Samsung Galaxy Nexus [Review]

Samsung Galaxy Nexus [Review]

gal·ax·y/ˈgaləksē/

Noun:
  1. A system of millions or billions of stars, together with gas and dust, held together by gravitational attraction.
  2. The galaxy of which the solar system is a part; the Milky Way.

 nexus plural of nex·us (Noun)

Noun:
  1. A connection or series of connections linking two or more things.
  2. A connected group or series: “a nexus of ideas”.

 

Based on the above definitions you wouldn’t think that Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus (SGN) is actually a culmination of anything good, particularly in the way of an Android phone.  Literally, the name alone would indicate that you would have a billion stars connected together.  But you would be wrong.  The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is the best smartphone on the market today – bar none.

After living with this phone for almost a month now, it has not only met my expectations but have exceeded them in almost every way.  I will spare all of the tech specs as the SGN has been in the public eye for quite some time now, and I will largely review the phone on its day-to-day merits for real world use.  My must have apps are: Google Voice, K-9 for work email, AndChat for always-on IRC connectivity, Plume for Tweeting, Catch Notes,  Facebook, and all other Google services.

The first thing you will notice about the SGN is that it looks like a smaller brother to its Honeycomb forerunners, i.e. no physical buttons.  No, Android 4.0 has eschewed the buttons for a cleaner look and a better way for landscape to portrait screen orientation that moves the buttons with the phone.  There is a downside however, for those who depended on the ‘magnifying glass’ button for search it has been replaced by a Google search box on the main screen.

 

  
The second thing?  The Screen is HD Super AMOLED.  This.  Thing.  Is.  For.  Real.  I won’t bore you with the specs but here they are if you need confirmation.  Just before getting the SGN, I briefly flirted with an iPhone 4 as a backup phone and the SGN makes the Retina Display look second rate at best.  The viewing angles of this device are marvelous as is the resolution: a proper 1280×720 pixels.  Movies look gorgeous, especially those from the PIXAR family and applications look vibrant and almost have a 3D like quality to them.

As with most of the Samsung Galaxy phones, the lock screen will be familiar and the volume buttons, but there is some strange placement afoot.  Namely the charging port and 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom of the phone.  I use to have the Samsung Fascinate and they were on top of that device.  The top is a much better place to have any cables/wires coming from as they will not get in the way of putting the phone in normal portrait mode, like say, in a windshield holder.  The power button is on the upper left side all by its lonesome.  The actual heft of the device is one that is much lighter than it looks but that’s to blame/credit on the plastic body.  While I do prefer the design and the materials of the iPhone 4, I was always very deliberate when using it because I was afraid of dropping it.  I do not like having cases on my phones so while the SGN does not feel like it will shatter from a three foot fall, I still handle it very gingerly.  But even with the larger size the phone feels very thin and light and not as large as my old Motorola Droid X or my very old HTC HD2.

 

Some other niggles with quality and build is the back battery door.  It is very thin and flimsy and I have already bent one of the tabs on the bottom of that keeps it locked.  So be very careful while exchanging batteries.  Which brings me to my next point.  You will be changing out the battery if you are a normal to heavy user.  Regularly.  When I got my phone, I immediately bought the battery charger that came with an extra battery.  Then I bought two more batteries from a Twitter friend of mine who bought the extended batteries for his and didn’t need the standard ones anymore.  I was thinking of the extended batts but didn’t want the extra thickness.  So I now have four batteries total that I keep in a very thin case that can fit into any jacket and can go for about two days without any external charging.  The Verizon 4G is spotty at best and I have only used it a few times, but mainly just to check the speed.  But boy, is it FAST!  I have seen downloads as fast as 35mbps and it can make your SGN double as a hand warmer when activated.  I do have PDAnet installed so I occasionally use it for wired tethering, and in this case is very helpful since phone can be charged at the same time.

While trying to get as much battery life as possible, I sometimes turned off the auto-sync, but what’s the upside to a smartphone that is not constantly getting data and updates?  So now I turn it off only when I am at my computer to not duplicate email alerts, etc.

Okay, now for the software.  Android 4.0 AKA Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) is everything I wanted in a smartphone.  While I have been recommending Android to many people, I still tell some to get an iPhone if they just “want it to work”.  And ICS is the first version of the software that truly feels like production software and not a Beta that is meant to be forgiven from the onset.  Just like a proper desktop OS, the addition of folders has saved screen real estate and helps organize applications for easy look up.  And now that my Motorola XOOM was blessed with ICS, I have a double helping of goodness.

