The Galaxy S3 is upon us – which Android smartphones can stand up to it?
The Samsung Galaxy S3 – probably the most popular Android smartphone to ever go into production – has been announced at the beginning of the month, and it’s only a few days away from its debut in several European markets.
Now, one major question arises among Android fans worldwide: are there any Android smartphones that can compete head to head with the newest member of the Samsung Galaxy S line?
Before we jump into a detailed analysis of the smartphones that can rival the S3, allow me to spoil some of the fun by providing a quick answer to that question. Yes, there are Android smartphones (either only announced or already on the market) that threaten the supremacy of the Galaxy S3. But the S3 holds up extremely well against any challenger.
So, what makes the S3 so appealing in the the mainstream consumer’s eyes? Marketing budget and hype aside, there are four main areas where the S3 shines: design, internal hardware, display, and a combination of OS, UI and software tweaks. If you’re already too familiar with the S3, you might want to skip to the next section of this article, as I’m about to detail the Galaxy S3 specs, grouping them in the four categories I’ve just mentioned. Let’s kick it!
Samsung Galaxy S3
As you can imagine, this is the area that is most susceptible to subjectivity, but I’m sure that even the most hardcore Samsung fans will agree that the design of the Galaxy S3 isn’t really something to wow users. It’s not a poorly-constructed smartphone by any means (the reports that claim Samsung has designed the S3 specifically avoid lawsuits from Apple are pretty much baseless).
But there are many who feel that the S3 is too similar to the original Galaxy S, although slightly “weirder” looking. While pre-announcement rumors claimed that the Galaxy S3 will feature a ceramic case, a glossy plastic design available in two color versions (white or pebble blue) is all that prevailed. The Galaxy S3 is also 0.1 mm thicker than the Galaxy S2, measuring 8.6 mm. Bottom line: the S3 is not an ugly smartphone, but it’s just not as good looking as others.
According to preliminary benchmarks published by Anandtech, the Exynos 4 SoC featured by the Galaxy S3 might be the fastest mobile SoC currently on the market. Powered by a 1.4GHz quad-core A9 processor, an upgraded Mali 400 MP GPU, and 1GB of RAM, the Samsung Galaxy S3 is shaping up to be the fastest smartphone ever. It’s not the best by much, but still!
LTE versions of the Samsung Galaxy S3, probably “downgraded” to an Snapdragon S4 chip, are expected to reach the US market in the next month or so.
I don’t know how each one of you guys feels about Super AMOLED displays, but what I do know is Samsung is the only company capable of mass producing such displays for smartphones and tablets. The generous 4.8-inch display on the Galaxy S3 runs at a 1280 by 720 pixel resolution and its 309ppi pixel density passes into the 300ppi territory of current top-end smartphones. But there are some people who don’t seem to enjoy Pentile screens that much, claiming that they are less crisp than displays that use a regular RGB matrix. Pentile-discussion aside, the SAMOLED technology powering the S3 display means that its levels of contrast, vivid colors, and power efficiency will not be matched by any other top-end smartphone of 2012. It’s the one thing that other manufacturers don’t have, and Samsung plan to capitalize on that.
OS, UI and Software Functions
The Samsung Galaxy S3 runs on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, with Samsung’s Touchwiz UI slapped on top of it. Nothing especially interesting here, as ICS has been around for about 6 months already, while Samsung’s proprietary UI won’t surprise you at all, if you have used any of the two previous Galaxy S models.
What does set the Galaxy S3 apart is its unique set of smart actions. You can read our previous article on the smart functions of the S3 for more details, but what you really need to know is that, while these smart functions aren’t revolutionary, they will surely help Samsung to differentiate the S3 from all other Android smartphones of 2012.
Huawei Ascend Quad XL
Now that we dissected the Galaxy S3 properly, let’s take some time to meet the first contender: the Huawei Ascend D Quad XL, the fastest smartphone in the world, according to Huawei, as well as a pair of benchmarks leaked roughly a couple of months ago. Pricing details are unavailable at this point, as is the exact release date, although Huawei has mentioned that the Ascend D Quad XL will be released during Q2.
This is arguably the sector where the Huawei Ascend D Quad XL underperforms the most when put against other top-end devices. Its plastic design and “standard” form factor are definitely not its strong suits. Simply put, the Huawei Ascend D Quad XL lacks the glamour of other flagship Android smartphones. In addition, as the Ascend D Quad XL is basically an Ascend D Quad with a bigger 2500 mAh battery (vs 1800 mAh on the standard version), it is also probably the thickest competitor of the Galaxy S3, measuring 10.9 mm in thickness.
