Samsung Galaxy S III makes a splashy overseas debut

Taylor Hatmaker, Tecca
Tech It Up!

Samsung may have more gadgets in its Galaxy line than you can shake a stick at, but its newest smartphone isn't just filler. The company casts a wide net, having released an iPad rival in just about every size imaginable, for example, but Samsung is throwing its weight toward one new smartphone to take on the iPhone and Android competition alike. Meet the Galaxy S III, Samsung's latest and greatest, which just hit European shelves to much fanfare (and much envy, across the pond). The phone made a splash on a global scale, hitting 28 countries across Europe and the Middle East, with a reported 9 million pre-orders on the books.

Samsung intends to launch the Galaxy S III in 145 countries — the U.S. included — by July, across a whopping spread of 296 mobile carriers. While stateside consumers won't be able to get their paws on the device until its U.S. launch, which is widely expected to be in late June or July, we can live vicariously in the mean time.

Tech Specs

The Samsung Galaxy S III picks up where its well-regarded forebear the Galaxy S II left off, with a vivid (and massive) 4.8-inch Super AMOLED screen, an 8-megapixel camera, Samsung's consumer-friendly TouchWiz user interface, support for NFC for mobile payments, and S Voice, the company's very own Siri copycat. The phone offers a choice of 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB of internal storage, with an option to expand even further with a MicroSD card (theoretically, up to 128GB of total storage). Most importantly, the top-notch new smartphone will run the lauded latest version of Android 4.0 ("Ice Cream Sandwich") out of the box, so you won't be waiting for over-the-air software updates to get up to speed. To top it off, the capable new smartphone supports LTE networks, which is the speedy flavor of 4G that U.S. carriers are now shifting their weight toward.

Keep in mind that the Samsung Galaxy S III we've seen to date is the European variant. When the smartphone hits U.S. shores this summer, we expect it to pop up across carriers, much the way that three of the four major U.S. mobile carriers offered a variant of the Samsung Galaxy S II. When they do hit in the U.S., we just hope that carriers resist lavishing them with absurd superlatives, like the first generation of Samsung Galaxy S smartphones that were eager to "fascinate" and "captivate."

What do reviewers think, so far?

We had a chance to spend some time test-driving the new Galaxy S III at CTIA Wireless 2012 in New Orleans this year, and we came away with a largely favorable impression. With 4G LTE capability, a large impressive screen, and plenty of oomph under the hood, the Galaxy S III is the cutting edge of Android devices, and Samsung's TouchWiz might make Android 4.0 a little more user-friendly for new Android owners.

Engadget: "The power- and storage-hungry Android user simply cannot go wrong with this purchase, and neither can those looking for a great camera."

Phone Arena
: "Although its specs can easily be rivaled by strong competitors like the HTC One X, which also has a quad-core processor and the other beloved tech goodies, the Galaxy S III manages to shine brighter, thanks to its superior user experience."

The Verge: "The extra-large size of this phone, even with its great ergonomics, may prove to be a stumbling block for those who can't comfortably fit a 4.8-inch handset into their daily routine."

Pocket-lint: "There is a lot to love about the Samsung Galaxy S III. As a premium flagship smartphone it has plenty going for it. The huge display, the power, the smooth and fast operation are all to its credit. Add to this the ability to change battery and expand storage and you've a very good package indeed."

Techradar: "Would we recommend you buy one? Yes, without hesitation. If you're torn between this and an HTC One X, it's a very difficult one to call --“ the camera on the One X is much better and the overall feel might appeal. But in terms of pure usability and power, we really like what Samsung has put on the table."

Other fish in the sea

It might be new, but the Galaxy S III isn't the only heir in the royal family of Galaxy smartphones. In December, the Galaxy Nexus hit the ground running with Google's newest operating system, Android 4.0. There's also the Galaxy Note, a hybrid tablet/phone device that pushes the envelope when it comes to just how massive a phone can can get while still calling itself a phone. Beyond its own bloodline, the Galaxy S III will go head to head against the HTC One X and the Sprint variant, the HTC Evo 4G LTE. All three phones are actually nearly identical in terms of size, speed, and 4G capability, so choosing among them is mainly a matter of preference and aesthetic.

More from Tecca: