My Samsung Galaxy S3 Journey

On the 3rd of May 2012, I was fortunate to attend the Samsung Unpacked  event at Earls Court in London, to witness the unveiling of Samsung’s next Galaxy Device – The Galaxy S3. The successor to the immensely popular Galaxy S2, which just happened to be my favourite phone of 2011. Even after getting my hands on a Galaxy Note to keep, the S2 was still my stalwart companion. So to say the S3 had a lot to live up to, is an understatement.

The day contained a hands-on play with the new device prior to it’s official announcement later that evening, and even then I could tell this device was going to be something special. Then there was sitting on the sidelines and watching as the press conference unfolded, with the GS3’s tagline of “Designed for Humans – Inspired by Nature”, and the key address of all the new major features the latest Galaxy device had to offer. The remainder of the event I spent on one of the booths, showing off the pebble blue and marble white Galaxy S3 devices. Quite a privilege!

Fast forward to Sat 2nd June 2012, and here I was like a kid at Christmas, with my very own Galaxy S3. Would it live up to all the hype? Would it make me put my Galaxy S2 finally into retirement? Well it definitely had a hard act to follow.

Marble White Galaxy S3

In my possession stood the Marble White version of the Galaxy S3, and my first ever white mobile phone! Is white the new black? Does it make it sexier, more elegant? I’m not sure.
It definitely has a different textured feel to the Pebble Blue version of the S3 that I primarily played with at London Unpacked. The white version does not boast the hyper-glazed textured skin of the blue, it’s got a slicker and more glossy texture to it, and yet still feels right in your hand.

The S3 runs the latest version of Android – 4.0.4 or Ice Cream Sandwich as it’s more commonly known. It features a whopping 4.8″ HD Super AMOLED screen (compared with the 4.3″ Super AMOLED Plus screen of the S2), which you would expect would make the phone much much larger than it actually is. Overall compared with the S2, the S3 is only 11.3mm taller in height and 4.5mm wider, so it still feels more than comfortable in your hand, and can easily be operated one handed!

Under the hood, the S3 is powered by a 1.4GHz Quad Core processor, compared with the 1.2GHz Dual Core processor of the S2. Meaning the phone barely bats an eyelid at gaming, multi-tasking, video watching, surfing the internet and everything else you use your smart phone for.

Now, you’re probably worried that the bigger screen and the more powerful core means the S3 is going to be a bit of a power guzzler, well Samsung have included a 2100mAh battery to give you that extra bit of juice, and since having the device from Saturday it’s performed as well, if not better than the S3 for normal day to day stuff like texting, surfing the internet, checking into foursquare, keeping upto date on twitter and seeing what my friends are up to on Facebook.

The front and rear camera’s on the S3 are pretty comparable to those on the S2 – with a rear 8MP with LED flash and a 1.9MP forward facing camera. The major differences you’ll notice between the two is the launch of the camera is under a second on the S3, and there is also the lack of shutter lag – you press the camera button and the image taking process is almost instantaneous. Helps when you want to capture that spur of the moment event! The camera button is once again via the screen – ( I personally would have liked a dedicated camera button on the case, but I can deal with that minor oversight)
The camera itself features the full range of settings you have come to expect from Samsung, including a few new tricks, such as a HDR mode, Burst mode, Share shot (enables you to share photo’s with other users via Wi-Fi direct) and Buddy photo share (allows you to take and share photos with friends via face detection and social media).

One of my favourite features of the S3 is called Smart Stay. The phone with the assistance of the front facing camera, monitors your eye focus, and as long as you’re looking at the screen, it will not allow the screen to turn off. Long gone is having to continually tap the screen to keep the phone awake. Handy for if you’re reading a long web article, an e-book or just simply playing a game. Of course this isn’t going to make me any better at Angry birds, but it’s a start! It also means I can set my screen timeout to 15 seconds and let Smart Stay do the rest! Ingenious!

Pop-Up-Play is also another really cool new feature of the S3. Ever found that you need to send an urgent text message or email to someone while you’re trying to watch a video on your phone? This feature allows you to shrink the video player down into a smaller window, position it anywhere you like on the screen, and continue to watch your video while you multi-task with something else – making good use of that quad core processor!

The final addition that I like on the S3 is the notification light and smart alert. The notification light will flash to alert you to missed calls, text messages, facebook posts and twitter notifications. Combine this with smart alert, which if set, will vibrate on pick up to let you know that you’re popular and someone has tried to call or text you while you’ve been busy and you’ll never miss an important event again!

All this packed into the 133g body of the S3, well you can understand why I’m a little bit smitten, right? Good news for me, not so much for the S2, which is now relegated to the side lines!

