The Samsung Galaxy Ace 3 continues the Korean firm’s drive to create an Android device for every single niche in the market.
Samsung’s current range has the powerhouses of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy Note 3, followed up by the less powerful yet still impressive Galaxy S4 Mini.
Below that sits the Galaxy Ace 3, with the Galaxy Fame and the Galaxy Young rounding off the list.
Being one of the lower-specced handsets, it’s reasonable to assume that the pricing would match, and you wouldn’t be far wrong.
SIM prices start from around £200, $225, with 4G contracts in the UK as low as £19pm, or 3G for £17pm.
This puts the Galaxy Ace 3 in square contention with the newly launched HTC Desire 500 and the Nokia Lumia 625, as well as being a shade more expensive than the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini.
Being a more budget-oriented device, the Galaxy Ace 3 has a lot to compete against. Sitting within the Galaxy range should help, though – as should an existing user base that might be looking to upgrade from the original Galaxy Ace.
In order to convince you to part with some (though admittedly not much) of your hard-earned cash, the Galaxy Ace 3 packs in a few surprises. The more observant will have noticed that it is 4G enabled, for example.
In truth, this will be the biggest selling point of the Galaxy Ace 3, as there is not a lot else that it has to shout about. Running only a dual-core 1.2GHz processor, when the HTC Desire 500 offers a quad-core, seems a disappointing.
I’m still a little sceptical of the need for such power in low-end devices, though, so I’ll take a look at that later.
Another key specification on the modern smartphone is the screen. The Galaxy Ace 3 comes with a 4-inch, 480 x 800 screen, meaning 233ppi. It’s a long way off the Galaxy S4, with its 441 ppi, but it’s not too bad.
It seems a little odd that the screen matches that of the HTC Desire 500, yet somehow seems brighter and crisper. Then again, Samsung is famed for putting truly spectacular screens onto some of its devices.
To cope with that screen, the Galaxy Ace 3 measures in at 121.2 x 62.7 x 9.8mm. This puts it in the same size bracket as the Galaxy S4 Mini, although the extra 12g of weight is very noticeable.
Previous TechRadar reviews have commented that added weight can sometimes help make a device feel more premium, but the Galaxy Ace 3 feels a little heavy.
Besides the 4G antenna and 4-inch screen, the chassis also encases the more standard smartphone features: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and GLONASS, and NFC.
The Galaxy Ace 3 is shaping up to fit nicely in the Galaxy range, and this is aided by a strong design ethos from Samsung. Put the Galaxy Ace 3 alongside any of the Galaxy phones since the Galaxy S3 and the curvier nature is instantly recognisable.
You can pick up the Galaxy Ace 3 in two colors. I’d tell you to guess what they are, but black and white are too obvious to make the game fun. Everyone would be disappointed if it was just black, though.
There’s little to say about the colors themselves, but what is noticeable is that the sensors by the front-facing camera are far more noticeable on the white version. Hopes of a notification light were also dashed.
A faux chrome band wraps around the chassis, making it look a little more premium, as well as breaking up the block white or black color.
As with all smartphones, the screen takes up most of the front. The home button, as well as the back and menu soft-keys sit below, following the same Samsung layout first seen on the Samsung Galaxy S.
The volume rocker sits at the top of the left-hand side, with the power lock button opposite on the right. This leaves the 3.5mm port sat on the top, and the microUSB/charger port on the base.
You knew that, though, didn’t you? All Galaxy models, from the Fame through to the S4, follow in the same vein.
Tucked behind a removable plastic back cover is an 1800mAh battery, as well as the Samsung standard microSD slot. I’m really thankful for its inclusion, although I should mention that the Galaxy Ace 3 does come with a respectable 8GB internal storage, even if you can’t use all of it.
The added internal storage will give the Galaxy Ace 3 a boost, as the Desire 500 has less than 1GB of accessible storage, compared with the Ace’s 5GB. It is beaten in the camera department, with the Galaxy Ace 3 packing only a 5MP rear sensor. A VGA sensor sits in the top left, above the screen.
It’s hard to be definitive about how much this affects camera performance, as the Galaxy S3 Mini came with only a 5MP sensor and was still very impressive.
In terms of size, the Galaxy Ace 3 hits a nice medium. The race to ever-bigger screens continues (check out the Sony Xperia Z Ultra and its massive 6.44-inch beast), but the smaller stature of the Galaxy Ace 3 means that the entire screen can be accessed with one hand.
