It’s tough to only have half of an hour with a device yet try to develop unbreakable opinions. However, with the short time I spent with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, I’ve come to some pretty confident (and personal) conclusions about both the device itself and the brand new Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich platform on which the phone runs.
I’ll preface my detailed impressions with my main takeaways:
- The hardware is great, but doesn’t have any killer features that blow the competition out of the water
- The most significant changes are on the software side with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
- Overall I love the hardware, software, and combination, but I don’t think the hardware improvements were enough and in some ways felt the software features were too much.
Allow me to explain: let’s start with the hardware.
Galaxy Nexus: Hardware Hands-On
The Galaxy Nexus definitely competes with other top-of-the-line Android Phones in the spec category, but the majority of improvements are incremental in nature. Think of it as a bigger and better version of the Nexus S and you’re on the right track.
The display is nothing short of gorgeous: it’s a 4.65-inch HD Super AMOLED screen with an astounding 1280 by 720 pixel resolution. Powered by a 1.2GHz dual core processor, the Galaxy Nexus also has 1GB RAM and either 16GB or 32GB of internal memory depending on the model. An odd choice (again) not to include a MicroSD slot, but I assume this reiterates the movement of data to “the cloud”. All this fits into an extremely thin frame at only 8.94mm thick and weighing 135 grams.
With a 5MP rear camera (with LED flash, auto-focus) and 1.3MP front-facing camera, Samsung didn’t improve the camera spec most consumers compare, but perhaps they didn’t need to: the 5MP Samsung mobile camera is arguably the best mobile phone camera on the market. On the Galaxy Nexus it also records 1080p HD video at 30fps. The REAL improvements for the camera come on the software side. We’ll get there.
Other typical smartphone features included are 3.5mm headset jack, Bluetooth 3.0, USB 2.0, Wi-Fi, Accelerometer, Compass, Gyro, Light sensor, Proximity sensor, Barometer, and making it’s 2nd Nexus appearance- NFC. Again, the latter of those is empowered by Android 4.0.
Don’t get us wrong… the Samsung Galaxy Nexus looks and feels like a great phone. It’s large screen is beautifully crisp and colorful. It’s extremely thin and light for all it offers. It’s got more than enough fire power to run the gun show, but the maestro of it all is Android 4.0 so let’s dive into the Ice Cream Sandwich.
Android 4.0 – Ice Cream Sandwich
Overall I like Android 4.0 and a bunch of the new features are pretty fantastic. While there is definitely a honeycombish feel, the experience is remarkably different than previous Android phones and I can’t help but think that some of it might go TOO far. But let’s start where everyone starts: turning on their phone.
I’ve already heard endless criticism about how the new “Face Unlock” lock screen could be easily manipulated and someone could break into your phone, to which I have two pretty strong counters:
- It’s listed as a low-security option that is still under development. If you’re that concerned, use the lock pattern or PIN option.
- This is more for convenience than security. If you don’t feel like dragging a complex pattern with your phone all the time, just put the phone up to your face and let the Face Unlock do the work. It might be more work now, but that’s why it’s a low-security experimental feature. In other words: see above.
Now that we’re in the phone itself, things are looking really pretty. Google is emphasizing a magazine like appearance combined with more widgets and more options in Android 4.0. Two specific features struck me as “borrowed” which I found nothing short of absolutely interesting.
- Expandable Widgets from MOTO BLUR. I’ve always liked this option and it’s now a default in Android 4.0. Could this have something to do with the recent acquisition of Motorola Mobility?
- “Cards” on the Palm Pre in WebOS. The experience of opening up “running apps” or active/recent engagements and “flicking” them left and right to get rid of them is TOTALLY WebOS but we find it here in Android 4.0 with the menu button (among other places). It was a great idea then and it’s a great idea now. It’s one reason I wish someone other than HP would have bought Palm, and sooner.
Before I jump into a boat load of awesome features included in Android 4.0, I’ve got to chime in with some slight concern/criticism you’re probably not hearing elsewhere. Anyone can regurgitate facts… but I’d also like to share my opinions and create an honest dialogue and discussion.
Android 4.0 UI & Design Updates
I love the expandable widgets and I think the “card” concept is great, but I think Google goes a little bit overboard with the “Magazine Layout” seen everywhere with huge, sprawling pictures. Compared with previous versions of Android, it seems a bit like the girl who is drop dead gorgeous without trying but wears way too much makeup and its too obvious. What happened to the eloquent simplicity? What happened to privacy?
First of all, it’s much easier to scan a text list than have postcards plastered in a grid on your screen. Second of all, what if I don’t want people nearby seeing who I’m calling or what I’m reading? Looks like those huge magazine-like contact profiles ruined it when you could see I was phoning Emma McGee from a mile away on my 4.67 inch super bright, clear, and crisp screen. DOH! This is similarly apparent in the picture gallery.
Perhaps I’m going a little overboard here or perhaps I’m nostalgic, but in my opinion, this stems from a logical progression in my dislike for the new Android Market. It too is magazine-like and I think it not only takes away grossly from the market’s ease of use, but it also reminds me of blocky Windows Phone elements. With Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, I think Google tries too hard to look pretty and it results in less functionality and ease of use – the exact staples that have made them such a successful company in the first place.
Vanilla Android No Longer So Vanilla [CHOCOLATE?]
Remember when Google’s version of “stock” Android was called “Vanilla” Android? Well it ain’t like that anymore. The experience found in Android 4.0 is so stylized and different that it can’t be thought of as “Vanilla” any more. Perhaps with Ice Cream Sandwich, Google has changed over to Chocolate. That isn’t necessarily a BAD thing; I mean, it looks awesome. But I do think smartphone newcomers and the older generation will have a harder time adapting.
In all honesty, Android 4.0 feels a little bit WebOS-ish – and I mean that in a good way – but I also mean there seems to be a bit more of a learning curve. Android enthusiasts (including me) will likely learn it, love it, and embrace it, but Android is an OS for the masses. We’ll see how the masses respond!
Time for the Good News.
Android 4.0 Camera Improvements
One of my absolute favorite features included in Android 4.0 is the camera. Whereas my whining above has more to do with UI flow and design, the camera features added in Ice Cream Sandwich should take an already awesome Samsung camera and make it… well, much more awesomer than awesome.
