The Samsung Galaxy S III: One Huge Display and a Whole Lot of Software

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Samsung’s Galaxy S III is finally official and man, is it big.

With a 4.8-inch, 720p Super AMOLED display, the Galaxy S III is the largest smartphone that Samsung has ever built–unless you count the company’s Galaxy Note phone-tablet crossover. And yet, the Galaxy S III still uses physical buttons for home, back and menu navigation, which means users will really have to stretch their fingers for one-handed operation. That’s the price you pay for a pretty, high-resolution screen, I suppose.

(MORE: Samsung Galaxy Note Review: Living with a Gigantic Smartphone)

Aside from the new display, the Galaxy S III isn’t a huge step up from its predecessor in terms of tech specs. Similar to Galaxy S II, Samsung’s new flagship has an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, a 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera, 1 GB of RAM, a minimum 16 GB of storage and a MicroSD card slot. It does have a larger battery to power the new display, and it likely has a beefier processor, though Samsung¬† hasn’t announced specifics. (The actual processor will vary by market, but some versions will receive Samsung’s 1.4 GHz quad-core Exynos chip.)

In lieu of all-new tech specs, Samsung added lots of its own software to the core Android 4.0 experience. For instance, the Galaxy S III will include a Siri-like suite of voice commands, dubbed “S Voice.” Users can ask this virtual assistant to set alarms, check the weather, control phone functions such as Wi-Fi and get answers to questions. These features expand upon Android’s built-in voice commands, which include the ability to look up directions, dictate messages and play music.

Other software features include “Smart Stay,” which tracks the user’s eyes through the front-facing camera and adjusts brightness accordingly, and “S Beam,” which lets two phones transfer files directly. “Smart Alerts” can vibrate the phone after being idle if the user has missed a message or phone call. And of course, the phone runs Samsung’s TouchWiz interface on top of Android 4.0.

As for design, Samsung’s Galaxy S III is a bit thicker, larger and heavier than its predecessor, measuring 5.38 by 2.78 by 0.34 inches, and weighing 0.29 pounds. The outer material is polycarbonate–a premium type of plastic that’s also found on Nokia’s Lumia 900 Windows Phone. Samsung says the “elements of wind, water and light are all evoked in the physical construct” of the Galaxy S III. Far out, man.

The Samsung Galaxy S III will come in blue (pictured) and white, and will launch in Europe at the end of May, with other markets to follow. CNet reports that 4G LTE versions of the phone won’t launch stateside until December the summer. (CNet has changed the text in its story, so I assume the original December estimate was incorrect.)

Samsung Galaxy S III [Samsung]