The Samsung Galaxy S III will become available from five different U.S. wireless network operators starting later this month, said Samsung. Samsung didn't say which operators will ship its flagship smartphone first, but named AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile USA, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless as the five carriers that will offer it. Pricing is set to start at $199, but that will vary by carrier.
In a change from previous years, all five carriers will sell the same version of the phone. In the past, each carrier customized the appearance of the Galaxy S device to suit their own tastes. The version of the S III sold in the United States will be nearly identical to those sold overseas, with one major exception: the processor will be different.
The international version of the S III uses Samsung's homemade, quad-core Exynos processor. The U.S. version will instead use the Snapdragon S4 processor from Qualcomm. It has two cores clocked at 1.5-GHz each and 2 GB of RAM. The dual-core processor offers the same competitive speeds and performance as leading quad-core processors without sacrificing valuable battery life.
HTC made a similar change when it launched the One X in the U.S. with AT&T. The international version of the One X uses an Nvidia Tegra 3 system-on-a-chip that has four main processor cores and a fifth companion core. The AT&T version, however, uses the same Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 that the Samsung Galaxy S III does.
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There's one big reason for this difference between the international and U.S. versions of the S III: wireless network support.
Nvidia's Tegra 3, for example, doesn't yet support LTE 4G networks and won't until late this year or early next year. Though Samsung has not specifically said so, the same must be true of its Exynos processor.
The U.S. Galaxy S III will support the fastest HSPA+ and LTE networks run by the wireless network operators.
If you're worried about performance with the S4, don't be. In my experience, the S4 processor outperforms the Tegra 3 in both computing prowess and battery life. It's a superior chip and potential Galaxy S III customers should not get hung up on the U.S. version's lack of quad-core computing.
Other aspects of the Galaxy S III remain unchanged. It runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and will have the latest Samsung user interface skin, called TouchWiz, on board. It features a 4.8-inch 1280 x 720 HD display.
At 133 grams (4.7 oz), the S III is incredibly light. It measures 8.6-mm thick, which isn't the thinnest dimension in the smartphone market, but it's still very thin. The S III includes all the radios that matter: LTE, HSPA+, Wi-Fi, GPS, GLONASS, Bluetooth 4.0, and NFC. The 4G support is vital for this class of device, and by upping to Bluetooth 4.0, the S III will be able to work with an incredible array of accessories without affecting battery life.
With the back and front cameras, respectively, the phone shoots 8- and 2-megapixels and 1080p/720p HD video, and the S III's advanced facial recognition features, which keep the display awake or tag photos, is really neat stuff.
It comes with plenty of storage options plus the ability to supplement it with microSD cards.
Of the major U.S. carriers, so far only Verizon Wireless has come forward with pricing details. It will cost $199 for the 16-GB version and $299 for the 32-GB version. Verizon customers can preorder the S III starting June 6, though Verizon didn't say when it will be available.
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