As Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S III in London Thursday, it focused less on spec details and more on the concept that the phone can actually predict your next move — a talent you won’t find in rival phones like the HTC One X and Apple’s iPhone 4S.
One new feature, Smart Stay, uses eye-tracking technology to put the phone to sleep (and wake it up again) as needed. Specifically, the S III’s front-facing camera registers when you’re looking at the device. If the phone recognizes your mug, its screen will turn on and remain active as long as you’re using it.
The upshot: No more screen dimming in the middle of reading a long email. Just as nifty, when you look away, the phone will go to sleep, Samsung says.
Another feature, Direct Call, automatically places a phone call based on whom you’re text messaging. Specifically, if you’re in the middle of writing a text and lift the phone to your ear, the phone’s proximity and motion sensors will alert the S III to place a call for you.
The S III also features a Siri-like program, S Voice, that uses voice recognition to check the weather, place a phone call, search the web, and add appointments to the phone’s calendar app. S Voice can also launch the camera app, something Siri can’t do on the iPhone.
The Samsung Galaxy S III features an 8MP rear camera. Photo: Samsung
And there’s more still: Facial recognition technology built into the S III identifies people in photos, and links to your friends’ pages on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, making it easy to e-mail or text a photo to the identified people.
The S III also introduces a clever multitasking trick called Pop Up Play that’s reminiscent of the picture-in-picture feature found on many TV sets. In a nutshell, you can switch full-screen video to a smaller pop-up window in order to continue watching the movie while texting, browsing or using other apps.
It sounds dubious on the surface, but do keep in mind that the S III boasts a massive 4.8-inch screen.
The latest Galaxy handset will run on Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) skinned in Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface. However, water droplet sound effects will be added throughout the phone’s audio interface, and unlocking the phone involves a swipe that kicks in a water-ripple animation. All this liquidy fanfare is special to the S III.
Samsung says these aesthetic touches, as well as the phone’s curved plastic body, are “inspired by nature.” And the nature theme is carried over to hardware color choices as well — you can choose between “Pebble Blue” and “Marble White.” Curiously, regular old black wasn’t announced as a color option Thursday.
Among the other hardware highlights, the S III will include a 4.8-inch Super AMOLED display with a 1280×720 resolution, a 1.4GHz quad-core processor, and a built-in NFC chip for mobile payments and sharing files with other S III handsets using an “S Beam” feature.
For snapping photos, Samsung is including an 8MP rear camera with an LED flash, and a 1.9MP front-facing camera — the same setup found on the previous S II.
Samsung hasn’t yet offered details on U.S. pricing or carriers, but last year’s Galaxy S II was available across all four major U.S. carriers in varying screen sizes and even differing materials and body designs.
A 3G version of the Galaxy S III will launch in Europe in May and later across Asia, Africa and the Middle East, but the U.S. will have wait until later this summer to get its variant of the new handset. When the S III does hit the U.S., Samsung said the handsets will run on 4G LTE networks.
The Samsung Galaxy S III will be offered in two colors -- Pebble Blue and Marble White. Photo: Samsung