Author: Doug Smith

IMG_1532In January 2010, Google introduced the Nexus One, or what they would call the “Pure Android Experience”. The idea was to give Android owners a device that was 100% controlled by Google and as a result, would not have any bloat, or carrier modifications made to it. This “Pure Android Experience” would be Google’s Flagship device and always have available to it the most current version of the Google operating system at the time. No waiting for Carriers to approve the updates and push them out at their leisure, this device would have almost real time updating. To further appeal to developers, the Nexus One would come with an unlockable bootloader and encourage end user development.  The Nexus One, manufactured by HTC, would be the first of these flagship devices.

Released with Android 2.1 Éclair, the Nexus One would receive version 2.2 Froyo and version 2.3 Gingerbread updates. The Nexus One would not receive the most current Android Operating System, Ice Cream Sandwich or version 4.0. Later that year in December 2010, Google would follow up the Nexus One with the Nexus S. The Nexus S would not be made by HTC as was the original Nexus One, but manufactured by Samsung and bare the very popular “S” branding that was also on the Samsung Flagship device called the Galaxy S. Several version of the Galaxy S would become available from multiple US Carriers, but the Google Nexus S would be released with then new operating system called Gingerbread version 2.3. Google would stay true to their word about updating these devices and exactly one year later, Google would update the Nexus S with ICS, Version 4.0.

Google would complete the Nexus Trilogy in November 2011 by once again tapping Samsung to create the third version of their flagship device that would would be again named after a current Samsung device, this time calling it the Galaxy Nexus. Released and ushering in the latest and greatest operating systems from Google called Ice Cream Sandwich, this version 4.0 plus some very high end specs would complete Google’s desire to create a true Flagship Device worthy of the Nexus name.

So now that I have brought everyone up to speed on the Google Nexus lineage of smartphone devices, there is only one thing left to do and this is bust out another Mobility Digest Review on Google’s Galaxy Nexus by Samsung!

The Unboxing

The packaging is plain white as you can see with nothing in print anywhere on it. The inner carton is all red and the device is the first thing you see after removing the top cover. Under the device tray is all the booklets, sync cable, ac adapter, and earbuds Verizon is including with the Nexus.

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The Samsung Galaxy Nexus feels very solid. In fact, it is the best feeling Samsung device out right now. Even though the back panel is very flimsy, the rest of the device is very well made and solid. The bottom of the Galaxy Nexus has a centered micro USB port and the 3.5mm audio jack. Also located on the bottom is a small mic the is in between the audio jack and micro USB port.

On the right hand side of the GN at the top is the power button and towards the bottom is 3 prongs to be used with accessories like a docking station. The top of the GN has nothing on it and seems strange to be bare when most all other devices have something of worth up there. The left hand side of the GN is where you will find the volume rocker.

On the back side of Sammy’s Galaxy Nexus is the camera and LED Flash. At the bottom of the back side is your speaker.

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The back cover as I mentioned above is very flimsy and removing it will make you want to cringe each time you do it. The tabs that hold down the back cover are incredibly small. Under the back cover is a 1850 mAh battery that should keep ICS chugging along.

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The Galaxy Nexus measures out at 5.33” x 2.67” x .37”  and weighs 5.1 oz. The contoured glass adds a little bit of girth to the bottom side of the Galaxy Nexus, but it feels good in your hand and solid the whole time.

