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(Pocket-lint) - The world has waited with barely bated breath for today. The day that Samsung launched the Samsung Galaxy S III. The Samsung Galaxy S III is the first device that's really seen the sort of crazed attention you associate with the Apple iPhone. 

Today's launch brings all that speculation to an end, the end of a run of leaked specs, the end of the exclusive spy shots. The rumour treadmill grinds to a halt and we all step off rather giddy.

It also means that the smartphone universe for 2012 feels complete. We've seen the big players line up their devices and go for it. HTC is looking to win back form and simplify its offering, Samsung is looking to maintain momentum and stay at the top.

Of course there are other players in Android that want a look-in: ZTE, Huawei, LG, Sony, Panasonic, Fujitsu, Acer and more, but so often it boils down to one or two devices at the top, the devices that everyone talks about.

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The stage is now set for the face-off between the HTC One X and the Samsung Galaxy S III as the lead Android devices for 2012. Don't write off the Galaxy Nexus, also made by Samsung, but also don't be too surprised if an updated Nexus device appears 6 or 7 months down the line to usher in the next era of Android Jelly Bean excitement.

HTC, as it traditionally does, announced its new One series devices at Mobile World Congress 2012 in Barcelona. The reviews of the One X are extremely positive. It's a device with plenty of power, a fantastic display and a design that's considered and refined. We like it a lot, it's a hugely impressive smartphone, as we say in our review

The Samsung Galaxy S III matches the specs of the HTC One X in many ways. Both offer large HD displays, both have a quad-core processor, 8-megapixel cameras, and both have the latest version of both Android and their respective manufacturer's skin, HTC Sense or TouchWiz. 

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HTC might have the edge with design, even though the 8.9mm of the HTC is slightly fatter than the 8.6mm of the Samsung. The Samsung Galaxy S III can feel flimsy around the back if you're being critical, like the S II did and the Galaxy Nexus does. But it might not deter people buying the phone because with Samsung's design choices come some subtle but important differences.

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The sealed polycarbonate body of the HTC One X has only one slot in it and that's for the micro SIM. The Samsung Galaxy S III has a removable back cover, so you can access the innards to change the battery or upgrade the memory via microSD.

In this might be the missing piece of the puzzle. The luxurious exuberance and premium finish of the HTC One X might just give way to a more practical approach from Samsung. Android users love flexibility and they know that battery life is the biggest issue that faces them.

Samsung's TouchWiz interface has always been a lighter touch than HTC Sense. Where HTC changed just about every facet of the Android OS, Samsung has never been as dramatic. Both custom skins bring with them plenty of additional features and refinements, but HTC Sense was always a step further away from Android. 

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The HTC One series changed that, simplifying and letting some of Android out again. But it did roll in a number of changes to Ice Cream Sandwich that let you know that this is still an HTC device. It's simpler, closer to Android, but definitely HTC.

TouchWiz does the same. Pick-up the Samsung Galaxy S III and you'll instantly recognise the icons, the little changes here and there that maintain that Samsung Galaxy identity. S II owners, and there are plenty of them, will feel right at home. But the run of features that Samsung have included, from AllShare Play to S Voice, feel innovative and new. 

In reality you're spoilt for choice. First impressions of the Samsung Galaxy S III are very positive; the HTC One X is also an excellent handset and both feel like a step forward from last year.

But in the minds of Android users, away from megapixel count, pixels per inch, number of cores, and fancy software features, it might be a removable cover that decides the fate of these two giants.

Where does your allegiance lie? HTC or Samsung? Let us know in the comments below…

Writing by Chris Hall.