Review: Samsung Galaxy S III
The GS3 includes an 8-megapixel shooter that is literally bursting with options (pun intended). The GS3 does not have a dedicated camera button, but the camera can be launched via the lock screen shortcut. It takes a hair longer than I'd like it to to load, maybe 2 or 3 seconds.
The layout of the camera controls is typical for a Samsung smartphone. There is a control strip down each side; the viewfinder is positioned between them. The left strip - which is fully customizable - offers access to features such as the flash, exposure controls, scenes, shooting modes, and so on. I particularly like the automated panorama setting, which makes it so easy to take panoramas that my 7-year-old could do it. The results weren't half bad, either. The right control strip, as usual, includes a large on-screen shutter button, a toggle for the camera/video camera and a link to the photo gallery.
Once you've spent a moment familiarizing yourself with the controls and perhaps even customized them to your own liking, the camera is a breeze to use. It focuses and shoots photos faster than a blink. You can choose to use touch-to-focus if there is something in particular you want to be in focus. It's a fast and feature-rich camera.
The GS3's gallery application is very close to the stock Android 4.0 gallery app. The GS3 automatically syncs your Picasa and/or Google+ photos if you have them, as well as other configurable online accounts, including Flickr.
The basic view includes a mish-mash of photos from all your accounts in one epically huge grid. Using the tools at the top of the page, you can shift the view to specific folders or collections of photos.
When it comes to handling photos, the GS3 falls a bit short. Sure, images can be shared via every network or online service possible with but a few swipes, but editing options are few. Images can be cropped and rotated, as well as renamed. That's it. There are no filters nor other options to adjust the appearance of photos. That's kind of crummy. There’s no third-party photo editing app on board, either.
The GS3's camera impresses. I found it to be very accurate to the scene. Focus was perfect, exposure spot on, and colors looked vibrant and rich. In fact, colors were a bit too rich, leading me to wonder if Samsung's software is boosting the color too much. See the luscious green of the forest in the images below. The only other thing I would complain about is grain. I thought some of the images had a bit too much visible grain. Not a terrible amount, but noticeable.
Taken as a group, the photos look good. Good enough to share via whichever social network or medium you prefer. Going on vacation this summer? Leave the point-and-shoot behind. You won't need it.
I often found myself surprised that the video I captured with the GS3 came from a phone and not a dedicated video camera. That clarity is outstanding, focus is sharp, exposure is accurate, and white balance is spot on. My only complaint would be grain, which I saw in videos shot in dark environments. Most of the time, you're going to be pleased with the results, whether you capture them in 1080p, 740p, or even 480p.
There are so many options for listening to music on the GS3, it's hard to pick. Naturally, a simple music player and Google Play Music are on board. The media player will find and play back any music files stored on the device. It’s limited in functionality, but wins points for its simple nature. I find using Google Play Music a bit more frustrating, but it scores well for offering such a vast array of music and features. You can use it to stream and/or purchase full music tracks in addition to renting movies.
Then there's the Samsung Media Hub. The Media Hub lets GS3 owners rent/download movies, videos, and television shows. It requires an account with Samsung and a credit card on file. Based on what I saw, the Google Play Store has a richer set of options than the Music Hub.
Other preloaded music apps include MOG and Slacker Radio. If you need more options than this, you may have a music problems.
Music sounded great played back through each and every service. The plain music app has an EQ, but even the apps that don't have their own customizable sound controls still manage to get the mix neutral enough that it sounds good to my picky ears.
Pretty much the same goes for video. The GS3 has the native YouTube application, a simple video player app that will work with any content on the device, and the Google Play Video app. This last option is reserved for watching movies you've rented from the Google Play Store. All of these apps work well, and offer easy controls for watching video. Sound is also excellent. The luscious display makes the experience all the better.
Both the AT&T and T-Mobile versions have carrier-branded Live TV apps. They’re both run by the same company, so the experience is more or less than same. For $10 per month, each allows device owners to stream byte-sized clips and featurettes, as well as longer TV episodes. With the increased availability of high-speed networks, I found these apps performed well. The steamed content isn't the best you'll see, but it's really not bad at all. I seriously question the value, though.