There isn’t a hardware camera button, but isn’t it even easier to unlock your phone directly into camera mode? Worst case scenario is that you don’t have a camera icon on your desktop so you’ve got to lock your phone and then unlock it using the camera unlock swipe. That’s still only 1 button and 1 flick.
Anyone who has used an Android phone’s camera has likely noticed a long delay in when they press the “take picture” button, when the picture focuses, when the flash goes off, when the picture finally snaps, and then when you’re able to take a new picture.
Whew- you could have said a long tongue twister in that of time! Luckily the Galaxy Nexus has zero-shutter lag meaning you press the button, it takes the picture, on to the next one. Not only does this allow you to speed up taking ONE picture but now you can also take pictures in quick succession.
I could go way in depth with additional camera features, but until our full review, perhaps you should just trust that “Time Lapse” and “Panorama Mode” both seem awesome. The latter of those, you might be happy to learn, has a start and a stop button for when the Panorama picture starts and end- no more preset/predetermined sizes which makes it a TON more flexible and useful.
Android Beam – NFC Finally Put To Work
The Samsung Nexus S also had NFC capabilities but few people have actually been able to enjoy them. Unless you’re buying a coffee at Starbucks, the number of places you can actually use an NFC enabled device are relatively few and far between. Google is trying to change and as a nice little push along they’ve developed a tool called Android Beam that lets you beam webpages, contacts, apps, games, and other interesting content directly to someone else with an NFC-enabled Android phone.
The possibilities of NFC are endless, but until it gains traction with users, it won’t gain traction with retailers, and it will seem more of a fad than anything else. Remember, to use Android Beam BOTH users will need NFC devices on Android 4.0. At this point… that means you’ll need to have the Galaxy Nexus. Sorry for yelling “Adult Swim” on the pool of people able to use Android Beam, but that’s how it is. Let’s just hope NFC becomes a default inclusion soon, just as MicroUSB and 3.5mm headset jacks have in the past couple years.
I’m more than happy with Google’s current implementation of Voice-To-Text and haven’t felt threatened or swayed by Apple’s Siri, but it was still nice to see Google advancing their technology. Or trying to, at least. Similar to Google’s “Instant Search” for Google.com on your desktop, Voice-To-Text now fills in your sentences as you speak rather than waiting until you finish, processing, and pasting.
Both Google (during their presentation) and I had (during the below video) had trouble demonstrating the new features.
Why it didn’t work for me is understandable: I was testing it out an extremely loud room under circumstances it never SHOULD have worked. But Google’s demonstration seemed to oddly replace words and jumble things up a tad bit. I’m hoping this works out fine, and I believe it will, but I’m wondering if it requires a certain data speed to accurately function or if something else is at play here.
Regardless, I’m pretty excited for this and once they get it working properly, I feel like certain tricks will be added and implemented to make composing pretty feature rich TXTs, E-Mails, and documents even easier.
Google Calendar: Pinch-To-Zoom
This is a small feature but sometimes the little things go a long way. People RELY on their calendars to organize their entire lives. Having easy and convenient access is of epic importance and the adding pinch-to-zoom in calendar view makes it that much more epic. When you zoom in and out, details of events expand and contrast to appropriately fit the screen, giving you a really good picture of what’s going on in any given hour, day, week, month, year, decade, century, or life. Okay… maybe not the last three.
GMail Offline Search
Several times I’ve been in places where internet was MIA, mobile connection was garbage, and yet I NEEDED to search my E-Mail for an important phone number, address, or something similar. Android 4.0 now backs up to 30 days (user adjustable)of data automatically, allowing you to search through your old E-Mails from the number of days you select without even needing access to the internet. Pretty remarkable and I bet you this will save a lot of people a lot of time and a lot of hassle.
Data Usage Monitoring/Managing
Just as battery life has its own discussion about what wastes the most battery, how can you find out, should you use a task killer, etc… data usage is equally important. With expensive data plans and tons of app hogging your data automatically, Google has built a tool to let your lazer focus into what is using your data, when you’ll exceed your monthly plan, what days were high usage days, and what apps used the most data that day.
The tool looks fantastic with neat histograms but unfortunately, when we tested it, not enough data existed to test anything out. Knowing you can also set special privileges and restrictions on apps based on this data is a sigh of relief.
No Buttons – One Last Cause For Concern?
One thing I have to mention is that the Galaxy Nexus has no hardware buttons but instead, software buttons that are not only built into the Galaxy Nexus but also into Android 4.0 by default. Depending on how this is handled, I think it could diminish one of Android’s most attractive qualities: options, choices, flexibility, and personal preference.
Not everyone wants software buttons. Not everyone wants them in the same place. Not everyone wants them to work the same. While I personally think they work fine on the Galaxy Nexus, I hope Google will continue to allow customizations when it comes to the primary phone navigation. Not only is it integral to daily use but it’s also incredibly personal, suggesting options are a valuable thing indeed.
The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is a fantastic phone, highlighted by a huge and beautiful display HD display encased in a sexy, curved, slender body. Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is a powerful update, including a slew of new features users are sure to love such as Zero-Lag Shutter Camera with advanced picture editing, Face Unlock, Android Beam, and deeper widget integration. The overwhelming majority who buy this phone will be completely happy with its performance.
Still… I’m left with a slight feeling of “What now?”
While the Galaxy Nexus is great indeed, I thought it might enjoy an additional trait, spec or two to set it a bit further apart from the competition. And while Android 4.0 offers some strong features, improvements, and updates, I have to wonder if the intense focus on UI and design is properly placed or entirely needed- don’t we have this whole “open” thing going on so 3rd parties can offer these highly customized alternatives?
My criticism wouldn’t normally be so squarely placed on a phone of such high caliber, but the Nexus name also puts a target on its head… it has expectations. And on the software side, it’s an indicator of where Google is leading Android, so it’s an important release in that matter too. I won’t agree with everything they do, obviously, because personal preference is at the core of opinions. But on the same token, I hope Google continues to embrace personal preference in the OS related decisions they make and directions they head.
With all that being said, either the Galaxy Nexus or Droid RAZR will be my next phone. They are both amazing phones. But more on that comparison later.
Please note: we’re still awaiting word on a few details for inclusion in this article. Stay tuned for both updates here and for our full review.
