Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Samsung Galaxy Nexus [video]

by: ClaytonJune 21, 2012

After initially choosing Android over IOS, one must then decide which Android phone suits them the most. Whittling down your choice can be tedious, as you will be presented with a large number of phones from a large number of manufacturers. Looking to pick up a high-end Android handset manufactured by Samsung? You’ll be faced with purchasing one of Sammy’s three recent creations- the Galaxy Nexus, the Galaxy S2, or the Galaxy S3.

Today we will be pitting the flagship Galaxy Nexus against the spec-heavy Galaxy S3. Now, it is a given that the GS3 is a newer, more powerful phone than the Galaxy Nexus. But, for all you Android lovers who may need to purchase something a little cheaper, or may not have the time to wait for the GS3’s release, we will be giving you a full comparison to help ease your decision.


Let’s start off by comparing these two devices’ internals.

Galaxy Nexus

  • 4.65″ Super AMOLED touchscreen, with 720×1280 resolution and 316 pixels per inch
  • Dual-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A9 processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 5MP rear-facing camera with 1080p video
  • 1.3 MP front facing camera with 720p video
  • 1750mAh battery

Galaxy S3

  • 4.8″ Super AMOLED touchscreen, with 720×1280 resolution and 306 pixels per inch
  •  Quad-core 1.4GHz Cortex-A9 processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8MP rear-facing camera with 1080p video
  • 1.9MP front facing camera with 720p video
  • 2100 mAh battery

Specs aside, each device is built extremely well and feels strong. The Galaxy Nexus features a curved glass screen, which is very sleek and sexy. Removal of each devices’ backplate reveals SIM card slots, and on the Galaxy S3 a micro SD slot capable of housing 64GB of additional memory!


Each device currently runs Android 4.0.4, Ice Cream Sandwich. The Galaxy Nexus runs an un-modified (vanilla) version of Android, meaning there are no carrier or manufacturer “skins” or overlays. The GS3 is running Samsung’s TouchWiz overlay, which has benefits as well as downfalls. All of the functionality of pure Android exists in the GS3, but, for many owners who wish to have a vanilla or ‘pure’ operating system, due to the bloating and unnecessary features included, will either love or be slightly frustrated with what Samsung has done here.

Nonetheless, the additional features that come preloaded on the GS3 are very sought after, and serve their purpose well. Features such as S-Voice, Smart Stay, task management, power saver, and the many in-app options make Touchwiz more than bearable, even for Android purists.  Icons, menus, and toggles are all skinned differently for the GS3, but are still located in the areas as the Galaxy Nexus.

Some functionality is robbed by TouchWiz, such as master brightness control, meaning brightness is basically set on a per-app basis on the Galaxy S3. The Galaxy Nexus’ notification bar also makes for easier navigating to often used settings. Folders are created easier on the Galaxy Nexus as well.

With the Galaxy Nexus being a Google Nexus phone, developer support has and will always be extremely strong. In fact, many of the Galaxy S3’s most intuitive features have been ported over for use on the Galaxy Nexus. See our article on the Galaxy S3 add-on pack for the Nexus here. The Galaxy S3 is also receiving large amounts of developer support as well, including ROM’s that are built off of vanilla Android (AOKP). You can view our own video on how to root the Galaxy S3 here.


Each device bears the same type of display. The Galaxy S3’s is slightly bigger and constructed using Corning’s Gorilla Glass 2, while the Galaxy Nexus uses Oleophobic coating for protection of its curved glass display.

Comparison images prove that there is little to no difference in quality.


Having 8MP, the Galaxy S3 obviously takes the cake in this category, but let’s not write off the Galaxy Nexus’ 5MP camera just yet. The Galaxy Nexus has the same intuitive features as the GS3. Features like zero shutter lag, which enable you take photos quickly and precisely, are a very nice touch, and will likely please snap happy owners. It also has the ability to record video and take photos at the same time. Each device also features face unlock capabilities, and the GS3 uses it’s front facing camera to detect if the user is viewing the screen or not, via its Smart Stay functionality. This enables the device to keep the display live when you are looking at it.

Here are a few sample photos taken using each camera.

Speed and performance

I would bargain to say that the 1.2GHZ dual core CPU within the Galaxy Nexus would support most users daily needs. It is very nice to have quad core processing in the palm of your hand, though. The Galaxy Nexus has a generally stable overclock speed of 1.4GHZ, while the GS3 can reach stable clock speeds of 1.8GHZ. Here are some screenshots from each device. In all honesty, both are very responsive, stable devices. But I have never, ever, in my life – touched and flicked my way through a device as incredibly responsive as the S3. The thing is absolutely insatiable, a true speed demon. That being said, if you’ve never used one, there is no basis for comparison. Check out the benchmarks below!



