News by Dan Seifert on Thursday May 03, 2012.
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By now you have likely heard that Samsung introduced its new Galaxy S III smartphone today and have had a chance to pore over the hardware and its specifications. As much import as Samsung gave to the hardware, it also applied to the software on the Galaxy S III, and it is debuting quite a few new software features with its flagship device.
At its core, the Galaxy S III runs Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich with Samsung's TouchWiz interface on top. This version of Android 4.0 will look more familiar to owners of Samsung's Android 2.3 Gingerbread smartphones than those that have used stock Android 4.0 devices, however, as TouchWiz changes a number of user interface elements on the platform. Most notable on the Galaxy S III is the use of a physical home key that requires a long-press to access the multi-tasking screen, and the capacitive keys for Menu and Back that flank it as opposed to the on-screen keys seen on the Google Galaxy Nexus, for example.
In addition to TouchWiz, Samsung has added new features and enhanced some existing Android 4.0 features to a significant extent. The company calls its new interface elements "TouchWiz Nature UX," and claims that they are influenced and inspired by nature.
A new voice-control system called S Voice is available that lets users talk to the Galaxy S III and have it perform various tasks, such as launch an app or look up the local weather. To call it "inspired" by Apple's Siri virtual assistant on the iPhone 4S might be an understatement. Samsung did demo a potentially useful feature of saying "snooze" to the phone in order to snooze the alarm for a few minutes. We don't know how anyone would ever get out of bed if all they had to do was say snooze to their phone, however.
Smart Stay is a new multitasking feature that lets users continue playing video in a smaller windowed area should an alert or text message come in a need a response. The windowed video can be moved around the screen and a simple tap on the video will make it resume full-screen playback.
Android 4.0's NFC-enabled Beam function is present on the Galaxy S III, but Samsung has renamed it to "S Beam" and beefed it up with more features. On Samsung devices users can use S Beam to send large media files quickly and easily. The system uses NFC to initiate pairing with just a tap of the devices, and then it utilizes Wi-Fi Direct to send the files or content to the other phone. Samsung claims this system allows a 1GB video to transfer between the phones in a mere three minutes, or a 10MB music file to jump over in just two seconds.
The new AllShare feature in the Galaxy S III also uses Wi-Fi Direct, and it lets users stream video, share files, and share their screen with other devices on the same Wi-Fi network. Samsung calls these new services AllShare Cast, AllShare Play, and Group Cast.
The Music Hub has been improved with a new scan-and-match feature that isn't too unlike Apple's iTunes Match service. Samsung says it has 17 million songs in its library that it can match with a user's tunes.
Samsung didn't leave the camera app alone on the Galaxy S III, and it has included a number of improvements to make sharing photos easier. Aside from the less-than-one second time it takes to open the app, the camera will snap a photo as soon as a user taps the shutter key, and it will then manage continuous shooting at up to 3.3 frames per second. There is a Best Shot feature that will snap 8 photos and then pick the best one, and images can be tagged with the software's facial recognition tools. Tagged faces will directly link to social network profiles, and images can be sent out through Android's share tools.
These features are really just a portion of what Samsung has added to the Galaxy S III. Other tweaks include Direct Call, which will dial the number of a contact that a user is messaging if they just hold the phone up to their ear, and Smart Alert that causes the phone to vibrate when it is picked up if there are new notifications to be seen. The lock screen on the Galaxy S III has also been enhanced with access to news feeds and stock information, and you can use a "tap and rotate" gesture to directly launch the camera from the lockscreen.
We expect to dive further into these new software features when we do a full review of the Galaxy S III in the near future.
Dan is MobileBurn.com's Editor-in-Chief. Based in Poughkeepsie in New York, Dan can be found on Twitter as @DCSeifert.