Great review!! some sites are talking LTE version of phone will be a “little” thicker…any word? My DX is 9mm thick at thinnest point…also, when will vzw make announcement?!
it says right on the sheet 4.65 where are you getting 4.67? Also it says 16/32gb internal where does it say anything about microsd or expandable memory???
One thing I noticed during the presentation is that he said “The HSPA+ device is only 8.94 mm thick.” Makes me wonder how much thicker the LTE version will be.
Very thorough review. Thank-you.
I feel the UI doesn’t go far enough if anything. It still looks a bit amateur.
I wouldn’t worry about it not being Vanilla: It’s just as easy to replace a blue icon as a green one.
I feel the UI is fine…the homescreen leaves a lot to be desired…I also feel this UI would work better with a lighter BG though.
While I do agree I would have liked to have seen greater hardware specs, to say it is an incremental increase over another phone which just came out (and small incremental period of time ago), seems a little bit of a, well, light criticism.
Otherwise, a very nice review of the device. I am still leaning toward this over the RAZR. Still waiting to see the new HTC phone…
Im not that excited. Not for $300. They are going backwards with these phones if you ask me. Internal batteries and no SD slots. What is this an Iphone?
@Jason, it has a removable battery…and nothing yet was said about the SD slot (let’s hope there is!!)
Where did you get the info about the removable battery? I just ask because if someone removed the battery cover they should have been able to see where the the sd card slot would be if it exists.
Looking at those pictures, it looks like that there is a SD card slot right next to the camera.
That looks like a sim card slot.
I’d say that’s a SIM card. SD cards have the corner notch on the other side.
But I do think theres a chance that the slot under the battery could be an sd card slot. Or a finder hold to remove the battery.
In the article it states no SD card slot. The battery, I guess I was referring to the new Moto Razr. That sucks.
From the article: “Powered by a 1.2GHz dual core processor, the Galaxy Nexus also has 1GB RAM and either 16GB or 32GB of internal memory depending on the model. An odd choice (again) not to include a MicroSD slot, but I assume this reiterates the movement of data to “the cloud”.”
Oh my goodness 1750mah battery? 1600mah in my Charge they really need to get some new technology on these batteries.
$300 must be the price for the 32gb. Im thinking/hoping the 16gb version is going to be 50-100 bucks less
As for the $300, Verizon has been charging that for the Bionic and before that the Charge. $300 on Verizon for this for will be an absolute steal in comparison.
Cannot wait to get rid of my og droid for this!
Has your power button died yet? Mine did in August, and I was all set to get a Tbolt.
But then I heard about some crazy phone with a 720p display and decided I wouldn’t settle for anything less! :D
Rob, you’re making it seem like you have to choose between the Nexus and RAZR. We all know you’ll end up with both! lol
awesome review, btw. now we need some release/order dates w/ prices!
Hahaha… I will choose one or the other to buy for myself. I really need some extensive hands-on time with each to see which I prefer as they’ve both got some advantages/disadvantages.
I think one thing to know is: with these two phones, you probably can’t make the wrong decision.
IMO, i was completely for the Nexus until Moto pulled 1 trick of their hat – the structural design. I was blown away by the attention to detail on a slim phone to be light, rigid, AND splash proof. Especially having a lil one around that loves gadgets.
I like the Droid RAZR more. But we will see when I play with them which I get.
Oh well, as the hands-on video indicated, this phone will have the same Fisher Price plastic build quality as previous Samsung phones. What irks me, is that that is the only thing that I don’t like about this device. I don’t understand why the feel of cheap plastic is ok. I want a high end feel, like Apple and Motorola put into their phones.
To each his own. I love the feel of Samsung phones. Moto/HTC metal phones feel cold and heavy to me.
Only the back is made of plastic, if that helps. The rest is metal and glass.
Google search “iPhone4S dropped from 3 feet” and watch the glass shatter. I want a sense of durability from a phone. Motorola does a good job on build but they’ve dropped the ball with other consumer wants/needs.
I used to feel the same way, so I understand how you feel. However, I have recently changed my thinking on this one. While I like the feel of a “solid” phone with some weight to it (HTC)…my biggest concern in the thought process actually comes from the fact that I want the phone to be of quality construction and be durable. I want a phone that’s “built to last” or “built like a brick $#!t-house”. Believe me…I get it. The reality is…lighter phones don’t necessarily mean cheaper or flimsy-er. As a matter of fact..lets look at how Samsung’s light plastic phone stands up to the solid feeling iphone 4s…
as tested by squaretrade; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elKxgsrJFhw
Gorilla glass in a light case = durable where it counts IMO. As long as it can take some punishment and still keep on keepin’ on…I’m in.
I just hope that with all of the bells and whistles that Google has included, that this will lead to the death of OEM custom UI skins. Long live vanilla (chocolate?)!
As far as ICS I think that Google is trying to solve fragmentation with ICS. I must say they will have to turn off the software buttons if a device has hardware buttons in use. I don’t want 2 home buttons and 2 back buttons. This is the customization that must be required. Anyway, I agree that we want a very intuitive base that ICS will provide and remove a lot of OEM custom skins.
Well if you’ve seen the video of the Nexus S that shipped with ICS then you’ll see the screen buttons don’t appear. Hardware buttons are supported.
I’m not a fan of OEM skins but it seems like we’ve gone down a bit of a winding road on this issue. Custom UI’s like HTC Sense were praised and it offers a point of differentiation for OEMs/Carriers. Now… it almost seems like Android ICS is a custom skin itself!
I suppose I’d return to the idea that “Vanilla Android” doesn’t seem so vanilla anymore. And you know what? Maybe that’s a great thing. Maybe I’ll spend a week with the phone and my tone will COMPLETELY change. It’s very possible.
That’s a good thing. I use the Sensation right now and can tell you first hand how it is always causing issues almost like it wants to take over Gingerbread. Alot of wasted memory is used on these OEM skins. The sad part is that HTC likes to say “you can’t use any other skins except Sense” and that my friend is where we have a problem.
Strawberry? Clean but flavorful to the masses, unless you’re allergic?
Great review, after owning a Nexus S, I’m definitely not worried about the hardware. Sure it doesn’t have the most amazing specs ever, but it will perform more than well enough. Especially with hardware acceleration. :) I can’t wait to buy it.
Exactly, one thing Apple has taught us is that its not the size of the hardware, it’s all in how you meld the hardware and software.
