This might be the Nokia 8

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The image you see was released this morning on Twitter from famed leaker EvLeaks (Evan Blass) and is presented at the upcoming flagship under the Nokia brand.  The latest rumors have this device sporting a Snapdragon 835 SoC, as well as 4/6/8GB RAM memory variants and a 128GB storage option.

Its not clear yet if this mobile device will support US mobile bands (likely) and if it will even be available for sale in the US (unclear) but its been a while since Nokia had a presence anywhere outside of Europe.  We will be following up on this news very closely.

OEM Stock Watch 2017 – part 1

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As the year is reaching its midway point, we wanted to take a look at how we felt the major mobile device manufacturers were doing, and we thought it would be appropriate to treat them like we would any other big company…by rating their “stock” (according to both Sean P. and myself) We’ll give our thoughts on everyone from Apple to ZTE, and loads more in between. Because the list is so big, we will do it in two parts, with part 1 today and part 2 coming next week.  So without further ado, let’s give you a look into the crystal ball of these two day traders!

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[Op-Ed]Windows Phone 8 is D.O.A. due to puzzling choices by Microsoft and Nokia

Microsoft officially released Windows Phone 8 (WP8) yesterday at an event in San Francisco.  When it was originally announced way back on June 20th I thought it held a lot of promise.  The newer software supported multi-core processors, higher resolution screens, and maintained the speediness associated with the “modern UI” (or the artist formerly known as Metro for anyone outside of Microsoft).  Carriers were vocal about backing WP8 even though many of them had barely supported Windows Phone 7 (WP7).  It sounded like all the pieces were in place for a strong WP8 launch and Microsoft seemed to have an excellent chance of solidifying the third place position in the smart phone OS war behind Android and iOS.

While WP7 never exceeded 5% market share in the United States, I thought WP8 might make it to the high single digit/low double digit range.  As it finally launches more than four months after it was announced however, some puzzling decisions from Microsoft and Nokia have already condemned Windows Phone 8 to a slow, painful death.

On June 18th Microsoft unveiled their Surface tablets.  The Surface with Windows 8 RT features a quad-core Tegra 3 ARM CPU and a 10.6 inch 1366 x 768 screen.  The Surface with Windows 8 PRO features a dual-core Intel i5 and a 10.6″ 1080p screen.  Both tablets have 2 keyboard options, a USB port, and access to the Windows Office suite of  apps.  The Surface seemed like a viable laptop replacement.  Other tablets like the Asus Transformer had offered keyboards before, but access to the Office suite of apps, a USB port, and the option to get an Intel powered Surface made it feel more like a real computer than a tablet.  No release date or pricing information was given but speculation was it would be announced at the June 20th kickoff event.

Publicly WP8 partners supported Surface, but privately it was rumored many of them were unhappy with Microsoft’s decision to enter the hardware market.  Many of the partner OEM’s were also readying WP8 tablets and now they had to compete directly with Microsoft.  When Google produces a Nexus product they choose a partner to make it.  That way Google isn’t directly competing against the manufacturers they rely on.  They also spread the wealth around as Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola, and Samsung have all gotten a chance to produce Nexus products.  This keeps the partners happy while allowing Google to give users the pure Android experience.  Microsoft’s decision to compete directly with its OEM partners during WP8’s infancy seemed ill-advised.

Two days later on June 20th Microsoft officially announced Windows Phone 8 without a release date.  The Surface also didn’t get a release date or pricing.  That information would have to wait four months until October 16th to be revealed.  The WP8 release date wasn’t officially announced until yesterday. 

It’s unbelievable that companies make this mistake over and over.  When Apple announces a product it’s typically available for pre-order that day, and ships a week or two later.  They create buzz and then immediately take advantage of it with a product launch.  Meanwhile companies like Google, Microsoft, Motorola and Samsung hold product introduction conferences and don’t announce release dates or prices.  By the time the product comes out months later the excitement from the announcement is long gone.  Why not wait to announce until shortly before consumers can actually buy the product and take advantage of the positive press?  The answer is unclear, but I’m positive the vast majority of people have forgotten all about those first WP8 and Surface press conferences back in June.