On the left is the Galaxy S3, with the Galaxy Nexus on the right

Battery Life

Battery life is obviously better sustained by the Galaxy S3 with its 2100mAh battery, although extended batteries are available for each phone. The Galaxy S3 can last up to 24 hours with its stock battery, while the Galaxy Nexus only lasts around 12-14 with normal use.  The power saver feature within the Galaxy S3 will easily provide hours upon hours of heavy use. Honestly, I was blown away by the battery life of the Galaxy S3. For such a powerful device, it really knows how to last.


Wrap up

Each device is a Samsung powerhouse with its own advantages. The Galaxy Nexus, being a bit older, is a much cheaper alternative to the Galaxy S3, and still stands up to many of its features. Since the Galaxy Nexus is a ‘pure Google device’, and essentially a developer magnet, means that it has a ton of life left to live, and features a near identical display to the Galaxy S3, too.

On the other hand, it is hard to resist the quad-core, 4.8 inch beast of a phone that is the Samsung Galaxy S3. It is, in all likelihood, the best Android smartphone ever devised, and is likely to receive a ton of developer support from all the major devs.

And how about you – will it be the Google/Developer phone – the Galaxy Nexus – or the Spec-heavy Galaxy S3?   Will any Galaxy Nexus owners be making the switch to the GS3?  Leave us a comment stating your choice!

 [poll id=”113″]

  • AppleFUD

    When I look at these two devices I think that Samsung had a big say in what when into the Galaxy Nexus to ensure that the S III would have enough hardware spec jump. Nonetheless, I do like my GNexus and will continue to support Google’s efforts in having carrier unencumbered devices.

    • Clayton Ljungberg

      Agreed. I’m excited that the Gnexus is probably the first device that will receive jellybean.

  • alex

    i’m really hoping the rumor about the 5 nexuses or later this year to be true. I would by the nexus over the s3 in a heartbeat simply because it’s pure google. no modifications nothing. all the rest I should have the option to toggle on off at ill and remove/install just as easily.

  • sertibas

    bueno esta bien

  • Nik

    Well your forgetting the Galaxy Nexus is $399 off contract which will save you lots of money in the long run.

    • yuppers

      No it’s only 199 buddy

      • Nicholas Li

        nope its $349 w/o contract from google play.. anything lower requires a 2 yr contract

  • AndroidBrian

    I’m glad I own a galaxy nexus. I can wait till the galaxy s4 next year. Gs3 looks awesome but my Nexus is still pretty awesome so I’m not to upset.

  • SophiaBurns

    I just picked up the Nexus, which is half the price of the S3. Couldn’t be happier… it’s an improvement over my old N1 in every way imaginable. Plus we’ll be receiving Jelly Bean soon :)

  • I am a Android Developer and I have Changed from a Galaxy Nexus to a Galaxy SIII. As Many Users (Dumb People) will buy this and I have to Make my apps Accordingly.

    But a Major Factor is that the Glaxy SIII I got was for Free…

    • Frank Avila

      Why would buying the GS3 be the dumb way to go? Just another consumer trying to decide on the two. It’d be nice to hear from a developer stand point.

    • JayAre313

      The specs are a draw for some and the rest just have to own “The latest and greatest” The gnex will continue to be as popular in the development community as it was at launch. At least until the next Nexus phone launches. Hell the Nexus S and Nexus S 4g are STILL getting love from those reluctant to upgrade. I say To each his own. My wife has the S3 and I do enjoy the snappiness of the phone but its just not MY cup of tea. I like to flash ROMs and enjoy OFFICIAL updates 1st (even if they come prerooted and installed via recovery) :)

      • i think the GS3 is an attempt from Samsung to sucker people into an upgrade, sad as I sell Mobile phones for a living hehe

        • JayAre313

          True indeed. Otherwise why do they release phones so often knowing contracts are 2 yes.

    • bchap

      You’re a douche. Yea that’s real classy on your part

  • R. Garrett Hanzel

    Wait, where did you get the settings toggle in the ICS notification panel in that screenshot?? I don’t have that on my GNex. The 5 softkeys across the bottom pretty much confirm that a custom rom was used there…

    • Clayton Ljungberg

      yes sir, courtesy of AOKP

  • KC

    i LOVE the s3 but its way too big for my hands. idk which im going to pick

  • Alex Kelly

    nexus, updates first, jelly bean now and curved display, chin and software buttons.