Overall, the design of the Galaxy Ace 3 isn’t phenomenal, if only because it fits so nicely within the Galaxy range, and that can’t be a bad thing. It has a lot to live up to, but bringing 4G to the lower end of the market should really help.
When it comes to any device running Android, you’re going to find a certain level of customisation. The Samsung Galaxy Ace 3 is no exception.
Anybody who has used any Samsung device, whether running Android or not, will be instantly familiar. It’s understandable that Samsung is keen to have uniformity across all its devices, as it builds a tighter ecosystem, and it will help convince users to make the jump to Tizen, when that arrives next year.
Not everyone will be a fan of the overlay, but it is very easy to use, and intuitive. It is also a lot closer to the native stock Android, as opposed to HTC’s Sense 5.0. There is definitely no BlinkFeed to be seen.
On the hardware side of things, the Galaxy Ace 3 suffers a little. The dual-core 1.2GHz feels a little slow. On the whole, the handset chugged along nicely, but the Ace 3 stuttered enough times to demand comment. The quad-core power is noticeable on the HTC Desire 500.
Of course, though, every OS and UI should be intuitive. After all, what is a smartphone if it doesn’t feel smart? Samsung has nailed this with TouchWiz, and every iteration takes it to the next step. The immediate comparison will always be to Sense, as it is the best known UI besides TouchWiz.
Something such as having quick settings in the Notifications bar as an example is a massive boost, to both usability and battery life. One key fault here, though, is the lack of any autobrightness feature, and it’s hard to explain that omission.
There is access to both a quick settings page and Google’s push to have a settings button via the notifications bar. On the Galaxy Ace 3, as with all Galaxy devices, it feels a little redundant.
Being Android Jelly Bean, the expandable and dismissable notifications are around, and this is an excellent feature. The top notification expands to show you more information, such as multiple messages from WhatsApp, or the ability to archive via Gmail.
Swiping left or right also allows you to remove the notification from view, meaning that you don’t have that text or email sat there bugging you all day. Voicemail messages, as ever, are still sat there until you call them.
The App drawer has taken a quick lick of paint, differentiating from the stock drawer in some pretty handy ways. The ability to sort your application list by date, alphabetically in a grid or list, or even hide apps that you don’t want on there, is greatly appreciated.
As ever, folder creation isn’t possible within the app drawer, which is a tad frustrating. It seems needlessly difficult on the home screens too, as there is no drag and drop. This could be due to patent litigations, or the desire to avoid them, but it’s still disappointing.
The Koreans have also had another look at the lock screen. Widgets are possible, although the use for them is unclear, as you need to swipe about to alternate lock screens. Having preferred apps there is far better.
You can also add text to the lock screen, with the idea being that you can put your details on, so if you lose your phone it can be returned.
The Android system is built very much around widgets, and that is continued on the Galaxy Ace 3. Widgets are accessed from a separate tab in the app drawer. A long press means you can drag and drop them to a home screen.
The most interesting are the assistive light (to turn your LED flash into a torch) and the clock. Just about every UI comes with a custom clock, and Samsung’s is clean and effective, and fits in with the blockier nature of TouchWiz.
One particularly smart feature of Galaxy devices that makes a welcome reappearrance on the Galaxy Ace 3 is the smart suggestions when connecting headphones. It offers Music, Video, Phone, YouTube and Voice Recorder.
Samsung’s UI remains impressive. The operation of the Galaxy Ace 3 is relatively smooth, although the dual-core processor struggled to keep up under a lot of strain.
TouchWiz still has its bright and attractive look. It will appeal to both new smartphone users and those who have used smartphones and Samsung devices before. Samsung has a history of good screens, and whilst the Super AMOLED technology isn’t found on the Ace 3, the screen doesn’t disappoint.
Calling and Contacts
The Galaxy Ace 3 appears to be geared towards internet browsing, with its 4G technology on board, but it still packs in the ability to make standard voice calls.
Different people access their contacts in different ways, so whether you choose to access via the dedicated contacts app or the dialler, both apps have you covered. First, the contacts app.
Yes, Samsung’s contacts app is rather uninspiring, as per usual. This is by no means a bad thing, it is still a very highly functional app.
The list brings up small, low resolution pictures that when tapped bring up methods of contacting people, as well as little icons to show how many accounts are linked with that individual contact.