Google is doing just that with the Nexus line. Foregoing the need for overwhelming specs with the utmost optimization.
Apparently no microSD. Makes me doubt my drive to purchase this phone. While all the other features are amazing, I still like having my 32GB microSD card. We will see.
same here i was going to purchase this beast but there’s no sd card slot again??? i’m very disappointed… i just bought a 32gb microsd card too so i guess i’m gonna go with SGS 2 instead of this… big big big disappointment
It says upgradeable to 32GB… that must mean something.
When do you actually remove your microSD from your phone? I have NEVER removed mine from my thunderbolt yet.
the only time i ever removed my microSD card was when my OG Droid needed to be replaced, and i put it in my D2. i’d like the ability to do it if i wanted to, but it’s unlikely i will need to. i’d like more info on the 16gb/32gb options. i personally have no problem paying more for a 32gb, so long as it is available to me.
Most of the time I removed the Sd card from my G2 when I was flashing roms or removed the PCimg so I can get into recovery.
I tend to agree. I thought, “Wait what? No MicroSD?” but I don’t ever remove the MicroSD in the first place and with more cloud computing and NFC involvement, it’ll be even less apparent the feature doesn’t exist.
I used to carry two SD cards over the summer, i went on a mont vacation and i filmed every singleee moment. the swappable sd card option was a must.
Agreed. The cost of a 32gb phone is usually crazy high. i prefer to get a 16gb phone and expand it
expand to 48GB for less monay
I have an app that automatically syncs my SD card with a folder on my hard drive every time I get within wi-fi range of my computer…. Since using that app – I have NEVER pulled my SD card from my device. The only real reason I would want an SD card now – would be because I don’t like the idea of paying for that extra memory as I can’t take it with me to the next device – like I can with the SD Card. This setup is the equivalent of forcing us to purchase extra memory with every device purchase.
What’s the name of this app, and what OSes/network drive types does it work with?
Great coverage, Rob.
As for your criticism of the UI perhaps going too far, I think this is Google’s attempt to really reduce the fragmentation Android has faced. This is supposed to be one Android for all and, personally, I think it’s a step in the right direction for the OS. I find the magazine style, that is kept uniform throughout the OS, actually pleasing. Someone like my mom may find the phone easier to use. This is the “polish” that Android has been lacking compared to iOS. Perhaps this will discourage (unlikely) phone manufacturers from creating these resource-heavy skins to put over Android making every phone seem different. I think that’s the point, really. It’s no longer Vanilla, but it’s more appealing to the masses. Same goes for the lack of hardware buttons. Pick three random Android phones right now and you’re likely to find a different order to the bottom buttons. Not a big deal if you’re used to each manufacturer’s preference, but the average consumer would rather have the layout stay familiar.
Anyway, overall I think ICS looks fantastic and is a pretty big step for Android. The future is looking bright.
You make a good point. I think if you look at this phone in terms of purely it’s unification of tablet and phone than it rubs off on you a little bit better. That’s the purpose of ICS and it’s definitely more tabletty and magaziney of an experience… I just felt – for a phone – it’s a little too much.
I no longer have a reason to buy a tablet with these capabilities :D
Great review, makes you really think :D i enjoy your review the best of any i have seen.
We’re pushing the 5.0 inch-screen boundary (which we found out from the Galaxy S #1, apparently means legitimate tablet, running Android 2.2 Fro… [I can’t do this, it’s just too damn funny. XD HAHAHAHA]) No, but seriously, it feels more tabletty as well due to the huge-ass screen. 5.0 is too much.
Rob, you wrote up a well rounded piece on this bad boy. But I do feel like you were holding back in order to not come off as too biased. My question is why? There isn’t one phone out there right now that can touch this phone, both in hardware and software.
Don’t be afraid to indulge and rub it in to the nay sayers especially when something like this comes out on the market. Apple doesn’t even come close. Their problem is that they can’t admit it, and they probably still think Android copied them, even though everyone always copies everyone in this biz (hint: notification bar anyone?) (they’ll take that ‘we were copied’ bs to the grave with them like Jobs did)
The UI overhaul might help with “fragmentation” issue, if the manufacturer feel that ics ui is good enough and they don’t need to make so much change to it, we will get updates to the latest os alot faster.
Wrong. They won’t be able to sell enough phones to justify making them if they aren’t different enough.
Which is funny considering the # of us that badly want the stock UI/experience/updates and consider a Nexus primarily for that reason.
among google fans, certainly. But it is not representative of the whole market.
I think wakkoman is right : OEM need to differenciate themselves. But i also think that with the level of quality of android 4 ui, OEM should mainly change little things like the buttons appearances and add their apps to add value to the phone.
I love this entire discussion thread guys. This is the inner debate at the core of my “first impressions” and was excited to see you discussing it here. I’d love to see a discussion like this expanded and debated, including OEMs, Carriers, Google, and see where it will lead Android.
no more 3rd party crappy ui’s..pur android…..!
As much as I’d love to agree with you, that won’t happen for 2 reasons:
1) The various hardware manufacturers value their own “unique appeal” they put on Android by slapping their unnecessary UI overlay bull$#1+ and bloatware packages on them. They believe (perhaps rightly so; after all most people aren’t too bright) that people actually want such things.
2) The various hardware manufacturers have dumped WAY too much money into R&D on their unnecessary UI overlay bull$#1+ and bloatware packages to just drop them. They would never be able to justify it to their investors. So they won’t. “You put how many millions of dollars into developing Sense? And now you want to just abandon it?” See? Not gonna happen.
ah but that’s the kicker. there’s actually a term in accounting/economics called sunk costs, which means costs that were incurred in the past. sunk costs are irrelevant to a business’s current decision making since the costs were already incurred in the past, and as such should be ignored/not taken into consideration. in fact, iirc most costs (such as r&d) are expensed in the period they were incurred, so they’ve already affected profits (hooray for applying knowledge learned in school! lol)
Is the battery user replaceable? Also, how are you supposed to access the menu in older apps built for phones with menu buttons?
Same as with Honeycomb, I’m sure a Menu button will pop up on the software buttons.
Yes, the battery is replaceable.
I’m still gonna get this phone…but I feel they have gotten uglier over time. The Nexus One was by far the best looking device. The Samsung made Nexus phones are ugly. Just pure ugly. And I’m hoping that 1.2 dual processor is an Exynos and not an OMAP. The fact they’re not saying what it is has got a me a bit concerend here.