A few months passed and then on September 5th Nokia announced the Lumia 820 and 920 smart phones.  For all intents and purposes, the 920 is the flagship WP8 device.  It features the same dual-core Snapdragon S4 as Android flagships, a 4.5″ “PureMotion HD+” 1280 x 768 screen, an 8.7MP PureView camera, 1GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage.  The camera and screen tech were particularly impressive.  It finally looked like WP8 had a device that was different and technologically strong enough to warrant serious attention.  Sadly the press conference once again ended without a release date or pricing.

 
On October 4th AT&T announced the Lumia 920 as an exclusive.  That’s when I knew WP8 was in trouble.  Look, the Samsung ATIV S and the HTC 8X (announced September 19th) are great smart phones, but they don’t stand out.  The ATIV-S is basically a Galaxy S III in a different case, and the 8X is a hybrid of the HTC Rezound and One X.  Why would a consumer entrenched in the Android or iOS ecosystem switch to either one?  Put simply, they won’t. 
The Lumia 920 is a stand out product though.  The camera is superior to those in other smart phones, the screen is beautiful , and the design is fresh and interesting.  Would the 920 have swayed large numbers of Android and iOS users to switch to WP8?  Probably not, but it had a much better chance than any other WP8 handset.  The exclusivity agreement effectively killed any chance of that happening though. 
Microsoft announced Surface tablet pricing on October 16th and that’s when I knew WP8 was done.  The entry level 32GB Surface is $499 and doesn’t come with the touch keyboard cover.  To get a keyboard you have to step up another $100 and get a bundle, or purchase one separately for $119.99.  The price of entry was officially too high. 
Why would anyone spend that kind of money and switch product ecoystems when they could buy an iPad or Nexus 10 for the same price?  Sure the Surface has some unique features and having Office on a tablet would be useful, but not enough to pay more for an inferior product.  The iPad and Nexus 10 have better CPUs, GPUs, and much better screens.  That’s not even taking into account that a 16GB Nexus 10 costs $100 less than the entry level Surface.
Windows Phone 8 isn’t a bad product by any means.  It actually has some really cool features, it’s snappy, and it’s different.  But it’s also late to the party and doesn’t do anything that warrants switching from Android or iOS.  Getting customers to switch product ecosystems is not an easy task.  The new product must either work substantially better than existing products, be sufficiently different to get consumers attention, or offer the same functionality at a lower price point.   Windows Phone 8 doesn’t do any of those.  Microsoft should have announced WP8 at the beginning of October, aggressively priced the Surface tablets and made sure the Nokia 920 was available on all carriers.  Put that all together and WP8 would have had a fighting chance.  Instead it’s D.O.A.

[Special Feature]Holiday 2012 Smartphone buyer’s guide

The next couple months are poised to be very exciting for smartphone buyers.  Along with the recently released iPhone 5 and host of other great phones already released this year, a number of flagship devices are on the way.  Here’s a look at some of the devices broken down by operating system:

Android:

HTC Droid DNA
Release Date: November 20th
Carrier(s): Verizon
Price: $199.99 on contract
CPU/GPU: Quad-Core Snapdragon S4 Pro/Adreno 320
Screen: 5″ Super LCD-3 (RGB) 1920x1080p
Camera: 2.1MP(Fr)/8MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 2GB
Storage: 16GB
SD Card Slot: No
Battery: Non-Removable/2020mah
Pros: A 5″ 1080p screen featuring a ridiculous pixel density of 440ppi.  Stylish design with typical HTC quality materials.  The S4 PRO is the most powerful CPU/GPU in the current Android universe.
Cons: Large for the average consumer.  No SD card slot.  Internal battery.
Outlook: The specs of the DNA are as impressive as any phone on the market.  The 1080p screen would be the first of its kind on any smartphone and the quad-core S4 Snapdragon CPU is one of the most powerful available.  The relatively small battery may be cause for concern however.
Similar phones to consider: Apple iPhone 5, HTC 8X, LG Intuition, Motorola Droid Razr MAXX HD, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy Note II, Samsung Galaxy S III

