When it comes to media on a smartphone, users are now being spoilt for choice by the top manufacturers – where the Samsung Galaxy S2 was one of the most impressive media mobiles out there, it's quickly been caught by the competition.
That's not to say the Samsung Galaxy S3 isn't a superb effort in the media space – in fact, the biggest criticism of it here is the fact that it's actually trying to do TOO much, which is never a bad thing.
But a quick word of warning to those looking to get the 16GB version of the S3 – the OS takes up a whopping 5GB of space, so you're only getting 11GB capacity in reality.
But that's not a huge issue, thanks to that lovely microSD card slot. Hear that, HTC and Apple? EXPANDABLE MEMORY. It's a good thing.
Plus Samsung has one-upped HTC here by offering up 50GB of Dropbox storage, rather than the 'meagre' 25GB option on offer from the Taiwanese firm. If you run out of space now, you're doing something a little odd.
(Oh, and quick note on the bundled headphones: they're excellent for free options. They're a little lightweight and lack bass quality compared to high-end options, but the in-ear nature and microphone work very well).
The Music player on the Samsung Galaxy S3 is certainly a decent enough effort and offers all the functionality we'd be looking from in a mobile phone - from smart playlists to wireless streaming, it's all there.
For instance, the second you connect headphones to your Samsung Galaxy S3 you get not only the chance to fire up the music player, but look in the notifications pane and you'll see all the apps that are optimised for headphones, be it the music player, FM radio or YouTube.
The notifications pane is actually a pretty pivotal section for the music player, as you can also pause and skip tracks from here - it's something Samsung has offered for years, and we're glad it's still there. It's now flanked by a music widget on the home screen too, which hasn't always been there in times gone by.
But onto the important stuff: the quality of the sound. And yes, it's good. Very good indeed. The tonal quality is very even throughout listening, and the sheer range of equaliser settings is dizzying. Most of them are slightly useless and very similar to one another, but the difference in quality between 'dance' and 'rock' is enough to warrant use.
There's also a virtual surround sound option in there as well, which we were surprised did actually give the impression of 7.1 sound (well, it could have been 5.1. Our ears aren't THAT discerning). It only worked on tracks encoded at a higher bitrate, but it's a good option nonetheless.
In terms of actual use, the Music player is actually pretty standard on the Samsung Galaxy S3 - that's not a bad thing, but there's not much to really talk about. The buttons could do with being slightly larger, especially given how much space the album art is given, but it's not going to cause tears before bedtime or anything.
We were intrigued to try out a new feature from Samsung called Music Square here - it's been done before by other brands and basically works out the intensity of a song and ranks it by mood. So if you want a 'passionate' and 'exciting' track for...whatever you're doing.... then the S3 should have that ready for you. You can even select the level of passion/excitement.
In practice - well, it's a bit hit and miss, as many of these have been. It's good the music is processed from the device itself, rather than calling up a database in the sky, but some of the choices were a little odd, and made us not want to rely on Music Square to really guess our mood.
You can drag your finger across the square to choose a 'progressive' playlist based on your mood - the odd additions aside, this is a really nice way of making a playlist from your tunes.
DLNA is also superbly well supported throughout the Samsung Galaxy S3, and allows easy access to any tracks shared from nearby devices. Well, that's the theory - in practice, it was a little more difficult. Firstly, if you've got AllShare installed on your PC then you'll find two locations popping up on your phone for tracks, and once the list is populated (which takes a long time) then we could play anything thanks to a 'license issue'.
It's not a big deal, but the idea of streaming tracks from a PC to your TV via your handset was a lot easier on the Galaxy S2. We're going to have a little more of a play with this feature to see if there's something obvious we're missing, but it's unlikely the non-technically minded user will want to mess around with it too much.
There are a few other options to talk about here: for instance, dive into the menu and you'll see that if the music file you're playing has embedded lyrics, you can see them on the screen at the same time. It's a shame Samsung couldn't repeat Motorola's excellent trick of being able to call them from an online database, but we can't see too many people missing this as a feature.
You can also set the play speed from within the menu as well, all the way up to 2x. Why you'd want to, and why it's hidden in a menu, we're unsure, but it's there if you want it. We can confirm it DOES speed up songs. Perhaps you want to make your tunes that much more squeaky when annoying others on the bus?
We'd also like to see an option to update the album art without needing to connect to a PC – why is this not included when a multitude of third party apps manage the same trick?
But overall, the music player from the Samsung Galaxy S3 gets a big tick in our book. Sure, we'd have loved to see a super slick DLNA player, especially as the Nokia N900 from many moons ago could do it, but we'll survive and hopefully work that one out.
Another feature that recently became available is Samsung's Spotify-baiting Music Hub, which is the place to get more tracks on your phone.
Music Hub allows you to buy or stream or albums, and can also manage music you load in through an SD card.
There are also personalized radio station that pick tracks for you Pandora-style. You can also sync with your iTunes account, and sync tracks rather seemelessly.
