Software is the new battleground
Andrew | On 08, May 2012
The launch of the Galaxy S III has been widely covered by all of the tech blogs. Despite many rumours and ‘leaks’ we did not know for certain what the next Galaxy was until it was revealed. Sure we had a pretty good idea that it would be called the Galaxy S III and would have a quad-core processor but that is just common sense. What we didn’t know is that Samsung would switch to focusing on the software rather than the hardware. This has resulted in many articles dubbing the Galaxy S III as “evolutionary rather than revolutionary” and even “disappointing”. These articles are misguiding and often written by specheads. Here’s why.
The Galaxy S was a revolutionary device. It brought Android to the less geeky masses and firmly secured Samsung’s place at the top of the Android pile. The phone offered a smooth experience, a wide variety of free and paid apps, and an attractive design. There were issues with lag and the hardware was slightly below the software – a common and more prevalent issue for other Android devices of the time. With the Galaxy S Samsung started the push that saw manufacturers compete on hardware, specifically processor speeds and RAM.
Galaxy S II
Samsung’s response to the hardware wars was the Galaxy S II – a phone that many still consider to be the world’s best ever smartphone. The issue with lag had disappeared, the overall spec had seen a massive improvement and the user experience had jumped leaps and bounds. The Galaxy S II successfully brought the hardware above the software thus addressing the imbalance. The highly attractive design, the 8mpx camera and the very light and thin chassis made the Galaxy S II a firm favourite and a worthy successor to the original Galaxy.
Galaxy S III
The performance increase between the Galaxy S and Galaxy S II was so noticeably high that the specheads were bound to be disappointed. It’s not that the Galaxy S III does not kick ass in benchmarking because it certainly is an awesomely fast device and is indeed a massive improvement over the GS2. The main reason is that the specheads were hoping that the Galaxy S III spec sheet would blow the others out of the water.
Rumours sparked hopes of a 12mpx camera, a 1.8GHz quad core processor and 2GB RAM – hardware which looks good on paper but also comes with compromises which includes battery life. Then there’s that little thing called over spec’ing – having a spec that looks good on paper but cannot actually be used to its full potential. It’s like having a Ferrari which can go 150mph but the software limits it to 30mph.
The hardware war is over
Hardware has already overtaken software. We are now running phones with hardware that cannot be fully utilised by the software. Quad-core processors are awesome but not all applications are configured to harness the power of four. 8 megapixels are more than enough for the average picture taker – let’s be honest they only really end up on Facebook or stuck on our phone’s hard-drive most of the time anyway. Sure, there will probably be HWII (hardware war 2) but for now that game really doesn’t provide anyone with any value. So your phone has an Octo-core processor with 1TB of RAM – big freaking deal. You’ll notice a slightly zippier speed increase, a standby time of 1 hour and a talk time of 30 minutes. Good luck with that.
The software war has begun
The battle has moved to software and eco-systems. Take a look at Samsung versus HTC. HTC bring out some nice software enhancements to HTC Sense and team up with Dropbox to give users a 25Gb 2 year boost to their account. Samsung come along and POW!!! Double the Dropbox storage with a massive focus on human gestures in their latest iteration of TouchWiz. Added to that is S Voice which allows you to wake up your phone and use your voice to control your phone. It even answers mathematical questions. Samsung 2 – HTC 0. If you are thinking that free cloud storage is not really a big deal wake up and smell the gravy. How much of that 32Gb worth of files do you actually use on a daily basis? Now think about how much space you can clear by moving those pictures and videos of your best mate Jeff snorting sherbet on a drunken night out to your Dropbox account. Then there’s the boom in music streaming – it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than buying, you get all the songs you like and for a tenner a month Spotify gives you offline streaming as well as a pretty decent mobile app.
The Android eco-system and Samsung’s hardware was already so well refined that the Galaxy S III was bound to have a different focus. A gigantic jump up in specs would sound impressive but would cost us more and would also remove the massive feature the GS3 has – a much improved battery life. The fact is that the GS3 has had a really sizable jump in specs. The screen has been boosted to Super AMOLED HD (not Plus) and the screen size has shot up 22% to 4.8″ whilst the phone has only increased in size by 16%. The GPU is double the speed. The early benchmark tests prove that performance has jumped leaps and bounds. The design is solid – attractive and comfortable in the hand. Samsung kept with plastic to keep the weight low but used new technologies (Hyper Glaze) to improve the look and feel. The screen is slightly tapered at the edges and generally feels a lot nicer to use than the GS2 (similar feel to the Nokia Lumia 800). The phone is the first to use Gorilla Glass 2 which is 15 – 20% stronger than the previous version.
Then there are the big improvements in software – wifi bonding for faster wifi, S Voice, Smart Stay, NFC with Wifi Direct support for transfer of full videos and pics (not just links), massive boosts in camera performance with a range of new features (including burst and best shot) and the little things such as showing battery percentage on the notifications bar.
The Galaxy S III is exactly the phone it needed to be. It has set the bar once again for an all round intelligent powerhouse of a device. It is not disappointing. It is an iconic device that ticks all of the right boxes. It will be the best smartphone on the market. Sure it would have been nice to have seen Super AMOLED Plus HD but the screen is blemming awesome anyway. The design feels good in the hand, light in the pocket and not too big. Sure it’s not an iconic design but it looks good and it does the job extremely well.
Bloggers focusing on hardware need to get with the times. Software is the new battleground with the odd hardware scuffle along the way. Many will fall. The few that will rise will focus on the user experience; the harmony between spec and software. Samsung has once again set the trend that the smartphone market should, and will, follow.