Apple is a bit infamous for its tight control over new products, particularly iPhones. Development mules are often updated internals stuffed into nondescript previous generation designs. And talk of new products is forbidden, until the official reveal. Samsung, seems to have taken a different tack with their latest flagship device, the Galaxy S III. In the weeks leading up to today's announcement there were positively dozens of leaked images and specifications lists. And each one seemed so pointedly different than the last to leave the tech press exhausted with confusion and anticipation. All those leaks are put to the test, now, though; as Samsung has just revealed their most advanced phone yet, the Galaxy S III. 

Physical Comparison
  Apple iPhone 4S Samsung Galaxy S 2 Samsung Galaxy S 3 HTC One X (AT&T)
Height 115.2 mm (4.5") 125.3 mm (4.93") 136.6 mm (5.38") 134.8 mm (5.31")
Width 58.6 mm (2.31") 66.1 mm (2.60") 70.6 mm (2.78") 69.9 mm (2.75")
Depth 9.3 mm ( 0.37") 8.49 mm (0.33") 8.6 mm (0.34") 8.9 mm (0.35")
Weight 140 g (4.9 oz) 115 g (4.06 oz) 133 g (4.7 oz) 129 g (4.6 oz)
CPU Apple A5 @ ~800MHz Dual Core Cortex A9 1.2 GHz Exynos 4210 Dual Core Cortex A9 Exynos 4 Quad (4412) Quad Core Cortex A9 / Dual Core Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8960 1.5 GHz Dual Core Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8960
GPU PowerVR SGX 543MP2 ARM Mali-400 ARM Mali400MP4 / Adreno 225 Adreno 225
NAND 16GB, 32GB or 64GB integrated 16 GB NAND with up to 32 GB microSD 16/32/64 GB NAND with up to 32 GB microSD 16 GB NAND
Camera 8 MP with LED Flash, Front Facing Camera 8 MP AF/LED flash, 2 MP front facing 8 MP with AF/LED Flash, 1.9 MP front facing 8 MP with AF/LED Flash, 1.3 MP front facing
Screen 3.5" 640 x 960 LED backlit LCD 4.27" 800 x 480 SAMOLED+ 4.8" 1280x720 SAMOLED HD 4.7" 1280 x 720 LCD-TFT
Battery Internal 5.3 Whr Removable 6.11 Whr Removable 7.77 Whr Internal 6.66 Whr

Dubbed the Galaxy S III, the latest Samsung flagship device brings updated internals and many software additions to the Galaxy line. The 8.6 mm thick slate features a 4.8" HD SAMOLED display pushing 1280x720 pixels, on an RGBG stripe. The body is curvy and smooth and comes in Pebble Blue or Marble white, and appears to be metal in appearance (Ed. note: the images seem a bit ambiguous, we'll update when we get hands-on). There's more to unpack than was even included in the announcement, so let's get to it. 

The display is going to undoubtedly be a point of contention for some of you. Indeed, before any of you have read down this far, I suspect the first comment has appeared below bemoaning the lack of a '+' at the end of the display's nomenclature. Yes, the 4.8" 1280x720 AMOLED display is of the Super variety, but lacks the RGB stripe of the Plus variety. We'll crunch some numbers and consider the likelihood that anyone will be able to suss out individual subpixels later. Aside from that we'll reserve judgment till we have a review unit in hand to sort out display quality. The 4.8" display only stretches the width of the device another 1.5 mm or so, so users comfortable with these larger phones should have no issues. Those of us still skeptical about this screen size might hesitate. 

The design is oddly reminiscent of the iPod touch, but with gently curved surfaces across the front and back of the device. There is a familiarity to the design and doesn't step boldly away from the language first seen in the original Galaxy S. We'll know more about the tacticle experience after our hands-on. For now, peep the gallery and stay-tuned for a hands-on and an overview of the software aspects being introduced today. 

Some of what we know today wasn't leaked, but was formally announced by Samsung earlier. Samsung Semiconductor, designers and fabricators of their Exynos family of ARM silicon, anounced that the next Galaxy phone would include their Exynos 4 Quad, previously known as the Exynos 4412. Like NVIDIA's Tegra 3, the Exynos 4 Quad features four ARM Cortex-A9 cores, though no companion core is put to use for powersavings. Each core can be power gated individually, just like Tegra 3. The big news here is the Exynos 4 Quad is built on Samsung's 32nm high-k + metal gate process, which should provide for a sizeable decrease in leakage and an overall improvement in power consumption compared to previous 45nm desgins.

That's not the only SoC we'll be seeing in the latest Galaxy devices, though. Like the Galaxy S II devices, LTE is limited to devices running Qualcomm SoC's, so US variants on Verizon, AT&T and Sprint will likely be sporting our latest favorite SoC, the Snapdragon S4. We can expect a lot of this, as it's not just necessary to move the performance bar with each generation, users expect battery life to see a respectable improvement as well. In our HTC One X (AT&T) review we noted just how much better battery life is with Qualcomm's 28nm radios, this is the kind of generational leap we want to see. Now, we're not sure why we're not seeing their 28nm radio-only parts, the MDM9x15. These basebands will include the same LTE Cat. 3 performance, but at much lower power consumption. We've never seen its predecessor the MDM9x00 paired in a phone with anything other than Qualcomm silicon, but we have seen it in data-only situations paired with the likes of the Apple A5X in the iPad 3 and within mobile hotspots and data cards. 

