I want to share here my experience of using the Galaxy S3 for about a month now. I’m going to go through this section by section, and include some tips and tricks that I discovered.
So, in this part 1, I’m going to write about design, display, LED notification, interface and keyboard tips. I’ve heard a lot about the Galaxy S3’s design. Some people say it’s dated because of the rounded pebble look, or even go so far as to call it ugly. I don’t think it’s as bad as people make it out to be. It may not be the leader design-wise among the current crop of Android phones, but it’s nicely functional and far from ugly. It’s overall physical layout is very similar to the S2 before it, and I quite like the rounded corners. I think these curved edges actually make it more comfortable to hold in the hand, compared to the S2. And that’s something you’ll notice if you’re holding this phone for a long period of time. Now, of course it has a much larger screen than the S2, 4.8 inch compared to 4.3 inch. And it’s about 0.1 mm thicker as well. But actually, that’s still quite slim considering it’s larger screen size. And it still manages to fit that 4.8 inch screen into a chassis that’s only about 5mm wider and 1cm longer than the S2. So overall, the S3 actually feels quite manageable in the hand. It’s light and slim. And I can still use it one-handed, even if that needs a bit of stretching at times. The chassis is made of polycarbonate, a more premium type of plastic. And it has a hyper-glaze coating on it, which I think tends to make it a little slippery to hold. This affects the chrome-like trim on the sides as well. I especially find this to be an issue when I’m holding the phone up by it’s sides to take a photo or capture video. It’s scarily easy to drop the phone. I get around this by using a case. I’ve opted for the Case-Mate tough case. It’s the same one that I used for both the Galaxy S2 and the Galaxy Note. It’s a hybrid case, with a shock-resistant silicone inner and an outer flexible, polycarbonate hard shell that’s impact resistant. It also has a deeply textured surface on the back and sides, so provides a good grip. It’s a little bulkier than some other cases out there, but I specifically wanted something to protect against accidental drops. There aren’t that many physical control buttons on the S3. You’ve got the volume rocker switch on the left, and the power button on the right. And I think these buttons are conveniently placed for such a large screen phone. They’re both easily accessible. The physical home button below the display is responsive enough when pressed. But it’s narrower than the one on the S2, and it’s located close to the bottom edge. I would have preferred that it had been a bit wider, so it was more comfortable to press. There’s actually enough empty space above it, so that button could have been made wider. The capacitive menu and back keys on either side of the home button are also close to the bottom edge of the phone. However, this hasn’t affected their use as much, since the area above and below each of these keys is also responsive to touch. So your finger only needs to touch in that area around the key, and not exactly on the icon itself, to get a response. The data and charging microUSB port at the bottom of the phone has been changed somewhat. You won’t be able to use the S2 and Note compatible MHL adapters with it. You’ll need to get an S3 specific one from Samsung. On the back of the phone you find the 8MP (megapixel) camera with an LED flash, and the rear speaker grille. Now, the camera actually juts out slightly from the back panel, so when you place the phone down on a flat surface, it’s going to rest on the lens and there’s potential for scratches there. So this is another area where a slightly thick case comes in handy. If you take the back panel off, you get the swappable 2100 mAh battery, which is nice and thin and also quite easy to take out and put back. There’s also the microSIM card and microSD card slots. The S3 can recognise a 64 GB (gigabyte) microSD card. The back panel is very flexible and can feel a little flimsy. But when it’s all put back together the whole phone feels quite solid. The S3 has Gorilla Glass 2 on the front. It’s 20 percent thinner than the previous Gorilla Glass, but maintains a similar toughness. It certainly helps to give the whole phone a very slim profile. So overall, the design may not be the best out there in the market right now. But the S3 is still very comfortable to hold and use. The S3 has a 4.8 inch Super AMOLED display with HD 720p resolution. That is, it has a 1280 x 720 pixel resolution, giving it a pixel density of 306 ppi. Being Super AMOLED, it has infinite blacks and excellent contrast ratio. It also has a pentile sub-pixel matrix. But in normal use, all you’re going to notice is that everything on the screen is clear and sharp. And that’s because of the high pixel density. It’s only if you hold the phone up right close to your face that you’ll begin to see any pixelation around the edges of text and icons. There are a couple of colour issues with the Super AMOLED display. Whites tend to have a bluish tint. And colours are saturated on the default screen mode. Now, the S3 has four different screen mode settings. And these can be accessed by going into settings — display — screen mode. You get a choice of dynamic, standard, natural, or movie. The standard one is the default setting. You can see the difference in these modes by comparing how the same picture looks in each at the same screen brightness. Dynamic mode shows the most saturation. The standard mode shows saturation, especially in darker colours like green and black. The natural mode aims to show truer colours, but what actually happens is that it ends up toning down the image with grey. So you get less saturation, but you lose the natural brightness of the picture. The movie mode adds much more grey, and the whole picture is dulled out. Personally, I prefer the standard mode. And overall, the S3’s display is quite stunning. When it comes to sunlight legibility, however, the Super AMOLED display