Interesting Galaxy S III Features That Make Samsung’s ROM Better Than Stock Android

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galaxy s iii featuresI just got a brand-new Galaxy S III. It’s a beautiful device, except for one big flaw: Samsung TouchWiz. This is a layer of customization and “added value” Samsung slaps on the custom Android interface… and it looks simply horrid. I mean, it manages to make a gorgeous, powerful piece of hardware feel like a cheap toy – quite an accomplishment, when you think about it.

My first instinct was to wipe the device clean and install a stock Android ROM, similar to the ICS Rom I installed on my Galaxy S II. But before doing anything rash, I decided to give Samsung’s interface the benefit of the doubt… and found some truly excellent features.

What I Ended Up Doing

Here’s what I didn’t do: I didn’t scrap the Samsung ROM for something like CyanogenMod (which you can easily install). Instead, I decided to go with a ROM that’s based on Samsung’s own ROM, with a heavy dose of customization thrown in. It’s called crDroid, and it’s just what I was looking for. However, this post isn’t about the ROM, but more about a surprising discovery: When you eliminate the ugly looks, it turns out TouchWiz actually does add value! If you’re running a stock Android ROM on your Galaxy S III, or considering replacing Samsung’s ROM with something like Cyanogen, wait a moment: Samsung offers a few features that are well worth keeping, and here are just a few.

Motion and Gesture Controls

galaxy s iii features

Samsung’s gestures combine the touchscreen and device sensors in interesting ways that Android doesn’t include by default. For example, you can look at a contact’s name in your phonebook and just lift the phone up to your ear to make a call:

galaxy s iii features review

That’s admittedly gimmicky, but still, it feels like the future. Other motions are more useful: You can take a screenshot by swiping your hand (not one finger) across the screen, for example. The zoom and pan gestures let you manipulate photos by moving the phone itself, rather than your hands, making the phone feel like a window into the image. The Motion settings menu lets you individually toggle each of these gestures, and learn how to make them.

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Fonts, Smart Stay, and Smart Rotation

galaxy s iii features review

The Galaxy S III can look at you using the front-facing camera while you’re using the phone. That’s creepy. It’s also useful: “Smart stay” is a feature that keeps the screen on for as long as you’re looking at it (so it will never turn off while you’re reading an article!), and “Smart rotation” is a feature that turns the display only if your face is actually in the wrong direction. In other words, if you’re lying in bed on your side and holding the phone, the screen won’t rotate (ever had this happen to you?). And if you’re standing up and flipping the phone horizontally, it will rotate. Nothing to toggle manually, and it works quite well (as long as the phone can see you, that is).

Last but certainly not least in this department, Samsung lets you specify your own font for the interface. Here’s a 100% crop of a screenshot I took:

galaxy s iii features review

If you compare this to the font on your own Android phone, you’ll find that it’s subtly different: It’s HelveticaNeue, a lovely Sans Serif that sadly costs $1 to use. But honestly, I preferred shelling out a buck for it than use any of the unfortunate fonts Samsung bundled with the device:

galaxy s3 features

“Choco cooky?” What were you thinking, Samsung? Why not throw in Comic Sans MS while you’re at it?

Poor font choices aside, the ability to set your own font for the device is a great feature, and can actually improve readability and usability, and just makes the whole thing feel a bit better.

Power Saving Mode

galaxy s3 features

This is a modest one, but it’s still nice: Power Saving Mode is a bunch of preferences you can set, and then toggle all at once, to eke a bit more battery life out of your device. It’s a bit like JuiceDefender (reviewed here), but built right into the phone.

Multiple Window Control

galaxy s3 features

Depending on your use, this may either be Samsung’s greatest innovation, or just a crazy gimmick. I hadn’t made up my own mind yet, but I must say I am thoroughly impressed: The screenshot speaks for itself. Multi Window Mode lets you put two apps on the Galaxy S III’s generous screen at the same time, and it’s amazingly well integrated into the UI. Just long-press Backspace to pop open the side-panel, and then drag out an app to either the top or bottom of the screen:

galaxy s iii features

I don’t know if I’ll be using this feature routinely, but I couldn’t help but be impressed by how deeply Samsung integrated it into Android. You can also toggle it off completely if you don’t like it.

Final Thoughts

A great product is composed of both aesthetics and functionality. Sometimes the two go hand in hand, yielding beautiful products that are a joy to use (or horrible-looking, frustrating gadgets). Samsung has somehow managed to decouple them, ending up with a really ugly interface that actually works well. Thanks to the magic of Android, you can ditch the ugly and keep the good stuff. Are there any other neat Galaxy III tricks I missed? Let me know below, and I might write a follow-up!

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Comments (25)
  • Philip Yusenda

    Still on Galaxy W now, been researching for some ICS/JB device to upgrade to. Thanks for the article!

  • Chris Hoffman

    Phew, I thought this was going to be a post about how awesome TouchWiz is!

    I’ve had a device with TouchWiz before. Never again. Now if Google would only sell me a Nexus 4…

    • Erez Zukerman

      Lol, you’d never see a post from me about how awesome TouchWiz is. Ew.

      I’m really frustrated by the Nexus 4 availability issue myself. What’s most frustrating is that there’s no way to subscribe to the Play page to get updates when stock becomes available, so I just have to keep checking it manually. :\

    • Guy McDowell

      TouchWiz is just a bad name altogether. Maybe that’s just my potty humour, but it sounds bad.

  • Nevzat Akkaya

    Does anyone know how much free RAM is left when you have Touchwiz,Facebook,Twitter,Google+,Maps and a couple of other ram-sucking-popular apps installed and active on a 1GB phone like S3?

    • Erez Zukerman

      If you press and hold the middle button, then tap the “pie” button on the bottom right, it’ll take you to the screen for managing running apps. You can then tap RAM and see.

    • Nevzat Akkaya

      Unfortunately, I don’t have a phone with a 1GB ram, so I really don’t know the result ,so I’m curious. My S1 does only have 512 (or 369 as the ROM reports it) MB of RAM, it’s dying slowly as I install more and more apps. I’ve stopped using Google+ and Facebook app long time ago, just use them via browser :(

  • Nevzat Akkaya

    If S3 had 2 GB of RAM, I’d definately buy it, however, 1 GB (even showed as low as 7xx MB) makes me consider a future device, likely an S4, who knows :)

    I’m still have to live my aging Galaxy S1 until my budget allows for Sx :)

    • Erez Zukerman

      I’m definitely curious to see what the S4 is like. What’s nice is that these devices tend to devalue pretty slowly, so once the S4 is out I can probably sell off my S3 for a good price and get the S4. :)

    • Nevzat Akkaya

      count me in :)

  • Benny Teo

    Does CM10 have multiple windows? Anyone know of variants of CM with that feature?
    Using a Nexus S

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.