By Mark Watson
Despite its recent, hugely damaging, defeat in the smartphone patent wars (to a jury made up of people living within 10 miles of Apple’s global HQ), Samsung has been riding high of late – thanks to the success of the Galaxy S3. Its new Android-powered handset has been purchased by more than 20 million consumers—including yours truly—in the past 100 days, and the South Korean company claims to be shifting 200,000 units a day at present. The question is, will it be able to keep the momentum going now that the new iPhone has launched? Based on my experience of switching from an iPhone 4S to an S3, I think the answer is…maybe. What? You weren’t really expecting me to risk making a concrete prediction, were you?
The S3’s 4.8” HD screen is its best feature – it frees you up in a way that’s difficult to express. It’s so good I’ve been able to switch to using Flipboard to bring together my Twitter and Google+ streams, RSS feeds, and a number of other social channels. The handset’s screen is also just about suitable for reading Kindle books on, and certainly complements the device’s cameras (both of which are far superior to those on the iPhone 4S). The browsing experience on the S3 is also very good, provided you have Chrome, and all in all it feels more like a ‘data device’ than a glowing iPod, which is exactly what I want (if only because it makes me feel important).
On the flip side, the S3’s non-Gmail email client is a thing of extreme ugliness, not to mention buggy, and I have yet to find an alternative client that doesn’t give amateur a bad name. The speech recognition is as disappointingly unintelligent as Siri (the Galaxy actually allows you to use the same engine that Apple licenses for Siri if you want to) and is far less intuitive – e.g. if you ask it to call someone while you’re driving and it comes up with multiple matches from your address book, it’s difficult to confirm/clarify your request with another voice command – practically, you have to switch to the touchscreen. Frustratingly, the Samsung server is permanently overloaded for upgrade services, and often returns requests those services with a message which I can only translate as, “To get a software upgrade, you need to get in line. This upgrade service doesn’t support lines. Goodbye.” Worse still, Bluetooth on the S3 is either cripplingly buggy or impossible to configure correctly (I haven’t bothered to take the time to work out which it is) and often makes random connections to my in-car Bluetooth, interrupting music and news just to say…nothing in particular. I’ve got so used to hanging up on false positives that I occasionally hang up on legitimate callers. And the Galaxy is so bad at synchronising media with a Mac that it feels almost like deliberate sabotage on Samsung’s part. On a personal note, apps including Hipstamatic and Cardmunch are sorely missed – but these are small gripes which are certain to be rectified in time.