doesn’t do as well as an LCD one. And you can see that test in more detail in part one of my S3 vs One X comparison video. The next thing I want to mention is the C-pen for the S3. I’ve done a complete review video for that, And you can watch it from this link. In settings, you can enable the new LED indicator. There’s choice for having the LED light when the S3 is charging, for low battery, or as notification for missed events. The LED light is a nice big round light in the top left corner of the phone. When the phone’s plugged in and charging you’ll get a constant red light. When it’s fully charged, the light turns to green until you unplug it. For notifications, you’ll see an intermittent flashing blue light, like this one for a received text message. Same for emails and missed calls. And the LED flashes red for low battery. Some apps give you the option to set different colours for the LED notification, Like this magenta light here. Touchwiz on the S3 has been revamped and a lot more features added. The lockscreen is a good example of the S3’s inspired by nature tag-line. You get this live water ripple effect and sound when you tap it. Just drag in any direction to unlock. You also get four customizable app shortcuts at the bottom of the lockscreen. And these can be changed by going into settings — security — lock screen options — shortcuts. Uncheck ‘help text’ here in the lock screen options, to remove the ‘swipe to unlock’ text. And if you enable the information ticker here, you’ll get news topics scrolling along the bottom of the lockscreen. This section can be expanded by tapping the arrow. You can change it from news to stocks in the lockscreen options. When ‘camera quick access’ is enabled, tap and hold on the lockscreen then rotate the phone to open the camera. But I find it’s quicker just to keep a camera shortcut on the lockscreen. The notification area now has lots of convenient toggles, and you can view these by scrolling sideways. You have quick access to settings here as well. What is missing is controlling screen brightness by swiping along the notification bar. You can view battery percentage remaining. Go to settings — display — display battery percentage to enable this. Usually the notification bar is visible in most apps, and you just need to drag it down to access it. But in some apps, like Sketchbook, the notification bar disappears. To access it here, drag down with your finger from the top bezel. You can directly adjust volume settings on the volume scale itself. To create folders on the homescreen, you’ll need to chose a shortcut from the menu, Or long-press on the screen, then choose add to homescreen. You can also drag an app into a folder when you’re adding a shortcut from the app drawer. You can create folders in the app drawer as well. Go into the edit mode through the menu, then drag an app into a folder. Once a folder is created, you can drag other apps into it. There are three view options for the app drawer. Customizable grid, where you can freely move the apps around. Alphabetical grid where apps are arranged alphabetically and can’t be moved around. And alphabetical list, which I think just takes up too much space. There’s a widget drawer that you tap to access. It’s from here that you add widgets to the homescreen. Touch and hold to pick up a widget, and then drag it over the homescreens until you reach the one you want to place the widget on. Some widgets are resizable on the S3, like music and calendar widgets. Pressing once on the home button brings you to your default homescreen. Press and hold the home button to access the task switcher, which shows all your open apps. You can close individual apps here by swiping them sideways. Or, you have the option to close all apps at once. Double pressing on the home button launches s-voice. The S3 comes pre-loaded with several Samsung apps like Chat-on, Game Hub, and S-Memo. But you can get other free ones by going into ‘more services’. Here you’ll find apps like application monitor widget, Kies air, My Story, and Flipboard. You’ll need to create a Samsung account to download these. The live water ripple effect on the lockscreen isn’t available for the homescreen. One way to get the same effect is to use a live wallpaper from the Google play store called ‘water drops plus’. You can set any image as the background and you’ll get water drops and ripples over it. There are no sound effects though. Wallpapers don’t scroll across the homescreen on the S3. You can get the scrolling effect by using a live wallpaper called “scrolling wallpaper’. This lets you use any image across all the homescreens, and gives you options for scrolling direction and speed. Another live wallpaper I like for the S3 is called ‘Dandelion’. It shows the S3’s dandelion with the seeds being blown in the wind. There’s no stand-alone Swype keyboard on the S3. Samsung have incorporated some Swype features into the stock keyboard instead. You can activate this by going into the ‘language and input’ settings. Press the settings icon next to ‘Samsung Keyboard’, and then check the ‘continuous input’ box. I found it works fairly well for known dictionary words, but it tends to get names and uncommon words wrong. Like, it doesn’t recognise swipe spelt S-W-Y-P-E. You’ll also notice this keyboard icon in the notification bar. It’s a quick way to change keyboards if you’ve got different ones installed. I’m not so keen on the predictive text feature of the stock keyboard; I find both Swift Key and Thumb Keyboard do much better at that. Another stock keyboard feature, which is activated by checking the ‘keyboard swipe’ box, is swiping across the keyboard to change from letters to numbers. This won’t work if the Continuos input Swype feature is active, though. A somewhat hidden feature on the stock keyboard is this quick access menu icon here. It lets you jump to voice input and handwriting input. You can also get to your clipboard from here and access any of the text or images that you previously cut or copied. Another way to launch clipboard is to just long press on any text input field.