HTC ONE X+
Release Date: November
Carrier(s): AT&T
Price: $199.99 on contract
CPU/GPU: Tegra 3+ 1.7ghz quad-core/ULP GeForce
Screen: 4.7″ Super LCD-2 (RGB) 1280x720p
Camera: 1.3MP(Fr)/8MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 1GB RAM
Storage: 64GB
SD Card Slot: No
Battery: Non-Removable/2100mah
Pros: Improved version of the already great One X.  The AP37 Tegra 3+ quad-core CPU is an upgrade from the dual-core S4.   The 720p Super LCD-2 is one of the best screens on the market.  Fantastic design with high end matte polycarbonate uni body.  Looks and feels premium.  Bigger battery.  Great camera.  More standard on board storage and any other phone (64GB).
Cons: No SD card slot.  Internal battery.  HTC ImageChip/ImageSource camera system doesn’t produce better pictures than the competition (though still very good).
Outlook: The One X+ is the best looking Android phone on the planet.  It has a powerful quad-core Tegra 3+ CPU, a beautiful screen, plenty of on board storage and a great camera. Unfortunately the Tegra 3+ chip is still the 40nm variety meaning it runs hotter and uses more battery than other quad-core processors. 
Similar phones to consider: Apple iPhone 5, HTC 8X, LG Optimus G, Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III

LG Optimus G 
Release Date: November 2nd (AT&T), 11th (Sprint)
Carrier(s): AT&T, Sprint
Price: $199.99 on contract
CPU/GPU: Quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro 1.5ghz/Adreno 320
Screen: 4.7″ IPS+ LCD (RGB) 1280x768p
Camera: 1.2MP(Fr)/13MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 2GB RAM
Storage: 16GB/32GB
SD Card Slot: No
Battery: Non-Removable/2100mah
Pros: Top CPU/GPU available.  Flagship specs across the board including ram, camera, and screen. Back cover is a unique polarized jewel pattern.
Cons: No SD card slot.  Internal battery.  Glass back is fragile.  No front facing notification LED.  Launching with Ice Cream Sandwich instead of Jelly Bean.  Historically LG’s Android skin is among the worst.  LG doesn’t always update their phones in a timely manner.
Outlook: The LG Optimus G has a super powerful quad-core S4 Snapdragon CPU, a high resolution 4.7″ screen and a generous 2GB of RAM.  The only negatives are LG has a bad reputation for supporting their flagship phones and it’s launching with Ice Cream Sandwich instead of Jelly Bean.
Similar phones to consider: 
AT&T: Apple iPhone 5, HTC 8X, HTC One X, HTC One X+, Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III
Sprint: Apple iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S III

Motorola Droid Razr HD and Razr Maxx HD 
Release Date: October 18th
Carrier(s): Verizon
Price: $199.99 (Razr HD) & $299.99 (Maxx HD)  on contract
CPU/GPU: Dual-core Snapdragon S4/Adreno 225
Screen: 4.7″ Super AMOLED Pentile Matrix 1280x720p
Camera: 1.3MP(Fr)/8MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 1GB RAM
Storage: 16GB/32GB
SD Card Slot: Yes
Battery: Non-Removable/2500mah(HD)/3300mah(Maxx HD)
Pros: Above average(HD), and insane(MAXX) battery life.  Premium materials including Kevlar back plate.  On screen buttons.  SD card slot.  Very good HD screen.  Radios and call quality are top notch.
Cons: CPU and GPU  arenslightly outdated compared to other forthcoming flagships.  Pentile matrix screen.  Ships with Ice Cream Sandwhich instead of Jelly Bean.  Verizon charges too much for both.
Outlook: If you need a phone that gets serious battery life, both the standard RAZR HD and RAZR HD MAXX are excellent choices.  Owners of the RAZR HD MAXX are reporting  they get multiple days on a single charge with 7+ hours of on screen time.  Verizon charges too much for both phones, but Amazon is currently selling the RAZR HD for $149.99 and the RAZR HD MAXX for $199.99.  Do yourself a favor and spend the extra $50.00 to get the MAXX.  
Similar Phones to consider: Apple iPhone 5, HTC Droid DNA, LG Optimus G, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III

