Samsung Galaxy SIII is one of best smartphones ever, period.

When I pulled the Samsung Galaxy SIII smartphone out of the box recently, I immediately noticed two things:

1. It was packed in there really well, with no wasted space. A little like Apple handles its iPhones and iPads.
2. It was gorgeous, thin and, well, very large.

The Sammy Galaxy S3 or SIII is 4.8 inches long. Remember when we all laughed at people using the 5-inch Galaxy Note as a phone instead of a tablet? Well, this is a phone nearly as big. It’s very thin. It’s thinner than an iPhone 4S, so in the hand it doesn’t feel huge, but the biggest drawback on this otherwise other-worldly device is the sheer size of it.

Just like the iPhone 4 and 4S have simply gotten too small for some users, the Samsung Galaxy SIII is simply going to be too big for some users. Yes, it fits in your pocket. Yes, it feels great, but for many of you, you won’t be able to hold the phone in one hand and touch all areas of the screen.

That drawback out of the way, the phone does almost everything else well.

We’d tried the Verizon version thanks to our Verizon friends down in Greenville, S.C. The network is fast. We got upload and download speeds faster than many home networks. This is not uncommon. Pages loaded fast. The beautiful photos we took with Galaxy — photos good enough we’d never carry a camera around with us — were sent with ease, no waiting. Big files downloaded fast. YouTube streamed with no slow downs. Call quality was home phone good, even while driving.

Count us as believers in Verizon’s 4G LTE network.

Samsung is really getting good at hardware design. Each year, Sammys get better and better. This phone looks good and feels good, if a bit plasticky. It’s easy to hold and the screen is big and gorgeous. It’s not iPhone 4 and 4S “retina” display clear, but it does deliver richer colors, even if they are sometimes overdone.

If you look at a movie on the Samsung and go back to iPhone, you can see the difference, but over time, you won’t notice that some people look a little too red or that orange from the sky is a little too orange. What you will notice is that most screens and everyday task screens look phenomenal on this phone.

It’s fast. It’s smooth. Battery life was good. I could be a heavy user and not need a charge until late in the afternoon.

A few more features: the screen will even go dim if you stop looking at it, say you fall asleep while reading. If you start texting a contact, but decide to call instead, just lift the phone to ear once you’ve typed the texting contact in and the SIII will call automatically. Using a feature called “S-Beam,” users can tap two SIIIs together to share files (I couldn’t find anyone to try this out with). A Siri-like feature, “S Voice,” was sluggish and a little slow (it recognized what I was saying less than Apple’s Siri) and it didn’t work nearly as well as the competitor’s version, but it shows promise.

The phone, over time, will recognize your friends/contacts faces from photos and bring up windows over their photo faces with the ability to socially contact or contact them with a click. You can even retrieve files from your PC using another feature.

My favorite feature, though, was the ability to go picture-in-picture, so to speak. I could be watching a movie and send a text at the same time without stopping the show. You could minimize the movie into another corner of the vast screen while you perform the other task.

So, end of the day, for me, this is the best Android smartphone ever made, and it’s not even close. The big question, in any smartphone review is this: does it top the iPhone? I’d say yes for the Samsung Galaxy SIII in many areas, but comparing it to a year old iPhone 4S isn’t really a fair battle. A year in smartphone technology is like five in the real world or something.

Apple is set to release its new iPhone soon, so a better comparison can be done then, but know this, Samsung has set a very high bar with the Galaxy S3 and unless you’re heavily tied into Apple’s iOS operating system and ecosystem (read you’ve spent half your life’s savings on Apps you can’t bring over to Android), even Apple users or wanna-be Apple users need to check out this phone.

It’s that good.

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