Agreed. I will stick with the Nexus line and get this as well, but I was really hoping that HTC was going to make this year’s Nexus. At least the colored notification LED is back.
I couldn’t disagree more, I never liked the look of the Nexus One, I don’t think HTC got their design’s right until the Desire HD (in the UK at least, the Evo looked decent in the US).
The Nexus S was a big improvement, but still let down by it’s plasticy case. The Galaxy Nexus looks perfect to me, elegant but rugged. I wouldn’t change a thing about it.
Could the UI changes have something to do with Apple suing every Android manufacturer out there? Just wondering.
Great review! It’ll be interesting to see how the software buttons are handled on upgraded devices that use hard/soft hardware buttons, I would guess these will be configurable and more of a feature for the Nexus!
The storage “issue” doesn’t concern me from a capacity perspective but if this becomes the norm it could make it more difficult to unlock/root phones. I had to create and use a “gold card” to root my DesireHD!
Great point!! I never even considered what the upgrade might do to phones with physical buttons…maybe there will be an option to disable the new buttons on older devices ICS 4.0.-1
Samsung Nexus one… Made by HTC!
Great overview. Thanks for that. I understand your concerns, but for me, this is my next phone. Everything that has been outlined is perfect for me.
This will be my next phone. Support straight from Google for updates and solid quality. Of course I will still wait till I can handle one in the stores. Waiting to see whats up with the barometer and the 3 pins for docking. I am sure they are for charging. As with my OG Droid dock its kind of hard in the dark to get the USB plug to plug up right. With the pins you just set it in on the contacts.
I am waiting to choose between three phones… Galaxy Nexus, Razr or Rezound. The Galaxy Nexus, I believe, is light on the specs side. No micro SD? Razr is what the Bionic should have been. But no removable battery! Having no expandable memory and not being able to replace battery are two big no no’s to me. Sounds awfully like fruit phone direction. Then the Rezound, hopefully we will be getting confirmed specs soon so I can make a decision.
As for ICS, it looks good. I would like it to be on my phone. I believe that Razr and the Rezound will be getting ICS update fairly soon. What are everyone’s thoughts?
If you start bootlooping or frozen with the RAZR, what do you do?
My guess is there will be a reset button you push with a paperclip or something like that.
No removable battery is okay if the battery life is improved. 32gb memory should be enough for me personally as most of my music is in the cloud anyway. I stream most movies and videos and 16/32gb of storage should be more than enough for me to put on a few movies and songs for when i cant stream.
What advantage does the droid razr even have? I admit its a power house just like SG2 but I am afraid of lack of ICS, and HD screen.
Agreed, I don’t understand all the people clamoring for the RAZR because the G-Nex specs “didn’t blow them out of the water”…the G-Nex has just as good specs (better in some ways) as the RAZR, plus the brand new operating system that the RAZR will have to wait months for. So why get the RAZR instead?
I really do love the build quality and look of the Razr. The OS, pure Google, and removable battery are probably the only reasons I would prefer the G-Nex over the Razr.
Neither phone has “better” specs, just different specs, and it probably depends on how you value different criteria. If you really want the latest Android OS then obviously the Galaxy Nexus wins hands down… but if that doesn’t impress you so much, then the RAZR could be a really enticing choice.
I can’t see where the RAZR necessarily has any advantages other than maybe build quality.
Sounds like you were ok with the current UI on Android. I think it is a disaster. I mean seriously, the “compose new message” button in the gmail app is hidden? Come on. This is a HUGE improvement and something that will keep Android selling strong for a long time to come. Especially now that iOS is starting to catch up on features.
I enjoy the current Android UI but I think it could certainly stand some upgrades. I really liked the font improvements and spacing in lists. But beyond that, I enjoyed the new features more than the new design. It just seemed like a little much- TOO much cosmetic differentiation. Like Google is making their own “Custom UI” in the line of Blur or Sense.
i think it looks more uniform because every galaxy nexus currently looks the same. no one has really had the time to customize it and personalize it to make it their own.
No HDMI, no SD slot, no removable battery, no mention of a notification light. Makes the Bionic seem like a good bet to fall back on once it gets ICS. But its early and as he said only spent 30 min with it,lets wait for sime real hands on time reviews and comparisons. This phobe isn’t trying to be a iPhone killer,its just trying to be the best Android experience you can get right now.
In the first video, it says on the spec sheet, “Notification LED” at the bottom of the sheet.
you can see the notification light in the event presentation from last night. They show it briefly. Green light flashing at the bottom of the phone.
Cool! I haven’t had a chance to see the presentation yet. Thanks for the heads-up!
And the LED is hidden into the cover on the bottom. Rather slick.
Locked bootloader < Unlocked bootloader.
Motorola phones should not even exist right now if you can't do anything with them.
You need to do more research
The Bionic? Seriously!? Over the RAZR, Rezound, AND Galaxy Nexus?
You have terrible taste in phones!
Plus it has a removable battery… I think you maybe are on the wrong page, this is the Samsung Galaxy Nexus page. Not the Droid Razr page.
I am OK with Android being for the geek. We have been living in a world of computers and technology for quite a few generations now and the majority of people need to learn how to use technology or they risk being left behind. If the older generations need a simple to use phone perhaps they should stick with the simpler technology like a dumb phone or other dumbed down platforms like ios.
Back in the day AOL tried to fill the need to make the internet simple and easy to use can you imagine what the internet would look like today if AOL won that battle? Everyone would have to go to AOL to get content on the internet.
Somebody was obviously jet lagged and cranky when they wrote this article.
Seemed reasonable to me. I don’t believe it came off cranky. It didn’t come off fanboyish, if thats what you mean.
Funny he is cranky
I don’t think it was cranky. I think it was fair and objective. 1.2 instead of 1.5 is understandable but disappointing. 5mp instead of 8mp is reasonable provided the camera is actually good, but it still was a disappointing spec compared to what we hoped.
As he said in the beginning, the hardware doesn’t screen “best ever”. So maybe he was just a little let down by this phone he had to fly to the land of the rising sun for.
