Throughout the London 2012 Olympics, it was impossible to ignore that Samsung's promoted the Galaxy S III as the official phone of the games. An ad for the phone runs frequently during the commercial breaks, and I've seen athletes themselves using the phone to capture their own experiences.
Having spent weeks with the LTE version of the Galaxy S III, it's clear that this is one of the best phones on the market. Android phones evolve at very rapid pace, but there's enough newness in this one – particularly that 2GB of RAM – to keep it capable for the next couple of years. Of course, that also depends on software updates from Samsung.
Compared to the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the S III is superior in every hardware aspect; it's thinner, faster, has a better screen and a camera sensor that's leagues ahead. The battery life on the S III is better too, especially when compared to the CDMA/LTE Galaxy Nexus – but that's partially also due to the much bigger 2100 mAh battery.
The build materials between the Galaxy Nexus and the S III are equal. Samsung phones have a reputation of being rather 'plasticky'. Even after much criticism for the liberal use of plastic in its casing, Samsung has done nothing to change its design. Then again, plastic doesn't shatter like glass and it doesn't block radio signals like metal. Still, the S III doesn't have the premium feel of HTC One X, which is plastic at its best.
The 8MP sensor stays in line with the one from the Galaxy S II, which is quite good. The custom camera software has given Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich much loved features such as HDR, but has also stripped away the time-lapse modes. 1080p recorded video looks great, particularly outdoors in daylight. It won't even replace your point and shoot, but it'll make you a lot more comfortable about leaving your camera at home.
HDR mode enabled
The Galaxy S III is also one of the first devices to employ Gorilla Glass 2, which is just as strong as the original, but at thinner sheets. Through weeks of being exposed to the inside of the messenger bag and being among keys and coins, the screen is blemish free. Surprisingly, the plastic back plate has is relatively unscathed too, with only the corners where the phone contacts whatever surface it's on having lost a bit of its shine.
The only thing that the Samsung Galaxy S III lags behind right now is its version of Android. Currently at 4.0.4, which in all fairness is the very latest for the vast majority of modern Android phones, it's not running the latest release from Google – Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. That said, right now the only two phones that officially run Jelly Bean are two of Samsung's own, the Galaxy Nexus and the Nexus S. Not running the latest Android release isn't really a strike against the Galaxy S III. After all, that's just how the Android system works for non-Nexus devices. And even if the Galaxy S III was on 4.1, it would be layered with TouchWiz, Samsung's customized version of the OS.
How one feels about TouchWiz is a matter of taste. The widgets in the notification drawer are nice and the option to enable battery percentage is something that is sorely needed in stock Android. Overall, though, much of TouchWiz feels like Samsung developers made changes for the sake of making changes. It's understandable that manufacturers want to create a unique identity in its software, but we're still quite happy buying computers based on specs and form with the expectation that all will run the same version of Windows 7. That being said, those who are adventurous will enjoy the openness of the platform and install their own ROMs; there are already builds of 4.1 Jelly Bean available for all variants of the S III.