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Initial thoughts on the Samsung Galaxy S3

July 1, 2012

I’ve now been working in the UX Innovations Lab at Samsung’s relatively new User Experience Center for almost two months now. While I’ve been an iPhone user since they were released, in order to get a better sense of Samsung’s current products I got a Galaxy S3 last week to play with.

The S3 is not my first Android device; we ordered several T-Mobile G1s (remember those?) and several Nexus Ones for my team to play with at IBM Research, as well as a couple of different Android tablets. But it’s the first one I’m going to try living with for a more sustained period of time (although I will also note that I’m not giving up my iPhone, at least not anytime soon).

I’ve only had the phone for 4 full days of use now, but here are some initial thoughts on it so far:

  • First, while I initially thought the phone was going to seem way too large, I have to confess that I actually rather like the large display. Yes, it occasionally does seem a bit big in my pocket, but it’s only been a couple of times that I noticed. And when viewing or reading content the extra space is quite nice. Although yes, it does really require both hands to use effectively.
  • One advantage of a removable battery pack? Replacing the removable back cover with a combo hard back + softer flip cover. I normally find covers for phones a waste (I carry my iPhone 4 without one), but I will confess (somewhat sheepishly) to liking the flip cover for the S3.
  • After using an iPhone 4 for several years, my initial impression of the S3 (when borrowed briefly from friends to check it out) was that it was too plasticky and seemed cheap. But after using it for several days I’ve changed my mind. The use of plastic makes the phone lighter (my iPhone feels noticeably denser), but the phone still feels solid in my hand.
  • Android still requires too much management. I can generally get through two full days with my iPhone before needing it charge it. When I first got the S3 I went through and turned on all the bells and whistles, and suck my battery dry before a full day was out. Granted I used it more on that day than I regularly use my iPhone, but still. After turning off most of the bells and whistles I now seem to be around a day and a half, which isn’t too bad considering the S3 is on LTE while my iPhone is only 3G. But still: I want to be focused on using my phone, not carefully calculating which functionality I can use without draining my battery too fast.
  • The iPhone apps I use regularly are still noticeably of higher quality than the Android apps I use regularly. Even when they’re created by the same company. That seems to be particularly true for apps created by independent developers. iPhone developers seem to strive to build great experiences. Android developers seem to go with good enough. One of these days I’m write up a post trying to deconstruct why.
  • Ok, this is a relatively minor issue, but I have to confess it’s driving me nuts. Someone explain to why the built-in iOS mail application configure out how to resize an HTML email message so that it all fits on screen, while the built-in Android email applications seem to be unable to do so? I don’t want to have to scroll an email message horizontally to read it; resize it so it fits horizontally and let me zoom in if I want to see more details! The only possible explanation I can figure out is that Apple has some patent in this space Google is afraid of treading on, although I’ve never heard of any such thing. Otherwise either they’re ignoring years of research showing that horizontal scrolling is annoying or they’re failing to sweat the small details (something Apple generally does well). Whatever the reason, I dearly hope they fix it.

So, bottom line? I like the hardware, particularly the larger form factor. Although I wish battery life was better. Android still has room for improvement. And 3rd party Android developers need to raise their game. Maybe at Google I/O next year Google should showcase a bunch of iOS apps as examples of good design to try to embarrass Android developers into doing better. But as a day to day device, the S3 is pretty usable. I’ll post more thoughts once I have more experience.

From → Hardware, Mobile, Software

One Comment
  1. good review. I agree the mail zooming problem is annoying.

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