Moving around the contact list is smooth, swiping up and down the dual-core insides copes well, and moving around selecting the individual letters to scroll around even quicker.
Again, I was a little disappointed that, unlike with the excellent HTC Sense, there is no automatic contact matching and linking. Selecting individual contacts does allow for contact linking, and the suggestions it comes up with are generally fairly accurate, although can require some manual searching.
With Android running underneath, it is possible to draw in data from a variety of social accounts: Google, Facebook, Exchange, as well as from other third-party apps such as Skype and Twitter (unfortunately, no longer preinstalled), should you use and install them.
This can easily mean that your contacts list feels a little cluttered. Tapping the menu button, and going to "Contacts to display" means that you can choose different accounts, and even better "Only contacts with phone numbers."
On the social side, Samsung devices also don’t have the ability to show up Facebook statuses, nor browse through photo albums pulled in from varying social accounts like the HTC Desire 500. I can’t tell if it’s a good or bad feature, as I can take it or leave it.
Another niggle is that, unlike the HTC, high-resolution pictures can’t be pulled down from your social networking accounts, only from your Google+ account. It’s not a major thing, but having high-resolution photos throughout the Galaxy Ace 3 would go a little way to make the phone feel a little more premium.
The Phone app, the T9 dialler that every man and his dog is familiar with, comes up, with large, easy-to-hit blue buttons contrasting against the black background.
Like the contacts app, the dialler is also highly functional. Smart dialling is supported: dialling 323, for example, brings up "Dad," like it would have done in predictive text on old feature phones. It also brings up contacts that have the 323 number combination within their contact details.
As a feature, it is one of those that really help make a UI feel intuitive, and while widely supported, it is still missed on others (read iPhone and Windows Phone).
Selecting a contact is only half the job. You’ll need to be able to talk to them. I’m pleased to say that the Samsung Galaxy Ace 3 doesn’t disappoint here.
Call quality was impressive, as was signal holding.There weren’t any dropped calls, and I found that the Ace 3 had signal in every place that I expected, matching the HTC One bar for bar.
Samsung’s "Adapt Sound’ is also making it across the Galaxy range, popping up again on the Galaxy Ace 3. Plug in a headset, or headphones, and the Ace 3 will play some sounds to tailor the sound to suit your ears.
"Soft sound" and "Clear sound" are also available, but I couldn’t really spot a difference between them.
Within the call are the standard Android options: Headset, Keypad, Speaker, Mute and End Call.
One feature from other Galaxy devices makes a very welcome appearance on the Samsung Galaxy Ace 3. After the call has ended, the screen brings up three options: Message, Call or Video Call.
This makes it a lot easier to recall or text the person you just phoned, should you find that you’ve forgotten to say something, or if you said that you’d send details on afterwards.
Video calls are also supported, although this seems likely to be used a lot more via third-party apps such as Skype. It’s a lot easier to use, and Skype contacts sync up with other contacts so you can Skype-call them direct from the contact screen.
As with every smartphone, the Galaxy Ace 3 is likely to be used more to send messages to contacts, rather than to make voice calls.
Android devices come with many messaging options, with some preinstalled and some available from the Play Store. But first, let’s take a look at the keyboard.
Previous Samsung Galaxy devices have tended to struggle, although things seemed to have been remedied since the introduction of the Samsung Galaxy S4. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the Galaxy Ace 3.
This is down to a combination of things, including a smaller screen and poor autocorrect. In fact, it barely qualifies as autocorrect, as you have to manually choose the correction should you find that you’ve mistyped.
The smaller screen size also makes it more comfortable to use when typing in landscape mode, if a little stretched still, at least when aiming my digits at the middle keys. The keyboard wasn’t overly impressive, but I didn’t feel forced to download a third-party app.
SMS and MMS messaging is handled, rather unsurprisingly, by the Messaging app. The blue and yellow bubbles are there again, but these can be switched out for something a little different. You can also change the background. Small contact photos also sit next to the bubbles.
Part of the TouchWiz customisation has made its way over to the email app, which is smartly designed and functional.
The clean UI makes it easy to use, and the support for multiple accounts and an aggregated inbox makes it a lot more intuitive.
Google has also bundled its Gmail client in with Android devices. With the latest update bringing in contact photos, and swiping to archive messages, the app is more packed and more intuitive than ever. It also brings across all the features that has made the desktop client so powerful.
ChatON is a feature that now graces every Samsung device. It sends instant messages to your contacts, making it a rival to WhatsApp, BBM and iMessage. You can also use it to send voice messages, as well as pictures.
