While our official GadgetZone editors’ choice again went to Apple’s latest iPhone offering, for me, 2012 has been the year that Android stepped up from an also-ran in many categories to emerge as a standout example of how much more a device can give, provided you forgive a few early setbacks and bugs. While I love my Asus Nexus 7, it’s no contest when looking for our alternative Gadget Countdown winner – Samsung’s runaway success, the Galaxy S III.
Earlier in the year, Vodafone kindly provided us with a review handset, which I eagerly snatched up. While the S III’s plastic body feels a tad flimsier than Apple’s machined block of glass & metal, it’s still comfortable to hold and houses a wonderful 4.8in AMOLED screen.
There have been plenty of iPhone/Galaxy comparisons throughout the year and, while it can be argued either way that one device outperforms the other (although, in most areas, the numbers favour Samsung), it was the overall experience of Android and, to a lesser extent, the S III’s TouchWiz user interface that won me over. In recent versions of iOS, the whole system has felt somewhat disjointed with wildly different designs for native apps and varying levels of support for third party software. The greater degree of control afforded by Android made the whole thing feel like one large, cohesive operating system, providing an easy point of reference in whatever application I was running.
There was a downside, however. Samsung has heavily skinned the Android Jelly Bean interface with its own, nature-inspired additions. By default the phone was filled with sounds of rain falling, birds chirping and other annoying rainforest motifs. These can all be replaced by users’ own media, but it felt odd that such a “modern” device was filled with the kind of fare one would expect from an early 90s Dream Machine.
I should also add that getting the most out of an Android device requires a fairly heavy commitment to Google’s services. Concerns are often raised about how much information we give out to large companies but security and privacy settings on the S III are robust enough to make me feel happy and informed when it comes to what data I’m passing on and, to be honest, I’m OK with it, given the benefits that services such as the recent Google Now app provide.
As someone who will be jumping ship and moving on to an Android handset as soon as possible, I can happily say that it’s the strong combination of freedom within the operating system, attention to detail from Samsung and superior power and speed that leave even the iPhone 5 in the dust that makes the Galaxy S III the clear winner for alternative device of the year 2012. Given its success on the market, it is a relatively “safe” choice but also a great sign of what to expect in the next year from Android and the tech companies that Google’s ever-evolving operating system.