The browser is finally like a true mobile version of Chrome.  The menu button gives context for bookmarks and sharing options and even a new feature “Request desktop site” as well as the way to access the Settings.  The address bar button gives you options for “add a tab” and bookmarks.  You can also view other browser sessions as thumbnails with the same button.   Also, you can no longer just long press the screen to add widgets.  These are now found along with all of the other applications just a swipe away.  Long presses now just give you a way to change wallpapers.

 

 

The notifications are now easier to delete as they can now be swiped away from the window shade, while the screen is locked.  This makes it much easier to interact with the phone when just looking at the screen for the notification LED to blink.

 

As far as I can tell, the phone feature is very good.  I can hear other callers loud and clear and have had no complaints from others, however the speakerphone sounds muffled and a bit thin.  The new phone dialpad UI is very Tron-like, courtesy of Android’s new Roboto fonts.

 

 

The camera is good and very fast but not as good as the Samsung Galaxy II’s but since I still carry a Canon ELPH 300HS, this is not an issue with me.  And I am never thrilled to see a soft shutter button.  But it can be used from the lock screen now: left for Camera, right to Unlock.  I don’t use my SGN for viewing movies regularly (just to show others how good the screen is) and I don’t use it for MP3 listening it is a competent media player but not a primary use for me.

This last feature that I have used a lot for this article is the ability to easily take screenshots.  Just hold the power button and volume down rocker simultaneously and voila!  The screenshot saves into its own Screenshot folder in your gallery and it’s very easy to show others what is going right and wrong with your phone as well as post pictures like I have done.  No more rooting your phone and sticking your tongue out and holding your arm out to get a decent screenshot.

I can honestly say that after using and owning many Android phones, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is the best phone out there right now.  And while a few may come along this year to compete against it, the SGN will still be at the top of the list for me.

 

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163 Comments

    • Thijs Koot
      February 01, 15:20 Reply

      True fact, text may appear less sharp than on the traditional RGB matrix but it still does give you more pixels, thus more ‘room’ to put stuff on. Trust me, a RGB SGS2 screen doesn’t beat my Pentile GN screen. 
      No. Way.

      • Trob6969
        February 09, 16:37 Reply

        The reason your pentile GN screen beats the RGB screen on the SGS2 is ONLY because the SGS2 doesn’t have a 720p HD display, it has a 960 by 540 pixel count. But if the SGS2 had 720p WITH its RGB it would DEFINATELY be the better of the 2!…have you tried turning the screen brightness all the way down on your GN THEN looking for pixels?

  1. Anonymous
    February 01, 17:40 Reply

    I find it interesting that you’re such a big Android fan but you claim that folders are a new thing in 4.0. Desktop folders have been a standard part of every default Android home screen since the day the T-Mobile G1 came out in 2008. For a while there was even an API for developers to create “Live Folders” that dynamically updated their content, but I don’t think that’s supported anymore on 3.0+ devices. The only thing that’s changed is the gesture you use to create them (it used to be a long press, now it’s a drag-and-drop).

    • Sam Herren
      February 01, 21:48 Reply

      True. I meant to say that folders are new since Honeycomb did away with them.

  2. Fulaman
    February 01, 22:33 Reply

    You do realize that when rooting your phone that you can run custom roms with Screen capture built in (MIUI and CM7/CM9).  I am running Android 4.0 CM9 on my Samsung Fascinate right now, and it’s extremely smooth.

    • Sam Herren
      February 02, 09:48 Reply

      Indeed, I do, but the Galaxy Nexus enables screenshots for ‘noobs’ too!

  3. BobSquibis
    February 02, 09:28 Reply

    I can’t get mine to do the screenshot… Tried like 50 times now. :(

    • Fulaman
      February 03, 19:19 Reply

      Hold down Volume down key and the power key on the right hand side at the same time for a 2 – 3 seconds and then the screenshot will be taken.

  4. Trob6969
    February 03, 14:00 Reply

    The “best” phone on the market?! How is the galaxy nexus better than the htc rezound? Except for ics right-out-the-box, ALL of its specs are less desirable than the rezound’s: SGN-1.2 dual core, rez-1.5, SGN ppi 316, rez ppi 342, SGN camera set-5meg back & 1.3meg front, rez-8meg back & 2meg front, rezound records 1080p at 30 frames per second while the galaxy nexus does it at only 24. The rez has expandable memory but theSGN doesn’t. The rezound also has better ergonomics.

