Like many, I watched the live stream of Samsung’s Galaxy S III announcement this afternoon (EST). I was amused by the grandiose scale of the presentation from the live orchestra providing the sound track to the sweeping video segments. Nobody is going to confuse a Samsung product announcement with an Apple product announcement.
While the pageantry of the event was impressive, what I am most impressed with is how Samsung is differentiating itself by emphasizing the intelligence in the Galaxy S III. As I have written before, I think intelligence is a key component of the new personal computers now being produced. The Galaxy S III makes use of the sensors and the camera in the phone to provide features that are intended to make their smartphone even more personal, or as Samsung says, “designed for humans, inspired by nature.”
Some of the new features include “Smart Stay,” which utilizes the front facing camera to determine whether you are looking at the phone, and if you do keeps the display on, otherwise it dims the display to save battery life. All other smartphones dim the display after a period of time after the last time a touch was recorded on the screen. I think this is a smart way to use the camera, although I wonder how this will affect battery life.
“S Voice” appears to be Samsung’s answer to Apple’s Siri. I find it interesting that Samsung has chosen to integrate its own natural language processing engine into their phone rather than wait for something from Google. I haven’t seen any information about the breadth of commands that S Voice recognizes, but one difference is that it appears to be continually monitoring the mic for a prompt as you can engage the function by saying “Hi Galaxy.” (Another potential battery drain item.) I believe Samsung may have worked with Vlingo to provide S Voice as the Vlingo app has a similar capability.
The “Direct Call” feature uses the motion and proximity sensor to detect whether you put the phone to your ear while typing a text message and if you do, it will automatically call the person to whom you were writing the message. Apparently Samsung believes people will often change their minds while writing a text message and wish to call the person instead. I am not sure how often I would use this feature.
Smart Stay, S Voice, and Direct Call exist to make the Galaxy S III capable to determining how you wish to use the smartphone without you having to do anything unnatural, and this is the type of intelligence I believe will be refined and incorporated into more devices. In their announcement Samsung went to great lengths to show how these features work, and besides S Voice, these features are not available on the iPhone. It remains to be seen how well they will work in the “real world” and whether they will be actually used rather than serve as “phone envy” demonstrations.