Galaxy S III review from a WP owner

Discussion in 'Samsung' started by Mitlov, Mar 10, 2013.

  1. Mitlov

    Mitlov Shiny

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    I've previously used Windows Phone, but a recent BYOD policy change at work pushed me into Android for the first time. I'd heard a lot of positive stuff about the phone and the OS from Android enthusiasts, and a lot of negative stuff from WP enthusiasts. After a couple weeks with my Galaxy S III, I've decided that both sides are right.

    Hardware

    A lot has been written about the pentile display. I will say right off the bat that the "blurriness" some associate with the pentile display is something I haven't noticed in the slightest. It seems very sharp to me, and the high resolution is a welcome change from WP7's 800x480. And I do a lot of email with it, so if the blurriness was as bad as some claim, it'd bother me.. It's just not something I think you'd ever notice unless you went looking for it. On the other hand, the bluish cast of the screen is immediately obvious. It's not bad, but it's ever-present.

    The case is unapologetically plastic. And that's fine--it's incredibly light for the size, and there's no reason that plastic is bad, objectively. From an engineering perspective, it's a fantastic material. But does it feel as luxurious as an iPhone or even the plastic unibody of Lumia 920? No, not at all. This turns out to be a moot issue, though, the moment you slap a case on it. And most people I know, perhaps 90%, put cases on their smartphones. I wasn't planning on doing that initially with this, but considering how easy the buttons are to press (volume going up and down in my pocket, etc), I got an Elago slim-fit case just so that the buttons and camera lens would be recessed for protection.

    Operating system

    Initial reaction to Android coming from WP was pretty bad. I was met with a half-dozen screens full of icons and widgets to bloatware, not in any meaningful arrangement. And the settings menu was an indecipherable mass of options.

    The other thing I was immediately struck by is that a lot of the default apps are really not very good. The default music player had no way to look up album art for your music. The default web browser (creatively named "internet") is nothing to write home about. The stock camera app is AWFUL--it prioritizes fast shutter speed so much that blurriness in the images is ever-present. So while a casual user can really take a WP or iOS phone out of the box and just start using it very well, I spent a lot of time in the first week figuring out which third-party camera app to get, which third-party web browser, what third-party media player, etc. I also spent a lot of time getting rid of all the homescreens and making my own three-homescreen setup, changing all the settings to something that works for me, etc.

    Once I had learned how to change the settings I need, and rearrange the OS the way I wanted it, I changed from hating it to loving it. A mix of icons and widgets is incredibly effective once you get it set up right. Its more space-efficient and somewhat more useful than the live tiles of WP. For example, I have media player controls on the widget for Spotify, and my calendar app shows the next several appointments and clicking on one jumps right to that appointment's details. And compared to the app-drawer-like experience of iOS, there's just no comparison.

    However, its worth noting that most users won't actually ever do this. Although Android is definitely the most capable of the three in the hands of a user who bothers to learn how to use it, IMO its the worst straight-out-of-the-box experience. In an incredible dose of irony, there's a beginner-oriented homescreen mode on the GS3, meant to make it easy for casual users to use. The problem? This is buried away in settings where no novice would ever find it. And when it comes to stuff like changing which shortcuts are on the lock screen, even I needed to look it up online before I could figure out how to do it. I spent a week trying to figure it out on my own, and ultimately I decided it couldn't be done. Thankfully I searched online before giving up entirely, because it can in fact be done.

    The notification shade and the multitasking screen are both very useful one you learn how to use them. The notification shade is a big advantage over WP7--being able to pull up all your notifications in one place is great. And toggle settings for GPS, Wifi, do-not-disturb mode, etc are quite easy to get to. This is the one situation where it's easier to change things in Android than WP.

    All in all, Android reminds me a lot of Windows PCs. A lot of the programs it comes pre-bundled with are total crud. Compare preloaded Windows PC software with preloaded OSX software and there's just no comparison in quality. However, consistent with that metaphor (where Windows Phone is playing the role of OSX), once you go beyond preloaded, the software options with Android are vastly superior. The WP camera app is way better than the stock GS3 camera app, but on the other hand, ProCapture ($2 from the Play Store) is far better than either. Same story with Samsung's media player versus the Zune player versus the N7 Player ($2 from the Play Store).

