Samsung Galaxy S III (Cricket Wireless) review

The Samsung Galaxy S III is still one of the world's best smartphones, and available from Cricket Wireless at an unusually low price.
Photo of Samsung Galaxy S III (Cricket Wireless)
549.99

The world’s top Android smartphone is now available at a very low price without a contract. Cricket Wireless’s innovation with its Galaxy S III phone isn’t in technologythis is the same Galaxy S III that millions of people around the world lovebut in its price. At $379.99 when it’s on sale, Cricket’s Galaxy S III beats other no-contract deals by more than a hundred bucks. That’s enough to earn it our Editors’ Choice award for smartphones on Cricket.

Differences on Cricket
By now, the Galaxy S III is a well-trodden road, and Cricket’s unit is physically identical to MetroPCS’s model. Read our review of the MetroPCS device to learn more. 

The software build is a bit different, featuring some persistent Cricket bloatware, but that shouldn’t be enough to dissuade you. Cricket left Samsung’s Game Hub, Media Hub, S Memo, S Suggest, and Samsung Apps stores intact. It added an account manager and some dumb redundant storefront and “mobile browser” links. But as I said, it’s not a big deal, and there’s nothing like MetroPCS’s invasive “MetroXtras.”

At review time, this Galaxy S III ran the older Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) operating system, but Cricket told me an upgrade to Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) will come along with the carrier’s unlimited Muve Music software in April. Muve Music is a great service for music lovers, bundling unlimited downloadable music into your service plan; the only downside is that the music must be stored on a special encrypted microSD card and can’t be transferred to any other device.

Additional upgrades may come after that, as Samsung confirmed that at least some of the new features on the Galaxy S4 will come to the S III in the future.

Coverage and Service Plans
To take advantage of this inexpensive Galaxy S III, you need to understand Cricket’s coverage and service plans.

Cricket covers about a third of the U.S. population with its own 3G network. Where it doesn’t have coverage, it uses Sprint’s 3G network. Its 4G LTE network is currently available in Atlantic City, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Tucson, Wilmington, and a whole bunch of Texas cities.

Cricket and Sprint run the slowest 3G networks out there right now, with speeds generally below 1Mbps. Cricket’s 4G LTE network, on the other hand, is pleasantly fast, zipping along with 5-8Mbps downloads and 2-5Mbps uploads when I tested it in Las Vegas in January.

The carrier has three plan levels: a $50/month, 1GB basic plan; a $60/month plan with 2.5GB of data, tethering, and unlimited international messaging; and a 5GB/month, $70 plan. In the no-contract world, MetroPCS and Virgin charge less and T-Mobile charges about the same. T-Mobile and MetroPCS also have truly unlimited 4G plans available, which Cricket doesn’t have. They all have better 4G coverage than Cricket, but their competing phones tend to cost more up front.

Pricing, Comparisons, and Conclusions
The Samsung Galaxy S III is Cricket’s best smartphone, by a long shot. Both the phone’s quality and its pricing contribute to this. Cricket has three LTE phones: the Galaxy S III, the HTC One SV, and the LG Optimus Regard. Discard the Regard; at $229, it’s too expensive for its cramped, low-resolution screen.

That leaves the Galaxy S III and the One SV. They’re both very good phones; the One SV has Cricket’s unlimited Muve Music and costs $100 less, both solid arguments. It’s also great-looking and fits better in smaller hands. The Galaxy S III, on the other hand, has a faster processor, better camera, and nicer screen. It’s a top-of-the-line, no-compromise experience. (What of the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S, you wonder? They don’t have LTE on Cricket, and the iPhone 5 costs more at $449.99.) 

If you’re looking to save money on a basic smartphone experience, the HTC One V ($139.99) is a good option. It’s much slower, lacking both 4G and a fast processor, but it has a decent screen and runs Cricket’s Muve Music software. All told, though, the Galaxy S III is a first-class phone for Cricket, and is an easy Editor’s Choice.

Specifications
Service Provider Cricket
Phone Capability / Network CDMA, LTE
Total Integrated Storage 12.05 GB
Screen Resolution 1280 x 720 pixels
802.11x/Band(s) 802.11 b/g/n
Operating System as Tested Android OS
Screen Type Super AMOLED HD
Battery Life (As Tested) 7 hours 57 minutes
High-Speed Data EVDO Rev A, LTE
Physical Keyboard No
Bands 850, 1900, 1700
microSD Slot Yes
Processor Speed 1.5 GHz
GPS Yes
Screen Size 4.8 inches
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
Form Factor Candy Bar

Verdict
The Samsung Galaxy S III is still one of the world's best smartphones, and available from Cricket Wireless at an unusually low price.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc