Samsung Galaxy S3 - Design and Build
Few products in recent years that haven’t had a bitten Apple logo somewhere upon their chassis have garnered as much attention as the Galaxy S3. After the huge success of the Galaxy S2 last year it is this follow up that many people have expected to again be the flag bearer for Android smartphones. But has Samsung succeeded? Is the Samsung Galaxy S3 the pinnacle of Android smartphones, and indeed of mobile phones in general? Lets find out.
Design and Build
Anyone that’s already familiar with the Galaxy S3 will know that its design and build has courted controversy. Eschewing the premium feeling materials of the iPhone 4S or HTC One X, it uses a glossy plastic back which, although by no means inherently budget, is a finish more associated with cheaper handsets.
Does this make the Galaxy S3 undesirable? No, it certainly doesn’t go that far, and indeed if you put it next to the Sony Xperia S it really shows just how much Sony slipped up on that design, but next to an iPhone 4S or HTC One X it’s these two that give off the stronger whiff of craftsmanship.
In practical terms there are a few genuine issues with the Galaxy S3 too. While the polycarbonate that the backplate is made from is very tough due to its pliability, it isn’t very scratch resistant, even with an extra scratch resistant coating – either the matt finish of the HTC One X of Xperia S, or glass of the iPhone 4S will standup to more punishment. That said, it should be relatively inexpensive to get replacement backs for the Galaxy, and given that it’s a single piece that covers the entire back, this will make your phone scratch-free in one fell swoop.
We’ve lived with the S3 for a few months now and haven’t noticed too many scratches on the back, which is impressive considering we haven’t been using a case. Indeed, as predicted Samsung’s choice of finishes – glossy white (Marble White) and faux brushed metallic blue (Pebble Blue) wear what scratches they do have reasonably well. A new glossy black version is soon to become available too, though, so we’ll have to wait and see how that one holds up.
Speaking of the new black Samsung Galaxy S3, we’re certainly glad of its arrival because while both the blue and white versions aren’t awful by any means, nothing beats good old black.
The other potential issue is that, particularly given the Galaxy S3 is such a large and thin phone, it could succumb to being crushed. Particularly we’re thinking in comparison to the iPhone 4S and its tough steel sides here. That phone can take a right squishing and squashing when in a pocket whereas we’d be a little more wary of cracking this phone’s screen if crouching down or bending over. Then again, this could equally apply to many other large, thin phones and we pretty sure you’d have to be rather unlucky for it to actually happen. In our few months of use we’ve not had any issues yet.
Moving on from the Galaxy’s plastic back, we have few complaints about the rest of the design. The smooth glass face with its tapered edges, the tidy silver plastic trim (real metal would again have been nice) and single central home button combine to create a tidy, premium look and feel. The screen is also Gorilla Glass 2 so should be very scratch and impact resistant.
That said, in numerous drop test videos we’ve seen comparing the S3 to arch-rival the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5, it’s the S3 hasn’t fared well, its screen tending to shatter more often.
Pop that battery cover off and you’re into a whole world of goodness. There’s a microSD slot that’ll take cards up to 64GB in size, potentially giving you up to 128GB of storage if you opt for the S3 with 64GB of built in memory. You also get a large 2100mAh battery that not only can you swap out for a spare when needed but also in the future you may be able to replace it and the backplate with extended batteries that last longer on a single charge (not that we’ve seen any yet, several months after launch). While the SIM slot on the Galaxy may look large it actually houses a microSIM, like the iPhone 4S and HTC One X. One counterpoint to the removable battery is that you can’t hot-swap SIM cards like on the One X.
Also under here, to the left of the battery, are two gold contacts. These are for a future wireless charging backplate and dock that will allow you to simply place your Galaxy S3 on its dock to charge it, without the need to plug in. Its technology we first saw built into a phone on the Palm Pre, and we think it’s downright brilliant. Sadly the required accessories are still not available.