Sometime in the near future, Google will announce a Nexus 5 made by LG, a device that will replace the Nexus 4 as the flagship Nexus smartphone and a device that will take on all sorts of big name smartphones. And while much of consumer focus is likely on competition like the iPhone 5s, Moto X, Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3, there is one device that can’t be ignored. That device? The Samsung Galaxy S3.
Before the Samsung Galaxy S4, there was the Samsung Galaxy S3, a device that arrived to take on the iPhone 4s and a device that valiantly battled Apple’s iPhone 5. And while the Galaxy S3 may have been replaced by this year’s Samsung Galaxy S4 flagship, it hasn’t gone away. In fact, several carriers still sell the device as a budget option for smartphone shoppers and Samsung is set to breath new life into it with a big end-of-the-year software update.
Armed with hardware that is still extremely solid, software that continues to improve and a price tag that gets more attractive by the week, the Samsung Galaxy S3, despite its age, is still a very formidable foe and a device that smartphone buyers will likely encounter on their travels.
There are also plenty of Samsung Galaxy S3 owners who are looking at an early upgrade or who are looking at their upcoming options when they come off contract next year.
New Galaxy S3 buyers and those who already own the device should have at least one thing in common: A Nexus 5 near or at the top of any current shopping list. Those looking for a brand new smartphone, an Android phone in particular, would be wise to have a Nexus near the top. Why? They consistently rank among the best smartphones on the market, featuring top notch hardware with vanilla software, fast updates and affordable price tags. The Nexus 5 looks to be no different and thus, Galaxy S3 buyers and owners need to start taking a look at it compared to last year’s Galaxy S flagship.
Here, ahead of its upcoming launch date, we take a look at how the Nexus 5 should stack up compared to the aging Samsung Galaxy S3.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 has been a staple in the United States smartphone market since June of last year. In June, several U.S. carriers released the device into the wild after some initial delays. Since then, the device has remained online and in physical retail locations as a budget option for those not looking at or not needing a flagship like the Galaxy S4.
Samsung’s Galaxy S3 figures to remain on the market for the rest of 2013 and likely well into 2014 as well. We expect the Galaxy S5’s arrival to push it out of some online stores but we wouldn’t be surprised if it sticks around in the same type of capacity as the Galaxy S2. The Galaxy S2 is a bit hard to find but it’s still available through carriers like T-Mobile.
The fact that it remains on shelves is extremely important to those that are gearing up to buy a new smartphone in the near future as it means that they can still go hands on with it before buying. In fact, we highly recommend going hands on with the Galaxy S3, if possible, ahead of the Nexus 5 launch in order to get a feel for it.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much time left. We still aren’t sure when the Nexus 5 will be coming to shelves but we expect it to arrive very soon, possibly before the end of October. Already, we’ve seen a ton of leaks, even on Google’s own website, so we know that a launch is close. At worst, the Nexus 5 should get released in mid-November, ahead of the holidays and Black Friday. With supply issues being a possibility, we recommend making a decision ahead of time and that means getting hands on with the Galaxy S3 earlier rather than later.
When the Samsung Galaxy S3 arrived, its design was heralded as one of the best on the market, despite its plastic origins. While the Galaxy S4 design improved on the Galaxy S3’s design by adding better build materials with a slimmer design, the Galaxy S3 design isn’t a slouch by any means and should appeal to average users.
With its curves, durable plastic and slim form factor, the Galaxy S3 design withstands the tests of time fairly well. Specifically, the device comes in at 8.6mm thin, not amazing but certainly not terrible and it weighs around 133 grams which is going to be a little worse than average but still, pretty lightweight for a phone of its age.
The point here is that this is still a fairly premium design. Yes, it’s plastic, but it’s better than most plastic smartphones around, particularly those that are found at the Galaxy S3’s price point.
The Nexus 5 also looks like it will be made of plastic but of a different material. Leaks point to a sleek looking plastic black matte shell, similar to the one found on the Nexus 7. If true, the device should be extremely durable and easy to grip with one hand, two things that smartphone shoppers look for, particularly when it comes to devices with large displays.
We aren’t sure about the overall size of the Nexus 5 or the exact dimensions but we don’t expect the overall footprint to be that much different than the Galaxy S3, and we expect a slim and lightweight Nexus 5 given that the company unleashed a Nexus 7 with a slimmed down design earlier this year.
In 2012, the Samsung Galaxy S3’s 4.8-inch 720p display with 1280 x 720 resolution at 306 pixels-per-inch was the talk of the town. Of course, technology has improved since then with smartphones now coming with support for 1080p content.
Still, over a year later, the Galaxy S3 display remains solid. It’s not as good as the displays that have arrived this year but it’s still going to work for those that don’t stream a lot of video. Text, games images and the web still look fantastic on the Galaxy S3’s 4.8-inch display.
The Nexus 5 display is going to be an improvement on the Galaxy S3 display, no doubt. Nexus devices always borrow from the latest technology and leaks point to a 5-inch 1080p display with 1920 x 1080 resolution at 441 pixels-per-inch. What this means is that content like photos, video, the web, just about anything, is going to look better on the Nexus 5.
