All Hail the Galaxy Nexus

The Galaxy Nexus is totes “1337”

So Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and the Galaxy Nexus have finally arrived. It has taken a while (and taken me some major wrangling w/ VZW to get one) but I have it in my hands, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

I don’t wish to review Android 4.0, but rather talk about the Galaxy Nexus itself. It is an excellent looking device, reminiscent of the iPhone 3G in it’s form, but without the “home” button. There are no buttons on the screen, but rather digital ones that pop up as you navigate. Google started this with Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) and has carried it on. It takes some getting used to, but will probably offer more good for the most amount of people. Likewise, Google has all but done away with the “menu” button (my favorite Android button) to make options “easier to discover.” I’m not opposed to making discovery easier, but the haphazard way the menu button is used in ICS is more than a little troubling. I’ll be jumping on the first ROM that offers re-structuring of the buttons, but that’s just me.

The Galaxy Nexus is a very interesting looking phone. The huge (4.65″) screen dominates the face, it is extremely slim, but for the bottom bump. In the rounded corners, and bottom bump, it is almost the polar opposite of the Droid RAZR – which is not necessarily a bad thing. The Nexus feels great in my hands (which are big – unlike all the small hands but still in denial reviewers on the net), and is easy to operate with one hand. It is confusing though, because you never know where that darn MENU button is! The optional extended battery (which VZW had for just $24.99 last week) fills out the back of the device, and makes it almost more comfortable (I’m not one to whinge over a few grams here and there). The charging slot and headphone jack are both on the bottom, and the charging slot is actually MHL. MHL allows you to run HDMI and microUSB charging at the same time, with an optional $20 dongle. I am virulently against dongles, but because it is standardized, it gets a slight break in my mind.

The hardware is solid, headlined by the TI OMAP 4460 1.2GHz dual-core processor. Coupled with 1GB of RAM and 32GB (28GB available) of storage, the Nexus is a powerful device. The 5MP camera has been bemoaned by many reviewers, but I find it good enough for me (a non-picturey guy), plus it’s definitely good enough for TwitPic/Facebook. The camera app is definitely improved over any other Android implementation (I’ve tried them all) and allows you to crop and more (not always available without a 3rd party app.

The screen is BIG, and BIG. It’s hard to explain how big it gets, but it looks awesome. YouTube and Netflix come in amazing (especially HD content) and the soft buttons shrink away to offer you more real estate. The screen isn’t ALWAYS 4.65″ due to the buttons, but it just feels bigger (also because of the increased pixel count). It’s easy to see why 720p is the new smartphone standard – it plain looks good. Underneath the display is something that Samsung phones have lacked for a while – the LED notification. I got used to this with BlackBerry and HTC, and really missed it. It’s a little touch that goes a long way.

The Nexus comes with a decent pair of headphones with microphone, but lackluster speaker(phone) capabilities. While calls are certainly clear, the speaker definitely leaves a lot to wish for. I like the included headset – it definitely is a nice touch for first time smartphone buyers (are there any left not in my family?) and are going to be my go-to gym earphones.

The Galaxy Nexus story is bigger than ICS

The speed of the phone is good. It is quick, some apps don’t play as well as others, but the CPU and GPU offer a strong, capable pairing. As I’ve mentioned before, there is no standardization of the “menu” option – it doesn’t exist on a lot of screens/apps, so there is a learning curve for those Android veterans out there.

What I like:

This phone is definitely the “Phone to Rule all other Phones” (Android or otherwise). It’s fast, well-shaped, and capable. ICS offers Android advanced capabilities alongside ease of use, with a small learning curve for both new and veteran users. As the “flagship” Android device right now, it will certainly receive a ton of developer support. As a device in your hand, it feels great and gives you a little something to show off – to everyone. Also, 2 updates within 2 weeks is AWESOME. They don’t reset the phone and improve usability – you can’t complain about that.

  • Game changing device, plain and simple.
  • First ICS device – Android done up pretty
  • Blazing LTE modem
  • Easy to use
  • Not too hard on battery (but you definitely want more than one)
  • Lots of developer support (come on CM9!!!), source code already released!
  • Some good accessories already – hopefully lots more to come
  • Bootloader unlockable!
  • All Android customizations are possible

What I don’t like:

The lack of removeable media is a little different – and takes getting used to. I don’t think removeable media necessary in devices anymore, and Samsung gives you plenty (w/ 32GB) but what am I to do with all these microUSB cards I’ve collected? The Google Wallet issue is certainly troubling – VZW and Google need to stop butting heads and make this a true Google experience device.

  • Difficult to root (not impossible, but did take over an hour – requires adb…SCARY!!!)
  • Google/Verizon need to work out differences
  • Might not work for baby hands (but worth a shot)

The only real reason not to buy this phone is Verizon. I was able to hop on before their (RIDICULOUS) tiered pricing plans, but you might not be as fortunate. Right now they are still offering double data (4GB for $30 a month), but that really isn’t great. The mobile data explosion will be coming soon, and Verizon is hoping to get everyone by the short hairs. Also, the Verizon/Google cat-fight needs sorting.

However, buying the GSM version right now isn’t a great idea for the US consumer. Not only do you pay an extreme surcharge ($750 and up incl shipping), but you do not get LTE. Much as I don’t think the iPhone 4S is a good purchase without LTE (especially on VZW’s CDMA network), I am hard-pressed to suggest buying any phone that is not also LTE. AT&T is rolling out their LTE services (as well their devices) so until there is a GSM LTE Nexus, I would advise waiting.

In my opinion, if you’re not on VZW, just wait. While I love ROMs and the Galaxy S II line will certainly get their share, I find it important to have at least the base Android version of the ROM be supported. All networks will soon be on LTE, and if you buy a phone without it, you are going to find yourself spending for a new phone shortly – or with serious buyer’s remorse.

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