When Huawei ushered in the Ascend D Quad XL as the fastest smartphone in the world, many laughed ironically: how could a Huawei-produced 1.5GHz quad-core Cortex A9-based processor possibly stack up against top-end offerings from Qualcomm, Nvidia, and Samsung? Even more ironically, benchmark results leaked back in March (that’s before the HTC One X / HTC One S release date) showed that the Ascend D Quad XL was indeed the fastest smartphone in the world at that point.
We’re still waiting for more benchmark results to see how the Ascend D Quad XL stacks up against recently launched flagships such as the HTC One X / One XL or the Galaxy S3, but it’s safe to say that Huawei’s flagship smartphone is no slouch. It’s also safe to assume that Huawei will not launch an LTE-compatible Ascend D Quad XL version.
The Huawei Ascend D Quad XL features a 4.5 inch IPS+ LCD capacitive touchscreen running at a native resolution of 1280 by 720 pixels, combining to deliver a 326ppi pixel density. While some might prefer SAMOLED displays over IPS LCDs, the latter is a more broadly available technology, that found its way into a number of flagship smartphones of 2012, as you’ll be able to tell for yourself by the end of this article.
OS & UI
The Ascend D Quad XL will run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, with that vanilla-flavored UI that many Android purists cherish on top of it. Although the Huawei Ascend D Quad XL does not feature many unique software tweaks, there are many who hate all manufacturer UIs and would definitely love to have the standard Android user interface instead.
HTC One X
The International version of HTC One X holds the very respectable title of first quad-core smartphone to reach the consumer market. As the flagship of HTC’s new series of One smartphones, the One X represents the best pre-emptive answer to the Samsung Galaxy S3 that the Taiwanese producer was able to conceive. The HTC One X (international version) was released almost two full months ago and is available for $555 unlocked at Amazon. The online media loves the HTC One X, and many consider it to be the best Android smartphone currently available. But is it better than the Samsung Galaxy S3?
The HTC One X is widely considered to be the best looking smartphone ever thanks to its sleek, slim design and polycarbonate plastic build material. Slightly thicker than the Galaxy S3 (8.9 mm), but with a far more compact design than the latter, the HTC One X seems to win this round with ease.
The HTC One X is based on the Nvidia Tegra 3 SoC, consisting out of a 1.5GHz quad-core A9 processor and an improved Geforce ULP (Ultra Low Power) GPU. The HTC One X features 1GB of RAM, the standard fare these days for a flagship smartphone, but HTC opted to go for DDR 2 technology, as opposed to almost all other manufacturers, who still use the first generation of DDR RAM memory modules.
Benchmarks show that the HTC One X is not as fast as the Samsung Galaxy S3, but I’m sure that not even the biggest Samsung fan will claim that the S3 is in the lead by much. AT&T’s LTE-enabled variant of the HTC One X swaps the Tegra 3 SoC with a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4, a chip that offers roughly the same performance, as shown by the following benchmark results.
The Super IPS LCD2 display on the HTC One X measures 4.7 inches and runs at a 1280 by 720 pixel resolution (using a true-RGB matrix), meaning the pixel density rests at 312ppi. There are some that claim its sunlight legibility and reliable color reproduction make the display on the HTC One X the best display currently on the market, but SAMOLED devotees know better. We’ll let you be the judge of that, since picking a side is mostly a matter of preferences.
OS and UI
The HTC One X also runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, but overlaid with HTC Sense 4.0 on top. HTC Sense 4.0 and Samsung Touchwiz 4 offer pretty much the same functionality, but the S3 still wins this round thanks to its unique smart functions.
LG Optimus 4X HD
Interestingly enough, the LG Optimus 4X HD was the first smartphone ever announced to feature a quad-core processor. Although both HTC and Samsung have beaten LG to the chase, the Optimus 4X HD still holds a few strong points when compared against the other Android flagships. Pricing details are currently unavailable, but they should be uncovered soon, as we get closer to its June release date in a number of European markets.
Characterized by a strong, rectangular profile, the LG Optimus 4X design just screams quality, although some may complain that the Optimus 4X looks a little bit like a boring slab. Although the exact dimensions were not yet released by LG, we know for sure that the LG Optimus 4X will be just as thick as the HTC One X, measuring 8.9 mm.
As the Optimus 4X will use the same Nvidia Tegra 3 SoC as the HTC One X (international version), it’s safe to assume that the Optimus 4X will also be similar to the One X when it comes to raw performance. Sure, a slight difference will exist as each manufacturer tries to come up with the best implementation, but I’m sure benchmarks will soon prove that there isn’t much difference between the Optimus 4X and the HTC One X when it comes to raw performance.