I was actually hoping for the famous, non-fuzzy, high-quality camera Samsung always makes, but with literally 2X the megs. I completely expected a dead out of the water 10mp camera (record setting) to go with the other world records the phone temporarily holds (like screen size, resolution, HSPA+ speeds, fastest benchmark, Android 4.0) Instead of a dream fulfiller, Samsung gave us a thirst-quencher with amazing specs that were more designed around a competitive economy instead of that ever-unreachable, infinite grab for technological perfection.
land of the rising sun is japan, not hong kong.
Cranky or honest? The problem starting with nexus s was that the google phone had inferior specs compared to the galaxy s lineup. This is being continued to some degree but less than before. The nexus one was the phone that put itself into the future competition incredibly well. It would be nice if the nexus phones would be built for a 2 year window instead of a 1 year. Samsung wants to sell their phones to the masses and also make the google phone.
— When I write something positive, I’m a fanboy.
— When I write something negative, I’m a cranky geezer.
That’s why I try to ignore what people will *think* about me for what I write and instead just write what *I think* is true.
I tried to be as balanced and objective as possible. It’s an opinion… so not everyone is going to agree. But I try to make that clear as well.
You wrote a great article that expressed what you thought of the device. Don’t sweat it. This phone was nearly as hyped as the I phone 5, and when things are that hyped they can only underachieve. I cant belive how many people declared this the most amazing phone ever created based on rumors leaks etc.
Thanks for posting a good well balanced article.
cant wait for the comparison of this the Razr and the Vigo or Rezound whatever they are calling it …tough choices for me an my upgrade
I’m scared to do a Galaxy Nexus vs. Droid RAZR comparison. It’ll be a hard choice, probably a tossup depending on what you prefer, and you’re guaranteed to get slayed for your opinion lol.
well yea at this point it seems like this is where everything is going till like moto puts there crappy non motoblur skin on it …their widgets suck im sorry
hopfully HTC comes out with what their ICS sense will look like …idk im still “iffy” on ICS i like the improvements but its kinda ruling out all skins like half of the “features ” of sense are now like built in you know
Do the soft buttons disappear when viewing full screen video? More importantly, is the space for the navbar left black, or does the video actually use the entire 1280×720 screen?
They mentioned that those buttons disappear in full screen video and it uses the whole screen. I was definitely glad to hear that…
The photo gallery thumbnails are also massive, way to big on my android phone i get 5×3 but on the example shows 4×3, this will make a difference when trying to find one picture out of hundreds.
Thanks the input. Everything you didn’t like about the UI, I LOVE!! Can’t wait to get my hands on this phone!!!!
Glad you like it! UI and Design are a very personal thing… I definitely think I’ll have a lot of people disagree with me and a lot who do. Which is why Android is so powerful: customization.
Thank you Rob. I think you are seeing what I believe many people have missed when they call Android “ugly”. Android was always supposed to be Vanilla. It wasn’t supposed to intrude on the design of apps or the customizations of the carriers. It was like a kit. But now its edging towards what I didn’t like about WebOS or iOS which is that it they had too much of a personality themselves.
Now I won’t say they’ve gone too far yet. I think they may have been able to take what MS has done with WP7 and dial it back in some areas to where it makes sense on the screen size and gives you room to maneuver in your app development. Duarte actually talked about that in the conference. But I do agree that the magazine style deal directly in the OS may be a bit too much and may force all app makers to have to build apps that look like the Pulse reader. I also wonder how well that works out when you don’t have pics of all your contacts. People aren’t going to have pics of their business contacts especially. And I really don’t care for wasting space which is a problem I had with WP7.
They may also need to watch that they don’t put themselves in a position where people say well hey WP7 is pretty close in function so I’ll bounce back and forth between the two depending on what I see in features as new versions are released.
You make great points. Thanks for reading the review and commenting- glad to see I didn’t post my impressions only to find I’m on the only one thinking the same thing!
While I’m loving the look of ICS I’m thinking Google should move away from samsung for the hardware on the next nexus phone, I had come to expect a jump ahead hardware not just software with the nexus brand after the N1 and Samsung has now disappointed me, twice, … I was excited when the rumors were saying that the next nexus would have a tegra 3 processor, now that I’m seeing what the actual specs are for the Galaxy Nexus I’m a Lot less tempted to sell my Galaxy s2
Google determines the final specifications for it’s flagship “Nexus” models so Samsung is not at fault for what some may perceive to be less than stellar hardware. Furthermore Samsung produces the most advanced, innovative hardware, more so than any other smart-phone manufacture today. This is more likely why Google chose Samsung again for the 3rd Nexus instead of working with another Android handset partner. If Google really wanted the Galaxy Nexus to be technologically superior with higher-end hardware features it wouldn’t have been a problem for Samsung.
Nice article, thanks for the impressions. While I agree with your concern about Google keeping an open format, I think the changes in ICS are fantastic. I don’t think the magazine style will be forced down your throat.. a person can still choose to use widgets or not, to use the People app or not, to upload photos of contacts or not. I see the uniformity of menus and how you interact with apps as a plus. I just don’t see Google discouraging third parties from improving on their foundation, or giving users additional options though. Google rocked it!
Samsung, on the other hand, could have brought more oomph to the game. The GPU in particular is old sauce. I am sure the phone will run fine, but my point is that it’s not the most future proofed phone. And no SD slot?? That’s just dumb. Still, Nexus is where it’s at, even if it’s just because of ICS.
+1 for the Rankin/Bass Gandalf avatar.
Best movie ever(ish)!! Calling out Rankin/Bass by name, impressive good sir.
Love the name you have there..
I keep 7 movies in my Xoom at all times: 6 Star Wars movies (yes, there are 6 of them) and R/Bs The Hobbit (succinct story presentation and amazing, make that, AMAZING voice talent selections!)
That.Is.AWESOME! I purchased the soundtrack to The Hobbit … on vinyl. One of my prized possessions.
You need a Bard the Bowman avatar. “Black arrow, you’ve never failed me.. and I’ve always recovered you. I have you from my father and he from of old.” Dragonslayer. ‘Nuff said.
I think if any phone manufacturer wants to use ICS or anything beyond, they must not be allowed to use any skins. Chocolate Android from here on out. That’s what we need to do. Comon Google, please do it.
I disagree. Even though I don’t like the skins, I think the ability for manufacturers to customize Android for their users is an essential part of the android ecosystem. However, they definitely need to make stock devices (like the G-Nex) accessible for those of us who don’t want the skins and want quick updates. The powers that be have thus far done an awful job at letting users get a pure device. I hope this marks a change in that direction.
