By January 19, 2012

Samsung Galaxy Nexus Review

Samsung Galaxy NexusAt the end of 2011 Google introduced their third Nexus phone and second collaboration with Samsung. Making headlines this device has proved to be one of the important phones of the year and yet another contender to know the iPhone from the mantle. Has Google and Samsung hit a home run or is this their a lacklustre hardware attempt to unleash the latest version of Google’s mobile phone platform, Android?

What’s in the box?

  • Device: Samsung Galaxy Nexus
  • Battery
  • Foldable Power charger
  • USB cable

See the unboxing video below:

http://www.tracyandmatt.co.uk/samsung-galaxy-nexus-unboxing-video

Samsung Galaxy Nexus Specification:

  • 2G Network: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
  • 3G Network: HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100
  • Dimensions: 135.5 x 67.9 x 8.9 mm
  • Weight: 135 g
  • Display: Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colours, 720 x 1280 pixels, 4.65 inches (~316 ppi pixel density)
  • Oleophobic surface
  • Multi-touch input method
  • Accelerometer sensor for UI auto-rotate
  • Touch-sensitive controls
  • Three-axis gyro sensor
  • 3.5mm jack
  • Internal Memory: 16/32GB storage, 1 GB RAM
  • WLAN: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Bluetooth: v3.0 with A2DP
  • USB: v2.0 microUSB
  • Camera: 5 MP, 2592×1936 pixels, autofocus, LED flash, Video 1080p@30fps
  • Secondary Camera: Yes, 1.3 MP
  • OS: Android OS, v4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
  • CPU: Dual-core 1.2GHz Cortex-A9 CPU, TI OMAP 4460 chipset
  • GPS with A-GPS support, barometer sensor
  • NFC support
  • Digital compass
  • Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
  • Battery: Standard battery, Li-Ion 1750 mAh

Highlights:

  • Sleek and thin
  • Robust OS
  • Fingerprint proof (sort of)

Lowlights:

  • Plastic
  • 16gb/32gb and no more
  • Low quality loud speaker
  • Blurry camera

10 Second Review:

  • Product: Samsung Galaxy Nexus
  • Price: £498.00 inc. VAT 16GB or £589.99 inc. VAT 32GB
  • Summary: Android Ice Cream Sandwich debut device. Variant of the Samsung Galaxy SII with vanilla Android.
  • Best of: Large screen, light, fast and of course Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Worst of: Plastic build, finger printy
  • Buy from: Clove
  • Also consider: Samsung Galaxy SII, iPhone 4S, Cheese and Pickle Sandwich

General:

The front of the device has the massive 4.6″ screen. It’s huge, one of the largest screens we have seen on a phone yet. There is also a slight curve to the screen, not entirely noticeable when using the device however it feels completely natural, especially when talking on the phone. The Nexus S had this also and it’s surprising that other manufacturers have not adopted the style as it enhances the phone call experience to no end.
Above the screen in the ear speaker. This speaker is well suited for purpose and delivers crisp and clear sounds. To the right, amidst the black are three little sensors. Most phones would normally have two here, light and proximity. However, the Galaxy Nexus has three. The third is a mystery, perhaps it is something to do with the barometer as this is the only additional sensor we have exclusive to phone.
At the bottom of the phone you will notice the lack of hardware buttons and even indicators for the standard Android soft keys. This is due to the function keys being completely absorbed into Android’s interface.

galaxy-nexus-lock-screen

The back of the device has a peculiar rip-it-open panel covered in an odd, anti-slip texture. The camera and flash sit high above the Google branding with the loudspeaker below the Samsung brand. The location of this speaker is quite annoying as it is easily covered by your fingers when cradling the phone in you hands. The quality of the speaker is also concerning as it can sound a little tinny and quite crackly when the volume is pumped up. When compared to the speaker on the iPhone 4S, there is no competition.

On the left is a simple volume rocker. On the right is the power button and three points for a possible dock or some such. On the bottom in the microUSB connector, 3.5mm headphone socket and a small hole for the microphone.

galaxy-nexus

The phones shell is honestly a bit of a let down. For the money I’m not sure the phone would last a full 24 months as many of the contracts you will see this on. Even compared to the Samsung Galaxy S II and the Nexus S it does not stand up. Samsung have been producing a lot of plastic devices lately and it’s impossible for me to recommend this hardware when I know full well that this will be used a lot during it’s life time and will need extreme care if it is to survive daily life.

Screenshot_2011-12-04-15-12-09

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is the first phone to carry the latest version of Android. Version 4, Ice Cream Sandwich is not only an upgrade to the last phone operating system, 2.3 Gingerbread, but it combines all that was great about Android on a phone with version 3 Honeycomb that was released exclusively to tablets.

