samsung flagships, it only misses the international version's mark by four minutes and AT&T's by seven (though admittedly, AT&T's model was tested using LTE, whereas T-Mobile is on HSPA+). We're not going to lose valuable sleep over the discrepancy, and you shouldn't, either -- we were still able to get a full day of extensive and productive use (a day and a half for moderate users), and if you find yourself in a worst-case scenario, its compatibility with other carriers' models should mean that plenty of extra batteries will be available online.
GPS performed amicably alongside the two other US variants. Within three to four seconds, the maps had us pinned down to within 60 meters of our location -- and after getting a stronger pinpoint, it gradually inched even closer to our true whereabouts. Just as we found when comparing the AT&T and Sprint models, the Sprint version was the straggler when we brought it up against T-Mo's model. That's not to say the L710 was terrible -- it just didn't find us quite as fast as the other two. (As a side note, Sprint's was the only one connected to WiFi at the time, since the network's 3G connections are quite atrocious in comparison. This goes to show that even WiFi assistance couldn't help its GPS be more accurate in a timely manner.) Additionally, the Galaxy S III throws in support for GLONASS, Russia's global network for satellite positioning. With the ability to ping more satellites, accuracy and lockdown time are both improved. We've seen a few other smartphones with support for both systems, and we hope to see this become a growing trend amongst mid-range and low-end devices.
As with the other GSIII units, we greatly enjoyed the volume and tonal range of the external speakers, which make it ideal for music and conference calls. Listening to songs with headphones was a happy experience, and all of our calls sounded crystal clear through the speakers. If you live in an area with inconsistent T-Mobile coverage, the network also adds in its WiFi calling feature to help ensure conversations don't get dropped or ruined by a patchy signal.
We're not going to say anything different than what we've said before: the Galaxy S III's camera is among the smartphone greats, and T-Mobile hasn't done anything to screw that up. In addition to having a full suite of customization settings, the 8-megapixel sensor comes with autofocus, an f/2.6 lens and the ability to lock exposure and focus when holding down the shutter. And to honor the general mantra of Ice Cream Sandwich, shutter lag is incredibly short and almost instantaneous. We also love the camera's low-light performance, mainly thanks to having multiple choices such as night / candlelight / sunset / dawn modes, flash and HDR. That last option was our favorite tool when attempting to capture sunsets, or when we just needed a small boost in light without a major increase in noise (night mode could capture more errant light, but graininess was an unfortunate side effect).
In comparison, we didn't see anything in the T-Mobile version's still camera performance that stood out amongst its siblings. We've added a gallery for each US GSIII below to help you compare the results.