There is going to be a difference here, no doubt, but we must stress the fact that the Galaxy S3 display, despite using last year’s technology, is far from awful and it will be suitable for many people. So don’t be so quick to dismiss it when Google starts boasting about the resolution found on the Nexus 5.
There is going to be a huge difference in hardware specifications when it comes to the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the Nexus 5. This should come as a surprise to no one given how far mobile technology has come since June of last year. When the Galaxy S3 first came out, it was running top of the line specs. Now, more than a year later those specs are beginning to look their age.
The Galaxy S3 comes with a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor in the United States. It’s an older processor, but thus far, we’ve seen the Galaxy S3 handle new software admirably. The new version of Android looks like it will place nicely with the processor and gaming and multitasking both still work extremely well on Samsung’s older device.
The camera found on the Galaxy S3 is 8MP and it can shoot solid photos and video but it’s not going to win any awards, especially now when cameras are getting upgraded left and right. The Galaxy S3 comes in 16GB, 32GB in some places, and users can expand the memory with a microSD card. This is fantastic for those that take a lot of photos and video.
It also comes with a removable back that allows owners to replace the stock battery with an extended one, something that we recommend buyers do immediately after buying the phone.
Google’s Nexus 5 will likely blow the Galaxy S3 away in just about every category. When it comes to a processor, we should see a Snapdragon 800, Qualcomm’s current quad-core ship that will deliver high-performance to Nexus 5 users. Its camera is expected to be an 8MP camera sensor that is not only better than the sensor found on the Galaxy S3 but one that delivers Optical Image Stabilization to cut down on shakiness in videos.
There are some drawbacks though. It’s not expected to feature a microSD card slot which means that buyers will likely be stuck with 16GB or 32GB of storage space, leaks point to those as being the only two variants. And it likely won’t feature a removable back for use with an extended battery meaning users could be stuck with its 2,300 mAh battery.
That said, expect the Nexus 5 to deliver better all-around performance when it comes to battery life and gaming, though the Galaxy S3 should handle well for those that aren’t power users.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 is currently running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean but it won’t be for long. The device will soon get upgraded to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean which can be seen in the video below.
Samsung’s device also comes with a heavily modified version of Android due to the TouchWiz user interface that Samsung puts on board. TouchWiz changes the look of Android while also adding a number of unique features. For example, Samsung recently added a feature called Multi-Window View which allows Galaxy S3 owners to run two apps on screen at once.
We expect the software to get Galaxy S4 features with a future Android update, something that will keep it fresh and feeling new. Of course, users in the United States will likely have to wait for awhile because updates often take a long time to roll out thanks to carrier testing.
Google’s Nexus 5 will feature Android 4.4 KitKat, the company’s brand new Android update that was announced back in September and one that remains in the shadows. It’s expected to build upon the Android Jelly Bean updates and add some incremental improvements to not only smartphones but tablets as well.
Because the Nexus 5 is a Nexus smartphone, it will come with vanilla Android 4.4, meaning, it will be pure Google software and won’t have a UI like TouchWiz over the top. Buyers will have to decide if they prefer the pure vanilla Android or want the Samsung features on board. There are trade-offs for both.
Furthermore, the Nexus 5 will always be among the first devices to get updates because it gets software directly from Google. For many users, getting a big time update in a timely manner is important.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 is available on a host of networks in the United States including the 4G LTE networks of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon in the United States. It’s also available on smaller carriers including pre-paid ones. Having options is important to smartphone buyers and thankfully, the Galaxy S3 has a lot of them.
The Nexus 5 likely won’t have the same type of options that the Galaxy S3 does. Yes, it will run on 4G LTE, but leaks suggest that it will be coming to AT&T and T-Mobile like the Nexus 4 but also Sprint’s 4G LTE network. This isn’t confirmed but we’ve never seen a Nexus device land for all five major U.S. carriers and we don’t expect that to change now. So, expect limited options when it comes to the Nexus 5.
Finally, price. The Samsung Galaxy S3 is old which means that its price is very, very affordable on-contract. For instance, the device is now just $49.99 on-contract through Verizon, a carrier known for its high price points. Through retailers like Amazon, the device is far cheaper. Amazon, for example, has the Galaxy S3 available for $10 on-contract.
As for its off-contract price, the device commands a price that hovers around $400, relatively cheap for an unlocked Android smartphone. There are likely discounts to be found but from our travels, that’s around what buyers will expect to have to pay when getting it without a contract.
A big advantage that the Nexus series holds over other Android phones is its price. Last year’s Nexus 4 was extremely cheap and this year, the Nexus 5 will apparently follow in its footsteps. Kind of.
Leaks point to the Nexus 5 starting at $350 for the 16GB model, unlocked, while the 32GB model will apparently command a $400 price tag. That’s in the range of the Galaxy S3 unlocked, and it’s an extremely attractive price point overall.
We don’t expect the device to be made available on-contract which means that it will likely only appeal to those that are alright with not signing a contract with a carrier.
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