Music Hub is great at being, well, a hub, collecting Shazam, Slacker Radio and your personal purchased tracks in one place. However, when it comes to its own streaming services, performance can be inconsistent. Tracks often take several seconds to start playing, and scrubbing through a song makes for painful performance even over 4G or WiFi service.
We've since made a short walk-through video so you can see the Music Hub interface:
The Video player on the Samsung Galaxy S3 is one of the best out there on the market - without question. We're not talking about third party options from Android, as there are some crackers that many will want to upgrade to, but this is one of the best stock players we've seen.
One of its main strengths is the layout: it's futuristic, simple and easy to use. The buttons are large enough, and the slider is easy to grab to move through a video at your own speed. It's a shame you can't swipe on the screen anywhere and do things like move the brightness up and down and scroll through the movie at different speeds, but as we said, the likes of MX Player will sort you out from the Play Store.
The range of files supported is brilliant too: from AVI to MP4 to Xvid and DivX it's all there, and will appeal to those that like watching movies on the go. You can simply change the ratio of the file, which is a function that so many seem to omit at the moment - sometimes our files aren't the best-behaved, so this option is critical.
Then we get to the playback: it's excellent. The deep contrast ratios, the colour reproduction; it's all pretty much class leading. We can't say it's necessarily better than the HTC One X, which has the same pixel count (but Super LCD 2 technology rather than Super AMOLED HD) but that's just preference - both had an excellent image when watching all kinds of videos.
Even the Video player home screen is ace, as each thumbnail (which tells you which video is which... are you listening, HTC?) will start autoplaying - such is the power of the quad core processor.
What is obvious is the need for a response from Apple on the screen size issue: the 3.5-inch option is just too small for video watching in any long scenario. The 4.8-inch screen is fantastic, and we thoroughly recommend it to anyone that likes watching a whole host of videos.
Pop Up Player is also on offer from Samsung, and is a cool function to have. Press the button at the bottom right-hand side of the screen and you can keep the video playing when you're browsing the web or flicking through photos.
It's flawless in terms of performance, but we're not sure that it's actually useful. Given that attention spans are already being destroyed by the likes of Twitter and Facebook, we don't think you need an extra distraction on your smartphone.
But you'll still play with it once in a while and throw the video around the screen... just because you can.
The other function is watching videos from your PC or other DLNA-enabled device, and unlike the music player the news is much better: it works. Simply jump into the Video Player app and you'll be able to search for nearby devices and see a list of shared videos.
It's not the fastest out there, but that's more to do with the speed of Wi-Fi these days more than the phone itself.
So, once again - Samsung has managed to produce an industry-leading video player through the Galaxy S3.
With the smartphone market becoming so congested, the notion of just chucking together the best technology in a slim package isn't enough anymore, so other services need to be integrated.
The Video Hub from Samsung needs to offer users loads of content without breaking the bank – and it doesn't really do either if we're honest.
The selection is very minimal at the moment, with TV shows not available as one lump and costing $3.50 roughly per show.
Movies come in at around $11 to buy, with rentals slightly more expensive than their counterparts on Google's Play Movies store. And there's not even anything available in HD.
What it lacks is the likes of HTC Watch's 5p rentals section, or the breadth of content Apple has through iTunes. Until that gets sorted, we can't see this store being overly used.
The FM radio on the Samsung Galaxy S3 has all manner of functionality built into it – most importantly the fact you can record the station you're listening to. So many other manufacturers don't offer this, and we love being able to nab whatever we're listening to for offline fun.
The scanning is very strong as well – we found many stations that most other phones couldn't pick up in the same area.
AllShare is a big feature of the Samsung Galaxy S3, with dedicated PC software, remote connectivity and DLNA all involved and ready to go.
However, it's currently a pretty confusing place to be – you can download AllShare for your PC that sits alongside Kies and lets you keep up to date with the nearby PC and DLNA-enabled devices that you can share stuff with.
But if you've got this running on a Windows 7 PC and you scan for it on the Galaxy S3 you'll be offered the choice of two servers, with different files on each depending on what you've shared.
It makes sense that both are being broadcast, and it's excellent they can be picked up – we'd just prefer to be able to negotiate through folders, as all your photos are lumped into one big grid of snaps on the phone.
(As a side note, the Gallery app will cache all your Facebook photos as albums, and it's really cool to be able to browse them on your phone – although you can't save them to the handset).
The other feature, AllShare Cast, is designed to allow those with similarly-enabled phones to share songs and video altogether and connect remotely to another device (as long as it's powered on).
We sadly couldn't get this feature working, as the AllSharePlay website isn't live yet to get the software to make our PC into a remote station.
Oddly, you do get access to web services from the AllShare Play app on the phone, but only SugarSync… why have this as the only option when you've given us 50GB of Dropbox storage Samsung?
So to summarise: AllShare's local connectivity from the Samsung Galaxy S2, which we loved a lot, has now been integrated into the phone, and AllShare Play is more for remote working… check back and we'll let you know how we get on when the service is enabled.