Aside from the iPhone, Samsung's Galaxy S smartphones have been the dominant handset in the smartphone market. Both the Galaxy S and the Galaxy S II earned our PC World Platinum Award, as well as selling incredibly well here in New Zealand - each has been the second most popular handset, second only to the iPhone.
Anticipation for the new Galaxy - tentatively called the Galaxy S III - has been high for the last few months.
On Friday Samsung revealed details of the Galaxy S III at a press event in London, and we tuned in via the live Webcast.
The most exciting features are the array of 'smart' functions, which appear at first glance to compete with and even exceed those of Apple's Siri.
The new S III is a quad-core phone, with a 4.8in super AMOLED screen covered in Gorilla Glass. Our experience with super AMOLED screens is that they are incredibly bright and function well in bright sunlight. The resolution is 1280 x 720 pixels, which works out to 306 pixels per inch - lower than the 330ppi of the iPhone 4S. Samsung says that the response time is a superfast 0.01 milliseconds.
It runs Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich.
The S III weighs 133g, which is one of the lighter smartphones we've seen with such a large screen - compare it to the HTC One X at 130g. In terms of size, it's 8.6mm thick and should fit neatly into pockets.
Samsung said at the launch that the phone comes in "pebble blue" or "marble white", but we're not sure at this stage whether we will get both colours in New Zealand - often we miss out on extra colours.
There's an 8-megapixel camera at rear, which rivals other top-of-the-line smartphones. The startup time is 990 milliseconds according to Samsung, and it has 20-photo burst shot, or 3.3 shots per second. As with the HTC One X, there's a feature to allow you to pick the best shot of a burst - the Galaxy S III selects it for you, as compared to the HTC One X which lets you select your preferred. Also similar to the HTC One X is the ability to take a still photo while shooting video.
The quad-core processor capability has been used to allow multi-tasking - you can resize a video into a smaller window to work on other things on your phone, for example.
The S III comes with a 2,100 mAh battery - one of the larger batteries we've seen on a smartphone - to cope with the screen size and additional processing power. Samsung also says it has reduced the power draw by including the latest Bluetooth 4.0 and a Wi-Fi accelerator.
An optional accessory is a wireless charger for the S III. You place the phone on a charging pad and it will automatically top up the battery.
It will come in 16, 32GB and 64GB capacities, with an SD card slot for additional storage up to 64GB.
SMART AND 'HUMAN'
Samsung stressed that the phone will be the most "human" it has ever launched. It recognises when you are looking at it, and stays on until you stop, for example. (I anticipate a "staring contest" app before too long.) The feature, called Smart Stay, uses the 1.9MP front-facing camera to tell whether you are looking at it, and will prove especially useful when reading eBooks, webpages or emails.
Smart Voice sounds like a direct competitor to Siri: it has natural language recognition and can follow commands. A feature the S III has that Siri lacks is the ability to wake up the phone from sleep by saying "Hi Galaxy", so that you can input a command even when using it hands-free. A further four customised phrases can be added for specific tasks.
Smart Tag recognises faces of your favourite friends and can keep track of their Social Networking updates. We'll have to see this in action to see whether it has any major improvements over the likes of Windows Phone's People Hub or similar, however.
S Beam uses NFC technology and Wi-Fi direct to let you share video or other media with a friend who also has a Galaxy S III phone. The same Wi-Fi direct sharing lets you share the viewing of a video together, a feature samsung calls Allshare Cast. This seems perfect for sales presentations as well as video-watching.
Photo sharing has been simplified to allow you to share an image with anyone whose face is recognised in it (as long as you have their email address or phone number). You can also take close-up portraits by double-tapping on a face while using the camera.
SERVICES MAY, OR MAY NOT, BE COMING
Samsung announced several services, such as a wellness application and music streaming, which will only be available in limited countries initially - we don't have information about whether (or when) these might be released in New Zealand.
The Galaxy S III launching in 145 countries - largest launch in Samsung's mobile history. The rollout of the HSPA+ version will start in Europe on May 29, with other countries to follow.
It looks as though New Zealand will be getting the Samsung Galaxy S III through Vodafone on May 29, too, after the company tweeted this morning that we would see it "later this month".
A 4G version will launch in North America and Korea, with other countries to follow, later during the northern hemisphere summer.