Here's the rest of our Samsung Galaxy S3 review.

Samsung Galaxy S3: Camera

Like most modern smartphones the Galaxy S3 comes with dual cameras. The rear facing one is rated at 8Mp and has an LED flash while the front camera is a 1.9Mp shooter which can record HD video at 30fps.

We found the results to be good but we haven't been blown away by the quality. Most pictures were sharp and colours were suitably saturated. One thing the camera coped well with was pictures in a dimly lit room.

The camera app launches quickly and is easy to use. It also has various handy features including HDR, a burst mode which can shoot up to 20 images and Best Shot which takes eight photos and chooses the best one.

Samsung says it has zero shutter lag, which we found to be mostly the case. A feature called social tag allows you to link people in a photo to social networks like Facebook.

We found the front facing camera produced a brilliantly clear and detailed image with only faint hints of graining – a rare thing for a smartphone.

The Galaxy S4 has a 13Mp rear facing camera and a 1.9Mp front facing camera and both images and video footage from each was very impressive with excellent levels of details, good exposure and colour saturation on the default 9.6Mp (16:9) setting.

Samsung Galaxy S3 camera

Samsung Galaxy S3: Software

There are no prizes for guessing that the Galaxy S3 is running on Google’s Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system. To be precise, version 4.0.4 coupled with Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface overlay.

The new improved version of TouchWiz is much better than previous versions with a sleeker and more modern look. There is a maximum of seven home screens which you can cycle through continuously. As usual with Android smartphones you can customise the interface with different widgets, wallpapers and app shortcuts.

At the bottom of the screen is an app tray with four slots for your most used apps and a shortcut to the Apps Menu. We like the notification bar which gives easy access to various settings such as Wi-Fi, Volume, Power Saving mode, Music player controls and, obviously, notifications.

The S4 ships with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. The interface is familiar to that of the Galaxy S3 so existing Samsung users will feel right at home. Other Android users shouldn't find it too hard to get used to either, since everything is located where you would expect it to be.

One tweak is that the settings menu has been split into different tabbed sections, but this isn't hard to get accustomed to. As well as the Google Play Store, the Samsung Hub is another source for games, movies, music and books.

What Samsung offers is seemingly endless amounts of software features on top of the usual Android ones. The firm did this with the Galaxy S3 to differentiate itself and has gone even further with the Galaxy S4. Since there are so many we'll go through each one, explaining what it does and whether it's any good.

Overall the user interface is just like Android smartphones from rival vendors. However, Samsung has gone all out with extra software features and apps to make the Galaxy S3 stand out from the crowd.

S Voice

One of the most prominent is S Voice, Samsung's voice recognition software similar to Apple's Siri. For starters you can use it to unlock the Galaxy S3 phone by saying something like "Hi Galaxy". More importantly you can ask S Voice to carry out tasks like get a weather forecast, send a text message, set a reminder or play music.

The software worked well most of the time but as we feared there were times when it didn't understand what we said. We also had to wait for a long time while the dialogue was processed. It can tell you where you are by opening Google Maps but couldn't tell direct us to the nearest post office, for example.

There's more bad news here because S Voice told us it was unable to send an email and we found the UK voice to be quite annoying. Generally Siri is a much more polished and usable experience.

Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone

Motion Controls

Samsung has added a number of motion activated controls - some we found gimmicky and some were actually useful.

Smart Stay is Samsung's eye tracking feature which ensures the screen does not turn off as long as you are looking at it.

Direct Call allows you to instantly call the contact you are browsing or sending a text message to by lifting the Galaxy S3 phone to your ear. Smart Alert tells you if you have any missed calls of messages when you pick you phone up. Both are handy features for most smartphone users.

Another couple of tricks that we liked are turning the phone over or covering it with the palm of your hand to mute sounds or pause music and double tapping the top of the handset to go to the top of a list you're viewing.

There are a couple of weird and pointless ones like panning the phone to move around a picture you've zoomed in on or moving an app shortcut between home screens.

