Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Samsung Galaxy Nexus

At this moment in time, the whole world is going crazy for Samsung’s latest flagship device, the Galaxy S3. And why wouldn’t they? It’s an amazing device. It’s a quad-core, high-definition, behemoth of a smartphone. But is it the best in its class? Any Android purist will tell you that that title belongs to the Galaxy Nexus (also made by Samsung). So, which is better? Well, with both devices sitting in front of me, I’ll try to find out.

It’s obvious from the get-go that these phones are related. If it weren’t for the one physical button on the front of the S3, you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart by looking dead on. They have near-identical earpieces in the same place, their front facing cameras are roughly in the same place, and their screen sizes only differ by 0.15 of an inch. With a bit of encouragement, they even fit in each other’s cases (though please don’t try and actually use a Nexus in an S3 case…it won’t be fun). Having said that, neither of these phones will ever win any design awards. They’re both just slabs of phone, though personally, I prefer the way the Nexus feels to hold.

So, having concluded that these phones can’t be separated on looks, we turn to the internals, and a clear victory for the S3. There’s no point even arguing it. Four cores are better than 2, 8 megapixels are better than 5, and a 2,100 mAh battery can hold more than a 1,750 mAh battery. And that’s just the obvious points; the S3 has a few little things in its favour too, such as a Micro SD slot (hurrah!). The S3 can also be purchased with 32 or even 64GB of storage (though I have a 16GB model), while the Nexus is limited to 16GB. But, here’s the thing: there’s no point having all the power in the world if you can’t do anything with it. Hardware is nothing without software, and this is where the Nexus starts to shine.

And does it ever shine. Not only does the Nexus have the advantage of running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (while the S3 is currently stuck with 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich), it runs a completely stock build. Whenever you use a Nexus (unless someone has deliberately tried to change it), you are using Android the way Google intended people to use it. Since ICS, stock Android has been one of the cleanest, smoothest, and most powerful operating systems in the world. And on the S3, Samsung covers Android with its “love it or hate it” TouchWiz UX. This slows everything down. It adds visual clutter where it isn’t needed. It ruins a lot of Google’s hard work. And it removes some very basic Android features.

For example, since ICS, one simply has to drag and drop an icon onto another icon to create a folder. It’s such a simple idea, yet Samsung decided to take it out of TouchWiz. Why? I really don’t know. How about dragging an icon from the app drawer to a bin to uninstall it? Nope, that’s also been removed. Again, I can’t understand why. You know what else I can’t understand? Why a phone with only 2 cores seems just as fast and smooth, if not more so, than a phone with 4 cores. There are moments when the S3 just lags, and some of its transitions are jerky. Meanwhile, the unfettered Jelly Bean build on the Nexus shows that “Project Butter” is not just marketing talk. I am not kidding. In most everyday situations, the dual-core Nexus is just better to use than the quad-core S3.

There are a couple of exceptions, though. The S3 shines best when it actually uses all its grunt. It handles 3D games like Real Racing 2 and Tintin superbly. As mentioned earlier, there is no doubt that it has a better camera, but it also has a better camera experience. And some of its gimmicky motion gestures and features can actually be useful. But on the whole, the TouchWiz UX is what lets the S3 down for me. If stock Android were on the S3 (and it easily can be, what with rooting and custom ROMs), I’m pretty sure it could break a couple of laws of physics.

But as it stands, in my eyes, the two phones can pretty much be summed up by looking them dead-on. The Nexus has a completely bare front panel. All its buttons are virtual, software-provided buttons. This is the way forwards. Virtual buttons can be contextual. They don’t always need to be there. They allow for better use of space. The S3 has one physical button on its front, and two hidden touch buttons. This is what phones should stop being. Samsung are holding onto their TouchWiz skins in the same way they are holding onto their outdated physical buttons. Things would be so much better if they just embraced the future.


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Author Retired

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