The Hardware

The Galaxy Nexus is powered by a 4th generation Texas Instruments OMAP (Open Multimedia Application Platform) 4460 dual core 1.2 GHz processor. Now wait a minute here, why would Sammy not use their own Exynos processor? As I mentioned earlier, this is a pure Google Android experience and as such, Google’s development team controls every component that goes into this device. As it turns out, the developers at Google picked the OMAP 4460 because of  it’s hardware accelerator called IVA 3. Because of the big and beautiful 4.65 HD screen that the Galaxy Nexus has, the OMAP was determined to have better encoding and decoding  of HD video which was obviously very important to Google and to make the device perform at it ‘s best. With all that said, I found that most of the time the processor did a very good job and seemed to work well with ICS 4.0. But the kiss of death if you are a hardware manufacture is a boot screen animation that is vibrantly colorful  as it is animated. On the very first boot animation the screen locked up several times and was buggy several times after that. I never understood the point of these wild boot screen animations but if you are going to use them, it is always best to  make sure they flow smoothly every time. Over all, the 1.2GHz dual core processor was pretty good and definitely better than earlier versions of the Nexus. There are still some bugs and gremlins in the OS but the majority of the time this device was quick and responsive.

There is plenty of memory on the Galaxy Nexus with it’s 32 GB of on board storage. No microSD card slot on the Galaxy  so 32gb is all you get. RAM on the Galaxy Nexus is 1gb. The battery is a 1850mAh which claims up to 12 hours normal usage and standby time up to 150 hours. I got a lot better battery life out of the Galaxy Nexus then I have with any Gingerbread device and in the week I used it I got between 8-10 hours of moderate usage. Power users will definitely need to make sure they have a plan b for power after 6-8 hours.

The screen on the Galaxy Nexus is pretty darn spiffy. Packing a 4.65 inch Super AMOLED 1280 x 720 HD screen in this device makes watching videos and movies through streaming source like Netflix, amazing. I normally watched Lord of the Rings on my test devices because of the scenery and richness of color, and I pretty much love watching the movie, but noticed that Netflix no longer has it! (Must be on Starz which they lost) Anyway, I found several other movies like Ironman that I watched and the as I said, it is a great experience! The last thing to mention about the screen is it’s very cool and unique contoured display. It’s definitely pretty cool and makes for a slightly curved feel to your face when on a phone call.

Even though NFC is the way of the future, should you find a place to use, you can rest assured that you are covered with your Galaxy Nexus which includes this radio in the device. Wifi and Bluetooth (3.0) both performed well and nothing out of the ordinary.

It is the speed of Verizon’s 4G LTE network that was the biggest surprise! I knew the capabilities of the 4G LTE service but since I live in a very rural area (it is actually closer to the middle of nowhere) I do not get any type of 4G service. Speeds on the Verizon network reached 25 mbps download and 13 mbps upload. It is amazing to see a smartphone stream that fast. The Galaxy Nexus on the Verizon 4G LTE service has some serious horsepower and the download speed is sick. Watching steaming services like Netflix and Pandora are amazing. Facebook, YouTube, and just plain surfing the net is an absolute joy! I have been critical of Verizon’s $100.00 premium that put on new 4G LTE devices which are $299.99 with two year purchase, but if you live in, or frequent a 4G LTE area I am would seriously consider the the extra money and almost justify it! I do think that Verizon will have only a short time left to enjoy the extra $100.00 premium for their 4G LTE devices because AT&T has started selling their 4G LTE devices and have maintained the $199.99 price point for them with of course the two year contract. To sum up the Galaxy Nexus running on the 4G LTE network is easy, it is simply blazing fast and where the 4G LTE markets are available.

  • Frequencies and Data Type: CDMA/PCS/1xEVDO Rev. A: 800/1900 MHz,LTE: 700 MHz
  • Data Speed: LTE, EVDO Rev. A

 

The Camera on the Galaxy Nexus has all new software, but for some reason they choose to go to the 5mp rear facing camera. It has w/AF and LED flash. Even though the Zoom on the Galaxy Nexus was pretty impressive in terms of actual closeness, the blurriness of the photo was pretty apparent and did not measure up against the likes of the iPhone 4S which is still in my opinion, the benchmark that everyone else is shooting for.