S2 - S3 - Note size comparison

 

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Samsung Galaxy Note

Samsung Galaxy Note

Samsung Galaxy Note

One of the coolest items in the Samsung Hall 20 was the Galaxy Note. Situated somewhere between a smart phone and a tablet, this 5.3″ device with it’s HD Super AMOLED screen definitely stood out from the crowd. The screen is everything you expect from the Super AMOLED technology – the display is very bright, and vivid, – packing in a whopping 285 PPI with it’s resolution of 1280×800. The viewing angles on it border on 180 degrees, meaning you can still see the screen no matter how you are looking at it!

Galaxy Note with Stylus

Galaxy Note with Stylus

I had been a little skeptical about the stylus or “S-Pen” when I first heard about it, but after having a good hands-on session, I was sold.

The screen is very responsive with the S-Pen, which makes using it, and drawing with it a dream rather than a chore. Of course, it’s not going to turn you into Picasso overnight – but it is ideal for jotting down notes, scribbles or just passing the time when you’re bored. I did experience a little bit of lag here and there, but that is to be expected as this is a very early pre-release model (the Note isn’t due for release till sometime in Q4)

The S-Pen (which is pressure sensitive) enhances the overall experience of the Note, you can use the pen to easily re-arrange your schedule in the S-Planner; grab screen shots which you can then annotate and send on to friends or colleagues. Use the S-Memo to doodle, or create something personalised, throw in a clipping from google maps to invite your friends out to some cool little café you’ve discovered off the beaten track. You can definitely do so much more with the Note, and with such ease.

Worried about losing the S-Pen? Fear not, it fits snuggly into the bottom of the device, and there will be a range of accessories available to alter it’s thickness etc to make writing and drawing with it suit your own personal preference!

My drawing on the Galaxy Note

My drawing on the Galaxy Note

So what about what is under the hood? Well the Galaxy Note is powered by a 1.4GHz dual core processor and is running the latest version of Android – Gingerbread (although I am reliably informed that it will be upgraded to Icecream Sandwich once that OS has been released). Under the thin plastic textured back you’ll find a 2,500mAh battery, your sim card holder and a micro-SD memory card slot so that you can upgrade the 16GB that comes with the phone as standard.

The Note boasts a 8MP rear facing camera with LED flash, and a 2MP front facing camera which is useful for video calling or self portraits!

You’d think something packing these specifications would be a little thicker and heavier, but the truth of the matter is, the Galaxy Note is just a fraction thicker than it’s older brother the Galaxy S2 at 9.65mm thick and weighs in at 178g. Meaning that it doesn’t feel overly large, thick or heavy in your hand – this device is still definitely a comfort to use one handed, and will fit inside your jeans pocket without a struggle.

Galaxy S2 vs Galaxy Note

Galaxy S2 vs Galaxy Note

The large screen makes the Note well suited for all kinds of media on the go, and will play pretty much anything you throw at it. If you enjoy watching movies, television, or youtube while out and about you will not be disappointed. The video is crisp, playback is fluid and enjoyable, and the display just needs to be seen for itself!

The Note is definitely one to watch out for when it’s released later on in the year.

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Hands on the Samsung Galaxy Pro

Here’s a little video showing a hands-on review of the Samsung Galaxy Pro.

The Galaxy Pro has a 2.8″ Capacitive TFT Touch screen – which gives a resolution of 320×240 pixels. The screen doesn’t offer multi touch support, so has no pinch to zoom capabilities, you have to double tap.

It is armed with a QWERTY keyboard, that is responsive and easy to use. The keys are a good size, they are slightly ridged and offer good feedback. This is my favourite feature of the phone.

It comes with a rear facing 3MP autofocus camera, but no flash.

The phone itself is QUAD band. It has GPS, and the navigation software is Google Maps.

The OS is Android 2.2 (Froyo) and is overlayed with Samsung’s TouchWiz 3.0.

Under the hood, you’re armed with a 800MHz processor, 512MB RAM,( but this can be increased with a microSD card upto 32GB) and a 1350aAH battery – which offers about 11 hours talktime on 2G connections. It weighs in around 103.4g.

You can easily get a days usage out of the battery in the pro, and this is with regular usage of the internet / facebook / twitter etc.

There are a couple of downsides:

The screens will auto rotate to ensure that you can make the most of the limited real estate offered. This often means that the screen display and the QWERTY keyboard are not always in sync.

The physical keyboard is also missing the ” = ” sign. This isn’t on the keyboard, it’s not in the symbols. You have to either use the on-screen keyboard, or butcher a smilie containing an =
A weird omission.

