Galaxy S III review: Hands down, the best Android smartphone

Thanks to real attention to usability and meaningful features, Samsung's flagship takes its place as the Android front-runner

[UPDATED NOV. 1, 2012] All the excitement round the Samsung Galaxy S III is justified. It's an extremely nice Android smartphone, with well-designed hardware and software, marrying the best of the Android 4.04 "Ice Cream Sandwich" core OS and Samsung's usability extensions. Even Apple fanboys will be impressed by the attention to detail (often lacking in Android devices) and level of usability Samsung has brought to the Galaxy S III. It deservedly is the new flagship for the Android community. The Galaxy S III has gotten even better with Samsung's Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean" update this fall.

In the United States, the Galaxy S III is available on all four major carriers, though they've been staggering their releases; T-Mobile will make it available on June 27, Sprint on July 1, AT&T on July 6, and Verizon Wireless on July 12. I tested a Sprint version, though the hardware is identical across all versions (except for the cellular radios, which are tuned for each model's carrier). The Galaxy S III with 16GB of storage costs $199 with a contract, though its actual price ranges from $150 to $229 at various outlets; it costs $589 without a contract. A 32GB model is available for $50 more.

[ See how the Galaxy S III compares to other Android smartphones, the iPhone, and Windows Phones. | Also on InfoWorld: Google's Nexus 7 douses the Kindle Fire. | Understand how to both manage and benefit from the consumerization of IT with InfoWorld's "Consumerization Digital Spotlight" PDF special report. | Subscribe to InfoWorld's Consumerization of IT newsletter today. ]

Hardware
The Galaxy S III is a very pretty smartphone. It has the same curved shape as the first "Ice Cream Sandwich" smartphone, the Galaxy Nexus, but is a little thinner and lighter, with a larger screen. It also looks more elegant in both available color schemes: white and metallic, and blue and metallic.

The Back and Menu onscreen buttons are hidden in the bezel, appearing only if you tap the screen -- a nice touch that adds to the simple elegance of the design. Note that you can set the buttons to stay on permanently; you might want to do that at first, until your fingers know where they are.

The LED indicator is also hidden, visible through the bezel only when it's flashing. All that mars the bezel's simple design are the two small circles between the speaker and front camera for the proximity sensors.

The Home button is an actual physical button -- a large one, at that -- rather than the usually small onscreen button (like the Back and Menu buttons). Samsung has clearly decided that the iPhone's physical Home button is the better model for this commonly used button than Google's onscreen approach, as it has opted for a physical Home button in several recent models.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Business connectivity (20.0%)
Security and management (20.0%)
Hardware (10.0%)
Usability (15.0%)
Application support (15.0%)
Web and Internet support (20.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
Samsung Galaxy S III 8.0 7.0 9.0 7.0 8.0 8.0 7.8
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