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With Samsung's Galaxy S III, the experience matters

After all the rumors and built-up expectations have come to fruition or not, we wonder if it was all worth it and how Samsung's newest phone might change Android.

Samsung Galaxy S III
The Samsung Galaxy S III: You'll come for the hardware and stay for the experience.
Luke Westaway/CNET UK

Done. In the books. No more Samsung Galaxy S III rumors or leaks to worry about ever again.

Though Android fans in the United States still have to guess about a release date, at least we know what Samsung has been working on for the past few months. So was it all worth it? At first blush, I say the answer is a resounding yes.

If you haven't had the chance to watch the Unpacked press conference yet, I encourage you to do so. What you'll find is roughly an hour of what makes the Galaxy S III so special and how it might change Android. If this product unveiling is any indication, Samsung understands that the future of the operating system isn't just about specifications.

You can't beat the experience
It's the experience, rather, that ultimately will impress users the most. In an era of dual-core this and quad-core that, phone owners are typically hard-pressed to notice the difference in hardware performance. The specs are incredible, yes, but it's the way in which the phone works that will help it stand out.

Indeed, we're already seeing a taste of that with AT&T's HTC One X. Though some users gripe that the One X lacks the quad-core chip of the global version, that hasn't stopped the speedy, powerful device from taking CNET's Editors' Choice Award.

It's the little things
Purists and early adopters might prefer a stripped-down, stock Android experience, but the general population will love the stuff that Samsung added here. Whether it's the handset staying awake while you're reading a book or Web site or the way it captures photos, the Galaxy S III has plenty of "wow" factor to go around. I see a number of things that have me wondering why today's phones aren't already handling or doing them.

For example, I can't count the number of times that I've been typing a text message only to fumble around quickly when I received a call. It makes a lot of sense to be able to switch to calling mode by raising the handset to my ear as the Galaxy S III will allow. Granted, the Direct Call feature in the Galaxy S III might sound trivial to some, but this is the sort of thing that people show off in the beauty salon.

The same for snoozing the alarm clock, sharing video and content, or the "Pop up Play" multifunction for watching video. While none of these features alone would be enough reason to go buy a Galaxy S III, I suspect that, combined, they are the reason you would return to Samsung down the road.

Similarly, I'm reminded of the little things in Android 4.0 that I miss when using a version 2.3 handset. Though Gingerbread isn't enough to completely dissuade me from using a device, I love the total package that Ice Cream Sandwich brings. So chalk up another point for the Galaxy S III.

A bit late, but worth the wait
So, yes, even after the delay from a Mobile World Congress announcement and months of rumors, I'd have to say that the Galaxy S III was worth the wait. The hardware specifications fell in line with the steady stream of rumors, even somewhat surpassing them. On paper, the handset is as good as anything else on the market, and should be for the foreseeable future.

With new rumors that Samsung and Google will once again collaborate on the next Nexus handset, I'm anxious to see what will happen this fall. Why? The last two "pure Google" smartphones closely mirrored the current edition of the Galaxy S series. What's more, coupling this level of hardware with a new version of Android is fantastic.

In the meanwhile, I'll be waiting to hear when U.S. consumers can get their hands on the Galaxy S III. And on that note, it appears that Samsung may have tipped its hand as to who might be offering the new flagship device. With seven carriers already on the horizon, I'd be surprised if your wireless provider does not support the Galaxy S III.