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 ANDROID NEWS

Galaxy S III vs iPhone 4S vs HTC One X

The new 3-way fight for the smartphone crown

Product: Samsung Galaxy S III | Manufacturer: Samsung
 
Samsung Galaxy S III Android, thumbnail 1
So, after months of outlandish rumours and leaked specs, the latest flagship mobile from Samsung was revealed to a crowd of well over a thousand journalists and partners last night in London.

Pocket Gamer was there, touching and fondling the new Android Ice Cream Sandwich phone (and you can read our in-depth hands-on preview of the Galaxy S III by following the cleverly hidden hyperlink).

But, the big question on every smartphone enthusiasts' lips this afternoon is: which phone is best - the Galaxy S III, the iPhone 4S, or the HTC One X?

There's only one way to find out... Fight!

Or alternatively, we can compare specs and use our hands-on experience with each phone to carefully weigh up the pros and cons of each device.

Design

Let's face it: while you can quote a spec sheet until you're blue in the face, a lot of our purchasing decisions in the end boil down to how nice the device in question looks and feels in the hand.

Oddly, while the new Galaxy S III is certainly curvy and large enough to justify it sitting on the 'premium' smartphone shelf, it doesn't have the same metallic, expensive feel as the iPhone 4S (and, by extension, the iPhone 4).

HTC's offering, meanwhile, could be confused for quite a few earlier models from HTC if it wasn't for the screen being larger than its closest brother in arms, the One S.

For my money, the iPhone 4S is still the most aesthetically and ergonomically pleasing of the three, but carrying it around does mean being constantly asked if you're using a 4S or a 4 all the damn time.



Power

We knew the Galaxy S III would be fast, but initial benchmark results taken at the event surprised many with its sheer pace.

The new Exynos chip nestled inside the Galaxy S III racked up some seriously intimidating numbers on the Android benchmark software Quadrant Advanced, putting the processor well above that of the Nvidia Tegra 3 found in the HTC One X, and likely running the iPhone 4S's relatively modest dual-core A5X to the ground in the process.

There are a few caveats, of course, not least that we haven't been able to compare the Exynos chip directly to the Apple processor just yet. The biggest, though, is that while the Galaxy S III destroys the HTC One X in benchmarks, there's not going to be as many opportunities to demonstrate this in a real-world sense.

Whereas the HTC One X has access to Nvidia's dedicated Tegra Zone portal, complete with graphically rich console ports and Android exclusives, and the iPhone 4S has the App Store, the Galaxy S III will have to rely on Google Play (and, if you're in the US, the Amazon Appstore) for its high-end gaming.

That inevitably means loads of iPhone ports on the Galaxy S III, most of which won't truly test the graphical prowess of the device. To draw a boxing analogy, Sammy's latest blower will unfortunately represent a prizefighter who can only resort to slapping his opponent in the ring.

Camera

On the flipside, the Galaxy S III's extra power does mean that its camera - always a strong point in previous Samsung Galaxy phones - is now faster and more feature packed than ever.

A shutter time of 990ms may not be DSLR standard, but it's very impressive for a phone. It also carries the kind of software you'd expect to find on a high-end digital compact, like face recognition and burst shots, as well as nifty sharing features Samsung has bolted onto the side.

Its 8-megapixel resolution puts it in the same tier as both its main rivals, but, as every keen photographer knows, the megapixel count means very little when it comes to the quality of the shots. The additional software features on the Galaxy S III's camera, however, mark it out as a slightly better choice for me over the HTC One X - especially if you use your phone as your primary camera.

Can it beat the 4S's impressive light sensor and the editing power made possible with the paid-for iPhoto app, however? Sadly, we're going to need a bit more hands-on time with the Android device to find out, but it's certainly not going to be an easy one to call.

The lack of a dedicated camera button on the Galaxy S III, mind, is an omission that rankles with this writer and his fat fingers.

Display

I can imagine that a few around the room were a little disappointed to find that this latest Galaxy handset has a 720p resolution on its large 4.8-inch display, but given the demands on the battery that would have resulted from trying to better Apple's "Retina display", it's not too big a surprise.

The Galaxy S III's Super AMOLED HD screen still looks great (in the darkness that was the exhibition room, admittedly), with bright colours and sharp contrasts very much in evidence. It's also 0.1 inches bigger than the HTC One X, which pretty much everyone I spoke to agreed was a very deliberate move to get one-up on its closest Android rival.

