Samsung expanded its Galaxy S line of smartphones Thursday with the highly-anticipated launch of its third-generation Galaxy S III. The Korean tech giant unveiled the new Galaxy at a London-based launch event Thursday afternoon, divulging a set of new features poised to position the device as the latest rival to Apple’s iPhone.
The Galaxy S III, which runs on Samsung’s next-generation quad-core Exynos processor and Google’s Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" OS, touts a 4.8-inch screen with a 720-pixel HD resolution. It’s a bit bigger than its predecessor, the Galaxy S II, weighing in at 4.7 ounces and measuring 0.3 inches thick.
The device comes equipped with an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera that enables a new feature called "Smart Stay." Samsung explained that Smart Stay, through the use of the front-facing camera, can detect a user’s eye movements to gauge whether it should dim the screen or stay lit for further reading or web browsing. Put simply, Smart Stay relies on the flick of an eyelid -- rather than the tap of a finger -- to keep the device "awake."
Another new feature, called "S Voice," allows users to vocally command the Galaxy S III to do things like wake up, take a picture, and check the weather. Similar to Siri, the personal assistant functionality Apple introduced with the iPhone 4S, users can speak to the Galaxy S III, rather than rely on traditional buttons or finger taps, to accomplish tasks.
"This is a phone that sees, a phone that listens and a phone that responds to our intentions," said Jean-Daniel Ayme, vice president, European Telecom Operations at Samsung Electronics, while performing demos of the new features.
Samsung also unveiled a new feature called "S Beam," which leverages near-field communications (NFC) technology to allow for faster file sharing between Galaxy S III users. Content including videos and photos can be shared between fellow Galaxy S III users by swiping the smartphones past one another or tapping them together.
NEXT: Samsung's Success Positions It To Rival AppleThe launch of the Galaxy S III comes on the heels of Samsung reporting a record quarterly profit of $5.15 billion for its first-quarter fiscal earnings this year. Much of this record profit, the company said, can be attributed to the success of its Galaxy lines of smartphones and tablets. Samsung didn’t disclose exactly how many smartphone units it shipped during the quarter, but market research firm Strategy Analytics pegged its total handset shipments to be around 93.5 million units.
Depending on how many of these handsets were smartphones, this number could placeSamsung ahead of rival Apple, which sold 35.1 million smartphones in its first quarter.
Samsung said a 3G version of the Galaxy S III will be available at the end of May in Europe, Africa, and Latin America. A 4G LTE version is expected to launch in the U.S. this summer. Pricing details have not been provided.