Both versions of these operating systems had their pros and cons. Putting all their eggs in one basket, Google have merge both, taking the best parts of each and adding them together.  I think it’s safe to say that the most exciting thing about the Galaxy Nexus is Ice Cream Sandwich.

Looking at the Home screen, one can see just how this version is influenced by the previous incarnations. I was able to effectively recreate the Home Screen I have used for a couple of years now from Donut, Eclair, Froyo and Gingerbread combining widgets and shortcuts. Manufactures like HTC, Motorola and even the manufacturer of this phone have their own overlays that you must use. A shame as naked Android, as you get here, is easily the most accessible.

Screenshot_2011-12-04-15-12-25

There are obviously some new additions to the OS that anyone using an Android phone now is going to notice. Not all Android phone users have experienced Honeycomb on the Tablet and therefore the likes of the Task Manager, pictured above, will come as a a fresh and exciting development. It’s exceptionally easy to use, those familiar with Webos will enjoy the similar action of throwing away an Application to kill it.

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Of course Widgets play a big part of this new version of Android. Widgets have been around for a while and have been a central part of the Android Home Screen, but never more than here. It’s almost as if it has been taken seriously. Widgets occupy their own portion of the Apps drawer. They have grid points to hook onto when Home Screen layout is being decided and most importantly can be resized.

I would imagine that Google are pushing this feature as it is something that Apple have not swung into action with. My main complaint is still the same from day one of Android, there is no consistency with the widgets. You cannot match colours or styles, therefore some home screens will look a little hotch-potch as the widgets will be from different developers and rarely blend together easily.

Screenshot_2011-12-04-15-14-31

A new addition that Apple has already swung into action with is the folder/stackable icons feature. Essentially doing away with the folders Google have introduced the ability of dropping Apps on top of each other and once the app bundle is tapped, Android opens what is a folder of the app icons. Keep Games in one, Google products in another, shopping app and camera apps can all be collected together. A nice idea and works well, allowing you to drop those less well used apps into a catagory to avoid having to sweep through pages of apps in the drawer to find what you are looking for.

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It is a relief to see that the Contact book has been given a revamps. Historically the phonebook and calender have always been somewhat limp in previous versions. This time we have a neatly laid out column affair that resembles the desktop version and bundles your contacts together by their heading. Things can get a little confusing when Google+ adds it’s touch to the phonebook and you end up with extra contacts you have to scroll through to get to who you were looking for in the first place.

Screenshot_2011-12-04-15-13-13

The Starred favourites remind me of another operating system by a company begining with M. Oh no, they are just big squares of some ugly people and my Step-daughter being eaten by a horse.

Screenshot_2011-12-04-15-13-31

As mentioned earlier, the App drawer is divided into two. There are the Apps and the Widgets. There is also a handy link to the Marketplace to avoid the anguish of having to find it, or go back to a pre-defined shortcut.

Screenshot_2011-12-04-15-14-03 Screenshot_2011-12-04-15-14-10 Screenshot_2011-12-04-15-14-21

It’s not new, however worth mentioning is Google Music. The new interface is enjoyably simple. This update has been passed to older versions of Android also and this is honestly a very strong music player now. There are no complicated interfaces that so many music players have moved towards, just the ability to quickly flick between songs and albums with minimal fuss. Also, I think it important to add, both Google Music and Google Listen have had a feature added whereby if you remove the headphones the song/podcast you are listening to will stop simultaneously. Possibly one of the most simple, yet brilliant technical advances of the Millennium.

Screenshot_2011-12-04-15-14-41

IMG_20111210_171502

The Galaxy Nexus Camera App has had a slight facelift. Everything looks a quite neat and tidy and the buttons are self-explanatory. You can sweep between the three shooting modes at the bottom right, video, stills and the new panorama mode. The camera seems to be determined to impress with the speed of the shot however, as the picture quality is subpar, even in ideal conditions. There is little in the way of focusing and more often that not you will have to take pictures multiple times before you get something usable. This was a massive disappointment and I would much rather wait the extra second for the focus to pull and a crisp shot be achieved.

Screenshot_2011-12-04-15-15-01 Screenshot_2011-12-04-15-15-07

PANO_20111210_154609 PANO_20111210_161800

As mentioned there is a Panoramic option. Apps have been offering this feature for quite some time however Google have chosen to include it as default and it works pretty well. You can see from the results.

