I have fond memories of my Samsung Galaxy S III. I was able to buy one close to launch, not quite at launch but not far behind. I had originally wanted a blue one but settled for a white one at the time because the blue model was still weeks away. The S III wasn’t my first handset that ran Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, that honor went to the Samsung Nexus S, but the S III had a respectable camera, a big screen and was thin and light. My S III was the international one, so it was based around a quad core 1.4 GHz Samsung Exynos processor with 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage plus MicroSD card, a 4.8-inch, 720p AMOLED screen and a replaceable 2,100 mAh battery. Samsung updated the device software through different versions of Android Jelly Bean but here’s where it stopped: we reported back in July that Samsung cancelled the update to KitKat. Long faces all around; Samsung cancelled the upgrade because the S III only has 1 GB of memory so wouldn’t be a great user experience.
It’s especially galling when we consider that Android KitKat contains Project Svelte, which was designed to slim down the hardware requirements. The key requirement of Svelte was to optimise the operating system to run much better on devices with only 512 MB of RAM, slower processors and lower resolutions screens. When Google were developing KitKat, they gave their engineers a modified Nexus 4 (with 512 MB of RAM, a dual core processor and a lower resolution screen) as an incentive to get the operating system up to requirements. It worked: lower end devices are noticeably smoother running Kit Kat compared with Jelly Bean. Other changes in KitKat include improving the behavior of applications react during low memory scenarios and improve the feedback to developers. After all, it’s not especially helpful to tell a developer that his or her application doesn’t run well in a low memory situation, it’s much more helpful to report how and why it doesn’t run well.
Ultimately, you’d think that updating Android to 4.4 KitKat would be a logical way for Samsung to extend the product life of the S III. And here it’s difficult for me to avoid being cynical: if Samsung updated the S III, might this encourage people to stick with the device rather than upgrade to a newer model? After all, Samsung’s business model in developed markets is based around upgrades. Well, there’s a twist to the story because the Korean variant of the S III has now been updated to Android Kit Kat. However, this model (the E210S compared with the GT-I9300 of the international model) has the LTE radio and 2 GB of memory. Cue XDA senior member arter97 and his team, who took it upon themselves to rebuild the update to 4.4 for the Korean S III and make it available to other S III devices. By all accounts, this unofficial port of an official ROM works reasonably well but has a couple of issues. One is not so serious; the signal meter reporting is inaccurate. The other could be, which is SMS messaging is broken. Hopefully, the developers will be able to fix these two issues in small order.
If you have the international version of the Galaxy S III you might want to drop by the XDA Forums source for the information and update. Do bear in mind that you may lose any warranty on your device, depending on your location (best to assume that you will) and if you try this, hit us up and let us know how you get on!