The Samsung Galaxy III and the iPhone 4S both have their good points, but which one can really double as a helpful virtual assistant?
WHILE Apple and Samsung have been fighting it out in court, we thought we'd put their latest smartphones to the test to see who really does put the ''smart'' into smartphone.
By smart, we mean user-friendly, intuitive, fast, design-savvy and with high AI (artificial intelligence) for knowing what you might want and giving it to you. Basically, a phone that's a personal assistant that you're not going to fire on day one because it's speed-dialled your ex at 2am, photo-tagged you in a drunken mess, or thrown up bizarre search results (like radiation doses from eating bananas when what you asked for was the size of a king-size bed). That's a true example from silly Siri, who Steve Wozniak reckons has turned to ''poo poo'' since Apple bought it in 2010.
You might argue Samsung Galaxy S III running Android 4.0 has an unfair advantage because the iPhone 4S on iOS5.1.1 was released three months ago, but for the sake of this road test we're looking at the current playing fields for intelligent mobile phone software.
The Galaxy S III has upped the IQ factor.
iPhone 5 might up the ante with a rumoured near-field communications release come spring, which would turn your phone into a tech wallet but, until we have it in our hot little hands, it's all Apple pie in the sky.
Samsung wins for facial recognition technology because the 4S simply doesn't have it. To unlock the screen with your face go to settings/security/screenlock /faceunlock. Once you activate SmartStay under the display settings, the III even lights or dims the screen according to your eye movement, which means it stays on while you're reading and then switches off if you fall asleep.
It also automatically tags you and your friends in photos if you select Facetag (hit the options button next to the home button). Slightly creepy that your phone knows you that well, but also a clever security factor. Just bear in mind that the III can't distinguish between a photo and the real face, so it is still hackable.
So, does Siri know who you are? Unfortunately, she doesn't even know who she is.
''Who are you?''
''I am well, Katie.''
(I said, 'Who', not 'How?' Grrrr.)
''I'm just a humble virtual assistant.''
Obviously, you need to work on your voice recognition, Miss Siri, or I need to work on my diction.
Samsung also has the jump on direct calling, which it can even do based on gesture recognition, which is mighty handy if your Bluetooth in the car has run flat, or you have your hands full at the checkout. When a contact is on the screen, to call them, just raise the phone to your ear.
Screen grabs are also a step ahead with Samsung. No more simultaneously locking and holding buttons. Just swipe your palm from right to left on the III to take a screen shot.
Lighter, wider and skinnier seem to be the trends for mobile phones, which makes the 4S look slightly chunky up against the new sleeker III. We wait eagerly to see what shape the 5 will be and if it will follow the Samsung Galaxy III's lead with a massive 4.8-inch screen that only weighs 133 grams. It's not quite ''phablet'' size like the Note, and fits snug in the back pocket of your jeans, but it's still probably too big to squeeze into a purse.
Still, the iPhone does command attention for its beautiful and simple interface, especially Siri's Q&A format, which looks really clean.
Samsung is definitely more complicated, takes some getting used to and its icons aren't as sophisticated. So we might have to call the style stakes a draw.
To get a lot of the Samsung Galaxy III's features working you have to set them up, including the facial recognition. And while they're nifty, it takes a bit of fiddling to get them up and running, which some might find frustrating. No need to start Siri on Apple, just start talking after you hold down the home button and hear the two quick beeps. ''What can I help you with?'' will come up on the screen.
At eight megapixels and with HD video recording, the iPhone 4S camera is a knockout, but Samsung has lifted the bar with those same specs by adding automatic photo-taking features. Burst Shot captures 20 continuous frames and then selects eight of the best shots automatically. That editing function is an Instagrammer's best friend, especially now that IG has taken a bite out of Apple and is available on Android devices. Another great upgrade on the Galaxy III is that it lets you record still and video at the same time, which you can't do on the 4S.
App-happy iPhones need a sharing app such as Bump to transfer files, but Samsung has gone one better with S Beam. Tap the two phones, hold for a second and then tap on the file you want to share. No pairing, no set-up, no waiting. From each photo, you can also choose to share to any of your social media sites instantly. Android wins.
''Where can I buy MAC eyelashes in Melbourne?'' I ask both phones. Siri gives us a Google search return in seconds with a list of MAC stores. But when I ask her to find my husband, she goes shy. Yes, she gives me his contact details on the screen, but when I ask to dial his number, she's obviously out on a smoko and repeats twice, ''Here's that contact information,'' which is code for, ''Do it yourself, you lazy human.''
If I ask the Galaxy III S Voice the same shopping query, I'm told, ''I know I love you. I cannot love as humans do.'' Has Galaxy taken an acid trip? I try again. This time Galaxy thinks I've said, ''Where can I buy Mac on elections in Melbourne?'' Fail. On the third try, S Voice offers to do a web search but I have to type in the query. Epic fail.
Where Galaxy picks up points is on navigation. I set off to navigate from home to my son's school and it brings up the map instantly and proceeds with turn-by-turn navigation - superb functionality if you haven't had time to set up and program your GPS.
Siri says she can only look for maps and traffic in the US. ''Sorry about that.'' Well, how's that for a parochial PA?
This one's a no-brainer. Everything is faster on the Samsung Galaxy III, even the water effect on the touchscreen seems to bounce.
Clearly, the Samsung Galaxy III has upped the IQ factor for its ''smart'' features with an impressive range of intuitive functions and a more natural voice, which leaves iPhone's 4S Siri to contemplate her college entry prospects until perhaps the 5 can prove she really can make good as a virtual assistant you can rely on for more than weather reports and comic relief when she gets your query wrong.
''Are you smart, Siri?''
''No comment,'' she answers.