To symphonic strains provided by the London Metropolitan Orchestra, Samsung yesterday grandly unveiled its third generation Galaxy S III (which many are simplifying as S3) smart phone.
Perhaps Samsung's presentation hype was a bit overboard. While most on-site observers admitted the S3 has a lot going for it, it's hardly a breakthrough of "holy mackerel!" proportions.
Basically, the S III is a 4G phone that runs Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), the most current version of the Android operating system; an 8 MP camera able to record full 1920 x 1280 video; Near Field Communications, which enables mobile wallet/mobile payments; Wi-Fi; and, Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. It'll be available in 16, 32 and possible 64 GB versions with a microSD card slot capable of accommodating a 64 GB memory card, which means the S III could hold up to 128 GB of digital...stuff, which could be a smart phone record.
Other than its memory attributes, these are mostly de rigueur features these days for any self-respecting bleeding edge smart phone.
The real news
Here's a rundown of the S III's real headline-grabbing features.
A 4.8-inch Super AMOLED screen, nearly as big as the screen on Samsung's Note "phablet." S III's got a screen resolution of 720 x 1280; by comparison, the suddenly tiny iPhone 4S has a resolution of 640 x 960 - although, given their relative size, this pixel difference may be superfluous.
Front-facing 1.9 MP camera, which may be the highest-resolution front camera - for self-portraits and video chatting - available. But the bigger news is "Smart See" - the camera can "see" your eyes. As long as the camera detects your eyes, the screen won't dim and go off. Of course, if you simply set the screen to never go off and just turn off the screen when you're done, this kind of digital legerdemain would be unnecessary. This front camera will also be able to detect movement or your face to enable other functions, such as waking it up just by looking at it.
Direct Call. If you have an email or text containing a phone number on your screen, simply bringing the S III up to your ear automatically dials the number, eliminating at least one touch. One assumes the number gets dialed before the touch screen switches off before it touches your ear.
S Voice voice-activated control. I've read conflicting reports on what exactly S Voice can and can't do, but it sounds like Apple Siri-light - able to control basic phone functions and even provide some information such as the weather. One demo video I saw had a guy tell the S III to activate the camera - necessary since there's no physical camera activation key on the S III.
S Beam/Buddy Share. You'll be able to transfer documents, photos, videos, whatever, by simply touching two S IIIs together. For instance, a 1 GB movie file can be touch transferred within three minutes and a 10 MB music file within two seconds, even without a Wi-Fi or cell signal.
Pop Up Play, sort of a picture-in-picture function that lets you to play a video anywhere on your screen while simultaneously running other tasks, eliminating the need to close and restart videos when checking new emails or surfing the Web.
Quad core processor. Most of the latest cutting edge smart phones run on a dual core processor. A quad core processor means things happen faster, especially when multitasking and on more processor-intensive operations such as game play. But like the HTC One and the LG Optimus 4X, the U.S. version of the S III may only pack a dual core engine for reasons that are unclear to me.
Most importantly -
It's not coming to the U.S. soon. It'll be released in Europe and other international markets in late May, but it likely won't show up on shelves on these shores until later this summer.
And when it does go on sale in the U.S., the S III may lack some of these virtues, such as the quad core processor, of the European version.
Next week I'll be heading down to New Orleans for the CTIA mobile phone show, where I'm likely to see more purported "holy mackerel!" devices (is my smart phone cynicism showing?). I might even get my hands on a Galaxy S III.