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Gadgets & Gizmos

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Samsung Galaxy S III shoots to the top, for good reason

8

August

bl_galaxyiphone_0.jpgSamsung's Galaxy S III came charging out of the gates full force with strong sales, exceeding 10 million mark worldwide in less than two months since its debut in late May. And now with subsidized handset prices starting at $100 (Amazon Wireless/Sprint), the buzz continues. Right now, it's the most popular smartphone on the market (at least until Apple comes out with the new iPhone announcement).

The Galaxy S III is simple in appearance and quite elegant. Samsung took the conservative route here. There's really not much revolutionary about the looks. (Pictured here on the right, next to an iPhone 4 for comparison.) It's .34 inches thick and weighs 4.7 ounces. It feels thin, but solid in your hands, and lacks the bulk of some other smartphones. But a drawback to a thin phone is the heat level. It sure gets warm under heavy use. It may feel a little wide for those with small hands, well, because it is. The screen is 4.8-inch High Def Super AMOLED, which is vivid and easy on the eyes. The black is rich, and the colors are saturated.

The power button is the small button on the right side of the phone. The Home button is bottom center with illuminated soft keys for "back" and "menu" flanking it. The one I had problems with is the sensitive volume key on the left side of the phone, which I inadvertently press whenever I have the phone in my grasp. Perhaps I'll get used to it with long-term use, but it's annoying when the volume creeps up or down unexpectedly.
 
So what makes this phone among the best? Let's look at some notable features and frills:

S Beam: Sharing photos, videos, contact information, maps, URLs, files and more to another Galaxy S III phone is simple. Have what you want to share on the screen, touch the two phones back to back, tap the screen and hold until the sharing starts. The file transfers from one device to another. No Wi-Fi or cellular signal needed.

Smart Stay: The screen display will stay bright and won't go to sleep as long as you're looking at the phone. The camera detects how you're using the phone and it adjusts the brightness.

S Voice: The phone listens to your voice and responds. Double-press the home button to start up S Voice, or start the app. Set alarms, toggle settings, social updates, navigation, voice recorder, app commands, speech to text. The "Help" button at bottom right shows you a list of commands you can use.) I found it more frustrating than useful since S Voice didn't comprehend half of what I was saying.

Multitasking: Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich lets you do two things at one with the Pop Up Play feature, like watch a video while you text.

Face unlock: This is one of my favorite features. It comes with Ice Cream Sandwich operating system. It instantly unlocks the phone when it recognizes your facial features. To set this up, go to Settings > Security > Screen lock > Face unlock > Set it up. Follow instructions to capture an image of your face. Next time you need to unlock the phone, all you need to do is to look at the phone.

OS update? Samsung says testing has been completed for the update to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, so it's just a matter of time before the upgrade is available.

Motion activation: Lets you set up the phone so its movement will trigger certain actions. For instance, if you're scrolling down your email inbox, and you need to get to the top of the page, just double tap the top of the phone to jump back up to the beginning. Other actions include shake to update, turn over the phone to mute, tilt the phone to zoom in, and more.

Camera

  • The 8 megapixel camera has almost no shutter lag. The response is quick. The camera also has Burst Shot and Best Shot features to make sure you capture the shot you want. Burst Shot takes up to 20 continuous shots, three photos per second, when you hold down the shutter button. Best Shot takes eight frames continuously, and gives you a recommendation of the best image, based on the focus, smiles, blinking, etc. You can save the best one, and toss the rest.
  • Panorama shot: This setting allows you to shoot several frames to capture an image, say, a landscape, by panning sideways. The camera combines the frames into one wide image.
  • Smile shot: When you hit the button, the camera takes a picture automatically when the subject smiles. Well, it's supposed to. I tried it on my son, and the shutter didn't fire even when he had a huge smile on his face.
  • The front-facing camera is 1.9 megapixels and record in HD.
  • Buddy Photo Share is a facial recognition feature, where the phone tags photos of people in your contact list, and you can share them with your friends instantly. I was amazed when the it even tried to tag a face in photo in the background of a photo I took.
  • Focus and lens modes: Tap any part of image to shift focus to that point. Change the focus mode, for instance, to macro for closeup shots. Adjust "scene" modes to programmed settings, like night, landscape, and sports.
  • Download the Photo editor app to tinker with the images you shoot. But basic features are built in, like crop and rotate. You can also tag your photo, and link the image with your contacts.

Texting

  • The message function shows predictive text (type assist) showing you some words as you type out the letters. You also can swipe across the screen to type (moving your finger from one letter to another) instead of "clicking" each button separately. Personally, I'll pass on the swiping; I seem to constantly swipe across wrong characters.
  • Cute touch: emoticons are all Android character faces

TecTiles

One more unique feature available to this phone, as well as others that are NFC capable, is Samsung's TecTiles, which are programmable NFC sticker tags you can use to trigger certain actions when you have the TecTiles app on the phone. You can launch applications, or adjust phone settings by tapping the phone to a tile. The phone will read the tag, and act as programmed. Here are some examples of what you can set up: silence a phone during meetings, turn on or off an alarm clock, launch an app, call home, send a prewritten text to a friend, open a web page, check in at a place with your social media site, update your status, and more.

These stickers can be reprogrammed if you want to change or update the action.

I put a sticker in my car and set it to call home. I just tap it with the phone to call and let my family know I'm on the way.

The TecTiles app is free on Google Play.

Carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon

Colors: Pebble Blue and Marble White. AT&T also has Garnet Red.

Other neat features:

 

  • Vibrate alerts: You can set your phone to vibrate in different patterns. Six are preloaded. You can also create your own.
  • AllShare Play: Share and play your movies, photos and music on AllShare connected devices in your home, access files from your device while away from home, including Samsung Smart TV, DLNA-capable TV sets set-top boxes or Blu-Ray players, connected tablets and PCs.  You can even store media in the cloud.
  • Group Cast: Presentation tool that lets you collaborate on a project as a group. Share Powerpoint presentations, PDF files, and photos.
  • Video: Pop up player lets you keep watching video in a small window while you do other tasks
  • Music: equalizer and sound effects option for the music player
  • Customize: Home screen the way you like it, with apps, widgets and shortcuts on home screen pages. Keep things organized by creating folders or use app drawer to organize apps
  • More memory: Micro SD slot allows you to add storage
  • Preloaded apps: A good number of utility apps come with the phone, including Flipboard, Media Hub, S Memo, and, of course, all of the Google apps like Gmail, Google+, and YouTube
  • Facebook Sync: You can bring in all of your Facebook albums and photos into the phone's gallery. The events on Facebook will be imported into your calendar.
  • Ringtones: You can use your favorite tunes as your ringtone or alarm sound.


Specs:

  • Weight: 4.7 ounces
  • Dimensions: 5.38 inches x 2.78 inches x .34 inches
  • Operating system: Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Processor: 1.5 GHz Advanced dual core, Qualcomm
  • Display: 1280x720 pixels, 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED
  • Internal memory: 2 GB RAM, 16 GB ROM
  • External memory: MicroSD up to 64 GB
  • Battery life: up to 12.5 days on standby with 3G network, up to 8.3 days standby with 4G network; talk time up to 8 hours

[Last modified: Wednesday, August 8, 2012 12:37pm]

    

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