None of this was mentioned during the event, but our man Brian Klug is hard at work pressing Samsung for confirmation on these details and we'll update as we learn more. Notably, is this statement from Samsung: 
Samsung Mobile is planning a U.S. version of Galaxy S III, optimized for the fastest LTE and HSPA+ networks in the U.S., which will be available in the summer of 2012.  Exact timing and retail channel availability is not being announced at this time. We believe the Galaxy S III is the most anticipated product in the 20-year history of Samsung Mobile; therefore, we will continue to share information as it becomes available. 
So, without committing to anything, they're admitting that additional work will go into the S III before it appears on these shores.  

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  • ThisWasATriumph - Thursday, May 3, 2012 - link

    My theory is that the US versions wont be here until summer because the LTE Exynos chips are not ready yet. Somehow it seems unlikely that they would use the S4 after hyping the quads so much.
  • redchar - Thursday, May 3, 2012 - link

    While I think it's nice to see that quad cores can be put in phones (the theoretical performance should be all very nice) it's just that all too often I don't think it will be put to use in a way that makes it a better choice from a dual core.

    I had a discussion months back about the tegra 3 on this. That although over time we should be able to continue to add more cores to both desktop and mobile CPUs, I just don't think the type of things people do now, and plan to do in the foreseeable future, are things that should be done with quad cores.

    Short and long term as far out as I can see, companies developing phones should ideally be restricting themselves to dual cores. Either they could do this to have amazing battery life, or they could do this to get excellent per-core performance by having large cores versus many cores.

    So, when I heard the rumors that the S III would have a quad core, and when I heard people excited about that, I was a bit disappointed in those people. Now that it's confirmed, I'm also disappointed in samsung's choice - but also surprised that a krait version will exist.

    The Krait version will probably be the one to get, even though the quad core version seems likely to have the best GPU. The only thing is, with the best version using a Krait, it's not terribly different from HTC's One X/S line. Galaxy S's were getting to be well known, brand name items that everyone expected a lot out of, which is saying something in the world of Android where it's hard to differentiate. Only now, if their best version is the Krait version, then it won't be quite as special as the previous ones.

    Now, I won't be getting either the SGS III nor the One X as I have little girl hands. I previously thought I couldn't use things as big as 4.3", but now that I have I'd say it's probably the max for my hands. These 4.7" and 4.8" devices are not meant for me.

    However, I do love those OLED screens. It's unfortunate that it isn't the pentile-less PLUS version, and I'm also uncertain about the battery life relative to the One X, as although blacks save energy, in the past whites on OLEDs were said to use much more. I suppose the larger battery has to help though. Although ideally I wish companies would stop making thin phones. Design something thin, then add a big battery to get to normal thickness - like a razr maxx. Good idea, there.

    Overall though with OLED, a larger battery, and a microsd slot, I'd say that it's better than a One X, and without knowledge of anything else coming out, I'd say it's the best phone so far - but just not by as large a margin as the S II and S were.
  • scaramoosh - Thursday, May 3, 2012 - link

    Tegra 3 is better
  • scaramoosh - Thursday, May 3, 2012 - link

    Tegra 3 is better
  • RussianSensation - Thursday, May 3, 2012 - link

    Depends on which benchmarks you use.

    Here S3 > Tegra 3 without problems.
  • scaramoosh - Thursday, May 3, 2012 - link

    Individual core performance is lower so I expect most programs to not use Quad core giving Tegra 3 the edge. The GPUs are also pretty much the same in benchmarks but we all know Nvidia have the better support and drivers.
  • RussianSensation - Thursday, May 3, 2012 - link

    Ya NV does have some cool unique apps for Tegra.

    I think the two biggest deal breakers for the S3 are cost cutting on external materials/designs and launch timing in US. If this thing drops around June, the iPhone 5 may not be too far off. In the mean time a lot of people will just grab HTC One X and not wait for 2-3 months for the S3 in US.

    Also, in the quick video on the Verge, the HTC One X has a nicer screen in the video. The colors look warmer/more natural as opposed to having a bluish tint that the S3 seems to have:

    I think they overhyped the phone too much. If it had a more innovative design / much higher quality materials and wasn't offered in a weird dark blue color, it would have been a much better hit.

    The hardware is class leading or at minimum it trades blows with HTC One X. Having microSD slot is also huge for people who listen to music/watch videos.
  • Skiddywinks - Friday, May 4, 2012 - link

    You think *they* over hyped the phone too much? They didn't say shit! Once again, it was the rabid masses that expected 1080p screens and the like that over hyped it.
  • Kepe - Thursday, May 3, 2012 - link

    I've been wondering, what is the real-world benefit of having four cores on Android? What are the usage scenarios where all four cores are active and doing more than a good dual core (Krait) can do with two cores? Is it purely for the most demanding games? I just don't get it. I don't know about others, but 99,9% of the stuff I do on my phone can be handled perfectly by two cores. Can someone please tell, what do you need those four cores for (other than cool benchmark numbers in Linpack multithreaded)? Is Android really doing so much stuff in normal usage that we need four cores to do it? Are there so many demanding threads firing up at the same time? AFAIK, listening to music while browsing the Internet doesn't require four modestly fast cores. I think it's a lot better to have two very fast cores instead.

    A fast GPU I can understand. Better GPU -> faster rendering in Android UI, browser and games.
  • Kepe - Thursday, May 3, 2012 - link

    Or are quad cores just a marketing gimmick saying "This phone has 2x the cores your old one has! This phone must be 2x better! BUY NOW!!"
    BTW, my HTC Sensation (Pyramid/3G) gets 43,4 MFLOPS in single threaded Linpack. That's not far behind the 48 MFLOPS of a single Tegra 3 core, and not very far from the 51 MFLOPS of the Exynos 4 core. The SoC in the Sensation is from 2010...

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