AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and mini-major U.S. Cellular will all start selling this season's most innovative – and anticipated – smartphone, Samsung's Galaxy S III, later this month for $199.
How anticipated? According to reports in the U.K., pre-sales on the handset are breaking records.
UPDATED: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon have all announced exact pricing and sale dates.
All three will sell the Galaxy S III at $199.99 for the 16 GB model and $249.99 for the 32 GB version; some carriers are offering pre-sale with actual availability on June 21.
AT&T begins pre-sales on June 6, but will sell only the 16 GB version. AT&T customers will be able to buy a 16 GB microSD memory card for $39 to bring its Galaxy S III up to 32GB for a total of $238.99. AT&T also will sell a red version in addition blue and white models.
Sprint started pre-sales onJune 5 – information can be found at the carrier's special Galaxy S III Web site (which wasn't working when I looked this morning).
T-Mobile won't have a pre-sale, but you'll be able to buy it also on June 21. You can check out T-Mobile's special Galaxy S III Web site for more information.
Verizon also will inaugurate pre-sales on Wednesday, June 6. Verizon also has set up a special Galaxy S III landing page.
No word yet from U.S. Cellular, but I imagine their pricing and availability timing will be the same.
All carriers except T-Mobile will get 4G LTE versions, while T-Mobile will sell a 4G HSPA Plus model; AT&T's model will connect via either 4G network.
What's the big deal?
It looks as if Samsung thinks it has a real iPhone buster here. And the timing may be purposeful, the steal some thunder from next week's Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, at which the company will likely unveil its next generation mobile operating system, iOS 6.
So what are Samsung, the carriers and Great Britons all excited about (aside from the Diamond Jubilee)?
You can read my initial post on the Galaxy S III here, but here's a top-line laundry list of hardware bells and digital wonder whistles.
Physically, the Galaxy S III sports a bright, crisp 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED display, which is protected by Corning's Gorilla Glass 2, the first smartphone with company's second-generation scratch-resistant screen. That's a bigger display than any smartphone on the market save the 5.3-inch window on Samsung's own Galaxy S Note.
It runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich via a dual-core 1.5 GHz processor. We in the U.S. are getting a bit short-sheeted here; the European and Asian version of the Galaxy S III has a quad-core brain. Why the step-down?
My guess is economics. Overseas, phones aren't subsidized – you pay full price. Here, a quad-core phone would probably too expensive for enable carriers to price it competitively (although this has never stopped Apple – but that's another story). Samsung told me today there is no quad-core chip that also supports LTE, but that consumers are unlikely to see any performance difference.
It comes with either 16 GB or, likely for a price premium, 32 GB of built-in storage memory.
On the rear is an 8 MP camera, on the front a 1.9 MP imager, and you can shoot full HD 1080p video.
It's the software, stupid
But Galaxy S III's most compelling functions are in the apps and software, including:
S-Voice, a Siri-like personal assistant that not only answers questions, but also performs a wide variety of controls such as adjusting the volume on the music player, answer or reject incoming calls, shut off or choose to snooze the alarm clock, or take a picture by saying "smile" or "cheese."
Smart Stay uses the front camera to "see" when you use the Galaxy S III to ensure the screen stays on when you're looking at it instead of dimming or timing out – no more tapping it to keep it readable (of course, you could just set the screen timeout to "never" in the settings, but what fun is that?).
Motion creates motion-activated shortcuts for common functions, such automatically dialing the person who sent you a text simply by raising the phone to your ear, or tapping the top of the phone to go to the top of an email or list of emails or contacts.
Best Shot takes digital photos taken in burst mode (3 frames per second up to 20 shots) and recommends the best picture to keep based on colors, lighting and clarity.
Pop Up Play is a picture-and-picture feature that lets you watch video content in a small, movable window while operating any application in full-screen, background view at the same time.
There all sound kind of cool. I'm getting a full hands-on later today and, perhaps, a sample model I can fully road test.
And, most importantly, how does it stack up to the upcoming iPhone 5?
(I have just returned from the hands-on demo and can't tell you anything about until June 18. Tune back then.)