The Galaxy S3 challenge: processor speed

As part of my test to see whether the Samsung Galaxy S3 could make a decent replacement for an iPhone 5, I noticed that the S3 experience felt a little bit slow and sluggish. For example, starting the phone app – one of the core functions in a smartphone – often resulted in a noticeable lag. So did switching to “recent calls” or “contacts”. I decided to take a few apps I often use and film the time it takes both phones to run these.

It was surprising to me that the Samsung Galaxy S3 is that much slower than the iPhone 5, considering that the Galaxy S3 has a faster processor (at least on paper). I’m sure that anyone who never has used anything else would label the Samsung Galaxy S3 as “fast”, whereas iPhone users like me are much more likely to label it as “slow-ish”.

The Galaxy S3 Challenge: cameras and photos

After four weeks with the Samsung Galaxy S3, the honeymoon phase seems to be over. My current sentiment for this phone is ‘meh’. One of the big reasons is the camera. Not that it takes bad photos – fact is that in some conditions the photos are better than those taken with an iPhone. But it’s very unreliable. The hardware on paper doesn’t differ much from that of the camera on the iPhone 4S or the iPhone 5 so I’m guessing the problems I have are because of the poor quality of the software controlling the camera on the Galaxy S3. I’ve lost count of how many images were botched because the auto-focus feature doesn’t work properly, but there’s been enough to make me double check photos every time.

So let’s have a look at the quality of images. All of these are taken from the same spot, using my iPhone 5 and my Galaxy S3. As you can see, the colors are more saturated on the iPhone 5 photos. The Galaxy S3 has a wider angle and gets more of the picture than the iPhone 5. It almost looks as if the iPhone 5 is a bit zoomed in in comparison.

Photo of a mural in Bushwick (no HDR)
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Photo of the same mural, with HDR
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Photo of graffiti (no HDR)
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Photo of graffiti, with HDR
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Photo of a RuPaul ad (no HDR)
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Another thing that bothers me is the “Gallery” where you can see all your photos. Here’s the view of the galleries in the iPhone 5 and in the Galaxy S3. Note that I haven’t chosen to create any galleries in either phone.

This is what I see when I open the photo gallery on my Galaxy S3
This is what I see when I open the photo gallery on my Galaxy S3
This is the gallery view of my iPhone 5
This is the gallery view of my iPhone 5

The Galaxy S3 creates a different gallery for each app that takes photos. Photos that I posted on Google+ – before getting this phone, and hence taken with my iPhone – get their own galleries. There are two “camera” galleries (I just want to slap one of Samsung’s developers and ask “why?”). I understand the reasoning: making screenshots easier to find if they have their own gallery. However, this is a bad implementation. Finding photos actually takes longer on the S3 than on my iPhone.

Yet again the Samsung Galaxy S3 loses this round to the iPhone, not because the hardware is bad (it isn’t) but because the experience is lacking.

Here’s the intro to this experiment, with links to the other blog posts I’ve written about the experience of switching to a Galaxy S3 from an iPhone 5.

The Galaxy S3 Challenge: battery life and charging

Sometimes people talk about “the good, old times” when you could leave your phone for a week and it still had battery left. I think trading that battery life for the intelligence and versatility that the smartphone offers is a great deal. Sure, it means that I have to bring my Mobile Gum Plus with me when I expect to be without charging options for a long while, but it’s worth it.

When it comes to actual battery life, I didn’t perceive any huge difference in how long it lasts for the Galaxy S3 compared to the iPhone 5. The Galaxy S3 has better power saving features than the iPhone; the notification screen that you pull down (very similar to the iPhone’s notification center) has quick access to power saving, and you can even control which exact features to save power on.

Notification center with quick access to power saving
Notification center with quick access to power saving.
Power saving features on the Samsung Galaxy S3
Power saving features on the Samsung Galaxy S3. You can choose which features to save power on.

When it comes to charging, I quickly noticed that the Galaxy S3 was slower, but a feeling isn’t enough. I decided to test it. I let both phones discharge until they shut off. Then I plugged them into the wall, with the original chargers, at the same time. I checked the progress every fifteen minutes. The result: the iPhone 5 charges much faster than the Samsung Galaxy S3:

Charging progress for iPhone 5 (red) and Samsung Galaxy S3 (green)
Charging progress for iPhone 5 (red) and Samsung Galaxy S3 (green)

One irritating thing the Samsung Galaxy S3 does is denying access to the camera when it’s low on power. With my iPhone, I can take a photo even when I’m at 2% battery. The other day, I tried taking photos with 4% battery left in my Galaxy. Whenever I started the camera app I got a warning about low battery, and the “okay” button closed the camera app.

Winner this round: it’s very even, but the quicker charging gives the iPhone 5 this round.

Here’s the intro to this experiment, with links to the other blog posts I’ve written about the experience of switching to a Galaxy S3 from an iPhone 5.