  • anon

    This iPhone 4 user will finally switch to something “better”.

  • carvermk

    The Galaxy S3 is the better buy IMO. What’s the point of owning an Android phone if you can’t have varied codec support (mkv, divx., etc.) on the hardware level and the SD storage to match? Might as well buy an iPhone if you can’t have that. The Nexus just doesn’t cut it in those areas to be a worthy alternative, even with the stock android updates provided by Google.

    • Clayton Ljungberg

      There are media players available in the Play Store with varied codec support.

  • BBC

    I do not know about the S3 yet. I have had the Galaxy Nexus for several months. It look and feels great-BUT…
    1.) The speaker quality is low class. I need to use a headset to talk on it with any reasonable chance of understanding everything said. The speaker-phone aspect is even worse. It is not loud and when turned-up to the max, the sound is distorted.

    2.) The battery life is deplorable. I got Verizon to replace the battery because I thought it had to be a bad battery. NO, the problem is the phone. Now I use two batteries a day. I recharge both at night so I can get through the next day.

    If you use the nexus while driving with the GPS for navigation, the battery discharges faster than it can be re-charged through the car power supply. That is not good news, because when you get near your destination, the battery goes out and you cannot even call until it charges up a little bit, after you stop the navigation.
    3.) The camera sucks, too.
    I turned in my Droid X for the Droid Bionic. Both were good phones but I wanted what I thought would be the latest and greatest. That is what got me to get the Nexus.
    Generally speaking I like the Bionic best. No problems. Motorola’s file sharing app Zumocast is great for someone like me who is in the office sometimes, on the road and work from home as well. I liked going into my office computer or home desk-top to get files onto my phone for discussion and sharing.
    Bottom-line; do not trade-in any phone that works reasonably well for a Galaxy Nexus. The triple drawbacks of bad battery life, mid-res camera and horrible voice quality are not worth the other great features it has.
    That said, if the first two drawbacks above sound quality and battery life are not important to you, buy it and enjoy the quick internet and screen quality. A 5mg camera is not horrible, but just wait for something better.
    If anyone at Verizon or Samsung thinks I just happen to have a lemon and they believe that what I am saying is unfair, you can send me an email at [email protected].

    • Roper0138

      Had all the same issues. Well said. Have the S3 now. Wish it did not have Touch Wiz but overall a better phone.

    • toeknee2k8

      I have the gsm version which has an HSPA radio not the power gulping LTE radio like on your Verizon model and my battery life is great. And I believe your battery is also bigger than mine which tells me you should blame Your LTE radio not the phone.

      • Chuck

        On that note, one advantage the GNexus (LTE) has over the GS3 is that on the former, you can turn off the LTW and just use CDMA/3G…saves lots of battery. No option for that at all on the GS3.

        • Chuck

          Sorry, that should’ve read “..turn of the LTE..”

  • Sinsko

    I LOVE the S3 so far!! The quality seems top notch throughout the whole device (having it for about 3 weeks now). The only issue I bump into is because the device is so large that when I’m watching a video, and turn it horizontal it’s a little difficult to hold cause the device is really thin! (But that’s probably just getting use to it).

    Previously I had the HTC Evo 4g, VERY VERY happy with the upgrade. EVERYTHING that I felt was a shortcoming from the Evo has been addressed… (and I’m a bit of a ‘power user’ with the device). Enjoy!

  • I have just purchased the S3 and it is absolutely AMAZING! The feel of the phone is waaay better than my previous phone, the Galaxy S2. The responsiveness of the S3 is unbelievable…. it never freezes, locks up or for that matter even hesitates. This phone not only looks and feels awesome but it performs even better than expected!!!!

  • Sophe

    I have had the SIII for a month now and love it – but the sound is crap! The speaker is on the back of the phone, so if you lay the phone down you can’t hear anything – and one of the new features is the “mute” one – whereby turning the phone over and laying it on its face renders it mute – so you can’t lay the phone down to listen to the speaker on the back of it as it actually mutes it – you have to remember to turn off that feature (which is actually quite useful).
    My much loved Samsung i8910 HD had stereo surround with speakers at both ends of the phone so you could actually hear it — I don’t know why they nixed that idea?! It was great..
    That’s my only complaint about the SIII – for the rest, it does just what i want and when i want :-)

  • meetoo

    I have both phones….S3 is better without a doubt….


