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Samsung Galaxy S III
Selecting the New Pocket Computer

Jim Carter, 2012-10-22

It looks like my Motorola Droid-3 has come down with bit rot -- a bad spot in flash memory, which is not recoverable and prevents flashing a new operating system image. I'm going to need a new pocket computer on short notice.

Should I attempt to enforce the warranty, getting it replaced with a refurbished unit? Or should I get a new kind of pocket computer? I like the Droid-3, I like continuity, and I don't like getting only a year of use out of this item that was so expensive in both cash and effort. But I don't like the idea of a refurb, and in the fast-moving world of cellphones the Droid-3 was at the end of the previous generation. Reviewing my current view of my goals for this pocket computer, I've decided to do the full selection process.


From experience with the Droid-3 I have modified my goals quite a bit. A lot of pocket computer activities depend more on operating system support than on hardware components. However, the point here is to pick the hardware. The lists below are organized around the hardware that supports the activities rather than grouped by function, downplaying the very important responsibility of the operating system to use that hardware effectively.


My plan is to look at registration statistics on the CyanogenMod site, pick the top ten or so most popular models, and verify their CyanogenMod status. Then I will intersect these with Verizon's offering. I will use summary listings to assess required features, cut the list down to about four phones, and then read detailed reviews.

CyanogenMod Statistics

Link to CyanogenMod statistics page. These numbers should be compared to the number of activations of unmodded Android phones, which is in the millions per day. These numbers count devices that have reported aliveness within 90 days. Some users do not turn on the statistics gathering feature so these underestimate CyanogenMod's actual market penetration. There are other modded OS images beyond CyanogenMod.

For a cross reference from chassis names (as used for CyanogenMod images) to marketing names as used by the carriers, see the CyanogenMod download page. In the left column the chassis are in alphabetical order, and hovering will pop up the vendor/carrier name. The CyanogenMod chassis name for Verizon's variant of the Galaxy S III is the d2vzw; for the Galaxy Nexus it is the toro.

Here is a list of the top 20 phones (self-reporting that they currently run CyanogenMod) plus a few others.

Model Quantity Version Comments
Total 2,496,113 All 18,569 new in last 24 hours
galaxysmtd 117627 10 Samsung Galaxy S i9000
bravo 93835 7 Motorola Bravo
cooper 87257 7 Samsung Galaxy Ace (Martin Cooper developed the first handheld radio phone.)
blade 84937 7 ZTE Blade (aka Venus, or Orange San Francisco), European market
i9100 74998 10 Samsung Galaxy S II (international)
galaxy5 66619 ?
galaxys2 65783 9 Samsung Galaxy S 2
morrison 58833 7 Motorola Cliq
shakira 52762 7? SE Xperia X8-E15i
jordan 50652 7 Motorola Defy
umts_jordan 49797 ?
buzz 41213 7 HTC Wildfire
maguro 40940 10 Google Galaxy Nexus GSM
tass 38326 7 Samsung Galaxy Mini
ace 37539 7 HTC Desire HD or Inspire 4G
supersonic 37500 7 HTC Evo
htcleo 36657 ?
X8 35287 ?
i9300 35194 10 Samsung Galaxy S III (international)
toro 20489 10 Samsung Galaxy Nexus (VZW)
p1c ? 10 Samsung Galaxy Tab (CDMA) (this is a tablet)
pyramid 32196 9 HTC Sensation

The phones stuck on CM-7 based on Gingerbread have memory or hardware limitations that prevent putting CM-10 Jelly Bean on them. There is a good reason why CyanogenMod-10 is available for recent Samsung phones: Cyanogen himself (Steve Kondik) was hired as a developer by Samsung on about 2011-08-15.

Verizon Phones

Which of these phones is available from Verizon? Restricting to just Samsung phones. CM Name is from the table above; where blank, CyanogenMod is probably not available.
Model Memory Price CM Name Comments
Samsung Galaxy S III 16GB $200 d2vzw Colors blue, white, black, red
Samsung Galaxy S III 32GB $250 d2vzw Colors blue, white
Samsung Galaxy Stellar -- (free)
Samsung Stratosphere -- $50
Droid Charge by Samsung -- $100
Galaxy Nexus by Samsung 16Gb $50 toro

It it took some work to be sure which chassis the Samsung Galaxy S III really is. See the links below for confirming the identification as the d2vzw. The Galaxy Nexus by Samsung almost certainly is the Toro.

Web links to CyanogenMod images for the two identified phones:

Features of Phones

Feature S III Nexus
Display Size 1280x720px 120mm 1280x720px 118mm
Display Technology Super AMOLED Super AMOLED
Modulation CDMA, GSM, LTE CDMA, others not sure
4G Capable Yes Yes
Processor Qualcomm Krait 2 core 1.5GHz TI OMAP 4460 2 core 1.2GHz
RAM (Gb) 2Gb 1Gb
Internal Flash 16-64Gb 16-32Gb
Removeable Flash 64Gb MicroSDXC NONE!
Audio Wired, Bluetooth Wired, Bluetooth
GPS Has Has
USB/ADB Has Doesn't say, likely has
MHL (HDMI from USB port) Has (Samsung adapter) Has (generic adapter)
Rear Camera 8Mpx (3264x2448px), autofocus, LED flash, f/2.6 5Mpx (2592x1936px), autofocus, LED flash
Front Camera 1.9Mpx 1.3Mpx
Ambient Light Sensor Has Has
Charger USB ?
Battery 2.1Ah LiIon field replaceable 1.75Ah LiIon field replaceable
Chassis Dimensions 136 x 70 x 9mm 135 x 68 x 9mm
Mass 133g 135g
Physical Buttons Home, Volume, Power, plus 2 capacitive buttons (home, back) Power and volume rocker, plus 3 capacitive buttons (home, back, search)
Inception 2012-05-03 2011-10-19
CyanogenMod name d2vzw toro

Miscellaneous for the Galaxy S III:

Miscellaneous for the Galaxy Nexus:

There are five hardware variants of the Galaxy Nexus:


Both phones received rave reviews when new. Experience with reviews in the past leads me to believe that criticisms will probably involve the camera (one critic says colors are washed out, another on the same phone says they're oversaturated); software issues; and other irrelevancies. Criticisms on points important to me will probably only make themselves known when it's too late to change to the other phone.

I'm going to read one review on Engadget for each phone.

Samsung Galaxy S III Review on Engadget by Sharif Sakr, 2012-05-25

Samsung Galaxy S III for Verizon Wireless on Engadget by Brad Molen, 2012-07-09.

Review of Nexus (HSPA) on Engadget by Miriam Joire, 2011-11-24.

Status of CyanogenMod on the Galaxy S III, from a search on Google for Galaxy S III Verizon CyanogenMod:


Now comes the time to balance the strengths and deficiencies of the two phones, and pick one or the other.

Conclusion: I'm getting the Galaxy S III.

Acquisition and Setup

Verizon's price is $200 + $55 tax (on the retail price of $600) + $30 phone upgrade fee. I got it at the local brick and mortar store. It's available in four colors: blue, white, black and red, but the latter two are only available online. Blue turns out to be a very dark blue, almost black, only on the back cover; the face of the device is black. This is the color I got.

Since I'm going to install CyanogenMod I'll wipe out almost all the work I do setting up the machine, so I'll minimize such work. My goal is to exercise all the hardware functions in stock mode and report the results, then do the upgrade.

Setup steps in stock mode:

While my back was turned it proceeded to do an OTA update and I didn't have the forethought to capture the SBF file. The update actually went pretty fast.