If you’ve been following our news coverage over the past week, you’ll be aware that there’s a small epidemic of Galaxy S3 fever going around. With just days to go until Samsung unveils its new flagship smartphone at London’s Earls Court exhibition center, it seems like every few hours there’s a leaked image or rumor relating to the elusive device. And with such a high volume of unconfirmed reports, it can be difficult to filter out the genuine scoops from information that’s old, questionable or just plain wrong.
So we’re going to do our best to give you a complete run-down of exactly what we’re expecting from the Galaxy S3 -- from design, to branding, to specs, to release plans. Join us after the break as we unravel Samsung’s Galaxy S3 riddle.
The title of this article should give you some idea of what we’re expecting here. Despite unconfirmed rumors of a “new Galaxy” or “new Galaxy S”, fuelled in part by Samsung’s campaign of hype, we’re pretty sure the final name will be “Galaxy S3.”
Branding-wise, there are more than a few problems with the purported “new Galaxy” name. Firstly, it leaves Samsung open to charges of copying Apple, a company that it’s been mercilessly targeting in its advertising. Even the official teaser trailer for the device takes a few seconds to poke fun at Apple’s followers, alluding to their being sheep. And then there was that cringeworthy “wake up” advertising campaign deployed in Australia, which involved picketing Apple stores with faux-protesters. The last thing Samsung wants to do is expose itself to accusations that it’s imitating the company it’s trying so hard (too hard, we’d argue) to skewer with advertising.
What's more, the Galaxy S3 name is backed up by more than a recent few leaks. The Carphone Warehouse used the name in a “coming soon” listing, before swiftly pulling the reference and replacing it with “next Galaxy.” The name was also found among the keywords for the official Samsung Unpacked app, as well as the company’s own Kies software. Amazon Germany, too, featured the device under this name.
Also important is the fact that the S3 name just makes sense. It’s an obvious upgrade path for those 20 million or so Galaxy S II owners around the world, many of whom may have been confused by the suggestion that they upgrade from their Galaxy S II to a “Galaxy S.” And as we’ve pointed out before, the change to decimal numbers rather than roman numerals makes sense too, as it’s easier for your eyes to recognize and process at a distance.
We’re of the opinion that importance of specs, particularly internal specs, is over-stated by much of the tech press, and fans at large. Beyond a certain point, for most users, it doesn’t matter how many cores or gigahertz or quadrant points a phone has going for it. In a mobile device, responsiveness of the user experience is mainly determined by software, not hardware. Screen size, quality, storage space and camera capabilities, on the other hand, all have a very real impact on how we use our phones.
But we digress. We’re expecting Samsung match the bar set by the HTC One X in terms of raw specs. The manufacturer’s already confirmed that the device (or at least one version of it) will carry its new quad-core Exynos 4 chip, which has four CPU cores spinning up to 1.4GHz, backed up by a higher-clocked Mali 400 MP graphics chip. Numerous leaks have suggested it’ll ship with 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot, and we fully expect to find all that stuff included.
As we’ve reported in recent days, our sources indicate that a LTE-connected, Qualcomm Snapdragon S4-powered variant will be offered in certain territories, including the United States.
Screen size is a somewhat contentious issue, with various sources suggesting the Galaxy S3’s screen will measure anywhere from 4.6 to 4.8 inches. Based on the side-by-side comparisons with the Galaxy Nexus in a leaked video from Vietnam, we’re thinking it’ll be closer to 4.6 -- maybe 4.65, matching the Nexus. Then again, things change, and there’s no guarantee that the device shown in the video is the finished article.
1280x720 is the new standard resolution for high-end smartphones, and we're sure Samsung will deploy this res on the S3. Being a flagship Samsung phone, SuperAMOLED of some description is a dead cert. We’ve heard nothing of whether it’ll be SuperAMOLED Plus, which leads us to believe it’ll probably be plain old SuperAMOLED, like the Galaxy Nexus. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll look exactly like that phone’s screen, though. We’ve noticed many, many differences in the quality and brightness of qHD SuperAMOLED panels on competing devices, so there’s every chance that the Galaxy S3’s screen may offer some improvements over that of the GNex.
Competing rumors suggest the S3 will feature an 8 or 12-megapixel rear camera, though few details about camera technology have emerged. Really, once you get to the 8 or 12MP level, the quality of the image is dependent on other factors, like sensor quality and pixel size, more than sheer megapixel count. We’ve got little to go on, but we hope Sammy focuses on these things rather than just trying to win the numbers war.
Software-wise, the Galaxy S3 will run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and a new version of Samsung’s TouchWiz UI. No surprises there.
If there’s one aspect of the Galaxy S3 that’s remains shrouded in a thick fog of mystery and confusion, it’s the physical design. Samsung’s employed a Cupertinoesque level of security to protect the final design of its new flagship from prying eyes -- we’ve heard that until recently only Samsung higher-ups were authorized for field testing (behind protective plastic dummy cases, naturally.)
We’ve seen a slew of alleged Galaxy S3 images since January, most of them obvious fabrications. Over the past week or so, however, we’ve started to see two competing designs emerging, both reminiscent of a flattened Galaxy Nexus.
On the left, we’ve got a buttonless device with on-screen keys. On the right is a similar design (barring the plastic dummy case, of course) with the traditional Samsung three-button setup. Both originate from different leaks, and there’s nothing to indicate which is the more recent version of the device. As we learned at MWC with Sony, and with HTC at Frequencies in Seattle, smartphones go through a number of design iterations before going to market, many of which end up undergoing real-world field testing. So there’s really no telling which, if any of these is the final S3 design.
Our opinion, for what it’s worth, is that we’ll get the one with physical, not on-screen buttons. That's mostly just our gut feeling, but it’s also based on the fact that Samsung’s Olympic branding features the three-button setup. With Samsung being a big Olympic sponsor, and rumors suggesting the games in London will feature heavily its marketing of the device (official phone of the Olympics, anyone?), it makes sense that the flagship product matches the existing Olympic branding.
Indications are that Samsung won't wait long to launch the Galaxy S3 internationally, following the May 3 announcement. In a recent interview with UK blog TechRadar, Samsung's Simon Stanford questioned the practice of having a delay of several weeks or months between announcing a product and launching it -- "commercially, you have to question that; plus it presents a challenge by putting you in a position where everyone knows what you're up to."
Apple has traditionally excelled at bringing iOS devices to market in a very short space of time following their announcement, with the usual lag time being just a couple of weeks. There are rumors that Samsung will launch the S3 hours or days after the London event, but we don't think this is particularly likely, mostly for logistical reasons. Nevertheless, we fully expect to see the device on European store shelves well before the end of May.
As for availability on U.S. carriers, there are a number of (mostly contradictory) rumors floating around, and nothing to indicate what's going on with the eventual U.S. launch, besides the fact that it'll be powered by a different CPU. The U.S. will almost certainly get it later than Europe and Asia, mostly due to the additional testing and customization that'll be required by American networks. Our fingers are crossed that we won't have to deal with another five-month delay, as was the case with last year's Galaxy S II. Naturally Samsung will be wanting to avoid this kind of frustration, too.
So that's the sum of everything we know (or think we know) about the Samsung Galaxy S3. If there are any major developments between now and May 3, we'll update this article to reflect them. In the meantime, stay tuned to AC for all the latest S3 news, and full coverage of the device on launch day.