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As I said, the camera’s software has been revamped and I think it is much cleaner user interface:

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The 1.3 mp  front facing camera does a good job when trying to conference and has the same specs as it’s arch rival from Motorola, the DROID RAZR with 720 HD front facing video. Video capture was really good with the Galaxy Nexus and it features 1080p HD video capture (rear camera) in the following formats H.263, H.264, MPEG4, VC–1. In Video capture, the Galaxy Nexus offers you some options to make taking videos fun. It has a wide array of “Live Affects” that can be accessed to distort the subject matter, say like your best friend and make their face twist at all kinds of hilarious angles. The Galaxy Nexus also has a single motion panoramic mode that when in use, allows you to swipe the bar at the bottom to capture the width of the picture desired.

The Software

Google wanted to continue to make the Galaxy Nexus a first and launched this device with Android Version 4.0, or as it is more commonly known as Ice Cream Sandwich. This was the long awaited follow up to Gingerbread version 2.3. You might have noticed that no where have we mentioned a version 3.0 huh? Well that is because Google launched Honeycomb, Android Version 3.0 for their tablets after Froyo did not pay off for them as they had hoped. Ice Cream Sandwich is clean, and from the get go, you notice that this operating system is much smoother over Gingerbread. The today screen is clean, and that is due to this device being a “Pure Android Experience”  and not weighed down by Carrier Bloat as we like to call it. Verizon, even though I do like some of their software, has only two apps loaded on the Galaxy Nexus, “My Verizon Mobile” and “VZ Backup Assistant”. 

At the top of the today screen is a small Google Search Box that we all have become accustomed too as well as a Voice Command icon in the right corner. Even though  since the early days of Windows Mobile, anything animated on a smartphone is generally thought to consume power and be wasteful. Even still, Androids Live Wallpapers are cool and I quickly changed to the Nexus Wallpaper that is now famous. Across the bottom of the screen are 5 buttons that you will most commonly use. The Phone, Contacts, Apps, Messaging, and Browser. Below that is the back button, home, and recent apps buttons. I really liked the multitasking recent apps button, accidentally closing down an app can be reopened quickly.

The operating system is much smoother and there has been a lot of enhancements made by Google to what seems like every app. Even notifications have been revamped, separating it further from the version the iPhone adopted from Android.

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Conclusion

The Google Galaxy Nexus by Samsung is worthy replacement for the Nexus S and illustrates what I feel is Google’s commitment to progressing their mobile platform. The operating system continues to get better and better as it seems Google is making better strides to optimize the OS to the ever changing hardware. I think in the very near future, specs will have to become a non selling point for Google and they concentrate more on the UX instead of always being the biggest and baddest spec’d out device on the market. Take for example Windows Phone, they can achieve a rich and very smooth UX with a lot less hardware. I think this needs to be Google’s main focus going forward and work hard to make sure their OS is optimized for the bajillions of Android Devices on the market. With all that said, Google has made a stellar device in the Galaxy Nexus and the new operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich, is a very positive step in the right direction for them. The Android base will love this device. Unlockable and full of third party development plus the first in line to receive any updates from Google. Hardware, the Galaxy Nexus will provide excellent power and performance. When compared to other device like the Motorola DROID RAZR, who will also receive the ICS update very soon, what sets the Galaxy Nexus apart is the amazing curved screen. Even though the RAZR has the qHD screen, the Galaxy Nexus is simply better. More vibrant, crisp, and a media view pleasure. The Galaxy Nexus by Samsung has done Google proud once again.

PROS

  • Excellent curved glass screen
  • Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Fast, well spec’d out device.
  • Total integration into the Google ecosystem
  • Real time updates from Google, no carrier delays.

CONS

  • Back cover is as cheesy as any I have seen. Be careful removing and installing.
  • Camera could have been better, zoom blurriness was not good.
  • Still hard to shovel $300 bucks for a 2 year commitment phone.








About Author

Doug Smith

Mobility junkie who loves to share information and talk tech. Never uses the same device for long and is currently using a Motorola Droid RAZR, HTC Titan, and iPhone 4S.

(15) Readers Comments

  1. Hey Doug thanks for the review. I am currently running ICS on the touchpad and loving it. I have question though. I keeping hearing about how the camera isn’t as good the 4S but how does it compare to the iphone 4?