    Am I glad I'm on Android? Very much so. I was forced into this change by a BYOD policy at work, but once I forced myself to learn how to use an Android phone, this delivers a better user experience for me than WP did. But would I recommend the GS3 to my wife or my mother, neither of whom are very tech-saavy? No. My wife has learned WP and my mother has learned iOS, but I really don't think either would have as good of a user experience with Android.
     
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  2. RickAgresta

    RickAgresta Peanut, leader of the Peanutty Forces

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    Nice review Mitlov!
     
  3. Hook

    Hook Professional Daydreamer

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    Excellent observations all around, Mitlov.
     
  4. jigwashere

    jigwashere Life is a circus!

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    I agree, it's a nice review. I like your writing style, Mitlov.

    I'd like to hear more about the camera and other apps you chose. I bought Camera Zoom FX on sale a while back, which is also one of the Lifehacker Pack for Android apps, but end up sticking with the stock camera app for the most part. I'm lazy, I guess. :rolleyes: Any tips and tricks you pick up along the way, please share. :newpalm:

    I'm not sure about your conclusion that Android out-of-the-box is any worse than iOS (I have no experience with Windows Phone). My wife has an iPhone and loves it, but she's a technophobe and doesn't really doesn't do much beyond the basics. I think Android out-of-the-box would be just as good/bad for her as iOS. If she had an Android phone, at least I'd be in a better position to support her. But, maybe you're right. I'm not going to hurt my head thinking over that one any more. :)
     
  5. Mitlov

    Mitlov Shiny

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  6. Mitlov

    Mitlov Shiny

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    Camera Zoom was my second-favorite camera app after ProCapture out of the half-dozen I tried. I thought ProCapture had a better interface and took better photos without manually autofocusing beforehand, but CameraZoom was really very good too. I really like the viewfinder that can show you the horizon and glows red if your hand isn't still.

    I'll do some more in-detail reviews of apps I've chosen later tonight or tomorrow.

    As for my conclusion about not as good for casual users, in a week I've replaced the web browser, keyboard, camera app, and music player app with third-party options because the stock ones didn't give a good user experience. Most casual users won't ever seek out a different camera app, web browser, or keyboard. Most people don't even know that you can replace keyboards on a phone to improve predictive typing or replace a camera app to improve autofocus performance. So with the Galaxy S III, a casual user might conclude that "the phone" has a blurry camera and poor word prediction for typing, when in fact it's just bad default apps. Say what you will about Apple, but their default apps tend to be VERY well set up, which plays in nicely for people who "don't want to worry about the tech stuff and just want to use the phone." WP isn't quite as good on that front, but still a lot better than the GS3 in my experience.

    Also, the settings menu is INSANE for casual users. It's a ridiculous maze. Part of it is that it just offers a lot more choices than iOS or WP, but part of it also is that it's not organized or labeled in a way that makes sense to me at all.

    EDIT: One more thing that makes Android less casual-user-friendly than iOS or WP. The lack of uniformity in apps. Apple and Microsoft each require a certain layout for apps. If you know your way around one iOS app, you know your way around every iOS app. If you know your way around one WP app, you know your way around them all. But every single Android app is laid out completely differently. "How do you access in-app settings" is completely different for every single app it seems. For an experienced user that's no big deal at all. Seems like a real nit-pick. But for casual or novice users, I think it definitely makes the phone as a whole harder to use.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2013
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  7. weegie

    weegie Mobile Deity

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    Pretty good review for an android OEM considering you didn't particularly want to use android at all.
    Will be interesting to see if it grows on you more over time.

    Maybe you got a camera module that shouldn't have made it through QC, I think my iPhone 4s was like that, I couldn't get it to focus worth a darn, yet everybody else raved about it and posted some pretty nice looking pictures compared to what mine was taking.I haven't read much in the way of complaints about the GS3 camera either
     
  8. Mitlov

    Mitlov Shiny

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    Yeah, the two real concession prizes have been (1) SwiftKey Flow, the best typing experience I've ever had on a phone, and (2) getting Final Fantasy III on my phone, a great time-waster and not one of the FFs I've played before.

