The nice guys at Samsung are always thinking about the poor and deprived of this world who cannot afford a Galaxy S, and still need to satisfy their Android obsession. Thus they came out with two more handsets in the Galaxy series – the lowly Galaxy 5, and the middle ground Galaxy 3. There is nothing AMOLED-y or Hummingbird-y about our Samsung Galaxy 3 here, but on paper it has all the prerequisites for a compelling mid-range Android phone. Seeing is believing in our case, so let’s charge ahead and examine the TouchWiz-ed Samsung Galaxy 3.
There have been some design changes since we made our preview of the prototype unit. Samsung has rightfully concluded that two of the usual four Android buttons are a waste of space, and has disposed of the home and search keys we saw in the prototype. Instead, universal search is now called by long-pressing the context menu button, and clicking the trapezoid center key takes you to the homescreen.
All are regular physical buttons now, we don’t see the four capacitive touch keys that were in the early iteration of the Samsung Galaxy 3. If the omission of capacitive touch technology for the navigation keys, and the D-pad being replaced by a single home button (after all, you have a touch screen) brings with them lowering the production cost, we can’t say we will miss those much.
The plastic feels durable, and it is not slippery, thus making the Samsung Galaxy 3 comfortable to hold
You can compare the Samsung Galaxy 3 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.
The 3.2“ screen itself is capacitive, but TFT LCD, not AMOLED, which should have helped to bring the cost further down as well. The resolution is WQVGA 240×400 pixels – not great at all, so the font and icons look quite pixelized. The display is actually decent in direct sunlight, if the brightness is pumped up to the max.
The rest of the black glossy plastic design is curvaceous, and the plastic feels durable, and it is not slippery, thus making the phone comfortable to hold. Most of the action is going on at the top of the phone where the lock/power button, the microUSB port, and the 3.5mm audio jack are. The only other element is the volume rocker on the left.
The sides of the Samsung Galaxy 3
Interface and Functionality:
The TouchWiz 3.0 interface on the Samsung Galaxy 3, as well as the menus and core apps are looking absolutely the same like the ones we explored in detail in the Galaxy S review. The only quirk we noticed at first look was a white instead of black background in the calendar, which aggregates events from your Facebook or corporate Outlook/Exchange schedules as well.
There are up to seven homescreens for widget, shortcut and folder placement. One of the good ideas in the making of TouchWiz 3.0 was to include connectivity switches right in the notification bar, which can be rolled down from every page. On the Galaxy 3 we have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and vibration toggle, and we found ourselves constantly using that function instead of the stock Android widget for which you have to navigate to a home screen.
The interface of the Samsung Galaxy 3
The Activities tab in the Contacts app shows an aggregate view of all your communications history, regardless of the source and means of that communication – calls, texts, email, Facebook messages, etc. These communication stories are visible also in the history tab of each contact, but are restricted to your interactions with her or him only. You can even enter the media tab from a single contact view, and it will show you the latest albums they have uploaded on Facebook, for example. That’s how deep Samsung’s Social Hub goes – it is the company’s response to Sony Ericsson’s Timescape and HTC’s FriendStream, and we’d dare to say we found it very useful.
The Email app coming with TouchWiz 3.0 still doesn’t offer a way to setup the number of messages and their size to be downloaded. Typing messages on the Galaxy 3 is a bit uncomfortable on account of the 3.2” canvas, but the on-screen keyboard is quite good by default, so this is not a dealbreaker. The handset also includes Swype – a popular text entry method where you finger slides from one letter to the next without lifting it off and form words. It is quite speedy once you get used to it.
The TouchWiz interface as a whole feels silky smooth, despite the phone having a 667MHz CPU.
Internet and Connectivity:
The default WebKit-based browser renders even heavy pages quickly and reflows the text to fit on the small screen with ease. Kinetic scrolling on heavy pages is choppy, however, due to the hardware limitations (or software imperfections). When zoomed in, though, the page fluidly scrolls in all directions. The Galaxy 3 is getting updated to Android 2.2, as Samsung promised, so the browser will show Adobe Flash as well, which, of course, can’t make up for the lag and meager WQVGA resolution beaming a pixelated webpage.
The default WebKit-based browser renders even heavy pages quickly
The phone has a full range of connectivity options (3G, Wi-Fi b/g/n, GPS, FM radio), including Bluetooth 3.0. With A-GPS we locked signal quickly, and were using Google Maps Navigation mere seconds after we fired it up.
Camera and Multimedia:
There is no dedicated camera button on the Galaxy 3, and no flash of any kind to complement the 3MP shooter. The camera interface offers a range of preset scene modes, as well as useful shooting modes such as panorama, continuous shooting and smile detection. The 3MP snaps are actually not bad for the resolution since the camera captures enough detail with true colors and decent focus. The manual touch focus doesn’t always lock the object properly, and the pictures often get blurry as a result.
Video capture is QVGA with the choppy 15fps, so the Galaxy 3 won’t replace your standalone camera soon, but at least the colors are accurate.
Some 3D effects in the gallery grid are present in the Galaxy 3, but indexing files and scrolling through pages with multimedia suffered because of the slower CPU. Pictures and videos, of course, don’t look anything like on a Super AMOLED screen, though they still look fine.
Some 3D effects in the gallery grid are present in the Samsung Galaxy 3
The excellent music player we found in the Galaxy S is present here as well, and, what is more important, its 5.1 channel surround sound in headset mode was intact, too. The tabs on the top allow sifting through your collection by artist, album and playlists, or display all at once. Landscape mode brings along some eye candy like CD cover flow or an alphabetical wheel, to pick your music poison. Sharing the song via email or Bluetooth is done from the context menu while playing. The current song keeps going in the background when the screen is locked, and you can even pull down the notification area then to display the controls.
Samsung is great in video format support, and the Galaxy 3 is no exception – it plays DivX/XviD out of the box. Videos run all the way up to the 720×480 resolution, and only afterwards the phone gave us a warning that it can’t play the file.
Our incoming calls sounded loud but a bit hollow on the Samsung Galaxy 3, and the other party was hearing us clearly, though the voices were somewhat pitched.
The phone’s loudspeaker is nothing to write home about – while strong, the produced sound is with the ubiquitous flat and tinny effect. In headset mode, due to the 5.1 channel surround audio effect, the results are much better.
There is a large 1500mAh battery inside the Samsung Galaxy 3, which is rated for 7hrs of talk time and 21 days of standby in 3G mode.
The Samsung Galaxy 3 should make a compelling mid-range Android device with its capacitive screen, polished TouchWiz interface with SNS integration, and generous battery size. However, the design is nothing impressive, and the CPU plus the screen resolution render browsing often choppy and pixelated. Its strengths are mainly the social networking integration and the extensive video format support, but for quality indoor photos and HD video capture you will have to look elsewhere.
For the Galaxy 3 to win hearts, the price has to be right (read: cheap), but we still can’t vouch for that.
One good alternative to the Galaxy 3 from the manufacturer is the bada-based Samsung Wave with its Super AMOLED screen and camera that does 720p video, plus great indoor photos. If it definitely has to be Android, the HTC Wildfire might also beg for your attention with an intriguing design, and a 5MP camera with flash.
Samsung Galaxy 3 Video Review:
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