    • Sam Herren
      February 03, 14:58 Reply

      The HTC Rezound has Sense 3.5.  I have stopped using Android phones with ODM UI’s, so for me the SGN has the best Android experience. 

    • Fulaman
      February 03, 19:19 Reply

      Your logic is flawed.  The 1.2 ghz dual core in the Galaxy Nexus is superior to the 1.5ghz dual core in the Rezound.  The rezound uses a Season 3 Qualcomm SoC, and based on benchmarking results it isn’t on par with the Cortex A9 TI-OMAP 4460 dual-core SoC found in the Galaxy Nexus.  If we were to talk about processors, then the Galaxy S II line have the best processors/GPUS (This includes the International version of the Galaxy Note which runs on a Dual-core 1.4ghz Exynos.).  Numbers can be deceiving.  In the end it comes down to bechmarking and daily usage.  Rezound definitely isn’t the best for stuff like Gaming.

      • Trob6969
        February 09, 11:45 Reply

        Really?! Then hiw is it that me and my friend both have ‘dead space’ on our phones but his galaxy nexus plays it choppy througout but my rezound played through the ENTIRE game flawlessly without even a single stutter?! Hmmm…

  5. Gjwilliamsx
    February 07, 06:33 Reply

    Personally I think that the Samsung Galaxy Note is the best.

    • Khandker47
      February 07, 07:55 Reply

      I second that. I use Galaxy and the SPen features are just plain one of a kind.iPhone is best in aesthetics,but Note is the phone that beats iphone, in anybody’s analysis, provided the analyser does have a hold on what is a fair analysis.

  6. Costa
    February 07, 06:50 Reply

    I want your wallpaper…

  7. Calista
    February 07, 07:07 Reply

    its gr8,wish i could afford it

  8. Frank the Tank
    February 07, 10:15 Reply

    Verizons 4G coverage is spotty? This statement, like most of your claims isnt backed up with any facts or supporting data. Throughout your review you make a statement then do nothing to back it up.

    Verizon has the absolute best 4G network, in size of footprint, people covered, speeds and reliability. They are in over 200+ markets vs att who has what 26? I see speeds in excessbof 30 mbs at times……spotty? Dont think so…..

  9. GNuser
    February 07, 22:06 Reply

    Except that I can’t change the font without rooting and still so many apps are not working, the Galaxy Nexus is the best smartphone for me indeed :) My friends who have former Galaxy series envy me!

  10. Steve
    February 08, 06:41 Reply

    Samsung-Google galaxy nexus 
    I just got one and i am very dissapointed.
    Yes the 720p amoled screen is the best on any phone.
    The camera is average, the google maps and earth with multitouch is good.

    Whats Bad then.
    The phone speaker volume is pathetic even on highest settings – forget about using it hands free, and if you want to hear it ring don’t walk into another room. !

    You can’t transfer files between it and pc as It does not support usb mass storage emulation. This is the year 2012 usb storage has been around for over 10 years and they dont support it !. This means it will not operate with  devices like playstation, media players, Media TV’s or MAC. Instead you need to get special software for your pc this may come with windows 7 if you have new PC. There is no micro SD card slot on this phone so you cant transfer files that way either.

    It has MASSIVE Privacy issues as the calendar refuses to work unless you have a gmail sync account yes your calendar is practically being made public ! someone else said “Android is to allow Google to send you ads and monetize your personal information. Everything else is a far distant second.”

    The Device encryption feature fails to work and after waiting an hour for the process to complete it turns the phone into an emergency only mode device the unlock failes to work and the only way out is a hard reset loosing all data and settings. !

    The downloadable apps and games i tried are mostly poorly written so what if there are 400000 of them the good ones are almost non existant, of the 30 something versions of tetris for example most are poorly designed and almost 

    every application i saw is jam packed with addware.
    The google book reader and others i tried are are useless unless you happen to have magnifying glass as none  

    support the multitouch pinch to zoom, pann or scroll in fact the only thing they can do is change pages which all are written in a font so small it can’t be legible to many people. As for multi touch games virtually non existant from what I have seen.

    The incuded headphones simply are a joke only way to keep them in your ears is by continually holding them with your hands or they fall right out.  

