With the necessary introduction to TouchWiz now over we can now get into some of the bundled applications Samsung has included; a list that includes S Voice, S Memo and S Planner.
I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of apps where you try to strike up a conversation with your phone. With S Voice you can do all sorts of neat and to be honest things that would probably be completed faster if you used hands over voice.
It is able to open applications just fine – at least ones that are baked into Android and other popular ones such as Facebook or Twitter. Asking S Voice to open an application such as Riptide GP, Google Reader, Chrome Beta or Astro File Manager results in pure user frustration.
Calendar appointments made through S Voice is buggy. It asks for the time and gets the reply “midday” but thinks I’m saying “good day” or something relatively unrelated and this then becomes the appointment title.
There is a customisable wake up command that can launch Siri from the lockscreen (swipe to unlock security only). There are four further customisable slots that allow you to do some rather basic operations such as unlocking the phone, checking for missed calls and opening the camera. It works well in practice and is perhaps the most interesting thing about S Voice but Samsung warns that it “may drain your battery”.
You are able to make calls and send texts in addition to all of this, but it further raises the question, why? It’s slower (in most usage cases) and struggles to recognise my voice clearly roughly half of the time. Of course, those people who have US accents are more likely to have success.
There is the option to launch S Voice with a double tab of the home button but this then causes the responsiveness of returning to the homescreen to slow noticeably, so this little function has been disabled since day three of my ownership. I just find S Voice (and Siri and all other voice assistants for that matter) little more than a gimmick …. well until a truly impressive one comes along.
S Memo is more than advanced than your standard note taking application but is not truly taken advantage of without the additional C Pen accessory. Features like adding pictures, handwriting recognition (works alright) and modifiable pen settings are all present. Multiple pages can be created that turns a single memo into a stack.
You can also attach audio recordings and if you don’t fellow peers accessing your top secret notes users can lock it and secure it with a pin. Once you’re done creating random sketches out of boredom or creating a masterpiece you can export it to the gallery or as a PDF.
S Memo is a nice touch but I didn’t find myself using it at all in a real life usage scenario.
If you’re looking for the stock Google Calendar application, don’t bother. Samsung has replaced it with their own S Planner calendar application. Users are able to pinch zoom in and out, going from a year view to a day view. For the most part it is your standard calendar application but there are a few things that set it apart.
Quick add is a very simple and painless to add tasks in little time. It works well for instructions like “Finish review Sunday 10am” but doesn’t appear to work for something a bit more complex such as “Finish review 1/7 10am to 1pm”. It still works but it ends up with the title “Finish review 10am to 1pm” and makes the event last the entire day. It’s not a major issue but it would be nice if it worked fully.
S Planner can also double as a to-do list with tasks. They integrate into the base calendar and there there is also a dedicated task tab for them.
Smart Stay is where the front camera keeps an eye on you and if it doesn’t see you looking at the display it will sleep the display in the hope of prolonging battery life. Obviously it won’t work in the dark but I have had it enabled for a couple weeks and it does come in useful. I haven’t noticed any additional battery drain as a result of it being enabled either.
Samsung is pushing their gesture and motion based software additions hard with the Galaxy S III but if you ask me most of them are rather pointless. For example there are the “tilt to zoom” and “pan to move icon” motion gestures. One allows you to zoom in or out of the screen while browsing the web or images while the latter allows users to move icons around the homescreen by tilting the device.
Both of which are inherently pointless while also being frustrating to use.
The only gestures of any real interest are direct call and tap to top. When in a text messaging conversation or contact card bringing the phone to your face will automatically call them. Tap to top works by double tapping the top of the phone while in a list and it will return you to the top.
One final motion gesture to note is swiping your palm across the display to take a screenshot, however screenshots can be taken just as easily by combing the power and home buttons.
Apart from the three main applications on the previous page there is also a small collection that can be downloaded. Some of them include a barometer reader, application monitor and KiesCast which is a podcast application.
We can’t ignore the list of Samsung-provided software that won’t be covered in the review so here we go:
- AllShare Play – media sharing application
- ChatON – Samsung’s chat client
- Flipboard – A popular news reader that was exclusive to the Galaxy S III until last week
- Game Hub – Game store
- More Services – Directs you to download Samsung applications not installed by default
- My Files – Basic yet effective file manager
- S Suggest – Samsung wants to suggest applications to users
- Samsung Apps – Samsung’s app store
Fortunately the list of pointless applications is rather small, however four of them could be merged into one application without complaints from anyone. The best thing to come out this list is an integrated file manager and a free copy of Real Racing 2.