I would not recommend the Samsung S3 for grey zone use

Around Christmas time my wife’s mobile phone went on the fritz. As it was about two years old I told her to upgrade rather than bother with the repair option. So she got a Samsung S3. At the time it was far and away the top selling smartphone around. Most people I know (which is not many), including some folks at work, had the S3 and assured me it was okay.

You know me. I did some online research. By and large most reviews gave the S3 the thumbs up but in my defence I will note that there was very little data around on the Web relating to the performance of the S3 in grey signal zones.

So, as it turns out, the S3 has this serious problem. Its antenna reception is crap in grey or fringe zones. In fact the S3’s reception is pretty crap in yellow zones (the zone between the grey zone and the full-signal zone).

So I decided to compare my Motorola Defy with my wife’s S3.

Around our house, which is notorious for bad signal strength despite being less then three kilometres from the nearest tower, my Motorola Defy never rates less the 5 ASUs. Even when the signal strength falls to –98 dBm the ASU count is still up around five which is sufficient to make and hold a call—although the person at the other end may complain of some voice drop-out occurring.

With the S3 when the signal strength is as high as –83 dBm, which is in our bedroom at the front of the house, the ASU falls away to two—which is not enough to make and hold calls. In fact it is not even enough for a text message to make it in. My wife often does not get text messages that have been sent to her until she takes the S3 out of the house.

It does vary depending on the weather and how I hold my mouth, but right now my Defy is showing –93 dBm with 8 ASUs or 3/5 bars on the phone. More then enough to make calls and I made a test call to the home phone. The S3, confusingly, is showing –91 dBm (which is actually a better signal—the lower the dBm the higher the signal) but only 1/5 bars on the phone and I am unable to make a call. How confusing is that?!?

When you Google around for Samsung S3 notes on the antenna and fringe or grey zone call reception now you find numerous of reports that it is not as good as it should be. One comment on a review on Cnet says “ … absolutely crap reception in rural areas”. A respondent on Phonarena says “Reception is terrible compare to my old HTC Evo 4”. And it goes on and on. On Androidcentral areviewer says “After 5 days with the phone, I can say that the reception is junk”.

I did find out that there is an external antenna modification you can make to the S3, but seriously? Who wants to do that?

But the bottom line here is that the grey zone reception of the Samsung S3 is no where near as good as the ‘old’ Motorola Defy. So, at this stage, I am in no hurry to upgrade from my Motorola Defy. I am sort of hoping that Telstra might give the Nokia Lumia 920 or the Motorola RAZR HD the ‘Blue Tick’. But at this stage that has not happened.