    I have an iPhone 4 and a Blackberry… replacing the berry with a nexus. I think im now getting the best of both world. I love iOS and will get the iphone 5 but ive always wanted an android and now im getting it… in 3 days

  • Jose Joaquin Torcida Fernandez

    I´ll prefer my Galaxy nexus… the next year appears a new version of Android and the S 3 will obtain it? yes but when ???? and my galaxy nexus has got Holo launcher (not like the s3 that has got touchwiz nature…it´s horrible for me)

  • Great looking phone. Not ready to upgrade from my GNEX yet, but damn son! that looks fast!

  • steph_wiz

    Just wished the nexus had a micro sd slot.

  • nexus

    You can loose your self in the galaxy nexus when watching movies and you totally forget your looking at a phone with out the logo on the front mimicking all phone that have ever existed except for the.iPhone ha I picked one up the other day and it felt like a key ring: in size comparison

  • anon

    So in a nutshell, the S3 has superior hardware but the Nexus has superior operating system. IMO, a superior operating system takes precedence over superior hardware.

    • No because all of them can be updated to whichever operating system you wish. So obviously better hardware is better. Also my dad has the Galaxy Nexus and I have the S3. It’s easily superior. My battery lasts like 3 days with moderate use.

  • Morghan

    I think it will have to be an S3. I need lots of storage space, and switching out SD cards is really the only option for me. Google is screwing up by dropping SD from the GNex and N7, I would have bought both if they just let me drop my cards in there. As it stands I’m still sitting on my Xoom (which only seems to get better with age) an old HTC Merge until they either release the 64GB S3 or it is officially cancelled so I’m stuck with only 32 internal. 32 would be just fine, that is if Samsung didn’t gimp it with their partitioning, 12/12 takes the best phone and busts it down a few notches. Now if someone were to make something that sits on the level with the S3, has an SD slot, a user switchable battery, and a hardware keyboard I would pick that up unlocked at full retail if I had to. My two favorite benefits of Android, the SD and QWERTY, and they’re becoming more and more rare. The user switchable battery is not a benefit, it is a necessity.

  • king gee

    I have the galaxy s3 the best phone ever to live

  • I’ve had both for phones for about a week now and I’m still divided.

    The S3 has a few bells and whistles that seem nice. The overall display is more pleasing. This is because the GN shrinks the screen to allow for three soft keys (app-list, home, and back). So, the S3 packs a little more wow with the first impression. A lot of the TouchWiz font and color choices also make the S3 seem a little more stylish. However, when you want to do something display intensive on the GN like watching a movie, those soft keys go away and the screen difference is pretty minimal.

    The biggest downside for me on the S3 is that it is hard on my hands. I have pretty average length fingers for an adult male and my palms are perhaps a little meatier than some. The three (3) extra millimeters on the S3 make it a little harder to feel comfortable holding the thing. I feel like holding the S3 requires an abnormal grip whereas the GN just feels good without any effort. Compounding this, is the fact that the buttons on the S3 are so close to the edge that it makes one-handed operation almost impossible. The GN’s more centered soft keys is a huge improvement.

    The S3 hardware specs sound all well and good, but I find that the most noticable thing about a faster processor might actually be the reduced battery life. I would really like to hear more feedback form AT&T users about the battery life between the devices.

    At this point, I can return the S3 and get a $700 store credit at BestBuy and then buy the Nexus for $350. (I got $600 credit on a “junk-out” of my Atrix 4G that broke while I was under BestBuy’s Black-Tie service plan. And since the wife and I might buy an oven soon, that store credit could be almost as good as cash.) I’m also seeing my career move more toward Android development, so I’m really starting to lean toward the Nexus. However, each day, I’m getting a little more attached to some of the niceness of the S3.

    In summary, after at least 72 hours operating each phone: the big picture issues for me:

    S3 advantages:
    – SD Card – As an engineer, I just like modularity.
    – Creature Comforts – Smart Stay, Smart Action phone controls, attractive fonts

    GN advantages:
    – Google OS/Developer Support
    – Feel in my hand, one-handed operation

    I think the tie-breaker will be battery life. If someone can tell me that the two are roughly equivalent, I would probably go with the GN. The comments made by BBC about the GPS draining the battery have me a little worried.

  • John

    Apple will be far-behind when galaxy s4 or galaxy nexus 2 comes out of the market! I still believe that the s3 is the phone for me. I’m gonna throw away my iphone now!

  • macher

    The Galaxy Nexus Verizon is an older model. Is it still a good device to use at present?