Living with the Galaxy S3

It so happened that my phone contract was up for renewal at the same time as the Galaxy S3 was launched. The dilemma was awful, on one hand, the option of a cheaper contract, on the other, a nice shiny example of the very latest Android device. Naturally, the new toy was just too much of an attraction for me. I could not resist: I just had to upgrade to a Galaxy S3! The question is, does it live up to the hype?

You’ve no doubt seen endless reviews of all the fantastic new features, what I want to do here is look at how it has faired in day to day use.

First up is battery life. I travel a lot and when travelling, spend a lot of time either accessing the Net directly from my phone or tethering a tablet or laptop. The battery life on my old Desire was to be honest awful: if I could get three hours of intensive use I was doing really well. The S3 is amazing, with low-use at the weekend, it will last from Thursday to Sunday night without a charge. Even during the working week it’s not a disaster if I forget to charge it every night. The reports that it takes a while to charge are true but to be honest: I rarely sit up all night watching my phone charge!

So what of the other features? The marketing material makes a lot of the face-recognition for unlocking the phone. It does work; sometimes! You need to teach it what you look like under lots of different light conditions before it really works and you should be aware that Samsung regard this as a low-security mechanism for unlocking the phone. I’ve not tried extensive tests but Samsung’s documentation says that others who look (vaguely?) like you will be able to unlock the device. If phone security matters to you (and it should) then face-recognition is a nice toy to show off to your friends. You should still use a PIN or a password to properly protect your device.

There are two big negatives which strike me: the first is why have used a physical Home button? It feels really clunky in comparison to the standard ICS on-screen navigation buttons. The only reason I can think of for this beastly piece of design is that the Home button doubles as a wake button. Whilst it does not ruin the entire experience, it is very much a black mark against the device.

The other horror is the built-in keyboard implementation. I’m a great fan of the Swype style of typing where you drag your finger across the keyboard. My Galaxy SII tab has a genuine Swype implementation which is excellent. Unfortunately on the S3, Samsung have rolled their own version. It looks the same in many ways but the absence of the clever predictive mechanisms built into Swype pretty much halves my input speed. Fortunately, Swype have now released a beta version for the S3 which works beautifully.

Overall, I’m very impressed by the S3 as a professional communication device. There is still more to do. I wonder what the S4 will bring?

Mike Way

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