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The Galaxy S3 is the best phone I've ever owned without any doubt. Fast, responsive and looks great.
I have had iPhone 4S, the S3 (gave it to g/f) and now the Note II.
It's really not that large in the hand. The other thing that hasn't been mentioned about the Note II? The amazing battery life. I make/receive 80~90 phone calls every day, constantly use the GPS, bluetooth (car kit) and Exchange Mail (Mobile Data) and the phone lasts me two days.
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how can someone even consider iphone when there's s3...
family members got both phones, i'd use iphone to wash toilet at best
Well I would wait after CES in early January because Samsung will most likely be reveling their new devices then. While I can't talk about EU carriers, I do know about the phones. I faced the same dilemma about apps when getting my S3 (which I love), but since most of what I wanted carried over was music (which is free), I've managed to keep my app fees down. Also since android allows side loading apps, you can just go on the internet and download the apk for free and not feel bad since you've already paid for it on ios. When it comes to specifically which phone to get, I would go on to YouTube and type in S3 vs Note 2 (or whatever phones you want compared) dogfight and you will find many videos by people who are paid to compare phones.
Also, I would consider the Nexus 4 from Google. Being in the EU you won't need to worry about the lack of LTE, however the fact that it only goes up to 16gb of storage with no expandable memory is a definite downside. The upside to this phone is that it has stock android (if you care), will get immediate software updates, and only costs $300-$350 (sorry that's in US dollars ), off contract which makes it a good choice if you don't want to be stuck with a phone/carrier for two years.
Hope this helps and have a merry Christmas everyone!