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Monday, 2 July 2012

The New Samsung Galaxy S3 - a different sort of review

My contract on my HTC Desire came to an end recently. I started looking at the market to see what was around. The HTC One X looked exciting, but it was running the Tegra 3 processor. I knew there was WiFi trouble with the first ASUS Prime tablet which also used the same Tegra 3 chip. In addition, it had no slot for an additional external SDCard, and the battery was built into the model. This, in my eyes, made the phone rather pointless.

Then the Samsung Galaxy S3 came out. It ticked all the right boxes, had a slot for the external SDCard and the battery could easily be replaced. Knowing my heavy usage, I immediately purchased a spare battery. I was amazed to find the manufacturer's battery was only a fiver from Amazon. However, when thinking about the 10,000,000 advanced orders Samsung had for the phone (even before they released the specification) it was obvious that they were buying batteries on a huge scale.

I looked at buying the phone from Amazon and taking a GiffGaff PAYG card. The cost from Amazon, divided by 24 (to help compare with a two year contract) was £20.50 a month. A GiffGaff card would be £10 a month for 250 minutes, and unlimited texts and Internet, bringing up the price to £30.50 a month.

Three Mobile were offering the lowest price contract for £34 a month. This includes 2,000 minutes, 5,000 three to three minutes, 5,000 texts (overkill) and truly unlimited Internet. I also believe that Three is the only provider who allows tethering (using your phone with your laptop to access the Internet on the computer). This deal seemed a no-brainer so I phoned them up on the day of the release, and it arrived the very next day.
The phone comes in white or pebble blue and is wafer thin. Its large screen has meant I shall not be buying a tablet as, although short-sighted, I can see everything easily on the excellent high-definition screen of the phone. If I tell you the phone has a 4.8” screen it will falsely indicate the real size of the phone, which is light (under 5 ozs) wafer thin, and very easy to pocket.

The next thing I did was to buy a belt holster from Vega Holsters. Not cheap but hand tooled, thick leather to protect the phone. I like the phone on my belt and more often than not have the sound off so I can then feel the vibrations. I think the thing that annoys most people about cellphones is the ringing. And, of course, people with loud unpleasant voices. And on a bus, or indeed anywhere, all loud voices are unpleasant.

There are so many reviews of this phone on the Internet that it would be silly to write one on the specifications here. But this excellent website has a good one. Towards the end it has a negative point about connection to a Mac, but don't worry, there is an App called “Kies Air” which will allow you to connect it to any browser, on any operating system,Note, however, that the American article mentions a two-core processor, whereas the European version has a four-core version.

There are seven screen pages for downloading up to 140 Apps. I have already downloaded 132 Apps, so I am not sure what will happen when I load an extra eight.

Apps are a means by which you can use the phone as a computer. Apps will either act as a short cut to a specially written website, such as “IMDB”, “Amazon shop”, “YouTube” or “Google Finance” (for my share prices). In fact, I have over a dozen Google Apps alone.

Then there are Apps which work more like a computer program. I have an App which allows me to set waypoints. A few days ago I was in Luxembourg and we had to meet up with the party after a few hours at a certain place. I set the building as a waypoint, and we wandered around the city until a little before the Appointed time. I then fired up the waypoint program, and the compass led us straight back to the point we set out from.

There is also an App which will find the nearest wifi printer and print to it. This is extremely useful as I often print out emails I receive. At this point I should mention I hardly ever use my desktop computer as I prefer to sit in my easy chair in our lounge and work on the phone instead. Naturally, I use the desktop for writing articles, although I have a small keyboard I am trying to get to work on the phone. The manufacturer says it won't work with Android, but that is a challenge I can't resist.

I also use Google “Goggles” when abroad. This App has lots of different uses but I use it to photograph a sign in a foreign language, it scans the photograph and translates the sign into English. I may even decide on a holiday in Japan one day now I have this!

I have a pretty accurate weather program which will show weather locally, on an hour by hour basis throughout the next 24 hours, the average daily weather for the next fourteen days, and it found Finchley straight away. In addition, you can search other places in the world. I regularly check my home town, Stellenbosch, in South Africa.

There is a clock alarm which you can set for a few minutes of gentle music and on the allotted time, a voice will give you the weather, your Appointments for the day, and the news headlines. You can then get it to play its music or choose your own from the SDCard. And, another App allows us to play our local English radio station anywhere in the world. We like Magic Radio so listened to that in the early morning. In addition, I have another App which plays Afrikaans radio stations from all over the world.

If I am in a store and like the music they are playing, I have another App which I can point in the direction of the music, and after a few seconds, it will tell me what it is and ask me if I want to buy and download it.

The phone has seven home screens in Android 4 which is called, for some strange reason, “Ice Cream Sandwich”! Each page can have 16 icons for Apps, or less if you use Widgets. Widgets are ways to have larger areas for programs you use a lot. I use a whole page (4x4) for my Todo list which I have to use a lot as, being a 73 year old who likes a drink, my short term memory is shot to hell! The bottom row has an extra five icons which are the same whichever home page you are on. The right-hand icon is fixed as this is how you delete an App from the home screen, or to load it, or another, back from the “store”. My choice for the other four are “Contacts” for making calls and organising my phone-book. (If you use Gmail, it will automatically download all your contacts on your say so.) The next is for my SMS messaging, then my email program, and finally my browser.

I have also purchased a desktop charger, which will charge the phone whilst using it, and also charge my spare battery simultaneously. In addition, I have a small torch with a huge built in battery which allows me to recharge the phone on the move. The phone can still be used whilst recharging.

I also have a small loudspeaker, slightly smaller than 9”x3”x1”, which has two speakers (stereo) and you can plug your phone in and play your own music in a hotel bedroom. This device also has a slot which will take an SDCard (up to 8GB which is a lot of MP3s). The reproduction is excellent.

However, a word of warning: this phone is fast (quad-core) and capable of performing nearly as well as a laptop computer. Certainly as well as a Netbook. But it is highly complex and if you are not a tech junkie like me, my advice is to use it just as a phone and texting device, and perhaps the Internet browser. (Opera Mobile, which can be downloaded, is the best in my opinion). Then download one App at a time, get to know it, before downloading the next App. Allow two or three months to gradually get to know the extensive capabilities of this phone. If you are at ease with technology, a couple of weeks should suffice.

Finally, stay away from the Apple/Android religion. This phone maybe better than the last Apple 4S but the Apple 5 will probably be better than the S3, and then the S4 will be better than the Apple 5, and so it goes on. We, the consumer, are the winners. Which is best? It's horses for courses. If you are a Luddite, or can't get to grips with technology, I'd suggest the Apple. If you are at ease with technology, then this is the phone to own.

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