So I’ve finally decided to upgrade my iPhone 3GS and one of the toughest decisions I had to make obviously was do I stick with Apple or do I go to Android? I have also looked deeply into the Nokia Lumia 920 with the Windows Phone 8 OS but came away disappointed after reading about it since its release. After some deliberation, I’ve came to the conclusion that there just wasn’t anything new or exciting about the iPhone 5 that made me want to stick with Apple’s ecosystem and when compared to the Samsung Galaxy S3, it kind of became a no-brainer to me. The Galaxy S3 is just an incredible phone and trust me when I say that I’ve watched numerous video reviews on Youtube and other tech sites that this phone is hot. As always, I’m a bit late to the party and the Samsung Galaxy S4 is just around the corner at the time of this writing but I couldn’t be happier with my purchase. In fact, I like the phone so much that I pushed my sister to get one as well. She’s in love with it! Here in this article, I’ll be going over some of the things I personally like most about my Galaxy S3 and of course, some of the things I don’t.
In no particular order, these are some of my most beloved features of the Galaxy S3:
Screen Size and Phone Quality
Coming off of the 3.5 inch screen of the iPhone 3GS to the 4.8 inch screen of the Galaxy S3, I was just blown away. A lot of users no doubt will bark at the need for a smartphone to be that big in screen size but I’m telling you right now that once you’ve used a smartphone of this size, using anything smaller will feel like an insult. The iPhone 5 comes with a 4 inch screen which makes things a bit better but I personally feel 4.5 inch is the right size for me. While the phone is definitely usable with one hand, there are some things that require me to shuffle the phone around in order for my thumb to reach the far corner of the screen. However, this is not a deal breaker for me personally and I’ve grown accustomed to it. However, I’m not sure how I feel about anything bigger than 4.8 inches. The rumor mill has it that the S4 will be about 5 inches. Pretty soon, our smartphones will be the size of mini tablets and in fact, the Galaxy Note series actually blurs that line between a tablet and smartphone.
A lot of users don’t like the cheap quality build of the Galaxy S3 but when I first held the phone in my hand, it was a non-issue. The phone is incredibly thin and it actually has a nice feel and weight to it. Not as light as the iPhone 5 but not as heavy as the Nokia Lumia 920. In fact, the Galaxy S3 weighs about the same as my old iPhone 3GS! I loved the weight of that phone and I think it strikes me as the perfect balance for a smartphone.
Let’s not beat around the bush. Enabling this option allows a user to install .apk files directly on their phone. This means a user can illegally download apk’s for their favorite apps (which usually requires a fee to legally obtain) on the Internet and sideload it onto their phone. Personally, I use this option because I have purchased some apps from the Amazon App Store. One of my most important app purchases is ezPDF reader. Why should I have to pay twice to use the same app on both my Kindle Fire and Android phone? By sideloading the Amazon App Store apk (which is perfectly legal), I can now re-download all of my previous app purchases right onto my Galaxy S3. In the future, if I find Amazon has an app for a cheaper price than what I find in the Google Play store, I can purchase it from Amazon and then install it on my S3.
Removable Battery and External Storage
A lot of users love a phone with a removable battery. Well, I’m not one of them. To be more exact, I don’t care too much for it but I do agree that it’s a great option. I rarely owned a phone where the battery failed after a period of ownership. Maybe I’m just lucky. But I can see this as a great feature for users who travel or are on the road a lot. By purchasing an external battery pack and keeping it fully charged, they can be sure that they will have doubled their battery life, literally. This is awesome because no longer do users have to purchase a battery phone case such as those for the iPhone. Many of them add bulk and weight to the overall phone.
The external storage with the microSD card is what I’m most happy about. The ability to instantly cram an extra 64GB of local storage into your phone is a godsend considering the amount of media we have nowadays. I can store my entire music collection onto the card and not have to worry about running out of storage on the phone itself. Those storage spaces can be used mainly for apps as some don’t allow you to install directly onto a microSD card. I was always saddened that the iPhone never gave users the ability for external storage and I’m sure that it will never happen. Cloud storage is a big thing but not all users want to store their data in the cloud nor do they have an unlimited data plan to stream those content back down onto their phone!