Samsung has clearly given its platform some thought, and it’s rather good. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely to catch on: when I tested it, I found that I had all of three contacts. The rise of the cross-platform WhatsApp and BBM won’t do ChatON any favours.
Overall, the messaging experience on the Galaxy Ace 3 is neither particularly impressive nor notably disappointing. For users who spend a lot of time tapping out emails and texts, a third-party keyboard might be necessary.
Again, like every Jelly Bean device before it, the internet capabilities of the Samsung Galaxy Ace 3 are handled with either the native internet app, or via Google Chrome. Given that they both do the same thing in almost identical fashion, this continues to be perplexing.
Unlike on the HTC Desire 500, which came with a very well stocked native browser, there’s very little difference between the two on the Galaxy Ace 3. Chrome is slightly better at managing bookmarks and tabs, especially if you have your bookmarks synced to your Google account, as the Samsung browser no longer draws them in from the cloud.
The Samsung Galaxy Ace 3 is also 4G-enabled, making it more appealing to a larger audience, and keep it future-proof.
Looking back at the browser, Samsung’s offering has some nifty features. Tabbed browsing and incognito browsing are available in both browsers, but the ease of making new bookmarks in Samsung’s offering is slightly easier.
Hitting the star-shaped icon in the upper-right corner brings up the add bookmarks icon, and then you can choose where to save that particular bookmark.
It is also possible to turn off image loading, in order to save data – a feature that could be a boon for PAYG customers attracted by the cheaper handset price.
One nifty feature that is missing on all Galaxy devices, including the Galaxy Ace 3, is text reflow. Double tapping text will zoom the text to a certain level, but there is no custom level of zoom, no matter how I tried. Pinch to zoom works, but it will not reflow.
Both desktop and mobile sites can be enabled, and the bright screen makes it easy to see. It is by no means easy to pick out individual elements on desktop screens,
The Galaxy Ace 3 is easily sufficient for using whilst commuting, and for a light to moderate browsing experience.
Elsewhere, functionality wise, the Samsung browser seems to have borrowed more elements from Chrome. One of these is a little magnifying pane that pops up when you long press.
Flash is also missing from the browser. Adobe pretty much killed Flash last year, but with it being offered as an optional plug-in on HTC devices, its omission is rather noticeable – not just on the Galaxy Ace 3, but on mobile generally.
As mentioned above, the syncing of your Google account with Chrome on the Galaxy Ace 3 is a big advantage. The three default homepages allow you to choose either those bookmarks, your most recently visited pages or your most-visited pages, be that on desktop or other mobile devices (including Chrome on iOS devices).
No matter what you choose, there’s little that would leave you disappointed whilst web browsing on the Galaxy Ace 3.
Samsung phones tend to have a very heavy media slant, and there is little about the Galaxy Ace 3 to suggest Samsung is taking a different tack here. The screen isn’t geared to watching a lot of video, but is bright enough to watch shorter video clips.
When it comes to media features, the Samsung Galaxy Ace 3 comes with many different features, including a well stocked Music player, a decent Video player and an FM radio.
The Galaxy Ace 3 rear speaker is loud, although sound quality is a little fuzzy when the volume is pushed right up. It isn’t up to long listening sessions, but it is loud enough to cope with sharing YouTube clips.
It would be remiss not to mention the microSD slot here – somewhat necessary given that the internal storage leaves only about 5GB of space, once the OS and system apps have been installed. Samsung has graciously supported the Galaxy Ace 3 up to 64GB of extra space, large enough to cope with most media libraries.
Where to start with the music app? It comes with enough features to keep nigh-on every user happy, and sound reproduction via earphones is top notch.
A certain level of that has to be down to the headphones you choose. There were no problems with the bundled headset, but obviously those who want to listen a lot will prefer their own kit.
Obviously, sound volume can be changed by the rocker on the side, but there is also a little speaker icon in the top-right that brings up a little slider. This wouldn’t be worth remarking on, apart from the presence of a little equalizer button underneath it.
This brings up a list of equalizer options, from the standard Auto mode, through to Bass Boost, Pop, Rock and the more interesting Tube amp effect and Virtual 7.1 ch. For less media savvy users, Auto mode is about all you’ll ever need, but having the extra functions is never a bad thing.
