Three thousand journalists! For a non-Apple event, this was unique. And the excitement in the air as also the level of anticipation was near-delirious. Even before the launch, this one single device had created euphoria and noise that neared fanaticism. And now it was about to be unveiled.
Just hours before, I had arrived in London for the Samsung Galaxy S3 event, only to find that the city had put in a supreme effort to tick mark every single cliché about itself: it was cold, damp and wet and it started raining as soon as I got out of the airport. The traffic was bumper to bumper all the way to the hotel and it left me almost no time to double back to my final destination – Eaton’s Court. The only way to make it through the perpetually traffic clogged city was by taking the Tube, the Jubilee line, and one station change and 35 minutes later I was staring at a huge sign that said “The Next Big Thing is Coming”.
Do or Die
Samsung got that right! With the amount of buzz and hype coursing through and expectations running sky high, this was a critical one for the company to pull off. Many believe that Samsung has become the smartphone leader because of the popularity of its predecessor – the Samsung Galaxy S2. Many believe that for Samsung to be able to stand taller in a sea of other Android smartphone brands, the S3 would be key. Thus the importance of the Galaxy S3 to Samsung cannot be underestimated. A mistake here and that amazing clout would all be blown away like a house of cards.
A New Dimension
The gigantic hall was awash with muted blue focus lights playing on flowing white drapes and soothing sounds of nature were piped through. Little trays of exquisitely-presented little food were doing the rounds, a huge screen glowed ominously in front while 3,000 people were all talking at the same time. And then, there it was – the third dimension of the Galaxy.
The Galaxy S3 is quite nice looking – still plasticky but more shiny. Even though it has a big screen, it doesn’t feel awkward in the hand thanks to a very thin bezel (8.6 mm) and weighs in at 133 grams. Also, no boring blacks here – only a Pebble Blue and a Marble White. But then Samsung did something unheard of in the mobile phone market – it wasn’t talking about the insides of the phone at all. Rather it was bandying about something completely different.
This was a huge departure for the Korean hardware giant. Rather than shouting itself hoarse about blinding specs and blazing hardware, the presenting team was deliberately underplaying the machinery inside. Rather, the focus was all about the S3 being “Designed for Humans”!
It’s not that the hardware disappoints – it is actually rather good (an Exynos 4212 Quad chipset, 1.4GHz Cortex A9 Quad processor, 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 1280 x 720, an 8-megapixel rear camera with 1080p HD video, a 1.9-megapixel front-facing cam, 16 or 32GB of internal storage expandable to 64GB via microSD, 4G LTE, NFC support and a 2100mAh battery). So it’s no slouch on the specs at all. But it is the “intelligence inside” that was being touted.
They call this the “humanisation of the phone”. Phrases like “built for humans” and “intelligence within” were liberally sprinkled around. Here are a few examples of what humanising a phone means:
* Direct Call: When texting or messaging someone, lift the S3 to your ear and it will automatically dial that person.
* Smart Alert: Put your phone away for a few hours. The minute you pick it up it will vibrate to notify you of missed calls and
messages that need your urgent attention.
* S Voice: Siri’s twin brother that uses natural language recognition to look up stocks, search information, give you a weather report, set an alarm and more.
* Tap to Top: When you’re in the middle of a Web page or at the bottom of a contact list, tap the top of your phone (not the screen) and the phone jumps to the top.
* Buddy Photo Share: Take a picture of a few friends and it will use face detection to identify who that is and instantly email or MMS the picture to all the people in that image.
* AllShare Play: An AirPlay-like system that lets you share your screen and media with other S3 users or DLNA devices.
* Smart Stay: The S3’s front camera tracks you to keep the screen on while you’re looking at it. Look away and it dims the screen.
* S Beam: Tap your S3 with another phone that has S Beam and you can transfer files at blazing speeds (a 16GB HD video in less than a minute).
So that’s some smart stuff there. For Samsung, this was playing Apple’s game and being one up on them. For the first time, it was all about the user experience – the ease of use and the separation of complex hardware from the simplicity of features that we all want.
Did Samsung do enough? Did they pull it off? How does the Samsung Galaxy S3 fare against the other biggies like the HTC One X, The Sony Xperia S and the iPhone 4S? And has it done enough to get Apple nervous about the upcoming iPhone 5? A no-holds- barred shootout next week.
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3. Follow Rajiv on Twitter at twitter.com/RajivMakhni
From HT Brunch, May 13
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