The S3 has an 8-megapixel camera, which is the same resolution as last year's Galaxy S2. It might not have bumped up the pixel count, but this blower does have a few new tricks up its sleeve, including the zero-shutter-lag trait seen in the Galaxy Nexus, and a clever feature that automatically suggests your best shot after you've fired off a few similar snaps, basing its decision on factors like smile detection and face recognition.
A new feature, also present on the HTC One X, is the ability to take still images while you're recording video -- perfect for when your pet is doing something adorable.
The S3's camera can be very good indeed -- producing excellent close-up shots, both indoors and out, and having an impressively shallow depth of field.
The level of detail on this close-up shot of a flower, plus the shallow depth of field, shows the S3's lens at its very best (click image to enlarge).
Colours are generally true to life, with a slight tendency to over-saturate some shades.
Let them snap cake! The S3 proves it can produce a droolingly good-looking photo (click image to enlarge).
The lens can be a touch fickle when dealing with variable light conditions across one scene. I found it has a tendency to wash out parts of the scene, and it can also suffer from lens flare.
Southwark's church looks majestic on a hazy morning but there is a slight tendency to wash out the sky (click image to enlarge).
On the plus side, it's good at dealing with the lower light of an indoor environment. Unless it's really dingy, clarity is good and photos don't speckle with noise.
If it's shallow depth of field you want then look no further than the S3's cam (click image to enlarge).
If you're wondering how the S3's lens squares up to other high-end smart phones, rest assured you won't be embarrassed by the quality of the snaps it takes. However, it's not the best smart phone camera money can buy right now. That's the Nokia 808 PureView -- a fantastic camera phone that is nonetheless a poor smart phone.
There are loads of camera options to muck about with.
In a shot-for-shot camera comparison, pitting the S3 against the iPhone 4S, the HTC One X and Sony Xperia S, the S3 delivered good results, beating the Xperia S, but it couldn't quite outshine the iPhone or the One X.
The S3 can turn out a good shot but its snaps aren't quite as impressive as those taken with the iPhone 4S or HTC One X.
The S3 shoots Full HD video at 1080p resolution. Video results during testing were less impressive than the still shots, with a tendency to look hazy. Levels of detail also drop off with even relatively slow of movement in the frame, such as when walking.
There's a 2-megapixel camera on the front for video calling, Face Unlock and Samsung's face detection feature -- which stops the phone's screen from dimming as long as you're looking at it.
Contactless sharing technology, or near field communication (NFC), is also on board the S3. That's good news if you're a fan of NFC tags. And, in the not too distant future, having NFC on board should mean you can use the phone to pay for stuff in shops.
Olympic athletes competing in the 2012 London Games are trialling this Visa NFC payment app.
For amounts under £20, there's no need to add your PIN. So in theory it should be quicker. In practice, relatively few shops and retailers will let you pay with a swipe as they don't yet have contactless terminals installed so your choice of lunch shop is pretty limited.
Even in those outlets that do accept NFC, because it's still a less usual way to pay, you have to spend some extra time asking to pay with your phone, rather than just handing over cash, so it's not always quicker. Add to that, the NFC terminals in my local Pret A Manger sandwich shop seemed to be offline an awful lot -- meaning that if I'd turned up with just the phone and no cash expecting to pay, I'd have left without any lunch.
These sort of teething issues mean NFC mobile payments are still a way off being as easy as fishing a fiver out of your pocket. NFC on the S3 is still a 'nice to have' -- and hopefully it will become increasing useful in the coming years.
Audio, ports and connectivity
As well as internal micro-SIM and microSD card slots, there's a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top edge of the handset and a micro-USB port on the bottom edge for charging the phone and transferring files, videos and music to and fro.
Like the S2, the S3 has a rear speaker. But instead of being sited down low, it's positioned right up towards the top of the phone, next to the camera. Sound quality is good but the audio doesn't go especially loud. At the top of its range, songs can have a slight crackle.
The position of the speaker can affect the quality of the sound. If you're looking at the face of the phone, the rear-sited speaker is blasting away from your ears. An arguably better position for a second speaker would be on one of the phone's edges. However, the S3's pebble design means there's precious little room there.
Call quality is excellent and I had no trouble hearing or being heard. I also didn't experience any dropped calls.
One important thing to note is there's no support for the fastest current 3G technology, DC-HSPA -- in either its 21Mbps or 42Mbps variant -- so be aware that this phone is very much a 3G-only blower, despite previous reports to the contrary.
The browser zips along at twice the speed of the S2.
With the Galaxy S3, Samsung hasn't messed with its formula much, recognising slick design and a gorgeous screen were the secret to the Galaxy S2's success. The S3's oval shape may not be an instant eyeball grabber but those pebble-like curves are enticing to the touch -- unless you're trying to frame and snap a photo one-handed, in which case they become a slippery nightmare.
To this curvaceous design, Samsung has added an upgraded engine -- making a phone that's unrivalled in the speed and power stakes right now.
On the down side, the TouchWiz interface is occasionally frustrating, and Samsung's app offerings aren't always as intuitive as they could be. These minor software concerns aside, the S3 is already one of the year's most important gadgets. There are very few phones that come close to matching Apple's premium, luxurious feel, but with the S3, Samsung has got closer than anyone.
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Update 10 May: This article was re-published onto a new URL.
Update 24 May: Republished as a review by Natasha Lomas. Additional testing by Luke Westaway.
Update 28 May: Battery benchmark tests added.
Update 23 July: Updated with additional views and insights.