One of the most hyped mobile handsets of the year had its launch in Australia this week, offering a vision of a handset “inspired by nature” featuring a combination of technologies and an emphasis on human interaction.

The follow-up to one of Samsung’s biggest devices, the Samsung Galaxy S3 (or SIII depending on what you’re searching for) is the latest smartphone for Samsung and has been designed to take on Apple’s next iPhone before the juggernaut comes out.

Attempting to second guess the competition ahead of time, Samsung has equipped the S3 with a massive 4.8 inch Super AMOLED screen with an HD 1280×720 resolution, 16GB storage, microSD slot for expanding beyond this, Android’s latest operation system (4.0, “Ice Cream Sandwich”), Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi, 3G connection with 21Mbps downlink, and a Samsung produced quad-core processor.

There’s no 4G LTE yet, nor is there any strong aluminium or metal in its built, with the Galaxy S3 featuring a chassis made of plastic and glass. In fact, the front massive glass element protecting the 4.8 inch screen takes advantage of the second generation Gorilla Glass, able to survive even more of a beating than past handsets.

A massive 2100mAh battery is powering the S3, up from the 1650 offered by the Galaxy S2 last year. For a quick reference, most top tier smartphones offer between 1400 and 1800mAh, potentially giving Samsung an edge.

The difference in batteries, with the 1650mAh Galaxy S2 (left) and the 2100 mAh Galaxy S3 (right).

Also of note is the battery, a part that’s still replaceable in the S3. If you’re heading on a business trip any time soon and find you need extra juice, more batteries can be purchased, and even charged simultaneously with an upcoming combination battery and phone charging dock.

Adding to these features, you’ll find an 8 megapixel camera that Samsung’s Tyler McGee says “redefines the photography experience”, offering a camera with absolutely no shutter lag, the ability to fire multiple shots in quick succession and have the camera select one, video stabilisation, a front-facing 1.9 megapixel camera capable of grabbing HD video, and even make the handset pick up on facial recognition with “group tag”.

In fact, it’s features like the social tagging facility that Samsung is attempting to highlight with the S3, pushing hard with more than just the technical superiority its handset offers.

While it runs the latest version of Android, the operating system and Samsung’s own TouchWiz overlay has been refined to make things more “human”, so to speak.

“S Voice” is Samsung’s attempt at remaking a voice interface similar to Apple’s Siri, allowing you to say things to your phone and have them performed for you. We had a quick play with this and were able to grab the weather, set an alarm, search the Internet for something, and even send an SMS.

It’s more than just talking though, as Samsung’s S3 offers technology that takes advantage of motion sensors and cameras, with “Smart Stay” and “Direct Call.”

Smart Stay is one of those features you’re not sure you’ll need, but promises to be of some use. If you’ve ever looked at your screen, read something, and found the display switches off mid-sentence, only to force you to unlock it with your fingers, Smart Stay gets around this. In essence, the camera watches your face and makes sure you’re reading the screen. When you’ve stopped reading, the screen will switch off, saving you battery power.

Direct Call is different again, allowing you to easily make a call when you’re texting someone by simply raising the phone to your ear.

And if you know anyone else with a Galaxy S3 – something Samsung hopes becomes normal given the high hopes they have for the handset – you’ll be able to transfer files easily from one device to another using “S Beam”, a feature that lets you transfer using the Near-Field Communication technology found inside the handset.

Photos and movies can also easily be shared with DLNA compliant devices, and you can even run a picture-in-picture on the handset, allowing you to watch video while you do something else, like surf the web or write documents.

Outside of the cool features designed to make the entire experience memorable, Samsung has come together with a few companies to provide extra features and some cool exclusive apps, specific to Samsung at least for the moment.

A Quickflix app is available, for instance, allowing anyone with a Quickflix account – the same one used on a Samsung TV or Sony PlayStation 3 – to watch movies and TV shows on the go.

Premium Navigon navigation software is also included, offering turn-by-turn GPS navigation to the 4.8 inch mobile handset. In some cases, that’s a bigger screen than many a dedicated GPS unit.

It was such a big launch, Samsung hired Jessica Mauboy and Barry Southgate to sing a song.

People embracing the cloud will also find a nice 50GB storage boost to Dropbox ready for them when they grab one of these phones, adding capacity to the online storage solution for two years.

“The Samsung Galaxy S3 aims to change the game in the telecommunications market,” said Tyler McGee, Samsung Australia’s Vice President of Telecommunications. “The Galaxy range has grown beyond our expectations in the smartphone market and impressive new features are a testament to our commitment to delivering first class new technology to the Australian market.”

As expected, the new handset is making its way to practically every mobile carrier across Australia.

Virgin's way of saying "we have Ice Cream Sandwich". In case you're interested, the ice creams were not ice cream sandwiches.

In fact, just after the launch on Thursday, Virgin started handing out ice creams to people in the area to push that it had the phone ready for consumption.

Vodafone was actually the first to get something out there, pushing the Galaxy S3 out into the world on multiple plans, starting from a $29 plan with $20 monthly instalments. If you’re keen to grab it free, it’s available on a for $0 on both the $79 and $99 plans, each offering 4GB and 8GB respectively for the first 12 months.

Optus chimed in next, offering two plans, with a $60 and $80 plan on two versions of the handset. While we haven’t seen the 32GB version make landfall yet, the Optus plans suggest that the Galaxy S3 will be available in both 16 and 32GB depending on how much you want to spend.

Telstra is also an option, although you won’t be able to grab 4G speeds as there’s no LTE version of this handset at the present time. Telstra’s options include both a $59 and a $79 plan, the former offering a 13 handset payment each month and the latter offering $3.

The Galaxy S2 (left) and the Galaxy S3 (right). The new handset isn't much bigger, but manages to throw in a bigger screen, the 4.8 inch screen on the S3 bigger than the 4.3 inch on the S2.

Outside of the major telcos, Virgin is offering a $59 plan with $5 handset payment, while TeleChoice offers it up for $20 per month on the $29 Virgin Big Plan.

And then there’s the outright option, in case you’re not keen on signing away 24 months of your mobile life to one of the major telecommunications companies. If this is you, the 16GB Samsung Galaxy S3 will be available in Marble White for $899, with the Pebble Blue version of the same arriving in the next week. A price on the 32GB has not yet been released.

Meanwhile, we have one of the handsets and are giving a good and proper test. We’ve already unboxed the phone, charged it, and are putting it through its paces, so if you want to see what the little Galaxy S3 box has inside, check out our unboxing below.