The LG Optimus 4X True HD features a HD-IPS LCD display running at a 1280 by 720 pixel density. LG’s “True HD” marketing scheme is based entirely on the fact that the Galaxy S3 features a PenTile pixel arrangement instead of a regular RGB matrix. As LG is Samsung’s biggest competitor in the display market, we expect that the display on the Optimus 4X will be nothing but top-class, especially given the fact that LG is basing its whole marketing strategy around the display of the 4X.
OS and UI
The LG Optimus 4X HD, just like all other smartphones on this list, will run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box, but with LG’s new UI (designed to compete directly with HTC’s Sense 4.0 and Samsung’s new TouchWiz UI) slapped on top. Nothing really interesting to see here, moving on!
Fujitsu Arrows Z ISW13F
Fujitsu is not a company that usually pops up when thinking of the top Android smartphone manufacturers. But the truth is the waterproof and dustproof Arrows Z ISW13F is a Tegra 3 smartphone with specs just good enough to be considered a decent contender to the Samsung Galaxy S3 (or any other Android flagship for that matter). Pricing details are currently unavailable, as Fujitsu has yet to decide if they are going to make the Arrows Z ISW13F available outside Japan.
Thanks to its unique design, the Fujitsu Arrows Z ISW13F is both dustproof and waterproof (which means it can be submersed one meter in water and it will still work, as opposed to splashproof, which means that your smartphone is protected only against a few occasional drops of water). Unfortunately, despite this unique feature, the overall glossy body design was still perceived as “not so tightly built” as other top-end smartphones, in a hands-on article published by The Verge a couple of weeks ago.
The Arrows Z ISW13F will feature a 4.6 inch LCD display running that all too familiar resolution: 1280 by 720 pixels.
As with the LG Optimus 4X HD, benchmark results are currently unavailable, although I personally can’t see a reason for the Tegra 3 SoC not to perform as expected. On the “extra” side, you get a few interesting hardware bonuses such as a built-in FM transmitter, a fingerprint scanner, a thermometer, and a humidity sensor. Not bad for a waterproof, dustproof smartphone, eh?
OS and UI
Like all the other smartphones on this list, the Fujitsu Arrows Z ISW13F will run Android 4.0 ICS. It is unknown if Fujitsu is planning to go for a proprietary Android UI or if it will settle for the standard ICS user interface.
Special mention: LG LS970 Eclipse 4G LTE
Ok, so this one is still a rumor at this point, but, if the LG Eclipse 4G LTE rumored specs turn out to be real, this might be the first smartphone to run circles around the Samsung Galaxy S3. As the LG Eclipse 4G LTE was not yet officially announced, there is no certain information regarding its availability or pricing, but the online rumor mill claims that the LG Eclipse 4G LTE might be released sometime during Q4 at Sprint.
There is little we can tell you about the design and the UI, as the only picture that surfaced online is of the back of the smartphone, but we do know that the Eclipse 4G is rumored to be 8.9 mm thin.
According to BriefMobile, the LG LS970 will be the first smartphone to feature a quad-core A15-type Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Krait processor, one clocked at 1.5GHz and paired with an impressive 2GB of RAM. The new Adreno 320 GPU is also rumored to make its way into LG’s upcoming Android flagship, as will a 13 megapixel camera and a 2100mAh battery.
The weird resolution of the 4.67 inch LCD display – 1280 by 768 – might mean that the LG Eclipse 4G LTE will replace capacitive menu buttons with on-screen buttons integrated into the OS, as did the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. However promising this rumor may be, we should also bear in mind that, usually, what seems too good to be true is actually too good to be true. In addition, even if LG Eclipse turns out to feature these amazing specs, we should also take into consideration that other manufacturers might be planning similar specs on their future flagship smartphones. By the time this Eclipse hits the market, it might be …eclipsed by competing products, like it happened with the Optimus 4X HD.
Although there are several smartphones that can pose a threat to the Samsung Galaxy S3, it feels like Samsung has managed to come up with a unique product, an Android smartphone like no other on the market. I’m not saying that the S3 is flat-out the best smartphone there is. But I’m a firm believer that the S3 does a wonderful job of standing out in an ocean of all-too-similar Android smartphones.
What are your takes on this? Is the S3 unbeatable? If not, let us know which smartphone you think will be the best contender for the Galaxy S3 by dropping us a line in the comment section below!