Hands on with the Samsung Galaxy S III at CTIA

Here at CTIA in New Orleans, I had the chance to get up close and personal with the Samsung Galaxy S III, easily the most anticipated Android phone this year thanks to its 1.4 quad-core processor, a giant 4.8-inch HD Super Amoled display, and an intriguing mix of gesture- and sensor-based tools that make the phone very intuitive.

The Galaxy S III, which weighs 133 grams and measures 136.6 by 70.6 by 8.6 mm, was quite comfortable to hold. And it was lightning-fast, no doubt in part due to its super-charged processor. Images appeared dazzling on the gigantic display, which has 1280-by-720 resolution. But what I really wanted to try were some of the cool features that help make this smart phone truly smart.

The SmartStay feature is one: It uses the phone’s front-facing camera to monitor your eyes while you’re reading a Web page or other document to prevent the screen from timing out, and it worked well. But when I glanced away for just a few seconds to talk to a colleague, the phone screen faded and went to sleep. No amount of staring could bring it back.

Buddy Photo Share tags and remembers the faces of your subjects to simplify sharing.

I also tried Buddy Photo Share, which recognizes the faces of people in your photos and link them back to your contacts. You need to tag subjects only the first time you photograph them. After that, anytime you take a picture that includes them, Buddy Photo Share gives you the option of sharing the pics with those subjects. That part seemed to work well, though I have to admit I didn’t contort my face to try to fool it.

The phone’s S Beam feature uses NFC technology to transfer movies and pictures between compatible phones (in this case, two Galaxy S IIIs) when you just bump them together. The process takes a few seconds to set up when two devices meet for the first time. But once they’re paired, it works flawlessly.

S Beam lets the Galaxy S III at left wirelessly receive a video from the Galaxy S III at right.

One of the Galaxy S III’s coolest features is Pop-up Play, which lets you minimize a video playing on the phone’s large screen so that you can perform other tasks, like browse the Web or reply to e-mails.

I was a little disappointed, however, with the S Voice feature, a voice-activated assistant similar to the iPhone 4S’s Siri, that’s supposed to be able to follow instructions in plain English. Several tasks I asked S Voice to do, including setting up an appointment, returned an “I don’t understand” response. I tried to make things easier on S Voice by asking it to find me a nearby McDonald’s restaurant. I received a long list of local restaurants, but not one of them was a McDonald’s. Perhaps this test was a bit unfair, though, because the Galaxy S III was roaming from a foreign carrier’s network.

And speaking of networks, I tried my best to pump the Samsung rep for a likely carrier when the phone debuts in the U.S. later this year; since the Galaxy S III runs on a GSM network, I thought AT&T might have an inside track. He told me they already have a GSM version in the oven.

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About contra

Film maker. Video game historian. Will put more in here this section soon!
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