This is not just another review of the Samsung Galaxy S III, as there are plenty of reviews on the Internet. Rather, it is journal of my experience with the hottest selling smartphone in Costa Rica. The journey began with evaluating carrier pricing, data packages, and coverage of the mobile network operators in Costa Rica. While I prefer prepago, the data speeds that I wanted were only available on postpago contracts. This led to the evaluation of postpago contracts. Postpago means having the same phone for the next two years, and I only wanted an Android phone. I debated between the Motorola RAZR, Samsung Galaxy Note, and Samsung Galaxy S III, before I decided on the Samsung Galaxy S III. After talking to both Movistar and Claro, I went with Claro. The Claro sales representative actually took the time to work out a plan that met my phone usage and data needs. Obtaining the phone is the beginning of the story.
I wanted to immediately start loading the Android apps that I use everyday on my Android tablet. Instead of rushing ahead, I decided to learn the features of the phone, configure the phone to my personal tastes, secure the phone, test the apps provided on the phone, and configure the Home pages to my preferences. These tasks alone consumed three days, and I am still learning new tricks.
The initial configuration starts at the store, when they insert the SIM chip and power on the phone. My sales representative did the initial steps, and then handed me the phone, when the initialization script reached the account setup phase. I needed to create a Samsung account, login into my Google account for Google Play: and log into my Dropbox account. Currently, Samsung offers 50 Gigabytes of free storage on Dropbox, which was added to my Dropbox account. Once I survived these steps, the phone was running with the default configuration.
After getting the phone, I stopped by an accessories store, and purchased a protective case, a neck strap, and a 32 Gigabyte microSD card. The Corning Gorilla Glass 2 screen on the Galaxy S III is tough, but there is no point in tempting fate. The protective case will help absorb any shock from accidentally dropping the phone. The neck strap not only keeps the phone from accidental drop damage, but also makes it more difficult for anyone to snatch the phone from your pocket. With 16 GB of internal storage, why get a 32 GB of external storage? To backup internal storage, you need enough external storage to backup the entire internal storage. In addition, I prefer to have all photos, videos, and music saved on external storage, and save the internal storage for apps.
The tiny manual, that comes in the box, is nothing more than a quick start guide, in Spanish. If you know Spanish, there is a Widget for the complete guide. I downloaded the Samsung Galaxy S III User Guide on my netbook, and saved it in my Dropbox folder. I am now able to read the user guide on my netbook, while configuring my phone. Since it in my Dropbox folder, I can also access the user guide on my phone. While I don’t like reading manuals, they are vital to understanding how to configure the phone. The User Guide is really just a cookbook, and lacks detailed descriptions of the options. In most cases, I found more information on the phone when I invoked the option.
The following points reflect my discoveries in configuring the phone:
- To avoid any issues, I installed the microSD card before proceeding with further configuration. I wanted the phone to give me any options as to where I want my information stored. For example, the camera application asked where I wanted to store my photos and videos.
- I discovered that most of the motion control features where disabled. When I enabled a motion, the phone presented a screen that including a tutorial. The tutorial option includes the ability to try out the motion. These tutorials were well worth the effort. While I liked “Tap to top,” the protective case reduces the sensitivity to the point that it is almost useless.
- The Portal Movi icon invokes the Android Robot browser. The initial start page lists Claro sites in Central America. After using it several times, this page disappeared.
- There are numerous Claro icons on the Home screens. The Ideas icon displays a list of the services offered by each icon. I removed all icons from the Home page screens for all services that I have no intention of using. I have more than enough email accounts, so I removed iClaro. With a smartphone, there are better solutions to connecting to you social media accounts, so the Plugger icon hit the trash. Removing icons from the Home page screens does not delete the application, as they are still accessible from the application menu.
- When moving icons to another screen, the “Pan to movie icon” motion comes in real handy. It took only a few minutes to organize the screens to my preferences.
- I also removed the Network info widget and the iClaro widget. The Network info widget only showed that I was connected to Claro, and I did not want an iClaro email account.
- The More Services app provides additional apps from the Samsung store, including Flipboard. Accept for Flipboard, these are Samsung customized apps. After installing the Flipboard app, I connected to my Flipboard account. The Flipboard configuration on the Galaxy S III now matches the configuration on my Android tablet.
- When Google Play installs an Android app, it also installs all the app’s icons and widgets on the Home page. To avoid turning the Home page into a cluttered mess, I disabled this option in the Google Play settings. I want to choose what, if any, screen on which I want to install the app’s icon, and I rarely install widgets.
- While 4 Mbps is a fast 3G data connection for Costa Rica, it is still much slower than my 2 Gbps cable connection. Connecting to the Wi-Fi access point was easy. I did discover one anomaly. If I switched off Wi-Fi access on the phone, the phone did not automatically reconnect to 3G. I had to reboot the phone, to get a 3G connection. However, if I went out of range of the Wi-Fi signal, it automatically switched to 3G.
- Claro does support HSPA+. When the data connection is not active, the phone displays that there is a 3G connection. Once I started a download or upload, it displayed H+, which is the symbol for HSPA+. The phone is accurate, as it is not a 4G connection, which implies LTE and not HSPA+.
- The camera is awesome. I discovered that it is easier to learn how to use the camera in subdued light, rather than bright sunlight. The only problem is that the Camera icon only appears in the application menu. At first, I just created an icon on the default screen for the Home page. I really wanted the Camera icon to be available on every page. The application launcher bar is full, so I moved the Portal Movil icon to the default Home screen, and then moved the Camera icon to the application launcher bar. One of the great features of Ice Cream Sandwich is that moving icons is a trivial task, just touch and hold until the screen changes and then move the icon to where you want it.
- With the 50 GB of storage provided by Dropbox, sharing photos to my tablet and netbook is easy, as the default setting for Dropbox is to upload all photos and videos. The downside is that deleting a photo from the Gallery on my phone does not delete it from Dropbox. With the multi-shot options for the camera, this could consume a lot of space on Dropbox. I would rather see a sync option than a straight upload option. The 50 GB promotion is only for one year, and then I have to pay for the additional space.
- While adding contacts, I learned a few interesting tidbits. I automatically synchronized my contacts with my Google account and my Facebook account. The Contact application automatically links individuals that are on both lists. When I added a new contact, the default is to create a SIM card contact, which only adds the phone number. Furthermore, I could not link a SIM contact with either a Google or Facebook contact. I discovered that the secret is to create a Samsung account contact, which automatically displays other contacts to which I could link. In addition, the Samsung account contact form allows entering a lot more fields, such as email address, and it is automatically synced with my Samsung account. This is a major bonus, as there is no way to backup a SIM card contact.
- S Voice works! Voice search works! I am addicted!! I had to change the language from Spanish to English (US), but that was just about it. Rather than searching for an app, I just say “open Facebook, or “open Camera.” It just takes two presses of the home key, and then I tell S Voice what I want to do. As for Google Search, I just press the microphone icon and speak the search phrase. I have found it to be easy, fast, and accurate. I am still exploring all the ways that I can use S Voice.
The Samsung Galaxy S III is everything that I expected, and more. It makes my Android tablet and netbook computer seem slow. My first big test of its speed was to watch the landing of Curiosity on Mars. I downloaded the NASA app and the Adobe Flash Player app. After the apps were installed, I watched NASA TV for four hours without any delays, or synchronization problems between video and voice. After four hours of continuous streaming, the battery charge dropped by about 40%. It does not take long to understand why the Samsung Galaxy S III is breaking sales records. No other phone comes even close to its speed and power.