The Galaxy S III Wants To Tag Your Buddies

I think Samsung is hip to the fact that no one reads the manual anymore.

For the cynical, burned out, or jaded, it’s become something of a tradition in message boards across the internet: respond to an obvious question with “RTFM,” or “read the frackin’ manual,” in Battlestar-speak.

It’s a predictable, dated response, but it’s also become something of a joke on itself. The reality is that not a lot of users read instruction manuals anymore. Most manufacturers have stopped including big, bulky printed booklets, making their user guides available as PDFs to download. It’s anyone’s guess just how many people actually download and read these manuals, but the number can’t be high. Many customers, myself included, tend to prefer doing their own fiddling and exploring, learning the ins and outs of new gadgets through real-world usage instead of shuffling through a table of contents in a booklet.

I’m not the first person to make such a point.


What does this have to do with buddy tagging or photos? Well, when it was determined that I would write a piece on Buddy Photo Share, one of the many features included on the new Galaxy S III and a service I knew nothing about, I decided I’d take a break from tradition and start with a novel approach: by looking it up in the user manual. And do you know what I found? Absolutely nothing.

Samsung made a big deal about Buddy Photo Share when it announced the Galaxy S III, but it was lost in the clutter of feature announcements and I didn’t end up covering the feature in my post-announcement article. Just as it did with Smart Stay, Samsung seems to have forgotten about Buddy Photo Share all together, and even the tech media landscape has pretty quiet about the feature thus far. Which is a shame, because it’s actually a pretty cool offering.

How It Works

Say you’re at a barbecue with a group of friends, and you want to take a group photo of everyone enjoying the ribs, corn on the cob, and Pabst Blue Ribbon. You herd everybody into the frame, they say cheese, the shutter clicks, and presto: you’ve got a new picture of summertime fun in the sun. Well, it turns out to be a great shot, and everyone says, almost simultaneously, “I want a copy! Send that to me!”

If you’re using any smartphone, that’s a fairly simple affair: just attach the photo to an email, input the addresses, and hit send. But that kind of manual distribution is so 2006, isn’t it? I mean, I was doing photo sharing that way from my Motorola Q back in the days when 1.3MP cameras were top-of-the-line. Surely there’s a simpler, easier method more suited to our futuristic times.

Enter Samsung’s Galaxy S III with Buddy Photo Share. After you snap the picture, the phone automatically identifies faces; if they’re people you’ve tagged in previous pictures, tags appear alongside them showing their names. If the phone isn’t sure if a tag is correct, a question mark appears, allowing you to tap the tag and confirm or correct the entry. If the phone doesn’t recognize someone, a box appears around his or her face, and you have the option to match it with a contact right then.

I didn’t have time to arrange a barbecue for a group photo, so I called in a favor from some other friends.

Once the nitty-gritty work of tagging is done -a process that only needs to be performed once- the sharing can begin. This is the fun part.

Tapping the menu key while the photo is displayed calls up the usual array of options, plus one. Tapping “Buddy photo share” and hitting the accompanying send button calls up a confirmation dialog containing all the tagged contacts in the photo. You can then select as many or as few of them as you’d like to receive the photo; all contacts are checked by default.

As long as every contact has an email address associated with it, pressing OK prompts you for one final confirmation, then sends the photo scurrying over the airwaves to the tagged buddies’ inboxes.

I found the sharing process to be fairly straightforward, if slightly over-engineered. I could probably do with one or two fewer steps in the whole process, but I suppose the added confirmation speed bumps are a nice safeguard against hasty (read: drunk) mass-emailing of potentially embarrassing group photos.

There’s a nice bonus feature included as well. Assuming your contact information for a contact is up to date, tapping on a person’s tag opens a miniature dialog box with additional communication options. You can jump right from the photo into a call, text, or email. If the contact doesn’t have a caller ID photo assigned, you can even use the tagged photo for that purpose.

Technology has given me a direct line to Starfleet’s finest. Thanks, Samsung!

Initially, Buddy Photo Share feels more cumbersome than it actually is. The automatic facial recognition doesn’t always work well, and the process of tagging every friend slows things down somewhat at the beginning. But the beauty is that you only have to tag people once. Like in the old days of moving contacts to a new cell phone, the process is laborious, but the convenience it provides is more than worth the initial time investment.

Whether that time investment will be protected going forward is another question entirely; it’s not clear whether tags are backed up to Samsung’s servers. If that tagging process needs to be repeated every time a user upgrades to a new Samsung Galaxy S device, that will significantly dock the feature’s convenience score. A way around that necessity would be to integrate Buddy Photo Share with Facebook (or, more likely, Google+), lending a much more robust, cloud-based foundation to the whole affair. Considering Samsung’s scattershot, shotgun-blast approach to feature inclusion, though, that kind of streamlining may take a while to arise.

In the meantime, I’ll keep enjoying Buddy Photo Share as yet another unique feature that Samsung has brought to the Android fold. The more I play with this device, the more of these useful customizations I find, and the more I come to respect Samsung as an innovator, rather than chide it as a copycat.

Now all Samsung needs to do is make people aware of these awesome features, because, as we discussed above, “RTFM-ing” isn’t gonna do it.

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About The Author
Michael Fisher
Michael Fisher has followed the world of mobile technology for over ten years as hobbyist, retailer, and reviewer. A lengthy stint as a Sprint Nextel employee and a long-time devotion to webOS have cemented his love for the underdog platforms of the world. In addition to serving as Pocketnow's Reviews Editor, Michael is a stage, screen, and voice actor, as well as co-founder of a profitable YouTube-based business. He lives in Boston, MA. Read more about Michael Fisher!