Samsung launches Galaxy S III with voice and face recognition

Smartphone with 4.8-inch screen to arrive in U.S. this summer; pricing not revealed

Samsung on Thursday unveiled a larger Galaxy S III smartphone in London, and said the phone would be sold in the U.S. this summer after launching in Europe on May 29.

The Galaxy S III smartphone from Samsung.

Samsung didn't name a U.S. wireless carrier or the price for the smartphone, but said the U.S. version will run over LTE and HSPA+, an indication it could run on AT&T's or T-Mobile's network. A white version of the Galaxy S III was unveiled by Samsung's president of mobile communications, J.K. Shin, at a crowded London media event that featured a live orchestra and was also webcast.

The Galaxy S III, will run Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and will have a 4.8-in. touchscreen with an HD Super Amoled display at 1280 x 720 pixels. It includes an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera. It runs Android 4.0. It will also come in blue.

The touchscreen may seem large at 4.8 inches, Samsung officials acknowledged, but the device is not much bigger than the previous model, the Galaxy S II, because the bezel area around the screen has been reduced. Overall, the screen is 22% larger than the Galaxy S II.

Intelligent software in the phone provides face and voice recognition.

The phone will come with a "smart stay" feature that recognizes how a user's eyes are moving when reading an e-book or browsing the Web and will adjust the screen brightness accordingly. In a demonstration video, Samsung showed how the phone's screen will go black when a user's eyes are closed.

An "s voice" natural language user interface will allow voice control of the phone. The demonstration showed how a user can use a voice command to play a song, for example. Officials said s voice goes beyond earlier voice recognition technology from Samsung, but didn't elaborate.

Samsung said it expanded on Android Beam technology by allowing a 1GB movie file to be shared in three minutes by touching one Galaxy S III to another. Android Beam works over Near Field Communication wireless technology, but Samsung enhanced the feature with Wi-Fi Direct technology for quicker sharing, officials said.

The NFC chip in the phone also allows mobile payments, but Samsung didn't elaborate on which mobile payment app might be supported. Officials did say users will be able to make mobile payments with the phone at the Olympic Games venues in London. In the U.S., AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile are working together in a consortium called Isis to launch mobile payments this summer.

Samsung said the Galaxy S III will have a 2,100 mAh battery, bigger than many of the recent smartphones on the market. The phone has a 1.4 Ghz quad-core chip based on the ARM Cortex A9 . The phone's 16GB of internal memory can be expanded with a 32 GB microSD card, with a 64GB card available soon.

The 4.8-in.size of the device's screen was an attention getter. The wildly popular iPhone has a 3.5-in. screen, but there are reports that screen will be 4 inches for the iPhone 5 due later this year.

"In the U.S., larger screens are certainly a must-have," said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Gartner. "Vendors are going larger to differentiate ... We are getting to the point where we are reaching the physical limit before smartphones become more like tablets. "

Samsung also makes the Galaxy Note, a 5.3-in. smartphone sold by AT&T for its LTE network.

Milanesi said the Samsung line of phones represent "the only credible contender to Apple." Samsung is a "brand set apart from the likes of HTC and LG," she added.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

Read more about smartphones in Computerworld's Smartphones Topic Center.

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