Galaxy S3 vs Galaxy Nexus – what phone is right for you

Galaxy S3 vs Galaxy Nexus – Overview

This article was originally published August 2011.

Comparing the Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Galaxy Nexus is a bit of an unfair fight. The Nexus was in market right from the start of calendar 2012. It was the first to use ICS – Ice Cream Sandwich, – the Android 4.0 platform. Samsung  had 6 months after that to upgrade the specifications of the Galaxy S3 to the latest equipment levels. They had a long time to toy with ICS – Ice Cream Sandwich to wring the best out of it.

At the time of writing, the Nexus is sold on a much cheaper price point than the Samsung Galaxy SIII, reflecting the different components. Still, as competitive ICS devices, it’s perfectly legitimate for people to want to understand how these mobile phones get along together, or don’t, when compared so here’s the Whatphone breakdown.

Galaxy S3 vs Galaxy Nexus – Key device specification comparison :

The look of the products is the first thing you’ll notice. The Nexus has more of a ‘utilitarian’ feel to it. In the review I did when we first received the Nexus product in the WhatPhone office, I described it as lacking ‘wow’ factor. It’s a dull, gun metal grey which is fine but doesn’t draw your attention. On the other hand, the Galaxy S3 ( my current device ) looks space age. It’s diverting when it’s put on the table in front of you. People want to pick it up.

Specs wise, like I say, 6 months or so is a long time in the Smartphone market. Here’s the proof.

Galaxy S3 vs Galaxy Nexus – Key device specification comparison : What’s different ?

  • Processor :
    The Nexus has Dual Core 1.2 GHz processors. The Samsung Galaxy SIII has Quad core 1.4 GHz processors. The Nexus is fast, although browsing seemed slightly glitch when moving fast over a large page. Although Quad Core processors are mostly future proofing in my experience, the Galaxy SIII isn’t exposed to any screen update slowness. The Quad cores take care of that.
  • Camera :
    5MP on the Nexus vs 8MP on the Samsung Galaxy S3. It’s a clear point of difference between them and the Nexus comes off substantially worse here. Not only is the resolution lower but the support software on the Galaxy S3 is much better, allowing multiple shots in quick succession and recommending the one you want. It’s brilliant and leaves the Nexus standing.
  • Expandable memory :
    The Galaxy S3 has 2 variants – 16GB and 32 GB. The Nexus comes with only 16GB on board and, worse still, it’s not expandable. For a mobile phone with such a great screen, just crying out for you to use it for multimedia capabilities, the Nexus shoots itself in the foot. I love the Galaxy S3 for having expandable memory. It positively differentiates the product from HTC units.
  • Battery life :
    In full usage, the Nexus was a little short on battery capabilities. A normal working day was fine but I had to reconfigure it and eventually, found a battery extender application which really helped. The Samsung Galaxy SIII, even with the slightly better screen had better talk time and standby.
  • Weight :
    The Nexus did feel lighter. The specs say there is a 16 gram difference and, despite it’s bowed undercarriage which obviously holds a lot of the gubbins of the product, weighing both, one in each hand, the Galaxy SIII is heavier. However, that’s not to say the SIII feels too heavy. The plastic coating must keep the weight down because it doesn’t feel as ‘dense’ as you’d expect for a unit with such a big screen.

Galaxy SIII vs Galaxy Nexus – Technical Specification Comparison – What’s the same ?

  • The same back ‘wafer thin’ plastic on both – which I don’t particularly like on either. It makes the products feel cheap until you’ve got it back on and get focussed on the screen again !
  • Physical dimensions :
    Reading the specifications for the product, you’d see small differences in the size of these products. A few millimetres here ( the Galaxy SIII is slightly bigger ) and there but having them on the desk in front of you there’s hardly any visible difference. You certainly wouldn’t feel a difference in your pocket or handbag. If anything, with it’s depth changing between the top and the bottom of the unit, the Nexus feels bigger.
  • Screen :
    There’s a .15 inch ( about 4mm ) difference in the size of the screen between the two products which is hardly noticeable. They’re both Super AMOLED which gives them both bright, strong colours. The resolution of both is 1280 x 720, true HD and watching videos on them is a pleasure. After the Galaxy Note, these are the best screens I’ve seen.
  • Video recording : 
    Both record 1080 HD video images at 30 FPS ( Frames Per Second ) giving great shots. The Samsung Galaxy SIII comes out on top here again. The quality of the video was higher.

Galaxy S3 vs Galaxy Nexus – other influencers

The quality of the Touchwiz interface ( this is free software that Samsung put on top of the Android Operating System. It’s in place when you get the ‘phone ) is another feature that sets the Galaxy S3 apart from the Nexus in my mind. Against the ( obviously ) vanilla ICS of the Galaxy Nexus, the features and usability were much better on TouchWiz. Smart Call ( where, when you’re texting someone, you get bored of it, put your phone to your ear and it calls them ) and Smart Alert ( which summarizes all the messages which have come in while you’ve been away from your phone ) are just a couple of examples of some really useful features.

Galaxy S3 vs Galaxy Nexus – Technical Specification Comparison – summing up

It’s a landslide. The Samsung Galaxy SIII is much, much better than the Nexus. It looks better, performs better, has a bigger screen, better camera and a more usable interface – with features you’ll love.

But, it’s not always that simple, is it ? It’s not just about the quality of the product, it’s also about the price ! If you’re interested in tracking the pricing for these products, sign up to the Whatphone email and we’ll tell you every week, where you can get the best price plan deal. After a month, we’ll take you off our database.

And drop Whatphone a line if you disagree with any component of this analysis. I’d love to hear your point of view.

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.