The Samsung Galaxy S3 has been selling steadily since it first hit the market back in May 2012. Samsung sold 20 million Galaxy S3 handsets in its first 100 days and it became the poster child for Google’s Android operating system. Nearly two years later, the Galaxy S3 continues to surpass expectations in terms of sales, but no device is flawless.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the biggest Galaxy S3 problems. These are the most commonly seen complaints from people around the world, and in each case we’ll try to offer up a useful workaround or solution.
Updated 1-22-2014 by Simon Hill: Added browser dimming issue, messaging app crashing problem, and unable to download message.
Bug: Random freezes
The Galaxy S3 keeps freezing randomly. A small number of users reported this problem in 2012, but it has been cropping up far more frequently in 2013. If you experience this problem with a brand new S3, you should be returning it to get a replacement. The bulk of issues being reported now relate to phones that people have had no problems with for months suddenly developing a random freezing habit. This seems likely to be a software problem and could be related to an Android update, possibly 4.1.2.
Workarounds: You can hold down the Power button and Restart or Power off and turn it on again. That seems to work for most people, but it won’t stop the problem from coming back. You can also pull the battery, but we don’t recommend that. You could also just wait, many people report that the issue fixes itself, but it may take 15 minutes or more and it can return at any time. Some people have reported a reduced frequency by turning off Wi-Fi or the mobile data connection, but that’s not convenient. You could try rolling back the software. Some people report success with this, but others say they have only reduced the frequency of freezing.
Solutions: There are only two solutions that people are reporting consistently. One is returning the device to Samsung for repair. In a number of cases a faulty motherboard is deemed to be the cause and replacing it results in perfect operation. If you’re under warranty this might be your best bet. That obviously points to a hardware problem, and yet other people have reported the problem just resolving itself when they ignored it, which would suggest a software problem. We’ll keep following this and post an update if another solution pops up.
Malfunction: Sudden Death Syndrome
This only affects some 16GB Galaxy S3 handsets and it’s related to your flash memory (eMMC) chip. If you encounter the problem then you’ll find that your S3 doesn’t switch on at all no matter what you do. If you’re worried about your device being affected, you can check if it is at risk with the eMMC Brickbug Check app.
Solution: If your phone is dead, go to Samsung Support and you should be able to get a replacement or get it fixed. Samsung has released a fix for this so as long as your phone has the latest firmware update then you shouldn’t need to worry.
Annoyance: Battery drain
Disappointing battery life is the Achilles heel of all smartphones, but some people have encountered a surprising battery drain on the Galaxy S3, even when the phone is not in use.
The international version of the Galaxy S3 has a flaw. The battery drain on standby issue is complicated by a miscalculation in the power profile which shows Cell standby eating a lot more power than it actually is. This doesn’t account for the drain it just means that the stats are wrong.
Some people with the U.S. and international versions have also reported an actual excessive battery drain on the Galaxy S3 when in standby. Having apps running in the background and features such as Wi-Fi, mobile data, Bluetooth, and push email turned on is obviously going to have an impact. If your Galaxy S3 is draining fast when not in use, then it can be tricky to find the culprit. It could be down your carrier or that you get poor service in your home; it could be Chrome; it could be email or LTE. Luckily there are some solutions you can try.
Solutions: If you have Chrome installed, fire it up and choose Settings > Developer tools and then uncheck Enable Tilt Scrolling.
Some people have reported huge battery savings by turning off LTE in Settings > More settings > Mobile networks > Network mode. There’s a theory that if you don’t have LTE in your area, the battery drains faster because the phone keeps searching for it. Having Wi-Fi turned on all the time can actually help because it uses a lot less power than connecting to a mobile network, but you have to be in range of a Wi-Fi network or the search for a connection will have a similar draining effect.
Some people believe that Samsung’s preinstalled apps could eat a lot of battery life even if you’re not using them. Some users reported success after disabling their Samsung account and various Samsung apps. Go to Settings > Applications manager and choose the All tab then disable Samsung Account, Samsung Backup, Samsung Apps, Samsung Cloud Data Relay along with anything else on the list you don’t use. The disabled apps drop to the bottom of the All list so you can always enable them again if you encounter any problems.