In the opposite corner, the upper-left, there is also a small icon that, to some, may seem a little unfamiliar. This is for the DLNA streaming, a feature that felt a little disjointed on the Galaxy S3 Mini.
Thankfully, that is not the case here – tapping the icon brings up a list of media outlets that you can stream your music to.
Lyrics are supported, so all you karaoke fans can see the words that you’re getting wrong, whilst you belt out your rendition of My Way. A word on that, though: you will need to make sure that you have the lyrics downloaded, as I couldn’t find a way of downloading them.
Tapping the menu button also brings up settings, and Music view. It’s an entirely novel feature and essentially useless feature, which seems to show a graph of the volume of the music being played.
AdaptSound is also present within the Music app. After following the setup wizard, and listening to a variety of beeps at varying frequencies, it will boost the music to suit your hearing range.
This is something that will probably have less effect on the younger audience, given that your hearing range narrows as you age.
Alongside all the usual ways of viewing your music, by artist, album, song, playlist or by folder, Samsung’s Music square makes another appearance. This feature has yet to prove its value, but if you have a large enough media library, your Galaxy Ace 3 will go through and analyse and sort it, allowing you to choose your music based upon your mood.
The obvious play, pause, track skipping, shuffle and repeat buttons are also out in full force, but you would no less. As a music player app, it is extremely well stocked, and you’re unlikely to need another one, but Google’s Play Music app does also come installed if you’re after something a little different, or there is always the Play store for a third-party app.
When it comes to video playing, the first thing anybody will comment on is the screen. It really doesn’t matter how feature-stocked the player is, unless you are going to get a decent experience whilst watching it.
As I’ve said, the screen on the Galaxy Ace 3 is neither Super AMOLED nor HD, but the TFT screen is bright enough, and with a high enough contrast, that video watching is pleasant enough. For those after something more video intensive, a tablet would be a better choice.
After all that, the player is going to need to be decent. This is somewhere that the Korean brand has excelled, and that is something that has yet to change on the Galaxy Ace 3. Where to start? Let’s try the beginning. Open up the video player and you are greeted with a very attractive grid of your videos.
The video player pulls in all your videos from your Dropbox account, as well as showing all the videos that you have on your Ace 3. This is something that gets a massive thumbs-up to, as it saves a lot of space, meaning that the 69GB you potentially had is greatly boosted. This will require a data connection, though.
Loading up the radio (with earphones connected), it immediately starts searching for stations. It didn’t find every station I was after, but it found enough.
It also has the ability to record live radio for listening to later, as well as storing your four favourite stations for easy location. The little knob in the middle is also easy enough to use.
Samsung’s gallery app is also very attractive, providing a grid of thumbnails from all the folders that have stored media.
The Galaxy Ace 3 will also pull in all your photos from your Dropbox account (with the Dropbox app also allowing you to instantly upload photos to the cloud), as well as those from your Google/Picasa account, and from your Facebook account.
Photo editing is also available, for images that you have saved on your device. There are so many to go through that it is impossible to list them all, but should you decide that you want to forgo editing on your desktop, Samsung has you more than covered.
Camera and video
The Samsung Galaxy Ace 3’s camera comes in it a pretty average 5MP, with a VGA sensor sat on the front. This puts it behind the HTC Desire 500, as that comes in with an 8MP sensor.
The camera can also be launched from the lock screen, which makes it a little quicker. Unfortunately, the slower processor meant that it took a second to load up, so you’re left wondering if the Ace 3 was doing anything.
The dual-core processor made the camera app feel a little sluggish throughout, with autofocus taking a second. It wasn’t a major problem, but was noticeable.
It also has the annoying habit of remembering which camera you were using last, so if you were using the front facing camera, you will be greeted by your face.
There are so many options to play with as well; Auto, Best Photo, Continuous Shot, Sound & Shot, Panorama, Sports and Night.
It is quite a comprehensive list, with each one being pretty self-explanatory. Samsung’s venture into the camera market, with the Samsung Galaxy Camera, is really paying its dividends here.
The Samsung Galaxy Ace 3 will never be a match for the Galaxy S4 Zoom for sheer photographic power, and the amount of photographic options is understandably less than on more expensive Galaxy models.
Buried within the settings menu are all the usual tools you’d expect to find on camera phones. There are two menus, one accessed via the menu button and one via the little on-screen gear button.
Quick settings allow you to toggle flash, autofocus, timer, video recording mode and automatic sharing. The latter of these allows you to share quicker with people that the Ace 3 detects in the photo, via ChatON or Wi-Fi Direct.