No doubt, you’ve heard at some point or another that if you want more options to customize your phone, Android is the way to go and they aren’t kidding. My phone isn’t even rooted and yet the things I am able to do is still astonishing. Everything from the UI down to controlling the very phone itself such as creating profiles and automating it to do things in certain situations is unbelievable. For example, I can have the phone automatically disable my 4G connection while at home and turning it back on while I’m away which in turn disables my Wi-Fi. I’m not even going to talk about custom ROMs because that in itself is a whole different level of customization!
Widgets aren’t for everyone but they do serve a purpose and that is to easily allow a user to access information from within an app but on thier homescreen/lockscreen instead. Widgets actually play a big part in Andriod customizations. Rather than looking at the same ol’ app icons on your homescreen page after page, you can instead opt to place widgets for those apps instead. For example, a feed reder widget allows me to scroll through my RSS feeds right on my homescreen without actually entering the app itself. Other widgets allow you to control a function of the app. A perfect example is a media player widget where it allows you to quickly pause and resume an audio track without having to reenter the actual app each time.
Samsung Smart Stay
I love the Smart Stay function! In order to save battery, most users like myself set a low screen timeout setting. However, what happens when you are slowing reading a webpage for more than the timeout setting allows? Well, your screen gets turned off, obviously. With Smart Stay, Samsung brilliantly thought of the idea to use the front facing camera to detect whether your eyes are focused on the screen and if you are, it will not disable your screen! At first I thought it wouldn’t work but surprisingly, it works amazingly well. One of my hardcore iPhone loving friend was so jealous of this feature.
The camera on the Galaxy S3 is amazing but one of the best things I like about it is the amount of built-in options and settings you can play with. Sure, you can download other camera apps to do the same thing and maybe even do it better but I like stock options that gets the job done. I’m not a hardcore photographer but I do appreciate the many settings built into the default camera app on the S3. For example, I am a big fan of black and white photos. There are just some pictures that look so amazing with no colors in them (weird, but you gotta trust me on this one) and the Galaxy S3 allows me to take B/W photos natively without having to download any camera apps. Of course, the video recording is pretty top notch as well. 1080p videos are buttery smooth and vibrant in colors.
Notification LED Light
Google Offline Maps
Currently, this feature is only available on Android devices and not on IOS. This feature alone has already convinced a friend of mine to switch over to Android whenever the S4 will be released. This feature is a godsend for users who don’t have an unlimited data plan or for users who travel frequently. By being able to download an entire map or region area to your phone for offline browsing, you won’t have to worry about being lost anymore just because you can’t get a data connection. Of course, this feature does have limitations at the moment, one such being that you can’t use it for direction navigation, but I’m sure Google will be able to improve upon Offline Maps in future updates. Google Maps itself is also very superb. I have to admit that when it comes to directions, I am the most confused person out there. Heck I even can get lost in a mall! I was just not born to have a good sense of direction and that is why Google Maps has changed my life.
NFC and S-Beam
No doubt you’ve seen the Samsung commercial where two guys easily shared their playlist by tapping the back of their phones together. This is not a gimmicky feature and it indeed works. If you are in the same room as your friends and want to be able to share pictures and videos, it doesn’t make sense to have to upload that video to some online service, give the link to your friend only to have him/her download it back down onto their phone. Instead, why not just directly download the media onto the destination phone itself? This is what NFC and S-Beam does for you and once you’ve used it, you’ll never want to leave home without it if sharing media with your friends is a big thing. Sadly, the iPhone’s don’t incorporate an NFC chip and so this feature is not available. This makes it impossible for Android users such as myself to be able to share pictures with my iPhone loving friends. Of course, they are slowly realizing what they are missing out on and are debating whether to get the S4 in the future or not. Largely, this really depends on what Apple will bring to the table with the iPhone 5s/6. I was insanely disappointed that they didn’t include an NFC chip in the iPhone 5. They had a chance to do something incredible with it and once again change people’s lives but we’ll just have to wait.
