This is a sponsored post written by me on the behalf of T-Mobile. All opinions are 100% my own.
Last week, I took a T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S III out of the box and started using it. It didn’t take long before I found out exactly what all the fuss was about. The phone felt great in my hand (despite having a noticeably giant screen) and worked like a dream. After having used it for a week, I’m finding it difficult to pinpoint any things that I don’t like about the device.
I have a couple of phones to which I can compare it: the first being the Galaxy Nexus (also manufactured by Samsung) and the iPhone 4S, both of which have been proclaimed leaders in their respective classes. If the Galaxy Nexus is the tinkerer’s muscle car, then the Galaxy S III is the sleek and powerful Ferrari.
Look, let’s be honest here. T-Mobile sent this phone our way to review. I typically go into these reviews expecting to experience the same mundane mix of highs and lows that result in a mediocre product. To my pleasant surprise, this device is nothing short of impressive from the first moment I picked it up to now.
Despite having Android 4.1 Jelly Bean installed on the Galaxy Nexus, I find my general experience on T-Mobile’s Samsung Galaxy S III to be absolutely smooth and robust. Both T-Mobile and Samsung have had hands in the interface and included apps, and neither of these influences have had a negative impact on the user experience. In fact, I find the default settings (such as having frequently-used controls in the notification panel) to be absolutely spot on. These minor touches make it easier for me to picture a “normal” user feeling right at home with the device fresh out of the box.
Perhaps one of the features that doesn’t receive a lot of press is S Voice, a Siri-like voice-controlled search mechanism that answers questions about the weather, performs searches, and handles other miscellaneous tasks. While, yes, this isn’t Google Now as demonstrated in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, it is an interesting tool for those of us who like that kind of functionality, but don’t want to give up a top-notch hardware and software experience to get it. It isn’t a requirement to use, but it is there with two clicks of the home button.
Another surprise I came across while testing the device was a chunk of free extra storage (48 GB, to be exact) from Dropbox just for having activated it on the device. Dropbox comes pre-loaded with the Samsung Galaxy S III, and in this case, it’s just another value add.
I’m also very fond of the fact that the screen doesn’t shut off while you’re looking at the phone. This technology is referred to as Smart Stay, and Samsung has added it to allow for moments where you’re looking at a webpage or perhaps some directions and don’t want to necessarily tap the screen every few seconds to keep it from dimming or shutting off on you.
I’ve also noticed a feature that enables you to call someone automatically if you put the phone up to your ear while looking at their contact information. That’s cool, and so useful if you (like me) are prone to forgetting to make sure you hit the call button correctly before listening for a ring tone that will never come.
S Beam is also a great feature allowing you to share photos, videos, and other information with fellow Samsung Galaxy S III owners. It sets the stage for something bigger down the line, and I’m curious about what Samsung has up its sleeve.
If there is one thing that absolutely drives me up the wall, it’s the fact that the majority of smartphones made today aren’t very good at doing what one might imagine should be their primary function: sending and receiving phone calls. Either the signal is bad, the speaker is bad, or the microphone is barely audible. I don’t know why most companies seem to struggle with the concept, but being able to use your phone as a phone is kind of important!
This is probably one of the biggest reasons I would absolutely recommend T-Mobile’s Samsung Galaxy S III over any other Android device currently on the market. The speaker is loud and clear, the people on the other end understand what I’m saying (even in crowded places), and the signal strength I get from T-Mobile is way better than what I’ve been receiving from my other GSM carrier. Could it be the device, the carrier, or some unknown factor? I really don’t care. Frankly, I’m going to have a hard time shipping this thing back to T-Mobile after having some of the clearest calls I’ve had on a mobile phone in years.
I covered hardware quite a bit in the initial impressions article, but after a week of carrying both this and my Galaxy Nexus around with me, I can’t give Samsung enough credit. This phone feels expensive. I know that’s a really broad, descriptive term, but do you know that feeling when you pick up something that you know costs a lot of money based on just how good it feels in your hand? That’s the feeling I get when I hold this phone.
The iPhone feels boxy and rigid by comparison, and the Galaxy Nexus has that really cheap backing that isn’t very well masked by the texture. Meanwhile, the Galaxy S III is covered in smooth corners and a glossy finish that just makes it seem sturdier and easier to hold for longer periods of time.
The 8 megapixel camera is breathtakingly good. The detail you can pick out of the photos it takes (with a variety of lighting conditions, I might add) is worth noting. Even compared to my wife’s iPhone 4S, I’d have to pick the Samsung Galaxy S III for both speed and picture quality. The camera app fires up in a second and can shoot right away. Meanwhile, the iPhone has a delay that makes it difficult to capture those important moments that never stick around for very long.
It isn’t often that I am offered the opportunity to try a product that truly surprises me. I’ve reviewed some really lackluster gadgets in my time, and I’ve never been one to pander to the crowd. I made the personal decision to give Android a try and, despite having all the advantages of a wide range of phones from which to choose here, this is the one phone that continuously amazes me.
I’ve also been very impressed with just how fast T-Mobile’s connection is here in Austin, TX. The speeds I’m getting from this phone are hovering between 13 and 16 Mbps, which is faster than my home broadband connection. Something tells me that I’m going to be switching carriers soon.