 Screenshot_2011-12-04-15-16-02 Screenshot_2011-12-11-19-28-32 Screenshot_2011-12-11-19-29-58

The stock browser on Android Gingerbread was beginning to show it’s age. A strong, speedy little browser that had the odd quirk that made you rely on other browsers for certain type of sites. On Honeycomb there was much more to the browser and it essentially mimics the Chrome browser from a desktop PC. Again the pros of both these browsers have been strung together to create a quick but feature rich browsing experience. Tabs can be discarded with ease in the same way as apps under the task manager.

Screenshot_2011-12-08-10-11-43 Screenshot_2011-12-08-10-18-47

Hidden under the operating system are a few Easter Eggs. A couple have been discovered already and it’s a really nice touch from Google to do this. They are are fun bunch!

Screenshot_2011-12-11-20-00-40 Screenshot_2011-12-08-16-39-02 Screenshot_2011-12-08-16-39-13

One of my pet hates about lock screens is the need to unlock to attend to basic functions. Unlock no more! Especially useful is the music functionality. You can skip tunes without having to drag anything anywhere. Powering up the screen shows a couple of extra buttons when using certain apps.

ScreenClip

Instead of the traditional padlock dragging affair you can also choose from the combination and the increasingly annoying facial recognition. Initially, the facial aspect seems a wickedly clever however the novelty quickly wears off when in low light. The biggest problem is walking, you have to hold the phone up in front of your face. If it fails then you have to complete the combination in order to access your device. Certainly the technology is terrific however it’s not very useful outside of showing off to your friends.

Screenshot_2011-12-11-19-54-54

Thankfully the Gallery has been given some much needed attention. Before we have a slow and poorly functioning collection of thumbnails. Now we have a friendly collection of thumbnails, that honestly seem a little reminiscent of Microsoft Windows Phone 7′s interface. Its a lot more in keeping with Google+ and seems to be a lot faster and more responsive then any of the Gallery builds from previous versions.

Screenshot_2011-12-11-19-55-09 Screenshot_2011-12-11-19-55-19

What Google are hoping to become centre of your Social Networking attention is Google+. The app is growing from strength to strength with ever update. The app is friendly and self explanatory. Having the integration deep into Android will make for an interesting future. Perhaps they are jumping the gun and things could go all Google Buzz / Wave on them.

Screenshot_2011-12-11-19-55-43

The news client is something I only even open in a review. Its hard to judge if anything has changed other than the colour scheme. You can choose from a bunch of topic that are plucked from various sources across the net. If you use an RSS aggregator or even Twitter then you will have little use for this.

Screenshot_2011-12-11-19-57-48 Screenshot_2011-12-11-19-57-53 Screenshot_2011-12-11-19-58-03 Screenshot_2011-12-11-19-58-10

Under the hood are an extensive collection of options to configure the phone to just how you want it. You can now control almost every aspect of Ice Cream Sandwich from notifications to limiting hardware features to save battery.

Screenshot_2011-12-11-19-58-17 Screenshot_2011-12-11-19-58-28 Screenshot_2011-12-11-19-58-47

One of the pet hates with the majority of Android phones that storage seems to be almost always an issue. So many interesting applications in the Marketplace, so little space the play with. Ice Cream Sandwich sorts this out with a much more intuitive storage manager. The phone’s 16GB storage is a single partition, this is shared by media and app data. You can fill your phone with tonnes of apps as you are only limited by the 16gb. Gone are the days of App-to-SD. However, it is unknown as to how the operating system will act on future devices that have a MicroSD card sort.

Screenshot_2011-12-11-19-58-36

The Battery has been given a given of attention also. You can not have a bit of a better idea of just how long you phone will last. Android has forever been battery hungry and requiring a full charge to get you through 24 hours of medium use. Ice Cream Sandwich is a little better, however given the huge screen here and beefy processor the battery takes a bit of a hammering when you push the phone. However, I was still able to last they whole day on one charge.

For example, the operating system’s built-in voice will read names of icons or whatever text that your finger happens to be resting on. This will allow you to find the apps you need without needing to look at the screen. Once you’ve found what you need, you can simply lift your finger and give the icon a single tap to launch it. Scrolling up and down lists will require two fingers. It might sound a little complex however there is an extensive tutorial to help anyone with the need to use these features. Google has made this feature of much higher importance this time around and will see Android being recommended to anyone with a disability or a visual impairment that many preclude them from mobile phones.

Screenshot_2011-12-11-19-59-13 Screenshot_2011-12-11-19-59-22 Screenshot_2011-12-11-19-59-27 Screenshot_2011-12-11-19-59-33

If you are a developer, there seems to be a great deal more in the way of development tools located on the phone.

 Screenshot_2011-12-11-20-00-22

The calulator has been completely retooled and . wait. no it hasn’t. It’s just more grey.