Samsung Galaxy Note 2
Release Date: T-Mobile and Sprint – October 25th
                        AT&T – November 9th
                        Verizon – November 27th
Carrier(s): AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon
Price: $299 on contract
CPU/GPU: Exynos 4412 1.6ghz quad-core/Mali-400
Screen: 5.5″ Super AMOLED (RGB) 1280x720p
Camera: 1.9MP(Fr)/8MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 2GB RAM
Storage: 16GB/32GB/64GB
SD Card Slot: Yes
Battery: Removable/3100mah
Pros: Very large RGB Super AMOLED screen (Samsung’s first non-pentile HD screen!).  Large removable  battery.  SD card slot support for up to 64GB.  S-pen functionality.  Excellent camera. Multi-window function is seriously cool.
Cons: Very large for the average consumer.  Looks like a very large Galaxy S III.  Physical home button.  Cheap feeling materials.
Outlook: The Galaxy Note 2 offers a powerful quad-core Exynos processor, the best Super AMOLED screen Samsung has produced to date, and a healthy 2GB of ram.  The S-Pen stylus and Note 2 specific software offers unique functionality.  The Note 2 is physically very large and not for everyone.
Similar phones to consider: 
AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile: N/A
Verizon: HTC Droid DNA, LG Intuition

Sony Xperia TL
Release Date: November 2nd
Carrier(s): AT&T
Price: $99.99 on contract
CPU/GPU: Dual-core Snapdragon S4/Adreno 225
Screen: 4.6″ LCD 1280x720p
Camera: 1.3MP(Fr)/13MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 1GB RAM
Storage: 16GB/32GB
SD Card Slot: Yes
Battery: Non-Removable/1850mah
Pros: Quality screen.  Unique, clean design.  SD card slot.  On screen buttons.
Cons: Smaller internal battery/mediocre battery life.  CPU and GPU slightly outdated compared to other forthcoming flagships.  Launching with Ice Cream Sandwich instead of Jelly Bean.
Outlook: The Xperia TL has a nice 4.6″ RGB 720p screen, a 13mp camera, and a dual-core Snapdragon S4 CPU.  The $99.99 price point is a pleasant surprise and makes the TL a solid value.  Anyone looking for a budget friendly smart phone on AT&T should give it a look.
Similar phones to consider: Apple iPhone 5, HTC 8X, HTC One X, HTC One X+, LG Optimus G, Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III

LG Nexus 4
Release Date: November 13th
Carrier(s): T-Mobile/Unlocked
Price: $299/8GB & $349/16GB
           $199 T-Mobile on contract
CPU/GPU: Quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro/Adreno 320
Screen: 4.7″ IPS+ LCD (RGB) 1280x768p
Camera: 1.2MP(Fr)/8MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 2GB RAM
Storage: 8GB/16GB
SD Card Slot: No
Battery: Non-Removable/2100mah
Pros: Top CPU/GPU available.  Flagship specs across the board including ram, camera, and screen. Nexus phone means non-encrypted boot loader and stock Android.  Nexus phones get updates as soon as they’re available. 
Cons: No SD card slot.  Internal battery.  Storage options are very limited.  Won’t work on Sprint or Verizon, and no LTE support for AT&T.
Outlook: The LG Optimus Nexus brings top notch specs, a non-encrypted boot loader and stock Android together in a tidy black package.  
Similar phones to consider: 
AT&T: Apple iPhone 5, HTC 8X, HTC One X, HTC One X+, Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III
T-Mobile: Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III

Windows Phone 8:

HTC Windows Phone 8X
Release Date: November 8th
Carrier(s): AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon
Price: $99.99 on contract
CPU/GPU: Dual-core Snapdragon S4 1.5ghz/Adreno 225
Screen: 4.3″ Super LCD-2 (RGB) 1280x720p
Camera: 2.1MP(Fr)/8MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 1GB RAM
Storage: 16GB
SD Card Slot: No
Battery: Non-Removable/1800mah
Pros: Fantastic Super LCD-2 screen with a very high 342ppi pixel density.  Unique and colorful design borrowed heavily from the Nokia Lumia line.  Solid polycarbonate body.  Beats audio integration.
Cons: No SD card slot.  Internal battery.  Thick compared to iPhone 5 and flagship Android products.
Outlook: The HTC 8X has a 4.3″ 720p screen and the same dual-core Snapdragon S4 CPU as all the competing WP8 flagships.  The design is similar to the Nokia Lumia 920 and appears to have the high build quality and solid materials that HTC is known for.  
Similar phones to consider:
AT&T:  Apple iPhone 5, HTC One X, HTC One X+, LG Optimus G, Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III
T-Mobile: LG Optimus G, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III
Verizon: Apple iPhone 5, HTC DNA, LG Optimus G, Motorola Droid Razr MAXX HD, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III

