Samsung has finally pulled the covers back on its newest flagship phone, the Galaxy S3, ending months of wild speculation and rumour mongering. It offers numerous improvements over its predecessor, the Galaxy S2, but how does it fare against the other leaders of the phone pack?
We pit our first impressions against Apple's iPhone 4S and HTC's One X. We'll update this article with more information as we spend more time with the new phone so I suggest bookmarking this page and checking back soon.
The S3 didn't bring us the flexible screen or ceramic casing that we'd hoped for, but its design is attractive nonetheless. It's a big, glossy beast with a shape similar to that which we've seen on the Galaxy Nexus, sporting an attractive curved back. The physical home button is still in place, flying in the face of rumours that it would be taken out. It's slim and lightweight -- good news for your pockets.
The iPhone 4S's design didn't change at all from the original iPhone 4, causing a wave of disappointment among the tech-loving crowd -- ourselves included. The glass front and back does look pretty good still, but at 9mm thick, it's chubbier than the others. In the face of the bigger and thinner phones coming out recently, the 4S is starting to look a little dated.
The HTC One X, like the S3, is on the massive side, packing an enormous display into its rounded shell. The body is made from plastic, which feels firm but can be a little on the slippery side. It's got a very similar style to a lot of HTC phones -- it doesn't exactly parade fashion flair, but if you like a smart look then it might be the one for you.
Winner: The Galaxy S3's glossy, curved body and stylish looks edge it over the HTC One X. The old design of the iPhone 4S didn't really stand a chance.
The S3 comes with a whopping 4.8-inch screen. That doesn't blur the line between phone and tablet as its cousin the Galaxy Note does, but it's a big step-up from the 4.3 inches found on its predecessor. It's using a Super AMOLED screen, rather than the AMOLED Plus display that the S2 uses. That means it might be less vivid, but we didn't particularly notice much difference.
The iPhone 4S uses the same screen as the 4, which is fine, as the retina display is stunning. Text is pin-sharp and colours are handled well. The downside is that it's only 3.5 inches, which in this world of high-definition video and lavish apps and games just isn't enough.
The One X is more similar to the S3, with a screen only slightly smaller at 4.7 inches. In our testing we found it to be bright, colourful but with lacklustre viewing angles and production issues that caused a few problems for us.
Winner: The Galaxy S2 set the stage for excellent colour and vibrancy and the S3 takes that and adds extra real estate. The HTC One X's screen is excellent, but production issues make it miss the top spot.
Powering the Galaxy S3 is a quad-core Exynos chip running at 1.4GHz, backed up by 1GB of RAM. We expected the quad-core but we did have our hopes set on a higher clock speed than 1.4GHz. That's still monstrously powerful, but other phones offer more juice. We'd also hoped to see the first phone with 2GB of RAM, which would have made it a superb multi-tasker. But it looks like we'll have to wait for the S4 for that.
The iPhone 4S offers a considerably less burly set of specs, with only a dual-core 1GHz chip with around 512MB of RAM. Still, it manages to use what it has extremely well, providing a significant speed increase over its predecessor. It's able to chew through most apps quickly and easily. Some of the more intensive video processing apps can be sluggish though, so it might be time for Apple to throw in that long-awaited quad-core chip.
The HTC One X is showing off the big guns with its quad-core chip clocked at a more impressive 1.5GHz. Of course, you'll probably never notice the difference between 1.4GHz and 1.5GHz, but it's nice to see the bigger number. The One X also packs in 1GB of RAM.
Winner: The HTC One X offers a slightly nippier processor than the Galaxy S3. On paper, at least, it comes out on top. We'll have to wait for the full review to see which phone uses that power best.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 offers the same 8 megapixels as the Galaxy S2, rather than upping the stakes to 12 megapixels as we'd hoped. We haven't been able to give it a full test yet so we're not sure whether it offers any improvements over its predecessor in image quality. It does have a few tricks up its sleeve in that it can take up to 20 photos in a quick burst -- handy for capturing those action moments.
The iPhone 4S's camera is also 8 megapixels and is one of our favourite snappers on a phone so far, beating new models like the Sony Xperia S and the HTC One X. With its HDR feature and built-in editing tools, the iPhone 4S is a firm favourite among mobile shutterbugs.
The HTC One X also uses an 8-megapixel sensor, but it offers a wide f2.0 aperture and a backside-illuminated sensor to improve picture quality in low light. In terms of straight image quality, we preferred the shots taken from the iPhone 4S, but the One X offers various tweaking tools that might appeal to the casual snapper.
Winner: iPhone 4S. The rich, even tone provided by the 4S puts it slightly ahead of the One X. We haven't been able to properly test the S3's camera but on paper at least, It isn't offering any major improvements over the S2. We'll have to wait and see what it's capable of in the full review.
The S3 brings with it the latest outing of Samsung's TouchWiz software, which is the skin it has applied over the standard-issue Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. In our brief hands-on, we found the software to be pleasant to use, although not quite as simple and attractive as HTC's Sense 4.0 found on the One X.
It does, however, have a few extras. S Voice is the name given to the voice-assistant software that aims to serve a similar function to the iPhone 4S's Siri. We haven't had a proper chance to use it yet, but we're hoping it does a better job of searching for UK businesses. Direct Call lets you instantly call the contact on your screen just by putting the phone to your face. Finally, Smart Stay is the eye-tracking function we reported that doesn't let the screen lock while you're still looking at it.
As an Apple device, the iPhone 4S uses iOS 5, which is known for being particularly user-friendly and straightforward. It's exactly this simple functionality that's allowed the iPhone to become so popular among people who aren't hardcore tech addicts. However, the simple life doesn't appeal to everyone, which is precisely why the more technical, customisable Android has flourished.
The HTC One X's Sense 4.0 interface aims to make Android more accessible by being easy to understand and simple to operate. In our time with the device, we found that it had done a good job at achieving those targets, offering some pleasing tweaks to the stock Android experience that could shave valuable seconds off your phone-using time.
Winner: Without having had at least a few hours to play around with the S3, it's difficult to know just how helpful its extra software features will be. We're keen to see how the new TouchWiz compares to Sense 4.0, but we're still big fans of iOS's simplicity -- and of course, trying to date Siri. This final round is a draw for now.
Based on our brief first impressions, the Galaxy S3's large, bright screen and attractive new design put it above the HTC One X and the rather stale iPhone 4S. Its powerful components should hopefully make it a very swift device. We've not had enough time with the new phone to make any firm conclusions about its camera and software tweaks, but we've got high hopes for good performances all round.