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Nick Sherk
Nick Sherk

S3’s S Voice For Your ICS device

Each of the three devices that we reviewed is a fully capable workhorse. With a full spectrum of features at your disposal, its hard not to be torn over which device is the best. As for software, HTChas done a phenomenal job with polishing their Sense UI, while Samsung has packed as many features as it could into the new Touchwiz.

S3’s S Voice for your ICS device

Comparing the Galaxy Note side by side, it was obvious that the S3 completes tasks seconds before the Note even has the chance to react. The difference in performance is simply shocking.Web pages are only limited by your internet speed. Capturing photos is instant. Multitasking between apps occurs the moment you finger touches the screen. I am still in awe, and picking up my Galaxy Note or nearby Galaxy Nexus suddenly becomes a dreadful, cumbersome activity.

We really have to commend Samsung here, as this is exactly what people were looking for. The notification light is a very welcome addition, and the baked in thought that went to making this device offer a natural, intuitive experience are both profound, and, in practice, very useful and appreciated additions.

Ultimately though, none of this matters. The software, keyboards, apps, and all other elements like that are user configurable. My minor gripes should not dissuade you dear reader, for they are 1% of the picture. Samsung has created something truly magical with this device.

The S3 is a phone for people with serious power hunger and a healthy bank balance. If you want a device for 3D gaming, HD video streaming and surfing the web like a pro -- I don't mean faffing around with mobile versions of websites or lightweight apps -- the S3 has the superpowered engine and massive display you're looking for.

Indeed, this phone sits at the very top of the smart phone spectrum -- rival high-end Androids at this lofty price are hard to find. The main alternative is HTC's quad-core brute -- the One X -- which is actually more affordable than the S3 but not such a powerhouse, judging by my benchmark tests. Samsung also makes an even larger device -- the Galaxy Note -- which is a smart phone that's pushing into mini tablet territory.

Apple's iOS software is generally slicker and easier to use than Android, with a simplified interface that's really straightforward to use. However, iOS won't appeal to people who really like to drill down, tweak, tinker and customise their kit. You guys will fall hook, line and sinker for the S3's customisable charms -- relishing the fine-grained opportunities Android opens up for customising and controlling your digital environs.

Samsung has not yet confirmed whether the S3 will get an update to Jelly Bean. If you're desperate to get your hands on the latest Google OS, you might be better off opting for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which is due to get Jelly Bean later this month.

For example, adding widgets to the home screens is not done by long-pressing the place where you want to add the widget. Rather, you have to dive into the apps view, switch to the widgets tab and long press on a widget -- then move it onto the home screen position of your choice.

It's a nice idea, which works well if you're holding the phone directly in front of your face. But if you're looking at the phone at an angle -- say you've propped it up a little way off so you can watch a film -- it won't register your face and will turn off anyway. The flashing eye symbol can also be distracting, if not downright disconcerting, as it warns you that your phone is watching you.

The previously Apple-exclusive Flipboard app also makes an appearance on the S3's home screen as an attractive widget. The Flipboard app turns links and updates from your social networks into an attractive magazine-style layout. The app and widget really come into their own on the S3's gloriously large display.

Pop up Play makes intelligent use of the S3's quad-core engine by letting you overlay and playback a mini version of a video over whatever else you're looking at -- be it a web page, your email or an app. Sadly, you can't pop out embedded videos in apps like YouTube -- it's only for videos stored on the phone itself.

In an extensive comparison of S Voice and Siri, neither acquitted themselves terribly well. But Samsung's virtual assistant was by far the worst of the two -- it had real trouble recognising my voice, was slow to process sounds and ultimately seemed gimmicky rather than genuinely useful. Most of the time it's much quicker to tap to get to the function you're after, rather than faff around hoping S Voice hears your words correctly and understands what you're after.

Setting up Face plus Voice Unlock took multiple attempts to run through the vocal stage as my efforts to use my own voice repeatedly failed to win the approval of a very disappointed-sounding female-toned S Voice. Eventually I managed to set it up -- but I can't imagine too many people will want to have to speak to their phone every time they need to unlock it (Sergey Brin excepted).