Nokia Lumia 920
Release Date: November 11th
Carrier(s): AT&T
Price: $99.99 on contract
CPU/GPU: Dual-core Snapdragon S4 1.5ghz/Adreno 225
Screen: 4.5″ PureMotion  HD+ LCD(RGB) 1280x768p
Camera: 1.3MP(Fr)/8.7MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 1GB RAM
Storage: 32GB
SD Card Slot: No
Battery: Non-Removable/2000mah
Pros: The 4.5″ PureMotion HD+ screen looks fantastic and has Synaptic’s new super sensitive touch technology.  The 8.7MP PureView camera is superior for low light photography and image stabilization and generally excellent.  Solid polycarbonate uni body with unique and colorful Nokia design language.
Cons: No SD card slot.  Internal battery.  Even thicker and heavier than the HTC 8X.  The gloss back looks cheap compared to the matte back on the Lumia 900.  Camera is great in low light, but only okay during the day.
Outlook: This is the flagship Windows 8 phone.  The dual-core Snapdragon S4 CPU is the same as the HTC 8X and Samsung Ativ S, and is only outgunned by the quad-core Android CPU’s.  The 4.5″ HD screen is by all accounts excellent and is sensitive enough to be used with gloves.  Camera tests have shown superior low light ability and image stabilization compared to the iPhone 5 and HTC One X.
Similar phones to consider: Apple iPhone 5, HTC 8X, HTC One X, HTC One X+, LG Optimus G, Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III

Samsung Ativ S
Release Date: November
Carrier(s): AT&T and Verizon
Price: $199.99 on contract
CPU/GPU: Dual-core Snapdragon S4 1.5ghz/Adreno 225
Screen: 4.8″ Super AMOLED (Pentile Matrix) 1280x720p
Camera: 1.9MP(Fr)/8MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 1GB RAM
Storage: 16GB/32GB
SD Card Slot: Yes
Battery: Removable/2300mah
Pros: Much thinner body than either the 8X or Lumia 920.  Largest screen (4.8″) of the group.  Has an SD card slot and large removable battery.  Excellent camera.
Cons: Lower quality (pentile matrix) screen and cheap materials compared to the competition.
Outlook: Essentially a WP8 version of the excellent Samsung Galaxy S III.  The 4.8″ screen is the largest of the group, but the lowest quality due to being pentile matrix.  The camera is excellent and the battery is large and removable.
Similar phones to consider: 
AT&T: Apple iPhone 5, HTC 8X, HTC One X, HTC One X+, LG Optimus G, Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Galaxy S III
Verizon: Apple iPhone 5, HTC 8X, HTC DNA, LG Optimus G, Motorola Droid Razr MAXX HD, Samsung Galaxy S III

Best Phones Already on the Market:

Apple iPhone 5
Released on: Sept 21, 2012
Carrier(s): AT&T, Sprint and Verizon
Price: $199.99 on contract
CPU/GPU: Dual-core A6 1.3ghz/Tri-core PowerVR543
Screen: 4″ IPS LCD (RGB) 1136x640p
Camera: 1.2MP(Fr)/8MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 1GB RAM
Storage: 16GB/32GB/64GB
SD Card Slot: No
Battery: Non-Removable/1440mah
Pros: One of the thinnest, lightest phones on the market.  Very good battery life.  Screen is top notch.  Excellent camera.  High quality materials and classic design.
Cons: Screen is small at 4″ compared to other smart phones.  Non-removable battery and no SD card slot.  No notification LED.  Apple’s iOS allows very little user customization compared to Android. Proprietary Lightning port means more expensive cables.  Android flagships have caught up in the specs and quality department.
Outlook: One of the best all around phones on the market.  Powerful while also very thin and light.  Excellent 4″ screen and camera.  The best small phone available.
Similar phones to consider:
AT&T: HTC 8X, HTC One X, HTC One X+, LG Optimus G, Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III
Sprint: LG Optimus G, Samsung Galaxy S III
T-Mobile: LG Optimus G, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III
Verizon: HTC DNA, LG Optimus G, Motorola Droid Razr MAXX HD, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III