Glitch: Audio and microphone issues
It’s difficult to have a phone conversation when the other person can’t hear you clearly or you can’t hear them. Some early adopters reported issues with the Galaxy S3 microphone and found that signal strength was dropping immediately after calls. The speakerphone function hasn’t worked smoothly for some and a complete loss of audio has been reported in extreme cases. A firmware update was rolled out to fix this, so you shouldn’t be experiencing these issues anymore. If you are, then it may be down to a blockage, a setting, or even the noise reduction feature.
Solutions: Restarting the phone should temporarily resolve the issue, but that’s obviously not ideal so let’s try and find a permanent fix. Go to Settings > Accessibility and make sure Turn off all sounds is not checked to begin with. Now go to Settings > Sound and make sure your volume levels are correct and sound is turned on.
Hit Phone > Menu > Call settings > Additional settings and then uncheck Noise reduction. Some people have reported less echo and clearer calls with this turned off.
Take a look at the microphone hole on the bottom edge of your Galaxy S3. If it looks like there’s something stuck in there then that could be your issue. Be very careful when cleaning this. Try compressed air to blow it out first.
Many users have reported problems with their Galaxy S3 overheating and sometimes even freezing or crashing as a result. The S3 is very thin with a big screen, a big battery, and a powerful set of internal components, so the more you use it, the hotter it will get. This generally only rears its head as an issue after prolonged gaming or if you do something else that’s graphically intensive. If your Galaxy S3 is getting very hot and crashing without intensive use, then you might have a hardware problem.
Solution: The obvious solution is to take a break for a few minutes and let the phone cool down. If you’ve been running something for hours, then it will inevitably heat up. If it is heating up on standby or with low levels of usage, then you should contact the seller or carrier and check if the hardware is faulty. You should be able to get a replacement handset if they confirm the problem.
Bug: Wi-Fi dropping or not detecting
Are you having trouble connecting to Wi-Fi networks? Maybe your S3 is connecting fine, but then dropping the connection later? There have been plenty of reports of troublesome Wi-Fi and for some people this is a wider Android issue, while for others it could be related to the router. Fear not, there are some things you can try on your S3.
Solution: Turn your phone off and then back on. The mantra of the IT professional does work, but it’s obviously not a permanent fix. You should also go to Settings > Wi-Fi and hit the menu button again to choose Advanced and make sure that Keep Wi-Fi on during sleep is set to Always. Most people with this issue are reporting that an over-the-air update fixed it, so if you are still having problems it is likely to do with your router. You could try an app like Wifi Analyzer and see if you can identify the problem.
When you buy a powerhouse like the Galaxy S3, you don’t expect any lag when you are navigating around. If you’re experiencing a slight delay when you hit the Home button or when you exit an app then it might be down to your settings. You should avoid using task killer apps and reboot your phone fairly regularly to clear memory.
Solution: Drag down the notifications bar at the top and switch off Power saving. It’s a useful feature for saving power, but it does introduce some slight lag. If your problem is related to the Home button, then S-Voice might be the culprit. Samsung has it set up so that a double tap on the Home button launches S-Voice, which can cause lag when you press the Home button. To get rid of it simply double tap the Home button to launch S-Voice and hit menu to access Settings and then uncheck Open via the home key.
The animations slow things down so you can always go into Settings > Developer options and change Window animation scale and Transition animation scale to .5x or even off.
Annoyance: Vibrating to music or audio
If you find that your Galaxy S3 is vibrating when you play music or when you use specific audio apps then you may well wonder why. Thankfully it’s an easy fix.
Solution: Go to Settings > Sound and make sure Auto haptic at the bottom is toggled off.
Bug: Copy and paste isn’t working
There have been quite a few reports of problems with the copy/paste feature on the S3. Some people are copying and then finding they have no option to paste and others are experiencing crashes when they try to paste copied text.