Deeper in the settings you can change the photo size, focus mode, metering and ISO levels.The Galaxy Ace 3 naturally shoots in 4MP wide mode, as the 5MP is saved for 4:3 photos.
The Samsung Galaxy Ace 3 camera also comes with an single LED flash. It is bright enough in lower-light conditions, but will never be a match for the more powerful flashes on even the most compact of cameras.
It’s disappointing that the Drama mode, Animated photo, Best and Beauty face modes don’t make it over to the Galaxy Ace 3, but again, given the lower price tag this is just something to be tolerated. Samsung’s Picture in picture is also unavailable. Such a shame.
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Rather than having two separate apps (or one app with a little toggle switch in the corner), the Samsung Galaxy Ace 3 continues the trend of bundling both the camera and video camera into one tidy app.
I got used to it, but initial plays with this app were a little confusing. I tapped the Video recording button, expecting it to switch to video mode, but it started recording. This took a few seconds get used to, but it is a bigger feature than it originally appears to be.
It means that switching between taking photos, and recording videos, is a lot smoother and easier. Disappointingly, unlike the HTC Desire 500, there was no option to take stills whilst filming.
The video recording also includes the ability to zoom whilst filming. This is a feature that is too often missed on other devices, even though it is probably just a minor feature. Anyway, it’s there, so smiles all round.
The video recording quality is rather good, being able to record at 30fps at 1080p HD quality. HD video recording is slowly hitting more and more phones, but it is nice to be able to have higher-quality recordings, meaning it is suitable for a much wider range of occasions.
Battery Life and Connectivity
A smartphone is only as good as its weakest elements. It would be impossible to have an amazing phone with only enough power in the battery to power it for ten minutes. Take a look at TechRadar’s HTC One review, for instance, with it achieving the five star status only after getting an update to look at battery problems.
Every user will find different battery drain on the Samsung Galaxy Ace 3, but we feel that the 1800mAh is sufficient for most people. We found that during tests, the Ace 3 lasted all day with a little left over.
Battery life is an area that Samsung has really given some thought to. The quick settings that sit in the notifications bar have been around for as long as we can remember. They really help save battery life, giving you the ability to turn off battery draining services such as Wi-Fi and GPS.
Disappointingly, there is no auto-brightness feature on the Galaxy Ace 3, as this is a feature that helps to preserve battery life.
To test the Galaxy Ace 3, I put it through a standard day, taking it off charge at 8am, using it to send lots of Facebook, email and SMS messages, as well as taking the odd photograph. At the end of that, it had a pleasing 20% battery left.
When it comes to connectivity, modern smartphones are getting more and more connected. Even entry-level devices come with NFC. Being a mid-range phone, the Samsung Galaxy Ace 3 includes a lot of options.
Wi-Fi, GPS, GLONASS, Bluetooth, NFC, 4G and DLNA are all built in, although Samsung is saving the Infra Red blasters for the more expensive flagships.
It comes with 4G on board, which shows just how far the roll-out has come in the UK. Fast mobile Internet technology is slowly making its way down to cheaper devices, helping to boost users and push the technology further.
Wi-Fi is supported to b/g/n standards (as well as Wi-Fi Direct on board), with Bluetooth supported to 4.0 standard, with A2DP support also available. DLNA streaming is also built in to the Galaxy Ace 3.
Connection to the PC is done via a microUSB port, which also doubles itself up as the charging point, as it always has done on Galaxy devices. This sets the Galaxy Ace 3 up as an external drive, meaning that the usual drag and drop features on the desktop are still present.
Samsung also has its proprietary KIES software, which the Galaxy Ace 3 can connect to via the microUSB cable, or via KIES Air (if both devices are connected to the same Wi-Fi network).
Maps and apps
As with every Android device, the Samsung Galaxy Ace 3 comes packing Google’s stunning mapping application. It has helped lead to the demise of dedicated sat-nav devices; they’re more the preserve of long-distance driving and for users who are out and about all the time.
For small drives, and even for the longer distances, the Google navigation option is more than sufficient. The 4-inch screen is less so, with 5-inch flagships being far better options, if only for the added screen space.
The Google mapping option is almost unparalleled. The GPS and GLONASS – Russian-developed tech similar to GPS – mean that location lock on was as swift as ever, and route planning was extremely quick.