One step further…since I am paying for the phone I should always be able to unload any nonessential software I choose. And if I want a vanilla experience I should have the option on any Android phone without voiding warranty.
We have to imagine a tremendous amount from these reviews. Based on what I have seen, I have to agree though. I was expecting a homerun with this phone only to get a ground-rule double. The display alone is the reason I waited several weeks. The rest is just gravy. I will be buying the Razr, Nexus, or Rezound.
If I may weigh in…
I really think the best feature is the fact that we receive an OS that has consistent operations throughout the various core apps. The swiping (which I love being an x-webOS guy) is excellent and goes a long way to providing a more polished feel (at least from the video). I imagine this will be a more intuitive device, thus more pleasant for individuals that don’t like to feel like they are controlling an actual android.
I am very pleased with the progression from Gingerbread/Honeycomb to ICS. Hopefully my Galaxy tab 10.1 will receive the update SOON @Samsung.
No Micro SD? No thank you.
is it confirmed this is a metal built phone? Or is it just made of plastic, like the Nexus S?
Plastic all around for its build except with the back. Has a textured rubber cover like the SGSII. I’m quite disappointed in its build. Wanted something more premium feeling.
I really wished the Galaxy Nexus was made out of some more premium feeling materials, such as metal, aluminium or steel, Not gonna buy another plastic build for a phone. Sadly I’m hating myself for passing on the GN cause of the build (maybe the lack of Micro SD card). Until then, I plan to hold out til what the others show. Can’t wait til Sony Ericsson, HTC and Samsung show their next flagship ICS phones! Xperia Duo and Galaxy S III are on my top to buy list!
Really? The Samsung Galaxy SIII? Because the GS and GSII both had so much more metal, aluminum and steel in them. This has metal in it and looks very well made in my opinion.
I’ve been reading previews and hands-on of the GN. No word on any metal, steel or aluminium materials used. They said it’s solid plastic all around and isn’t a fingerprint magnet (the back has a rubber like texture like the SGSII). That’s probably why the phone is so thin and light.
Also some say, it feels cheap due to the plastic. Samsung barely uses premium build materials on their Android phones.
So is the zero shutter lag a software feature of ICS or a hardware feature that Samsung built into the camera of the Nexus? In other words, will phones like the Droid Razr eventually have the same camera capabilities of the Galaxy Nexus when they get updated to Android 4.0 (zero shutter lag, panoramic mode, time lapse, etc)
I was wondering about that too. I am guessing it involves both. The camera needs to be able to focus fast enough to support what users are trying to do.
I think Bon K is right. I think it’s largely Android 4.0 capability but the camera hardware needs to support the software side as well.
I haven’t seen much of anything said about docks or MHL or anything. I’m really hoping it has MHL for video out. A desk and car dock would be nice too. with those contact points I know they’ll have them (I saw something flashed on the show when I watched it, but it was barely spoken about)
Good article, all fair and true points.
The only thing I feel I could input is that I believe the reason why the Nexus line doesn’t push the boundaries of hardware is that if they did then other OEM’s would have to compete with that.
Google most likely doesn’t want to be a competitor to all other OEM’s.
This then gives everyone else a chance to compete for competitive advantage.
The Nexus phones are just reference device to show a snapshot (and in future, a timeline) of the current state of technology and how it is advancing.
Come on guys check out the photos on engadget please! the battery is the exact same battery that’s in every other samsung phone it’s removable….
I didn’t see anything about DLNA. Wasn’t that included in this phone?
Yes on DLNA, no mention of HDMI.
It’s comical that people are actually considering the Razr over the Galaxy Nexus. I couldn’t have been happier with everything that was announced yesterday. People that are disappointed seem to be out of tune with what’s going on with Google and the Nexus line. I can’t wait to get my hands on this phone.
Exactly. Although I’m fine with some people going with the Razr over the Nexus. That just means it’ll be much easier for me to get the Galaxy Nexus when it comes out.
The RAZR is a pretty powerful phone and has some advantages over the Nexus. They’re different phones with different advantages. It depends how you value and weight each of the factors and characteristics of the two phones in deciding which phone is right for you.
Almost like Amaze vs T-mo SGS2
On the hardware side, what do u think those pogo pins will be used for? Do you think there is any chance of a tablet dock similar to the ASUS Padfone concept?
They showed the dock.
I think this was a great article. I love when reviewers point out their concerns instead of just being cheer leaders for the device they’re looking at. ICS looks to work a lot like Honeycomb with some tweaks, from what I’ve seen so far (which is basically nothing. :-))
I appreciate that you appreciate my tone. Honesty is the best policy!
I love the UI changes and interface it looks amazing, but i am not too impressed on the hardware side. I feel as though they could’ve done better (singing in Drake’s voice lol). The 5 mega pixel camera was unexpected especially considering Samsung made the hardware and the GsII is rockin one of the best 8 mega pixel cameras of this year hands down, and the lack of Micro sd i feel was a bad move(again). but i am looking forward to CM9 for my GSII on Sprint. Been with android since Htc Hero and i’m still enjoying every minute. Can’t wait to get some of that ICS love lol
I’m with you on all you said! I don’t think this device is coming to sprint at all, sadly. Glad I went with the GS2 Epic 4g Touch. Also looking forward to CM9!
Face Unlock would never work if you have an evil twin.
I have to agree about the oversized pictures. I don’t want a humungous picture of someones head showing up on that big beautiful screen when they call or on a text thread. A little privacy goes a long way. I hope there will be a way to alter that.
Nice review Rob! One thing: you guys screwed up and posted the camera review a second time in place of the NFC review.
What would Steve Jobs do?
Do you know if this phone has gorilla glass?
I was told it does.
GOOGLE DROPPED THE BALL ON WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN A STELLAR DEVICE!!
OMAP instead of Exynos
No SD card slot
Crappy GPU that’s over 1 year old.
NO SD CARD SLOT!!! WTF!!! That’s my biggest gripe.
Google you let us down again.
I don’t disagree with you on the sd card slot(Although I still have my fingers crossed that its under the battery). But the comparing processors of differing architecture(Yes I know the OMAP and Exynos are both ARM-9) by clock speed is always misleading if not just downright wrong plus the OMAP chip is underclocked in the Gnexus. The OMAP processor is better and faster when decoding HD video and is much more efficient when it comes to multitasking. Google crafted ICS for this phone or vice versa as I am sure we will see when this thing gets put through its paces since the software is going to play the biggest role in how well things preform.
