The browser Samsung has included with the S III is quite easily the best browsing experience I have ever had on a smartphone. If it had a larger display I would quite happily draw comparisons with a low-end but relatively decent notebook.
Samsung includes all their usual goodies such as RSS feed notification, tabbed browsing, incognito mode, reading mode, save for offline use pages and desktop mode. However, there is one fairly important feature missing: text reflow. Some users have speculated that this is how Samsung has achieved the impressive browser performance.
I didn’t notice the lack of text reflow bothering me at all, and if it happens to annoy you, just increase the text size in the accessibility options and you’re good to go.
Samsung has always included a Super AMOLED panel in their Galaxy S line-up and the grandson of the original is no different. Due to the makeup of AMOLED panels it requires no energy to generate a black image, while white images drain the battery the most. This is why Samsung has included a brightness and colouring tweaks menu. From here you can change the brightness and browser power savings based on display.
There are four levels; default and three more. Each extra level decreases the white level and gives the display more of a grey-blue tint.
The actual performance (and I’m not even talking about the benchmarks mentioned later on) is impressive. I have tried to slow down the browser however possible but the greatest amount of stutter I can recall were little more than small stutters. I was able to load a 1080p YouTube video and let it play while randomly flick-scrolling around the tab at full speed.
That should make it obvious was more standard usage is like, if it isn’t, you can flick up and down pages and pinch zoom in and out with only the smallest hints of redrawing going on.
Page loading was just as good as Chrome and that speed is quick. Over a decent network connection I will be surprised if I ever hear of anyone complaining about page loading speeds.
The TouchWiz Keyboard
Samsung has decided to only bundle its own TouchWiz keyboard where the stock Android 4.0 keyboard would have been a very welcome addition.
The keyboard tries to think ahead of the actual user by predicting and typing the word (rather than merely suggesting it) which makes true touch typing rather painful. Type in “Hel” and “Help” shows up in the text input area, even when you intend to type “Hello”. I tried to adapt to it for a couple weeks and was no closer to get used to it by the end of that time.
If you disable prediction entirely (I found no way to only disable Samsung guessing random words) then it gets better – if you can live without prediction. There is no middle ground where most users want to be. I try to keep my phones as stock as possible while reviewing them but for once I could not resist switching to Swiftkey 3 – a keyboard that can actually learn predictions without additional user input.
Samsung does manage to do something right though, the keyboard is relatively compact in terms of vertical space consumed which makes typing on the 4.8 inch display with one hand rather easy. Also included is a neat clipboard gallery and handwriting recognition isn’t that bad either.
I said it in the HTC One X review and I’ll say it again, Android OEMs should just license proper keyboards such as Swiftkey, and if they want, skin them to match their own interface.