  2. I have been using the gsm version on att for month+ and my only complaint is the camera. Coming from an EVO i have to say the camera while really fast is sub par in quality… but i love just about everything else…

  3. Hi Anthony! I would say that the Galaxy Nexus is slightly better than the iPhone 4. It’s a pretty nice camera, it just hasn’t reached the iPhone 4S standards. The 4S is amazing.

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  7. There is very little to criticize about this phone and ICS. Very little. All you WP folk who talk Android trash and plead with the other guy to try a WP, why don’t you try a Galaxy Nexus, and see what I mean that not only is this fantastic, Android improves prolifically.

    This phone and ICS, which by the way I decided not to flash (or even watch youtubes of) until I got this phone to make it more of a surprise .. well I was nervous about losing that menu button and the pentile trash talk spooked me a bit, not to mention having to buy it outright when i owe people money, but it is one fine piece of hardware (and software). A tad big, gotta go two handed in more situations. Battery (gsm) not that bad, considering. HSPA+ on T-Mobile, well, let me fire one up right now and show you what speeds I’m getting in NYC:

    That’s T-Mobile right there. And their version of 3G for me breaks 6mbps. Can’t post actual screenshots here anymore due to the 1280×720 resolution being twice the size of what the theme can handle.

    Not quite LTE but I don’t do that many things on this phone that requires more than ten megabits per second other than speed testing. LTE is superior not just because it has a higher theoretical speed limit than the fastest deployed HSPA+ technology but because when carriers use it they can acomodate a much denser city (spectral efficiency), however I hear things about battery life. Hearing that the LTE version of this phone can burn through a tank just browsing the web inside four hours and not survive a day of normal use — ouch. Bit per amp hour, two twin phones downloading something at the same speed, all things being equal other than that one is LTE and the other is on some HSPA+ thing, is there any difference in how much juice it takes to beam a bit? Any engineers up in here?

    Hey I’ve got an AT&T sim, this is pentaband, why don’t I do a switcharoo and burn another speed test for fun? Okay. Wow I can hotswap sims? Did you know that Smith? How about that. Oh right you’ve got the Verizon one.

    Well hey, AT&T exceeded expectations for once at a solid 5.5Mbps which is a respectable fifty percent as good. Technically not even the American definition of 4G, but relative to themselves, that’s blazing. High five AT&T. But it’s Saturday and I’m on the upper west side. Anyone been using AT&T in midtown Manhattan during business hours?

    The Galaxy Nexus is the Cadillac of phones.

  8. .. oh and if you can hook me up with a link for a stock battery (with nfc) that is definitely the gsm 1750mah version, that I would appreciate. The one on Newegg maybe?

    Pentaband.

    That’s what they should have called this thing if you ask me. Pentaband. What’s that you got? Oh, this? I’m rockin’ the Pentaband bro. Penta what? Is that like quad band plus one? Actually yes. Plus two if you count an extra 2G band I think. So that must mean it’s not a Windows Phone, hardware like that? Well that’s kind of a cheap shot but yes that’s exactly what it means.

  9. You know what, forget the battery link, I would rather run out of juice than have to deal with this stupid &#*$ lid again.

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  14. This phone cannot even last for 4 hours on original battery! I can’t even consider the original battery to be a viable option for use. Perhaps update 4.0.4 can address this issue but highly doubt it

    End up I have to to use an extended battery to lengthen the power life of this phone. So far the Qcell extended battery last me through a day which is an acceptable usage for me

    http://www.amazon.com/QCell-Verizon-Samsung-Extended-Compatible/dp/B00746TQVM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1333084783&sr=8-1

  15. Gave up trying to find an extended /stock/ battery for the gsm version. Could use one though, mainly for peace of mind.
    That’s too bad about LTE apparently needing to make phones work harder. The standard is superior in a very important respect, much better spectral efficiency than any other standard which is what (like battery life) the world really needs, especially in Manhattan.