Solution: The solutions for this one are not ideal. You can factory reset the phone or you can root the device and clear the data from your clipboard. Sadly there’s no guarantee that the problem won’t return if you factory reset. Samsung is definitely aware of this issue, but it has not come up with a fix yet.
The Smart stay feature is designed to ensure that the screen does not turn off when you are looking at it. You’ll find it in Settings > Display and you can tick to turn it on. You’ll see an eye icon pop up in the notification bar occasionally and the S3 will use the front-facing camera to check that you’re still looking at the screen. If you are looking at the screen, it stays on, if you aren’t then it dims and turns off. How often it checks depends on your Screen timeout setting. A lot of people find that this feature doesn’t work for them at all.
Solution: Your face has to be well lit so the camera can see it. If you are in the dark or in shadow it simply won’t detect you and the screen will turn off. This feature is neat, but it doesn’t work well yet.
Workaround: Change your Screen timeout so that it doesn’t turn off so quickly.
Bug: Browser keeps dimming
If you find that the stock Internet browser on your Galaxy S3 has an annoying habit of going dim, even when you’ve set the brightness to be higher, then don’t worry there’s an easy fix.
- Tap the Menu button while you have the browser open and you’ll find it has its own Brightness setting.
- If you’re still having issues then try turning Power saving off in the notification shade or go to Settings > My device > Power saving mode and clear the box next to Screen power saving.
- We would recommend you consider switching to another browser like Chrome or Dolphin for a better experience.
A number of people have encountered problems with the stock messaging app randomly crashing when they are reading, writing, or trying to send a text message. This seems to occur without an obvious set of conditions, sometimes it works fine, other times it crashes. There are a few things worth trying.
- Use a different messaging app like Handcent SMS or Hangouts and you might find that the problem is gone.
- Restart the S3 and you might find it works again temporarily.
- Tap Menu > Settings > More > Application Manager and then scroll over to the All tab and select the Messaging app. Start by selecting Clear cache and see if that makes a difference.
- If that doesn’t work then backup any important messages, you can use a free app like SMS Backup & Restore. Now go back to the Messaging app under the All tab in Settings > More > Application Manager and choose Clear data.
- Back up everything that’s important to you and try a factory reset via Menu > Settings > Accounts > Backup options > Backup and reset > Factory data reset. Do not reinstall your apps. Check if the messaging issue is gone, and if it is, selectively re-install your apps to see if you can identify a problem. Any app that has access to SMS is a potential culprit.
Glitch: Repeat message ‘Currently unable to download. Please try again later’
This is a common issue that’s not exclusive to the Samsung Galaxy S3, but it can be very annoying and a lot of S3 owners have encountered it. The message “Currently unable to download. Please try again later” pops up in a box onscreen at random intervals. This is your phone trying to retrieve some data that it can’t get – maybe a picture from an MMS, the latest time and date, or perhaps an app is trying to retrieve some other data. After each suggestion below try restarting your S3 and see if the message re-occurs.
- First of all, try pulling down the notification shade and turning Mobile data on.
- If you can find an MMS in your Messaging app that hasn’t downloaded the attachment, it will be displaying a “Download” button, then try deleting that message.
- Try opening your Messaging app and tapping Menu > Settings and then clear the box next to Auto-retrieve.
- Go to Settings > More > Date and time and clear the box next to Automatic date and time and Automatic time zone.
- Open up Play Store and tap at the top left and choose My apps then Update all.
- Make sure that you have the latest software update by going to Settings > More > About device > Software update > Update.
- If nothing seems to work then back up all your important files and factory reset the phone via Menu > Settings > Accounts > Backup options > Backup and reset > Factory data reset.
More S3 problems
If you’re sick of waiting for the latest Android update, then check with your carrier. The majority will push it out over the air, but some require you to physically connect your phone to your computer. There are various other little Galaxy S3 issues and annoyances you might come across as you use the phone so please post a comment to share issues and any fixes you know of.
Article originally published 12-6-2012.