Apple, be afraid... be very afraid

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Copy of nt samsung-galaxy-1 (2) . The first thing you notice about the S3 is the jaw dropping brilliance of its enormous 4.8-inch Super Amoled screen.

“I'm going to destroy Android,” Steve Jobs told his biographer Walter Isaacson, referring to rival Google’s mobile operating system. “It’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”

I’ve just spent a few days with Samsung’s much hyped Galaxy S3, and I can see what the late Apple boss was so worried about. The Android powered S3 is superior to the iPhone 4S in almost every respect. Not surprising then that Samsung’s already sold more than 10 million of them.

The first thing you notice about the S3 is the jaw dropping brilliance of its enormous 4.8-inch Super Amoled screen. Pick up an iPhone after this and its 3.5-inch screen suddenly seems tiny. Some have complained that the screen’s simply too big, a common criticism of its 4.3-inch screened predecessor, the Galaxy S2.

It’s true that if you have medium sized hands like mine you can’t reach the top corners with your thumb when gripping the phone one handed, although its rather retro rounded corners allow you to get to a lot more of the screen than you’d think.

In practice this isn’t an issue. Whether you type with one thumb or two, every key of the touchscreen keyboard is always within easy reach. And thanks to the customisable layout of the screen you can place the icons for your most commonly used apps close to your thumb on the bottom half, with the bigger widgets containing weather, news and stock market information at the top.

Widgets? I hear you ask. No, you don’t get those on the iPhone. Google must have “stolen” that idea from somewhere else.

Browsing the web, watching movies and reading eBooks on a screen this generous is a real delight.

And it all happens with buttery smoothness, thanks to the combination of top notch software and hardware; it runs the penultimate version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich with Samsung’s latest TouchWiz overlay, while under the hood purrs a beefy quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM.

The 8-megapixel camera, while not quite as good as that on the 4S in low light boasts an arsenal of other features that give it the edge – zero shutter lag, software that automatically picks the best picture out of a series and the ability to take still pictures while shooting high definition video.

There’s also a 1.9-megapixel front facing camera for video calls which takes better quality footage than my first digital camcorder.

Big, bright screens are notorious power hogs, so I was pleasantly surprised by the S3’s battery life. With moderate use you’ll get a full day out of it, thanks to the huge 2 100mAh battery. If you play a lot of angry birds or are online for much of the day, pack a spare battery.

Yes, unlike the iPhone – or, for that matter, its closest Android rival, the otherwise superb HTC One X – you can remove and swap the battery, a huge plus in my books.

If there’s one respect in which the iPhone is still superior it’s build quality. The 4S is a thing of beauty, both to behold and to hold. The S3 by contrast, while sleekly attractive to look at is let down by a tackily flimsy plastic back, although to be fair you only really notice this when you remove it to access the battery or sim card – which by the way is a micro sim.

For those of you who still make phone calls, voice quality is excellent. Not so impressive is S Voice, Samsung’s answer to Apple’s Siri voice-prompted personal assistant.

On the whole, though, the S3 beats the pants off the 4S. I have little doubt Apple will retake the top spot when it releases its new iPhone, probably in September. It will almost certainly have a bigger 4-inch screen. And then who will have stolen whose ideas? - Sunday Tribune

* Visit my blog, GeekBeard.Posterous.com for links. Tweet me @alanqcooper.

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