Galaxy not so far, far away

AFTER a few decades wrestling with the dark underside of innovation, we here at Bleeding Edge are no longer quite so keen to explore the new and novel immediately.

That's why it took us quite a while to abandon the iPhone. After obediently upgrading through several generations, we have moved instead to the Samsung Galaxy S III and the world of Google's Android.

Among our reasons for the switch was the fact that in recent years we have become disillusioned with Apple.

It's a great technology company but, in our opinion, it too often uses its (admittedly well-earned) reputation for superior design to exploit customers, progressively charging more and delivering less.

Its commercial relationships with publishers have also, in our view, helped inflate the price of digital music, video and books.

Another irritation is Apple's tendency to make unilateral decisions that hamstring users, ranging from its stand against Flash to making it difficult, if not impossible, for the user to replace a battery.

Perhaps our biggest concern, though, has been a recent, noticeable decline in its software standards. In March we wrote about the iCloud fiasco that temporarily emptied our contacts list. Getting them back put us to a good deal of inconvenience.

But, in the end, a superior product persuaded us to make the shift. Samsung's Galaxy S III is dramatically better than the iPhone 4S and is almost certainly going to give the iPhone 5 a run for its money.

The S III's 4.8-inch Super AMOLED HD display and 1.4GHz quad-core Exynos processor, ''zero shutter lag'' eight-megapixel camera, expandable microSD memory and user-replaceable battery is an irresistible combination.

We were troubled at first at the thought of having to abandon the familiarity of Apple's iOS platform for the sheer unknown of Android. It's a point of honour around here never to read a manual. That meant that when we received our first phone call, we couldn't work out how to answer it. It took a couple of unanswered calls for us to discover the secret of swiping across the screen.

Swiping is a handy skill to develop with the S III. From the lock screen, for instance, you can activate applications simply by swiping the icon upwards. And you can take a screenshot with another swipe.

Those actions, by the way, don't necessarily work with all Android devices. Like many manufacturers, Samsung has added its own touches to the standard Android interface (in this case, the version known as Ice Cream Sandwich) by overlaying it with its TouchWiz skin menu, which you can access from the top of any screen. That gives you access to quick control functions, such as activating Bluetooth and the GPS or turning wi-fi on and off, and alerting you to updates.

This phone is possibly the ultimate device for control freaks. It is packed with management options. You can track battery usage, see the apps that are using the most memory, check your broadband data use and set up warnings when you are nearing your limit.

First, we had to ensure our favourite applications were available under the new Google Play app-and-content store. Andrew Botting's Tram Hunter turned out to be a fine replacement for the iPhone's tramTRACKER.

Evernote for Android gives equal access to our cross-platform personal information manager. There is also an Android version of Evernote Hello, which we've just begun experimenting with. It helps you remember the people you meet.

With Android comes heavy use of various Google apps. Fortunately, we've always relied on Google Contacts and Calendar, so synchronising them with the S III was simple. We've also switched to the Google Chrome browser.

While there are lots of GPS navigation tools on the S III, none provides the lanes function of TomTom but the company has announced it will soon be releasing an Android version.

An essential resource is Whirlpool's Galaxy S III Owners' Mods, Tips, and Qs forum at bit.ly/O9sAW2. And for accessories, see bit.ly/M3NVnN.

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