Once you've loaded the S3 with your favourite tunes, you can pipe them into your ears by using Samsung's Music Player. This includes a feature called Music Square -- which creates custom playlists based on the tunes you listen to.

This app lets you create both text or scribble handwritten (or hand-drawn) notes. It's more fully featured than Apple's Notes app on the iPhone, with a range of pens and colours to choose from -- as well as the ability to draw pictures or scribble words, not just create typed text notes. So, for example, you could draw a map of how to get to your house and attach the S Memo to the corresponding S Planner birthday invite.

The S3's contacts app includes some neat features. If you swipe left over a contact's name, it will take you straight to the messaging menu so you can rattle off an SMS double-quick. Swipe right over their name and the phone will call your buddy without you having to tap twice.

You can create groups of contacts so you can easily send emails or SMSes to multiple people. If you're trying to find someone in your address book, you can press on the corresponding letter of the alphabet in the index at the right-hand side to jump down to the right section, or just start typing their name into the search box. The software favours surnames over first names so it will display anyone with the surname 'Johnson' before your mate 'John'.

The S3's messaging interface is nice and easy to use. It deploys a speech-bubble graphic to display conversation threads. If you're composing your missives in landscape mode you won't be able to see the preceding SMSes in the chain, but in portrait mode you can scroll back through to read what went before.

There is a Swype-style interface pre-loaded on the S3, which can be switched on -- if you turn on 'continuous input' in the Samsung keyboard settings. I found swiping around on the keyboard wasn't as fast as it can be on smaller handsets since your finger has to make its way across more glass, due to the S3's hugeness.

Gameplay was smooth, with no noticeable slowdown or stutter. If you're after a mobile device that's powerful enough to double as a portable games console, the S3 should do the trick -- provided you're happy with the calibre of Android games out there.

As the S3 runs ICS, you can download Google's Chrome for Android browser, which has a neat deck-of-cards-style interface to manage all your open tabs. The standard Android browser on the S3 also has a nice 3D interface -- although it fits far fewer browser windows on screen at once.

Overall, on the Antutu battery benchmark, the S3 scored 597, beating the HTC Incredible S, Motorola Milestone, Samsung Galaxy S2 and the LG Optimus 2X, among other devices. It was beaten by the Motorola Xoomtablet and the Acer Iconia Tab A500. (The One X failed to run this test.)

Of course, you could say what's the point of spending all this money on a beast of a phone, only to throttle it? Which again begs the question of whether quad-core isn't overkill for a mobile phone right now. But the S3's slick performance does make it a joy to use -- with apps downloading and loading quickly, HD videos playing smoothly and menus and gallery photos zipping around, eager to do the bidding of your fingertips.

AllSharePlay is Samsung's system for letting you link up content stored on multiple devices so it's easily accessible on the S3. To set the system up you need to create a Samsung account and download the AllSharePlay software to the devices, where the data you want to access is stored -- such as your home PC.

As well as viewing the content, you can download files locally to the S3 via the AllSharePlay app -- so you can access them even when you don't have a Wi-Fi connection. Perfect for transferring your favourite tunes to the phone.

The S3's display measures 4.8 inches on the diagonal which, as noted above, makes it one of the biggest smart phones currently available. Some S2 owners are going to be unhappy about this increase in size -- since the S2's 4.3 inches is already plenty generous. Some would argue it had a perfect amount of pixels for a phone. But while you might find your knuckles bending in new and exotic ways, the benefit is that this whopping display will make your photos and videos look stupendous.

With a 1,280x720-pixel resolution, the S3 will do justice to your high-definition footage, as well as leaving icons and text looking impressively sharp. This is an HD Super AMOLED screen, which is the same display tech used on the Nexus and Note, both of which are a real treat for the eyes.

The placement of those touch-sensitive keys is slightly inconvenient. They're close to the edge of the phone, so you might find yourself accidentally triggering them with your


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