Do the Galaxy Nexus and Ice Cream Sandwich live up to the hype?Taylor Martin - Member
So there you have it, folks. We've been grabbing at anything and everything for clues as to what "BIG" features the upcoming Nexus would entail. After months of rumored names and specs, the Galaxy Nexus was made official roughly 30 minutes prior to Samsung taking the stage. But we were still in the dark on some aspects. And to be honest, we still are.
First and foremost, the Galaxy Nexus touts Android's latest and greatest update, Ice Cream Sandwich. No surprise there. On top of that, it sports a 4.65-inch HD Super AMOLED 720p display (which I can't wait to get my filthy paws on), 1.2GHz TI OMAP4460 dual-core processor, LTE or HSPA+ connectivity, a 8.94mm thick chassis, 1GB RAM, 16 or 32GB built-in storage, NFC, compass, barometer and a 5-megapixel camera with 1080p video recording.
The first thing I expect to hear from a lot of you is, "Why does it only have a 5-megapixel camera?" To which I will say, megapixels only count for so much. Without a decent lens, it doesn't matter how many megapixels you cram into the picture. The iPhone 4 and 4S are a testament to that. The key feature here is "zero shutter lag." You can snap pictures back to back, instantly, without waiting on the shutter, and the Camera app is now available from the home screen. The video samples shown appeared to be great, but still quality is still in question.
As for the rest, there's a lot to digest, so Google broke it down to four categories: speed, screen, design and OS.
When it comes to speed, the Galaxy Nexus comes with either HSPA+ (pentaband) or LTE connectivity. There was no official statement on which carriers the Nexus will be headed to, but we're all but certain it's headed to Verizon, and since it has HSPA+ connectivity, either AT&T or T-Mobile (or both) are eligible. Sorry, Sprint. No Nexus for you ... yet.
The display ... is amazing. Some may feel that 4.65-inches is a bit much, but it's also worth considering that since the software no longer requires physical buttons and said buttons have since been replaced with software counterparts, the device itself is hardly larger than any 4.3-inch phone. The display is of HD (1280 by 720 pixels) Super AMOLED type and is contoured, much like that of the Nexus S. This super high resolution puts the display at a rating of 330ppi. I think it speaks for itself – this is the highlight of the device, in terms of hardware.
When it comes to design, the Galaxy Nexus looks a lot like its predecessor, just a lot more classy. It was said that the HSPA+ version is only 8.94mm thick, which leaves the dimensions of the LTE version to question. As we have seen that the DROID RAZR is LTE compatible and only 7.1mm thick, it's entirely possible that the LTE Galaxy Nexus is roughly the same size as the HSPA+ version and it was just misspoken on stage. It will be interesting to see how the LTE radio affects the design. As I use both T-Mobile and Verizon, this could be the deciding factor between which one I buy.
To be honest, I'm a bit indifferent about the hardware. Maybe it's because of all of the leaks and pictures I've seen – I pretty much knew what to expect. The display is going to be fantastic, no question about it. But I fear that the camera, which is a huge make-or-break feature for me, will live in the shadow of the iPhone 4S camera I've been toying with for several days now. They definitely focused on the speed of the camera, but how much attention did they give to the lens? There is also no slot for external memory, and the battery capacity is lower than what I was hoping. Also, the battery cover is made of Hyperskin, a soft-touch surface, not the metal I was looking forward to. Either way, I want to get this phone in my hands before I draw any more conclusions.
Google really focused on software during the announcement, as ICS is a major OS update. Some of the key changes in Ice Cream Sandwich are:
- A redesigned camera application with panorama mode and zero shutter lag
- Roboto - a new typeface throughout the Android system
- A native screenshot function (power + volume down)
- Face Unlock (facial recognition to unlock your phone)
- Android Beam (the ability to share content between Android phones using NFC)
- Improved multitasking, notifications, Wi-Fi hotspot and Web browsing
- People app with Google+ integration
- Tight Google Voice integration
I'm just going to get it out of the way: Android just graduated to "Big Boy" status. It no longer looks like beta software, and Ice Cream Sandwich could be just the thing to end my growing annoyance with Android. The UI now looks fantastic, and everything seems to match and flow better than before.
The biggest improvement came in the form of a UI redesign. It brings many elements of Honeycomb to phones (just like Schmidt said it would), and appears to be less rough around the edges. The App drawer has changed, and I'm not particularly fond of it, but it may be something that will grow on me with time. I'm really digging the Gallery and People app with their magazine-like interfaces.
Something that has needed to be changed for a long time was Android's multitasking feature. The same implementation from Honeycomb has been added to phones via a dedicated on-screen button, and the ability to kill applications by throwing away previews (much like tossing cards away in webOS) has been added. The same "throw away" capability has been added to the notification shade, too. A nice touch, but nothing I haven't seen before in various custom ROMs like CyanogenMod.
One of the most useful additions is the built-in data usage tracker, which is located in the Settings app. You have the ability to monitor and set a cut-off for your data usage. This will prove to be very useful in a world where unlimited data is a thing of the past.
Android Beam and Face Unlock are also some very notable features. I've long awaited the functionality of sharing content via NFC, and Google has delivered at long last. Not everyone will be on board for NFC as a payment option, but sharing applications, websites and more (pictures, maybe?) by touching your phones together is sure to be welcomed by all. And Face Unlock? The ability to unlock your phone by letting it identify your face is more or less a gimmick, but it's cool and futuristic, nonetheless. Hey, at least my front facing camera might actually be used now.
All in all, I am totally impressed with the updates and changes in Ice Cream Sandwich. I'm actually excited over Android again, which says a lot in itself; it's been a while since I've been truly excited over anything Android-related. The Galaxy Nexus isn't quite as game-changing as I had hoped it would be, but quite honestly, it doesn't need to be. My only real concern at this point is camera quality. The 720p Super AMOLED display, decent battery size and dual-core processor should keep me contained.
How about you, ladies and gents? Were you underwhelmed by the announcements at all? Or are you ready for your Galaxy Nexus already? What do you think about the changes in Ice Cream Sandwich? Give us your thoughts below!
Image via This is my next