04/05/2012 15:29 | By Tom Perkins, contributor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

How good is the Samsung Galaxy S3?

King of the Android phones or an ill-judged misstep? We pick through the Galaxy S3's strengths and weaknesses.


Samsung Galaxy S3 (© Samsung)

After months of build-up, the game is finally up - Samsung's Galaxy S3 has been unleashed on the world, launching on 29 May in the UK. Samsung's follow-up to the insanely popular S2 has been the talk of the internet for months, with leak after unconfirmed leak suggesting the new handset could be the Korean company's golden ticket for consolidating its place at the top of the smartphone market.

And, unusually for the technology jerkosphere, those leaks have turned out to be more or less accurate - as you can see from our last rumour round-up (http://tech.uk.msn.com/mobiles/samsung-galaxy-s3-rumour-round-up) - with the S3 including most of the touted features, and even a few unexpected gems; including a huge 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED screen and a front-facing camera that the company claims will enable the phone to 'adapt' to what it sees you doing.

Alongside the monster HD screen, 8MP rear and 1.9MP front cameras and new form-factor, the handset runs Google's latest 'Ice Cream Sandwich' version of the Android operating system with a number of Samsung-specific additions. These include voice-control to rival Apple's Siri 'personal assistant' and a partnership deal with Dropbox, offering 50GB of online storage.

So, how close were our predictions? Which features are grabbing the headlines, and what opportunities have Samsung missed? To find out, we can but turn to MSN's patented HIT-OR-MISS-O-TRON 3000:

HIT: the screen
The most obvious of the S3's headline features, the 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED display - running a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels - is far bigger than Apple's iPhone, and closer in size to some of the smaller tablets. Yet despite its mammoth size, the handset's bezel has been slimmed, resulting in a handset only fractionally bigger than its predecessor, the S2.

MISS: Not exactly a looker
Unfortunately, Samsung hasn't given that eye-popping screen much of a backdrop, with the handset's overall design being best described as 'functional'. While it's available in shades of 'pebble blue' and 'marble white', the overall impression is underwhelming at best, with rounded corners that wouldn't have looked out of place three years ago.

HIT: quad-core processor
A 1.4GHz quad-core processor was a recurring talking point amongst the pre-release rumour-mongering, and the final product doesn't disappoint. The Exynos CPU should be more than capable of gnashing through high-resolution video, apps and the more graphics-intensive games. How well it will cope in terms of battery life, however, only time will tell.

Samsung Galaxy S3 (© Samsung)

MISS: 8MP camera
Camera-lovers may well be disappointed that the much-rumoured 12 megapixel rear camera hasn't come to pass, with the included 8MP lens bearing much of a likeness to last year's Galaxy S2. It's a shame, but not all bad news - the new model includes a couple of neat tricks such as the zero shutter-lag seen on the Galaxy Nexus, and some canny auto-detection to recommend your best shot when shooting in burst mode.

HIT: Smart Stay face-tracking
Samsung claims the design of the S3 is all about the 'human experience'. As well as including voice recognition and social media features (such as the automatic tagging of photos by recognising faces from your contacts list), it also hopes to improve battery life through 'Smart Stay' - an innovative eye-tracking method that detects when you're looking at the display and dims the display when you're not. How well it works in practice remains to be seen, but it's certainly a novel idea - Apple take note.

HIT: Voice Control
It remains to be seen whether Samsung's own voice control - dubbed 'S Voice' - is much to trouble Siri. But there are a few lustable voice-control features, such as getting your phone to tell you the weather or perform tasks like making calls, setting alarms, controlling media playback or taking photos. There's also the interesting incorporation of Android's face unlock capability so the handset can be set to unlock only once it sees your face and hears your voice.

MISS: Samsung TouchWiz
Yet while one hand giveth, the other takes away. While Android 'Ice Cream Sandwich' is a strong inclusion, Samsung has again plastered its own 'TouchWiz' interface over the top, which has previously been plagued by unwanted pre-installed apps and delays and missteps when it comes to operating system upgrades.

HIT: NFC Chip
The inclusion of a near field communications (NFC) chip will allow users to tap phones together to share content and contacts - and is technology far superior to Bluetooth. The NFC chip will also be used with a 'virtual wallet' on the device for tap-to-pay mobile payments in partnership with Visa, aiming to 'make payment simple'. Whether it actually does remains to be seen.

MISS: It's not made of solid gold.
OK, so we weren't *actually* expecting that. But it goes to show that the S3 is shaping up in a very real sense to be 2012's outstanding smartphone - and we haven't even touched on bonus features such as 50GB of free Dropbox storage and the wireless charging kit. Let's hope it works out as good in practice - come 29 May - as it looks on paper.

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