Apps pre-installed on phones are now seen by some as bloatware, so it's good to see that the Samsung Galaxy S3 hasn't gone too far down this route.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

There are some new things added in to replace the likes of the Reader Hub, and we've now got new toys from Google as well - but it's the UI tweaks to some of the old favourites that we like.

Voice recorder is one that we use quite a lot these days, being all journalistic and that (apparently), and it's one of the best we've seen so far. It doesn't do much more than recording voice, but it does that with aplomb - picking up sounds that it really shouldn't thanks to the sensitive microphone.

You've also got a more reactive decibel meter, meaning you can tell how loud a person is being while the chat is going on - handy indeed.

The Alarm function has also been imbued with even greater powers, and considering most will use this app nearly ever day, it's a good move. Not only have the likes of Smart Alarm been added, which allows you to have a softer sound before ramping up in volume, but Briefing is also in there too.

A word of warning: NEVER use this feature if you don't want to wake up to a heart attack some days. A quick burst of music is followed by a posh robot telling you the weather, the time, any appointments you have that day and the news headlines. It's hard to customise, and scares the life out of your comatosed brain. Still, fun to play with though...

Then we get into the 'S Suite' of apps - and these are of mixed value to the phone. Things like S Suggest give you apps you might like, and aside from the sexism of choosing apps for him (workout apps) and for her (messaging apps) does help separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to trying to know about the first things you should download to the phone.

S Planner is an advanced calendar function that shows so much information you might want to think about dialling it back, as it can be a bit messy. Plus you can see different tabs by simply swiping left and right with two fingers across the screen - which is always fun to do.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

S Memo seems to have been copied across from the Samsung Galaxy Note, and is brought in to really utilise the C Pen accessory - sold separately, of course. You can sketch and squiggle using your finger, or write text in here instead, as there's no Notes app any more.

Google also wanted to get in on the act, allowing you to rent movies at a slightly high price from Play Movies - and the selection isn't brilliant either. We'd also like to see a lot more in HD too - and some discounted titles wouldn't go amiss.

We're still waiting for the really attractive video download service from someone on a mobile phone - and Play Movies still isn't it, in our opinion.

Play Books is a lot better though - the prices are quite in keeping with the Kindle offering and there are loads of sales running most of the time. It's not quite got the catalogue Amazon does, and the experience of reading an ebook on a phone isn't as fun as a dedicated ereader, but it's a good service nonetheless.

The Play Books app is well laid out though, giving you a modern 3D interface to scroll through to get to your favourite tomes. You can tweak everything from page colour and brightness to size of text and line width - not earth-shattering but very much welcome.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

There's even the option to have the books read aloud to you if you're against any kind of intonation in spoken word stories.


Mapping on Google's Android devices has always been excellent, and there's nothing better at the moment for this than the Samsung Galaxy S3.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Thanks to the latest version of Google Maps, the HD screen is well-optimised to show high levels of details, vector-based graphics for easier zooming in and out of places, and has even greater detail than before when it comes to finding out about your surrounding area.

It's fast – very fast – at locating you thanks to the aforementioned GPS and GLONASS satellites on offer, meaning a maximum of three seconds for a fix outside, and around 10 seconds on a train or near a window – which is mind-blowing.

The speed of finding new places and loading the 3D maps is as fast as ever, although we're not seeing an improvement over dual core phones here. But then again, we're struggling to see a reason for the quad core processor at all at the moment.

Places has been updated as well within Google Maps, as the chances of finding a decent coffee shop or pub in the vicinity is much higher than before – we used to just point and hope, but now there are several establishments on offer.

The new version of GMaps also allows pre-caching (through the Labs trial section) which means you can pick a place and save 15 kilometres of mapping info for a foreign trip, if you don't want outlandish data charges.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

And let's take this phone out and about: we're talking about directions and Navigation on offer here, and as before, they're excellent.

The former will show a simple route to wherever you want to go and how long it reckons it should take you in normal conditions – you can choose on foot, by public transport or by car.

However, if you're in the latter mode of transportation you can also activate Google Maps Navigation to get your hands on free sat nav wherever you are.

This is a great system – it not only has voice feedback and clear maps, but will also draw in live traffic updates to give you a real-time analysis on how long the route will take.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

This part is scarily accurate; we're talking to within 100 metres at times, so planning a re-route is definitely an option (when you've stopped at an appropriate place… we would never condone trying to do this when driving. Google says so too).

If only the app could tell you local re-routing options to get you around the traffic… you can always choose two or three routes from Navigation, but they're mostly large-scale options rather than helping you get around a tipped-over tanker on the Pacific Highway.