Overall the Galaxy Pro is a nice little phone, giving a budget offering into the smart phone market. It’s just a shame that it is let down by the resolution and size of the screen, and the fact it’s missing what has become standard in multi touch pinch to zoom capabilities.

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Samsung Mob!ler 2011 – Mission 1 – Android vs Blackberry

Here we are back again for another Samsung mob!ler mission. This one kicks off the start of Samsung Mob!lers 2011.

The mission brief was to compare Google’s Android with RIM’s (Research in Motion) Blackberry.

I’m at a little bit of a disadvantage here as I’ve never actually owned a Blackberry device. So this comparison, at least on the RIM side is based on internet research, and a little play with them in Carphone Warehouse!

So what are they?

Basically they are both a different type of Operating system you can get on mobile phones / smart phones. They aren’t the only operating systems out there, but for the purpose of this comparison these are the only two we’re going to be focusing on.

What types of handset do they come with?

This is a good question.
Phones running Android come in all different shapes and sizes from QWERTY keyboard sporting, flip / clam shell style, to regular iphone-esque looking models. Most offer touchscreen capabilities. There’s a phone out there for whatever style you like.

Blackberry on the other hand seem to stick with the same QWERTY keyboard style phone. There have been a few deviations to this with attempts with the flip/clam shell style etc, but overall if you’re getting a Blackberry device, you’ll find there is a QWERTY keyboard in there somewhere. Which I have to say is one of the features I do like about Blackberry handsets – it makes the whole process of writing emails, editing documents and sending messages that much easier.

What about applications?

Both Android and Blackberry have their own app store. Android currently boasts 200,000 applications to choose from. Blackberry has about 36,000.
Both have the capability of allowing you to browse, buy and download apps straight to your phone from the marketplace.
However, you will find that the majority of the Android applications are generally free, or you can find a good free equivalent to a paid app. Most of the Blackberry applications are paid for apps.

In this regard, this makes me favour Android.

How customisable is the OS?

Android is very customisable. Aside from changing your wallpaper, themes and ringtones, you can add widgets (these are small programs that provide summarised up to date information) to up to 7 home screens. This can range from instant weather information, a news headline feed, or even an all-in-one social media feed – so you can keep up to date with your friends without having to launch a full application all the time.
You also have the ability to place icons / widgets pretty much wherever you like on your home screens. They aren’t restricted to being forced into the next available slot on the “grid”.

Blackberry on the other hand isn’t as customisable. Yes, you can change your wallpaper, ringtones and theme, but as this OS is more tailored to a business market model they’ve tried to keep everything else simple, and the OS seems to be a little more rigid in this regard.

If you like making your phone suit your personality, then Android would seem the way to go here.

What about Web Browsing?

Both operating systems give you a web browser for surfing the internet. However this is one area that Android surpasses Blackberry in as Android gives you the closest recreation possible of browsing the internet as you would from your desktop PC, right down to being able to view and run flash in the browser. Blackberry does not.

What about messaging and email?

This is where Blackberry excels – with BBM (or Blackberry Messenger) – that comes as standard across their devices. Swap your PIN with other Blackberry users and you can chat to them at no additional message cost over either your wi-fi or your data allowance. There are no message limitations associated with SMS – you’re not limited to a character limit. Conversations take place in real-time, just as they would with an IM program on your PC. It is this service that has allowed Blackberry handsets to flourish in both the business world, and with young teens keen to keep in touch with their friends without spiraling messaging costs.

However, the Android marketplace hasn’t been sitting idly by. They have a range of apps that do something very similar. Granted you have to download one of them from the marketplace. What’sApp is one such free application. Instead of swapping PIN numbers, it works on your contacts mobile number, as long as they have the app installed. You can then send messages just as you would with BBM – only this one is cross-platform – if your Blackberry, or iPhone using friends also have the app, you can chat with them too. You’re not limited to the confines of having to own a Blackberry.

Both OS’s offer email capabilities with push notification.

Conclusion

The good thing with a wide-ranging selection of mobile phone handsets and operating systems is that the user has a choice – you don’t have to conform, you can have something that suits your lifestyle, and you.

Both Android and Blackberry suit a different style of person, and neither is right or wrong, it’s all really down to personal preference.

What is clear however, is that where once Blackberry had the upper hand in the business market with a range of tools such as a QWERTY keyboard and BBM, the others are catching up and offering alternatives.

Personally, I like choice –  a wide range of free apps, and the ability to customise my handset the way I want to – so I am very pro Android. But I can also see the appeal for a no frills, business style handset.

Ultimately both OS have their pros and cons –  which one you go for is up to you!

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