As for the general mapping app, the dual-core processor was generally smooth with zooming in and out and rotating, only struggling when use was really demanding. There are so many features packed into the Android Google mapping app, all being pulled in from the desktop version.
When it comes to apps, you will probably have guessed that, with the Android OS behind it, the Google Play Store is where you will most likely be heading for all your app needs. Samsung has bundled in its own app hubs, should you decided that Google’s offering just isn’t your cup of tea.
In reality, it’s understandable that an OEM would bundle in their own app store, but given how well populated the Google Play Store is, it’s unlikely the Play Store will get much use.
It’s a little disheartening to be honest, as the apps have clearly had some thought put into them – they are as visually attractive as the Play Store, and come with the same levels of functionality.
The Play Store is broken down into easy to navigate sections: Games, Apps, Music, Movies, Books and Magazines. Each section is then broken down further, to make it easy to navigate. This is aided with large images, making it a visually pleasing experience to browse the Play Store.
When it comes to bundled apps, don’t go expecting to find a raft of S-branded apps. There is no S Health, for example. What you do get is S Planner, S Voice, S Translator and Memo (no longer called S Memo).
S Planner is a fancy title for the calendar. It is a very visually busy app, but comes with many features to warrant its inclusion over the standard Google calendar. Things such as pinching to zoom through timings (day, week, month, year) are smart, yet the processor seemed to lag a little, with a noticeable delay between times.
S Voice is Samsung’s answer to Siri, and in tests seemed to work well enough. It isn’t as charming or capable as Siri is, but as a voice assistant it works well enough, and did most of what we asked it to, so we can’t knock it too much.
S Translator and S Memo are pretty self explanatory, with the former being a translator app, and the latter being a memo-taking app. We thought that the S Translator was a very nifty app, with the ability to listen to your voice, and then speak translations.
This is something that we can see being very useful when abroad, especially if you can grab access to the Wi-Fi.
The Tripadvisor app also comes pre-installed, so you can search for bad reviews of the holiday you’ve just booked, alongside a file manager.
Hands on gallery
The Samsung Galaxy Ace 3 is a handset that helps to highlight Samsung’s commitment to cover every aspect of the mobile market. It sits rather well between the lower-powered and lower-priced Samsung Galaxy Fame and the more expensive Galaxy S4 Mini and the full-fat Galaxy S4.
In terms of price the Galaxy Ace 3 is pitted against the newly released HTC Desire 500, as well as the Nokia Lumia 625 and Sony Xperia M, and with 4G on board it gives itself an immediate selling point. As 4G is already available across the globe, and becoming more accessible in the UK, this will only help.
4G is perhaps the biggest selling point and boost to the Galaxy Ace 3. It is good to see the technology make its way across devices, especially to the more wallet-friendly handsets.
The battery life was also impressive. It might not have an auto-brightness setting (something that is hard to explain), but the battery behind the Galaxy Ace 3 lasts long enough to get through the whole day, with power in reserve at the end of the day.
The inclusion of a microSD slot is also to be praised. The 8GB internal storage is a lot better than the HTC Desire 500 and Sony Xperia M, but it’s good to know you can pack it with even more.
While the Desire 500 might come with a lower internal storage, it does ship with a quad-core 1.2GHz processor. This might be the same speed as the dual-core insides of the Galaxy Ace 3, but the power of the extra cores is noticeable, as the Desire 500 felt generally smoother.
The Galaxy Ace 3 is also a little heavy. It is definitely noticeable in the hand and in the pocket. Despite being only 12g heavier than the Galaxy S4 Mini, it feels like it could be enough to cause a screen crack in the event of a drop.
The camera was also a little disappointing. Given Samsung’s sensors are generally among the best, this is all the more disheartening. The dual-core insides also meant that it took a second to focus, which meant that the odd photo came out blurred.
The Galaxy Ace range has traditionally been a lower-powered and lower-priced, and this has continued with the Galaxy Ace 3.
There are obviously going to be some trade-offs for the lower price, such as a smaller processor, smaller and lower-res screen, and smaller camera.
The Galaxy Ace 3 does come with 4G on board, though, and that is a big win for the handset. It brings the latest in mobile technology to the masses, and that alone will help the Ace 3 sell well.
It also comes with decent battery life, a bright screen and around 5GB of internal storage, which is a lot larger than the Xperia M and the Desire 500. It’s hard to see why you wouldn’t choose the Galaxy Ace 3 over those competitors.