In no particular order, these are some of the negative things I’ve experienced with the phone (not all is pretty you know):
Sound Quality Issues
One of the most irksome issue I found with my S3 is the low sound emitted from the output speakers. The weird thing is it depends on what I am viewing. Sometimes, I have to crank up the volume to the max just to hear the sound and there are even times where I have to use my hand to cuff around the speaker so that the sound is more audible and this is in a fairly quiet surrounding! For other media, the sound returns to normal and I have to lower the volume. I can’t recognize any pattern and so it’s a case by case basis. It really is frustrating. Using my earphones solves the issue. Some users have even reported that the low volume remains on everything that they do, including the ringer volume! Luckily that doesn’t happen to me but the issue nevertheless needs to be addressed.
More Options, More Problems
How can this be? Well, sometimes the more you tinker around the OS, the more chances there are for you of breaking something. With Apple’s IOS, you are severely limited in what you can actually do with the OS itself but the good news is that you will generally get a more stable and consistent user experience. Throughout my time with my iPhone, I rarely encountered any crashes or app issues and this was on a jailbroken phone! As of now, I have no idea what I did prior to this issue happening but I’m currently using the Amazon Cloud Player as my go-to music player app. It worked perfectly when I first got the phone but after a lot of customization later, I now have an issue where if I’m using my headphones, switching off the screen will force the sound to play from my speakers instead. I have to turn my phone back on, pause the music, resume and then lock my screen again. I have also encountered app crashes here and there but the issue is nowhere near as bad as others make it out to be. I guess this is the disadvantage of having a more open operating system. By allowing users more options and customizations, the more chances there are of something going wrong.
Lack of Notifications on Lock Screen
This is more of a preference issue. I loved how I could at a glance see notifications right on my iPhone lock screen. With the S3, you need to pull down the notification center in order to view your notifications. I believe if your phone has a security lock on it, then it is not possible to access the notification center at all from the lock screen. I have tried a couple of apps that seems to bring a similar notification experience as on the iPhone but decided to go for a different route instead. What I have done now is installed Widget Locker and from there, I simply created an icon on my lock screen to pull down the notification center. While swiping down from the top of the phone is not really a hard thing to do, I feel that a button is much more intuitive, especially if I will be doing it multiple times a day. Also, the LED notification lights help a lot in this regard as well since it alerts me whether I have important notifications awaiting my attention.
In the End…
I couldn’t be happier with my decision on switching over to the Android system. There are many other minor things that I love about this phone but I felt the one’s I’ve mentioned are the best and most useful for my use cases. As with both Android, Apple or Windows Phone, if a feature is missing or if the stock apps are inefficient, you can easily just download a third-party app to fill the role. At the moment, it seems as if both the Google Play and Apple Store are filled with the same apps that most users would ever need. Of course, there will be some apps that are can be found on one system and not on the other but for the most part, I didn’t really find anything missing (app wise) after the migration to Android. If a specific app couldn’t be found within Google Play, a quick search would most likely lead me to an alternative app to fill the same function/role.
It seems that as far as phone functionality goes, the Samsung Galaxy S3 beats the iPhone 5 hands down. From the amount of customizations and settings available to the user, one could question just how long is Apple going to wait until they bring similar features to their iPhone lineup. It seems that we are on the path of manufacturers releasing major smartphone devices every year now rather than every other. With the iPhone, it seems as if every new version looks and behaves the same but with obvious minor upgrades such as a faster CPU/GPU and upgraded camera. There is a reason why many users are starting to link the words “boring” and “iPhone” together. How long this will continue remains to be seen as undoubtedly a new iPhone version should be released within 2013. Personally, I can hardly wait until Samsung reveals the Galaxy S4. A lot of my friends seem to have already made the decision to switch over to Android. Apple really needs to step up their game. It’s obvious that millions of users will continue to purchase iPhone devices no matter what Apple does but technology oriented people are starting to question Apple’s decision making. It’s not like they don’t have the funds or brains to really design an iPhone to compete with the Galaxy lineup (hardware and feature wise).
Of course, writing about this topic can span many articles long so I’ll just leave it at that. I’m extremely happy with my Galaxy S3 but my eyes are still on Apple to see what they will bring to the table come later this year. Also, RIM is about to announce their new Blackberry device in two days time and we also have the Ubuntu phone and Firefox OS to play with as time goes by. As the saying goes, competition is always good for the consumers!