Samsung Galaxy S3 arrives in New Zealand

Computerworld previews the flagship device and discusses NFC capability. PHOTOS

Samsung’s flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S III, goes on sale with all three carriers tomorrow, however Computerworld received a preview demonstration of the device this morning.

(Galaxy S III in "Marble White", measures approx 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm)

New Zealand head of telecommunications Stefan Lecchi says all versions of the Samsung Galaxy S III sold by Telecom, Vodafone and 2degrees will have near field communication (NFC) technology, making it compatible with the different mobile wallet systems being developed by Kiwi telcos and banks.

Lecchi says each of the three carriers will install their own NFC systems on the phone. 2degrees will launch with Snapper’s Touch2Pay system, but for the moment this will only be available in Wellington where the telco is conducting a contactless payment trial on public transport.

Update: The 2degrees / Snapper Touch2Pay system is not a trial, as per Snapper CEO Miki Szikszai's statement in the comments section.

Design-wise, the Galaxy S III looks like a slightly more refined Galaxy S II. The edges have been significantly rounded out, and the raised “chin” on the back of the first and second generation of the device has been replaced with a smooth and flattened surface.

Going against the current trend of high end Android devices, Samsung has kept the replacable battery and expandable memory slot. A weak point for the Galaxy S and S II was its plastic back lid and it will be interesting to see how sturdy this new one is.

The quad-core processor combined with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and Samsung’s TouchWiz 4.0 makes for an incredibly snappy user interface. Lecchi showed off the Galaxy S III’s pop up and play ability, which lets you take videos from your gallery and play it ontop of other active apps - kind of like picture-in-picture on TVs.

(Galaxy S III on top of an iPhone 4S)

Samsung is making a lot of noise about its motion and camera controlled gestures.Tapping the device, swiping accross its screen, or even just looking at it all controls the device in some way. The possibilities for gesture use in third-party apps is exciting, but Lecchi says he is uncertain at this point how much of the gesture control APIs will be open to developers.

“I expect this is something we will want to do,” says Lecchi.

These new features will affect the battery life of the device. Lecchi says his personal Galaxy S III only requires charging every three days, a claim which this reporter is incredibly dubious of.

In a show of its recently achieved brand-power (and its enormous PR budget) Samsung is flying 50 of New Zealand’s top media, telco, and channel partners over to Sydney for the official launch tomorrow.

The Galaxy S III will be sold in retail stores from May 31. Telecom and Vodafone have the RRP at $1049 for the 16 GB version, which will only be available in white at launch.

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