Is that 4.8-inch screen too big, though? Not quite. Indeed, the slimness of the device goes some way to compensating for what could have been quite the pocket destroyer. What I'm trying to say is that it's not another Galaxy Note.

Given just how dinky the iPhone screen is now in comparison, I'd be inclined to hand this category to the Galaxy S III, Retina display-besting ppi or not. (It doesn't, by the way. Not quite.)



Software

Samsung made a big deal about how much extra software the Galaxy S III has and supports during the launch event, and this is definitely going to be one area in which the HTC One X can't really compete. With that in mind, we'll just be focusing on how Samsung's smartphone stacks up against the iPhone 4S in this category.

Dismissing "S Voice" for a second, which is as close to a clone of Siri as you can get without incurring the wrath of Apple's lawyers, the Galaxy S III comes with S Health (plenty of health apps on the respective markets already) and lots of rather nifty features, such as the ability to sense when a person is viewing the screen (thus preventing it from falling 'asleep').

We tried out the latter feature on the stand, but either it was too dark or our faces too ugly, because the screen definitely dimmed when we turned it away and the brightness didn't increase when we turned it back (without a swift tap, anyway). Not overly successful, then.

One aspect that I can very easily see Apple 'borrowing' sharpish is the "Direct Call" feature, which enables you to call someone you're texting by simply lifting the phone to your ear. It's that kind of "what would people actually want to do?" thinking that Apple employed when designing its pinch-to-zoom functionality and other iOS features back in the day, and it ranks high on my list.

Finally, the Galaxy S III benefits from running the very latest version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich (albeit with hardware buttons and not virtual ones found on tablets). This already-good mobile OS has been augmented with what Samsung calls "Pop Up Play" - this lets you keep videos open while running other applications, e.g. the email client.

Yes, yes, it sounds like Windows on your PC, but seeing as Apple's multitasking abilities still only stretch to showing the icons in a tray, the Galaxy S III really puts some distance between itself and the iPhone in this regard.

Peripherals

Here's a topic I didn't think we'd be talking about quite so much going into the launch event yesterday - peripherals.

Samsung appears to be swinging firmly at Apple in this respect, coming out with not just an AirPlay alternative (a wireless dongle that allows for streaming to TVs), but also (sort of) aiming at the iPod nano with its "S Pebble" accessory, and shooting for the future with its wireless charging mat (that's supposedly faster and better than the current generation - we'll test that in our review)

The S Pebble is an interesting one, for it acts as a non-independent MP3 player to your Galaxy S III that lets you pop on a few music tracks (4GB's worth, to be fair) for playing on the go. A good one, possibly, for you runners out there that can't stand listening to your own breath.

If you're a big fan of adding bits and bobs onto your smartphone, the Galaxy S III is the clear winner here.



Battery life

Samsung is claiming that the Galaxy S III's battery life improves on the Galaxy S II's, which puts it firmly in standard smartphone talk time territory.

On paper, however, the Galaxy S III's 2100 mAh battery is larger than the one in both of its nearest rivals (much better than the iPhone's piddly 1432 mAh effort), and a quad-core phone could well outlast a dual-core, especially if it can step down clock speed intelligently between cores.

This is, as you might recall, one of the big selling points Nvidia has made about its quad (actually five)-core Tegra 3 chip, and HTC's official figures put its phone ever so slightly ahead of the iPhone 4S.

Again, this category really needs a good month of testing with each phone to ascertain exactly which manufacturer is telling the less exaggerated fibs (they never, ever last as long as the makers say on the spec sheet).

So far, Samsung hasn't revealed any (inaccurate in real-world usage) talk time figures, though, so I'd call this round a tie between the Galaxy S III and the HTC One X.

Conclusion

As you might expect, there's no easy way to pick a winner from the three phones just yet, despite our having tested them all in either controlled or real-world situations.

Despite that, it's certainly the case that the Galaxy S III stands up very well against its two nearest rivals on the market. With some competitive monthly plans already being offered (in the UK, at least), it's difficult to bet against this latest Galaxy selling impressively in the months to come.

However, it's not exactly leagues ahead of its two nearest competitors, and no matter which of the three you choose, you're going to be getting one of the best smartphones around.
 

Reviewer photo
Will Wilson 4 May 2012
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