How the Samsung Galaxy S3 finally helped me fall in love with Android

I am not the fastest person in the world to embrace change. As the iPhone changed the world, I clung desperately to my BlackBerry for several years. Before that, when the iPod was revolutionizing music, I still proudly lugged around a portable CD player.

Not being an early adopter has always been a point of pride. Camping out for a gadget? Don’t be ridiculous.

So, having finally switched to an iPhone 3GS a couple of years ago, I pretty much tuned out anything with an Android operating system. Yes, I could see that it was selling far faster than the iPhone. But again, I stuck with my iPhone. And that became a gateway for me becoming a deeper Apple users: a Macbook, Apple TV, and iPad. We became an Apple household because all these things worked so famously well together.

Why would I change?

Even as I watched other friends adopt Android phones, I’d play with them, but hand them back certain that mine was the superior device. Indeed, when the folks at T-Mobile loaned me a Samsung Galaxy S III a couple of months ago, I was curious to try it. But I was also resistant. At first.

My first reaction was: Yes, it’s nice, but it’s too darn big. Indeed, Apple execs took a swipe at Samsung for that very same issue. 

But I’ve come around. The Galaxy III S wore me down. It’s a damn beautiful device. I love it and I wish I never had to give it back.

I’m not the first to say so. You can read my colleague Troy Wolverton’s review here. And here’s a great comparison of the Samsung Galaxy and the iPhone 5 from our sister paper, the Oakland Press.

Let me state upfront: Yes, I have the iPhone 3GS. It wasn’t until I really started playing with the Galaxy that my old iPhone felt too old and clunky. But now it does. I’m getting an iPhone 5 in a couple of weeks, and no doubt that will be a fairer comparison.

Still, let me just note the big difference here. The Galaxy I have is running on T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network. And my god: What a difference! Watching a video, downloading just about anything, is lightning quick. And the network has proven to be reliable and far more available than I expected. Living in the Bay Area, the AT&T coverage is still mediocre. I live in North Oakland where it’s hard to make calls on the AT&T network.

So, I’ve taken to using the Samsung for calls at home. Kudos to T-Mobile for that.

But beyond that, the bigger screen really does transform the viewing and reading experience. And it’s far lighter than my iPhone, making if feel less cumbersome.

But what about Android and the onscreen experience? It took a little adjustment to figure out how to find and download apps, sure. But after a couple of weeks, it seemed no more challenging than downloading an app on the iPhone.

Beyond that, graphically this version of Android and the way Samsung has implemented seems far more, well, delightful than Apple’s iOS, which feels a bit dated. Yes, I’ve updated to iOS6 on the iPhone. Doesn’t matter. The way the Galaxy’s graphics swirl around when I first turn it on, and the way the apps appear is just wonderful.

Not surprisingly, the camera is a big revelation as well. I expect the iPhone 5 will close that gap for me. But at the moment, the Galaxy has become my default camera, with its 8-megapixels and its gorgeous 1080p HD video. I had gone back to toting around a second camera because my iPhone photos were so disappointing. Now I can ditch that and just use the Galaxy.

Now, in the scheme of life, both phones are very nice. But the other larger issue that the Galaxy drove home for me has to do with Apple. Android fans and Apple critics have been saying this for awhile now, but I have to echo it: Apple seems to be falling behind the innovation curve here. It really is playing catch-up on many of these features.

In the short term, that may not matter. Witness the millions of iPhone 5 units it’s selling. Still, at some point, this has to begin to reflect on Apple’s reputation for being a tech leader and not a follower. Yes, I understand that there are some legal questions regarding patents and who copied who.

But in the minds of consumer, it seems at some point Apple will risk losing some of that enthusiasm if it can’t find a way to leapfrog the competition.

Apple hasn’t lost me. Yet. But Samsung has made me more willing to look at my options.