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Samsung Galaxy S3


The smartphone arena just got smaller. Its a two-party system. On one side, Apple and its iconic iPhone -- a shiny testament to Ayn Rand-style ideas. On the other, Samsung, forged in South Koreas bureaucratic "chaebol" mega-conglomerate system, leading a smattering of Android misfits. The fight started in the stores, but now extends to the courtrooms, as lawsuits fly over copied designs and patent infringements.

But Apples a veteran. Back in the 80s, it fought and ceded the PC to Microsoft. Its mantra at the time: "Think Different." And as the underdog, it had to. But now, Apples on top -- and Android, with Samsung, is looking to topple the king. Call it a pre-emptive strike -- a Davidian rock-throw, if you will. When the S3 hits stores, itll have a month-long lead before the iPhone 5 arrives. Thats no coincidence Samsung designed and marketed solely to take down the iPhone. And the S3 is locked and loaded with features, and ready for war.

First off, its huge. You need a big body to fit a 4.8-inch screen. It borders on the comically-wide, but surprisingly light at just under five ounces, due to an ultra-thin 0.3-inch profile -- its just a hair slimmer than the iPhone, of course -- and glossy plastic material, which feels cheap. Nothing stands out about the round design, except for the menu button. Other touch devices leave that out, and Id wished Samsung did as well. Out of the Android flock, the One X is the sexier, but the S3 has a microSD slot.

Apple has Retina display, but Samsung has more pixels -- 50 percent more to be exact. Its also nearly as sharp -- at 306-ppi rather than 326-ppi, and equally vibrant with deep blacks and bold colors. As the linchpin that ties multimedia together, its an exceptional canvas to "Breaking Bad" on -- I saw every furrow in Walter Whites forehead. If I had to nitpick, placing it next to the iPhone, I did notice the S3 has an every-so-slight tint of blue. Up-close text also looks a bit fuzzier around sharp edges. At normal distances, though, you cant tell the difference.

The 8-megapixel camera takes vibrant photos, but theyre not as crisp as ones youd get from the iPhone and X. You can tweak them with manual controls for brightness, white balance and color effects, among the usual suite of tools. If you like action, the speedy shutter can fired off six shots in a second. There are even apps for face detection, up-close macro shots and scenic panoramas. You can also record 1080p video or chat face-to-face using the front-facing 2-megapixel lens.

Samsung runs on ICS, and its smooth and intuitive despite Samsungs TouchWiz interface. It tweaks the layout, adding a blue water background to match the nature motif. But generally, its akin to adding salami on an ice cream cone: totally unnecessary and slightly disappointing. It looks nothing like stock Android, which is cleaner, faster and updated sooner, but my only gripe is my hard time creating folders. TouchWiz, though, is more tolerable than on past models.

Apple has Siri, Samsung has S Voice. Not only can give orders to call contacts, launch apps and take notes, but you can also say "wake up" to turn on the screen or "snooze" to shut off the alarm. Play and change songs, change the volume and snap photos all with your voice. It also responds to gestures, so if youre texting, and you bring the phone up to your face, itll call that contact. Voice is a big upgrade, but it falls short of Siri in function and snarky replies.

With Wi-Fi Direct and S Beam, meanwhile, you can send photos, music and files with the bump of the phones. Say you want to share a map to that off-the-beaten-track Korean barbecue? Just bump phones. Want to give your sister the webpage to that hilarious sloth video? Dont waste your time, it wasnt that funny.

The S3 runs without a hitch thanks to a 1.5-gigahertz dual-core chip. Big screens sap the juice from batteries, but S3s 2,100 mAh pack lasts over a day with moderate use. Thats outstanding. With heavy use, and 4G LTE left on, I clocked in at around nine hours. If you want to prolong the life, turn down the brightness and turn off data -- those are the big hogs.

- The back of the phone shows finger prints pretty fierce. (Nothing a nice case wont fix!)

First off, the display is ridiculous -- its as good as a tablets screen. Watching videos is comfortable, and it easily fits in the palm of my hand or in a pocket, so I can take the entertainment with me anywhere I go.

The Galaxy S3 comes with a few free MP3s, videos and apps -- and theyre not bad -- but you can download more from Android Marketplace. You basically have complete control over ICS and can customize it to your hearts desire.

The other reviewers are dead on about S Voice. It sucks. Not only does it not understand commands you throw at it, but Samsungs servers, which process the commands, are sluggish. Siri definitely has nothing to worry about.

Overall, the Galaxy S3 is an amalgamation of cutting-edge technology. Its really better than anything else out there right now.