What about the GPU which is said to be over 1 year old?
First of all the GPU is overclocked to faster than it is currently in any other phone with the same GPU. Second the gpu is not much slower than that of other top of the line smart phones. 3rd the gpu must be programmed for (think tegra specialized games) meaning newer gpu’s won’t get that boost until adoption is wider. And last and definitely not least… hardware acceleration. This should have had a full 20 minutes of the keynote dedicated to it but it was only mentioned in passing.(maybe because its too geeky). I dont know what you are trying to do with your phone but faster gpu’s are really just unnecessary at this point. The next gen gpus may be able to play ps2 and xbox quality games but your battery won’t make it past the first level. Raw stats aren’t very useful if you don’t understand how they are implemented and what real world functionality is going to be.Rant over.
No sD card? If, Droid Razor is surely likely to out sell this phone.. .
How many GBs do you need? G-Nex comes in 16 & 32 GB variants.
I can see the face unlock not working too well with Asians LOL
ur a comedian
I was really looking forward to this phone and had pretty much decided I’d get it when my contract comes up at the end of this year. But I’m not so sure now. The two things that kill it for me are the lack of SD card slot and the camera.
I currently have an Inc. and love it so far. I like having the SD card because it makes it easier sometime to copy data from my computer to the phone, or vice versa; like when I can’t find the damn cable.
As far as the camera is concerned, 5MP is so 2 years ago! It should be at least 8 if not 10MP by now! I can see having a 5 on the front and an 8 on the back, but not the way it’s being implemented here.
Like I said, I had decided on getting this phone. Now….meh…no so much.
I love the Ui.. It just looks great and not boring, with great functionalities too..
The software buttons can definitely be customized, the devs would alter it to their pleasure and that’s the best thing about the software buttons!
The face unlock feature does not seem as secure i think.. I believe you can easily put up a picture of the owner in front of the phone to unlock it.. Lol.. I hope not..
About the spec/hardware… With the software being optimized for the hardware (dual core) the device won’t need those over-speced cpu (wished they used exynos though).. The gpu will do the job just fine.. The nexus device has never been about having the greatest specs, only the manufacturers aim for that along with their heavy customizations.
The camera being 5mp, yes they should have made it 8mp… Maybe they thought it was pointless being it’s a phone anyway and 5mp still takes great pix?
Great review! Only it just seems you are not used to the new OS’ UI design yet because we’ve always seen the same UI design throughout the years since the launch of android..
There is a notification led below the three led “buttons”!
Great review! Not sure how you could go with the RAZR but everyone’s needs are different. I gotta have that removable battery. The Galaxy Nexus has NFC, which will be cool to play with in time. Seems like a no brainer to be but I guess someone has to buy the RAZR. If we all wanted the same phone, life would be boring. :)
I prefer Touch Wiz
you’re the only one
Thanks for the review Rob. I have bookmarked it. Best review I have seen yet on this subject and I like the fact that it isn’t a fanboy review. I have been waiting for a phone all year. It started with the Bionic at CES. But the Bionic didn’t come out until just before the next generation of phones are about to come out. When I saw leaked pics of the Bionic and Razr side by side plus knowing the new Nexus was about to hit, I skipped on the Bionic.
Now I have to decide between the Nexus, Razr and Rezound. From my perspective, none of these phones are exactly what I want. No surprise there. I understand that there are hardware conflicts between some components. But I wish one of these phones would have had the PowerVR SGX543MP2 GPU instead of the old 540 from 2007. I really want a HDMI port but maybe the Nexus can somehow provide that through the dock. I’m going to get the Nexus first and basically audition it. If that doesn’t work out, I will opt for the Razr. The Rezound has great specs but I don’t like the look of it nor do I know when HTC will distribute a fix for their security vulnerability.
Does anyone know if most pre-ICS Android apps will run okay on ICS or not? There are a number of them I like and would like to load onto the Nexus.
Whatever people say you just can’t beat Samsung’s SuperAmoled Screens….its Hd resolution now….omg
“Data Usage Monitoring/Managing” is one of the best feature improvements. Great stuff there
Unless you’re on Sprint. :-)
hehe why is that?
No need for data usage monitoring on Sprint…at least not yet. But honestly, it is a fantastic addition for anyone on a carrier with data limits.
Ahh I see what you mean. I was thinking it would be useful for developers LOL.
because on Sprint, u get .23 Mb down….. no way ull ever go over any limit… haha
“Expandable Widgets from MOTO BLUR. I’ve always liked this option and it’s now a default in Android 4.0. Could this have something to do with the recent acquisition of Motorola Mobility?”
It’s been there since may, and I don’t believe the acquisition has happened yet, it’s just been announced.
My first ever visit to Phandroid because I’m on the very cusp of buying my first SmartPhone. I’ve actually ordered an iPhone today but having a poke around here I’m seriously considering cancelling (I’ve got 3 Androids in mind, RAZR, GS2 and GNexus).
While the GNexus looks a bit massive to me the card features taken from WebOS are very appealing because that’s the best thing about my HP TouchPad (I’m one of those lucky enough to buy one in the firesale). I know this will be ported to other phones with Android 4.0 but not sure I want to buy a different phone and then start another waiting game.
And incidentally I thought this review was incredibly well balanced: Rob is obviously a major “Fandroid”, knows his stuff and loves the phone but was able to talk about areas where he felt things had either gone too far or were not quite up to his expectations. EXACTLY how I felt when I watched the announcement the other day.
Nothing is perfect and it would be nonsense to pretend otherwise.
To be the world dominating phone we dream of it would have needed to:
1. Have a newer, faster clock-speed processor.
2. Higher MP Camera – just because the masses read that and judge it.
3. Expandable Memory.
Then it would have crushed all before it. Instead we are forced to review it alongside other offerings and pick the one that’s right for us.
The Nexus will be my next phone.
Idk about anyone else but considering ICS is a all in one phone/tablet feel….it would be nice to see Samsung/Google use those docking pins as far as a 10,9, & 7 in tablet add on that you can slide the phone in the back to have a tablet add on…its a good concept for an update