    I don't think it's a hardware problem; otherwise switching to a different app wouldn't solve the problem. Also, a friend of mine in NYC just got a brand new GS3 with the same issue. Finally, googling suggested that this is a new problem when you upgrade a GS3 to Jelly Bean; it didn't exist with ICS and so none of the professional reviews of the GS3 picked up on it. Something about Samsung's camera app doesn't play nice with JB.
     
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  9. jigwashere

    jigwashere Life is a circus!

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    Thanks for reminding me about SwiftKey Flow. I own it, but have been using swype for so long is almost forgotten about it. The new flow feature, awesome error correction, and predictive text are amazing. I also like that I can easily switch to a Spanish keyboard.

    Sent from my SPH-D710 using Tapatalk 2
     
  10. Mitlov

    Mitlov Shiny

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    Here goes:

    Swiftkey Flow: The preinstalled Swipe typing was a revelation when I tried it. Tracing the shape of each word was dramatically faster than hammering out words with either one index finger or two thumbs. It was like cursive...on a keyboard. Problem was, the word recognition with Swype was godawful. With long words it was fine, but give it a three-letter word and it would almost never get it right. So I tried Swiftkey, and not only was the layout of the keyboard better (the punctuation system is far more sensible), but it nearly always gets the words right.

    ProCapture: One of the things I was excited about with a flagship-class smartphone was the camera, since I take a lot of pictures of my kids. Thing is, the autofocus was all wonky on the stock camera. So I started downloading lots of camera apps. The two I really took a liking to were CameraZoom FX and ProCapture. Both took far better pictures than stock, with good autofocus. CameraZoom was obnoxious at first with asking me to approve every picture before dropping it into a special directory, but it could be reset so that it just dropped pictures into the normal camera directory without preapproval. I really liked its viewfinder, which showed the horizon and glowed red if your hand was shaking. However, the consistently best pictures were taken by ProCapture. It needs a half-second to autofocus if you don't do it beforehand, but the clarity is fantastic and the settings (such as for various lighting conditions) are easy to access. Mainly, it's EASY to use. I can hand it to a complete stranger (as in "hey, can you take a picture of us?") and the picture will turn out well without me spending two minutes coaching them on how to use the app.

    N7 Player: Initially when I signed up, I resigned myself to not having on-demand music (Zune Pass). So I started ripping my CD collection and putting some on. Both the Samsung and the Google Play players disappointed. They didn't have very easy-to-browse setups, and most importantly, they couldn't download album art. Google Play put the same image for every album, and Samsung's player put a different (but equally tacky) randomly-created image for each album. So I tried N7 Player. It's fantastic. It starts out with all your artists names arranged in a word-cloud sort of thing, with names being bigger the more albums you have from them. As you zoom in (pinch to zoom), you see the album covers for each artist replace the artist's name. And yes, it auto-downloads album art without any problem. It does seem to have an odd tendency of stopping after each song until you press the "on" button on the phone, but I think that can be remedied in settings, though I haven't figured it out yet.

    Spotify: Regardless of N7 player, I really wanted to get on-demand music back, so I switched to Spotify. Compared to Zune Pass, the interface is a catastrophe (it's okay on the phone and godawful on the PC, whereas Zune was excellent on both and its successor Xbox Music was okay on both). However, the service is otherwise comparable. It's nice to be able to download, for example, the latest Mumford & Sons album even though I don't own it, listen to it for a couple months, then move on. If Xbox Music ever comes to Android (this has been promised for "sometime" but no firm release date, and a Microsoft product with no firm release date is probably over the horizon), I'll definitely switch back to Xbox Music for the better-laid-out store and better-laid-out interface, but Spotify is an acceptable stop-gap until then.

    Alarm Clock Xtreme: I hate how people spell "extreme" with no beginning "e." To paraphrase Shepard Book from Firefly, people who spell the word that way burn in a very special level of hell, a level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the theater. That said, this is a fantastic alarm clock app. You can set any music on your phone to be the alarm, you can have it fade in instead of just starting to blare, and you can make it give you math problems (you can assign the difficulty level) that you need to solve before you can activate snooze. For deep sleepers like me who have mastered the ability to turn off an alarm in our sleep, this is great.

    Tapatalk: I can check Brighthand and NotebookReview on the go. This is the first setup I've seen that actually makes it easy to use a forum from a phone.
     
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