Screenshot_2011-12-11-20-00-31

I have never been a fan of the Google Calendar app. It has always be prone to duplicating every appointment then then changing your time zone the day before something important and changing it back just after. From the outset it looks almost the same, however some of my appointments did not show up so I’m going to say that it has remained the same as before.

Screenshot_2011-12-11-20-01-20

Google Docs is getting stronger and stronger everyday. At present the office quite is not as easy to use as Thinkoffice or Docs2go and if you rely on an office suite it would be worth stumping up the small amount of dosh for one. Docs will do if you need simple editing but I couldn’t recommend prolonged exposure, especially when it comes to spreadsheets, you might take your own life.

Screenshot_2011-12-11-20-02-32

Gmail is looking a lot tidier. Similar to the Honeycomb version this functions as you would so expect. I am now finding it hard to use normal email clients as I am a complete Gmail fanboy.

Screenshot_2011-12-11-20-03-03

first introduced in Honeycomb comes the video editor. A lightweight video editor to operate on the fly that manages to do transitions, audio import, splicing, A/V timeline, and multi-format export and sharing options. On the tablet this was an excellent piece of kit however on the smaller screen this can become fiddly. However, it’s another perfect example of a handy utility you will have with you that might come in useful one day.

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I have honestly never used Android’s driving functionality since it first debuted. Being a safe driver I try not to engage my phone when driving. This does does seem to be a little less attractive then it used to be. Gone are the large, finger friendly square and the Music implementation. This is geared more toward navigation. Still a handy addition since Google Maps allows for the storage of local maps without having to have signal. Almost a Sat Nav replacement.

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Google Places is another handy app for Maps and navigation implementation. find local amenities around by GPS to your position from eateries to entertainment and leisure.

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Google has spent a long time redeveloping the accessibility of Android. Not many are going to notice this however there are several new features to assist those who are unable to read from the devices or interact through traditional means. From an overhaul to voice input and the voice dialler there are also extensive navigation tools for the operating system’s own menus that also utilise the voice inputs for commands.

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Google’s new video section on the Marketplace is a pretty exciting development for the operating system. The ability to rent a movie to watch, especially on the Galaxy Nexus’s generous screen real estate, anywhere in the world will appeal to anyone looking for a smart phone. Delivering an extensive back catalogue at fairly reasonable prices with a standard playback agreement, the video marketplace will be nice to see growing and maturing as more and more users participate.

 Screenshot_2011-12-11-20-04-57 Screenshot_2011-12-11-20-05-52

Lets not forget the Youtube client. Things are pretty much the same as before however you have the Video market access included. It’s hard to imagine where the Youtube client can better itself as almost all the online benefits have been packaged into the app.

Conclusion:

I was utterly convinced that this device would be my next. Ice Cream Sandwich is easily the greatest incarnation of Android yet and it will be exciting to see where Google take it next. It feels like Google has looked at every aspect of Gingerbread and Honeycomb, picked the better option and revamped it. I was worried that Ice Cream Sandwich would be a simple middle ground combining the mobile phone operating system with the tablet operating system. Thankfully this is an all new beastie with a little sparkle under the bonnet. A mature operating system with enough polish to make even the most die hard Apple fan look twice. Top marks to Google.

However, we come to the hardware. There is little at fault with the specs. The phone is a powerhouse in your pocket. Yet, the build is just not there. An iPhone is a solid device that feels like it is the top end of the market, beautiful construction, eye catching and will take the odd knock (even the odd drop.) The Galaxy Nexus from Samsung is a piece of plastic, pretty, but plastic. Right from the clumsy rip off battery cover, to the still finger-printy, Oleophobic screen. This is the kind of hardware that most will be hating by the time they finish month 18 of their 24 month contract. I fully expect squeaky devices to be hitting Ebay in 12 months time. Even comparing the Galaxy Nexus to the Galaxy SII sees the the the SII winning a quality competition any day of the week.

The benefit of the Galaxy Nexus is obviously naked Ice Cream Sandwich. As other devices appear they will have been tampered with, manufacturers will lay on their own interfaces in an attempt to make their device unique, however we all know now that this only a cosmetic change and in most cases will probably inhibit you from receiving updates to the Operating System in a timely fashion, if at all.

I had a blast with this phone and loved using it. However, sending it back wasn’t as difficult as I imagined it would be and I mostly certainly will not be entertaining purchasing one at this time.  On a 24 month contract, as I already stated, will be where this device sells most and will probably where it is least recommended.

Posted by: Gareth

Posted in: Phones, Reviews
Tags: , ,

About the Author:

Seasoned tech blogger. Host of both the Mobile Tech Addicts podcast and The Mobile Tech Addicts Show.
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