    The data entry screen uses an amoled power sapping white background when it’s not even necessary and no way to fix. , and battery life is poor.

    Data entry is inaccurate as the buttons are too small and there seems to be no predictive data entry capability even my 6 year old samsung flipout does better. In sideways orientation the keys are bigger but any error and the correction editing features are not very good with cursor movement is poorly designed and font so small you cant position to edit easily.

    The youtube feature does not reliably maximise to full screen mode and sometimes uses far less for no apparent reason and thats in sideways mode – what is the point of a big screen when the view won’t use it fully.

    The phone also seems to lock or turn it’s self off spontaneously ?
    It’s sides are quite slipery so you really need two hands to use it properly or will risk it sliding away, though some kind of gripable sleive may help with that at least.

    The high res screen is good but they have failed to make the bios system fonts larger so i end up with eye strain in the bios reset mode and some people would probably need a magnifying glass to read it.

    The font setting to large font does not seem to affect the apps including the apps store it’s self so the high res screen can makes it very difficult to read in some cases.

    The operating system soft buttons steal some of the screen width which i would have prefered to be able to swipe hide and use the full screen.

    Update:
    I also found out after just a few days the deceptively named “gorilla” glass front on the galaxy nexus is actually as thin and fragile as an egg shell and a minor drop under 30cm in my case lead to a progressive cracking of the entire screen from one corner. In fact the case is designed such that cracking of the glass is almost guaranteed to occur as it comes right to the very edge of the case. WTF why glass not polycarbonate is a complete mystery to me this is a massive design flaw – a phone as delicate as an egg. ? 

    You want a phone which works this aint it.

    • Trob6969
      February 09, 11:39 Reply

      Yeah, the galaxy nexus is WAY overrated. Ignore the hype and do some research and its clear to see that the htc rezound is the most powerful phone on the market. I don’t know why htc chose to promote its ‘beats’ audio and not even mention that it has some industry-leading standout features. For example: IT has the best display on the market, infact it was the FIRST to have a 720p HD display AND with a pixel density of 342ppi its the ONLY phone that beats apple’s coveted retina display! And it does it with a 4.3″ screen! It was FIRST to have a 1.5ghz dual-core, it records video in slow-motion, and most people don’t know that sense 3.5 not only DOESN’T slow the phone down but actually have some features that are better than ics!

      • SGN001
        February 10, 00:28 Reply

        you seem bitter that you chose the rezound and want to make yourself feel better about not having a nexus… calm down buddy

    • Steve
      June 25, 19:05 Reply

      Anybody who types like that is an idiot.

  11. Jayesh123
    February 09, 00:55 Reply

    I wish SGN had 8 MP camera…rest sounds good, looking forward for its release in India.

  12. Mimz
    February 10, 09:02 Reply

    Does whatsapp work on that phone?

  13. Sam Boycott
    February 22, 02:54 Reply

    Recently released but look wise the same dirty and cheap looks, the same cheap plastic body. Rear camera design, looks and fitting also the same.
    I have practically experienced this phone and let me say that every Nexus has WIFI problems, try and experience one or refer to any user of this disgusting phone.
    i mean samsung is releasing 10 new handsets every month with identical names and designs, technology do not have any meaning in these phones and the design is sme very dull.
    oh god i hate samsung ads and phones. they are distracting me a lot.

  14. Ahmed Darwish
    February 26, 03:51 Reply

     I WANT TO BUY THIS AMAZING PHONE, BUT THE PROBLEM THAT IT DOES NOT SUPPORT ARABIC LANGUAGE. ONCE THE ARABIC ENABLED S/W IS RELEASED, IT WILL BE MINE GOD WILLING.

  15. Nath
    February 26, 19:17 Reply

    You make me regret for not getting this phone :(

  16. JohnPA2006
    June 10, 19:27 Reply

    Excellent phone, it eats battery like mofo, if you get this phone, even with the 2100mAh extended battery you will still need to recharge it twice a day easily.
    I got the 3800mAh battery off amazon, and been using it a few days now.
    It lasts a entire day easily. 1 full charge each night. And it didnt add that much bulk as I thought it would.
    I can enjoy this huge screen and browse all i want while having plenty of power left to make it through the day.
    Honestly it should come with the 2100 or 3800mAh batteries.
    The 1850 it comes with in the box is a joke.

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