We like all the neat additions which largely improve the Galaxy S3's usability, even if some are simply needless.

Apps

Our Vodafone handset came with a few extra apps but ignoring these, the Galaxy S3 doesn't come pre-loaded with too many apps. This is a good thing and there is still plenty of interesting apps to keep you busy and entertained.

AllShare Play as an app which lets you share content between multiple devices over the internet and via AllShare Cast can you put whatever is on your Galaxy S3 screen on a larger display like a TV, similar to Apple's AirPlay.

For music lovers there is Samsung's Music Hub which has been updated recently. The new service is currently exclusive to Galaxy S3 owners and allows unlimited streaming of music, a store and radio stations for £9.99 per month.

Samsung Galaxy S3: Battery

Samsung has fitted the phone with a whopping 7.9Wh battery promising rival beating battery life. Similar high-end smartphones we've seen have typically lasted a day before needing to be charged, but the Galaxy S3 lasted an impressive two days.

Of course the battery life will vary from user to user, though. Anyone who watches a lot of video content or plays games on the phone will likely find it needing a charge each night while others may see it last a few days if it's only used for the odd text message and phone call.

To help the user get the most out of the battery there is a power saving mode which can be enabled.

With a battery about a quarter larger than the Galaxy S3 and a display which uses less power despite packing more pixels, we would expect the Galaxy S4 to offer decent battery life.

So far we found the whopping 9.8Wh (2600mAh) battery hasn't lasted quite as well as we thought. During the space of a working day we lost 65 percent of the juice, albeit with a fairly heavy usage pattern. Again, the S3 is no slouch even now.

Samsung Galaxy S3

See also: Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Apple iPhone 4S comparison review.

Follow Chris Martin and @PCAdvisor on Twitter.

Samsung Galaxy S3 Specs

Network:
2.5G (GSM/ GPRS/ EDGE)
3G (HSPA+ 21Mbps)
4G (Dependant on market)

Display:
4.8" HD Super AMOLED (1280x720)

OS:
Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)

Camera:
Main: 8mp Auto Focus with flash, zero shutter lag and BSI
Front: 1.9mp HD recording @30fps with flash, zero shutter lag and BSI

Video: Full HD (1080p) Recording and Playback

Connectivity:
Wi-Fi- a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi HT40, GPS/GLONASS, NFC, BT4.0(LE)

Internal storage:
16GB / 32GB / 64GB
External memory:
microSD Slot (SDXC 64GB exFAT Support)

Size:
136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6mm, 133g

Battery capacity:
2,100 mAh

Samsung Galaxy S3: Specs

  • Android OS: ICS
  • HSPA+ 21Mbps / HSUPA 5.76Mbps
  • 8MP AF with LED Flash
  • 4.8 Super AMOLED MIPI (C-Type)
  • A-GPS / BT v4.0 USB v2.0 / Wi-FI (802.11 b/g/n/a) OTG
  • Recording definition: 1080p / Playback at 1080p resolution
  • Sensors: Acceleration, Electromagnetic, Gyro, RGB, Proximity, Barometer
  • -1.5GHz Quad Core CPU
  • Simplanner/Video Hub/Chat ON
  • Android OS: ICS
  • HSPA+ 21Mbps / HSUPA 5.76Mbps
  • 8MP AF with LED Flash
  • 4.8 Super AMOLED MIPI (C-Type)
  • A-GPS / BT v4.0 USB v2.0 / Wi-FI (802.11 b/g/n/a) OTG
  • Recording definition: 1080p / Playback at 1080p resolution
  • Sensors: Acceleration, Electromagnetic, Gyro, RGB, Proximity, Barometer
  • -1.5GHz Quad Core CPU
  • Simplanner/Video Hub/Chat ON

OUR VERDICT

The Galaxy S3 remains an excellent smartphone. It offers a good design and build quality, despite our small niggles. Samsung has put together an impressive set of hardware resulting in silky smooth performance and extensive software features. It is certainly in no way outdated in the current market.


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