HTC EVO 4G LTE
Released on: June 2, 2012
Carrier(s): Sprint
Price: As low as $49.99 on contract
CPU/GPU: Dual-core Snapdragon S4 1.5ghz/Adreno 225

Screen: 4.7″ Super LCD-2 (RGB) 1280x720p

Camera: 1.3MP(Fr)/8MP/1080p@30fps

Memory: 1GB RAM

Storage: 16GB
SD Card Slot: Yes
Battery: Non-Removable/2000mah
Pros: The 720p Super LCD-2 is one of the best screens on the market.  SD card slot.  Looks and feels premium.  Excellent camera.
Cons: Non-removable battery.  HTC ImageChip/ImageSource camera system doesn’t produce better pictures than the competition (although they are still very good).  Still on Ice Cream Sandwich, but Jelly Bean is rumored to be coming out soon.  Two-tone matte/gloss design is questionable and not as nice as the HTC One X on which the Evo is based.

Outlook: Based on the HTC One X, the EVO 4G adds a removable battery and SD card slot at the expense of design asthetics.  Although the phone was released in June, it still sports competitive specs.  Can be had for as low as $49.99 on contract (Amazon). 

Similar phones to considerApple iPhone 5, LG Optimus G, Samsung Galaxy S III

HTC ONE X
Released on: May 6, 2012
Carrier(s): AT&T
Price: As low as $49.99 on contract
CPU/GPU: Dual-core Snapdragon S4 1.5ghz/Adreno 225
Screen: 4.7″ Super LCD-2 (RGB) 1280x720p
Camera: 1.3MP(Fr)/8MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 1GB RAM
Storage: 16GB/32GB
SD Card Slot: No
Battery: Non-Removable/1800mah
Pros: The 720p Super LCD-2 is one of the best screens on the market.  Fantastic design with high end matte polycarbonate uni body.  Looks and feels premium.  Excellent camera.
Cons: No SD card slot.  Internal battery.  HTC ImageChip/ImageSource camera system doesn’t produce better pictures than the competition (although they are still very good).  Still on Ice Cream Sandwich, but Jelly Bean is rumored to be coming out soon.
Outlook: The best looking Android phone available.  The One X is still competitive from a specs standpoint even though it was released in May.  Can be had for as low as $49.99 on contract (Target). 
Similar phones to considerApple iPhone 5, HTC 8X, HTC One X+, LG Optimus G, Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III

Samsung Galaxy S III
Released on: June 21, 2012
Carrier(s): AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon
Price: As low as $149.99 on contract
CPU/GPU: Dual-core Snapdragon S4 1.5ghz/Adreno 225
Screen: 4.8″ Super AMOLED (Pentile Matrix) 1280x720p
Camera: 1.9MP(Fr)/8MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 2GB RAM
Storage: 16GB/32GB
SD Card Slot: Yes
Battery: Removable/2100mah
Pros: Large 4.8″ screen.  Super thin body.  SD card slot and large removable battery.  Excellent camera.  2GB of ram.
Cons: Lower quality (pentile matrix) screen and cheap materials compared to the competition.  Still on Ice Cream Sandwich, but Jelly Bean is rumored to be coming out soon.
Outlook: The Galaxy S III is a great all around smartphone.  It has a dual-core Snapdragon S4 CPU, a 4.8″ 720p screen, 2GB of ram, an SD card slot and a large, removable battery.  Prices are currently in the $99.99 range (Amazon), but Sprint will be selling the Galaxy S III for $49.99 on Black Friday.  Other carriers will likely drop the price during the holidays too.
Similar phones to consider:
AT&T: Apple iPhone 5, HTC 8X, HTC One X, HTC One X+, LG Optimus G, Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III
Sprint: Apple iPhone 5, LG Optimus G, Samsung Galaxy S III
T-Mobile: LG Optimus G, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III
Verizon: Apple iPhone 5, HTC DNA, LG Optimus G, Motorola Droid Razr MAXX HD, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III