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Google's at it again.  The Android manufacturer has partnered with Samsung to release the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the newest flagship device in the "Nexus" product line.  Packing a 1.2 GHz dual-core TI OMAP CPU, it offers a 4.65-inch Super AMOLED HD 720p display, 5-megapixel camera with 1080p video recording, and perhaps most importantly, Android 4.0 - known to the tech-savvy by its codename, Ice Cream Sandwich.

My Galaxy Nexus came in on Friday, and as you would expect, I was eager to tear the box open and see the changes in Android 4.0.  Could this be the ultimate Android phone?  After spending a weekend with it, I'm pleased with some features, and underwhelmed with others:

  • Besides the curved build, the Galaxy Nexus offers the same build quality as recent Samsung Android devices - that is, pretty plasticky, with the telltale hump at the bottom of the phone.  If you prefer a lot of glass and metal, this isn't your phone (check out the HTC Amaze 4G if this applies to you).  Materials aside, it seems like a durable device that will handle a drop or two, though I'm not going to throw it down on the ground to test it.  Because it cost $800.
  • The 1.2 GHz TI OMAP processor performs pretty well, though I've noticed a few instances in the short time I've had with it where the device would hang up briefly.  It happens at random, but I see it mostly when I go to close out running apps and move the phone between portrait and landscape orientation.

  • Galaxy Nexus' 4.65-inch Super AMOLED HD 720p display works wonders, and though it has PenTile technology, it's not noticeable in comparison to other devices like the DROID BIONIC and DROID RAZR.  For the most part, the display looks great, but as my friend Chris Ziegler at The Verge pointed out, the auto-brightness settings are way too erratic, resulting in the display often being way too dark or entirely too bright at the wrong time.  I also had to turn it off because it was driving me crazy.
  • The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is the first device to ship with Android 4.0, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich.  It's a ground-up revision of the Android platform, and it looks very polished.  I notice a number of improvements immediately upon turning it on - the fonts are much more refined and smoothed, transitions are present, and core applications like Contacts and Messaging have undergone dramatic transformations for the better.  The web browsing experience is much-improved as well.  Out of all of the improvements, I'm most impressed with the subtle things; like how emails and text messages are worded in the notifications bar, the new color scheme, the revised dialer, and the Contacts menu.  It's as if Android grew up a bit.
  • Looking at it through my consumer eye, though, I see Android 4.0 as a step back from Gingerbread solely in the usability department.  Things like merging apps and widgets together into one menu serves to confuse the average customer, and the on-screen buttons may take some getting used to.  It's too soon to tell what manufacturer UIs like HTC's Sense and Samsung's TouchWiz will do to improve upon the mainstream usability, but in its present form, it's very complex.
  • I love the notification light at the bottom of the display.  It pulsates just below the on-screen buttons with the Nexus blue/green/red/yellow color scheme.  A very cool touch, Samsung!

  • Call quality has been a shining feature on the Nexus.  In all of my test calls, I was told that no background noise could be heard (go noise cancellation!), and that my voice was very clear and easy to understand.  The earpiece is nice and loud on my end also, though I would have liked to have seen a better speakerphone.  Even at full volume, it's very hard to use in a crowded room.
  • The HSPA+ (GSM) version of the Galaxy Nexus packs a 1,750 mAh battery, and while I'm still running official battery numbers, I've been disappointed.  Obviously, use varies depending on the person, but with what I consider to be "moderate use" (calling, text messaging, browsing the web, checking Twitter, and downloading apps), I can snag roughly nine hours of use before the phone powers down.  Being a Samsung device, it takes a bit longer to charge, so if you're like me and rely on those quick 20 minute charges between meetings and such, you'll want to carry a spare battery.

 

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is nice, but it's not overwhelmingly awesome like I expected it to be.  Overall, it performs well and Ice Cream Sandwich offers some nice features, but I'm surprised that it's missing some key elements that are already present in other high-end Android phones on the market.  Packing a flagship device with a 5-megapixel camera is a poor choice in an 8-megapixel world, particularly when it comes to consumer perception (I can hear the "my phone has an 8-megapixel camera, and yours has a 5-megapixel one!  Hoohah!" conversations now).  And assuming Google had a direct hand in the specifications process, why didn't they allow Samsung to use an Exynos processor - a processor that's received rave reviews from Android's developer/reviewer/nerd/everyone-that-likes-the-idea-of-stock-Android base - instead of the TI OMAP chip?

In today's crazy mobile world, it seems like two demographics are constantly at play: the nerd, hard-core, hacker, die-hard Android user; and the mainstream consumer that wants a smartphone, but wants the experience to be easy and consistent.  After working with the Galaxy Nexus for a few days, I'm concerned that the Galaxy Nexus may have alienated both groups.  The specification choices for Google's flagship device - TI OMAP processor and a less-than-adequate camera, for example - may turn off prospective die-hard Android buyers, and the stock Ice Cream Sandwich experience may push beginner and intermediate users over to something easier to use, like the Motorola DROID RAZR or Samsung Galaxy S II.

I like Ice Cream Sandwich.  It's a much more polished, clean version of Android that's still geeky.  And that's cool, because I'm a nerd and I like those things.  But it's not cool for my aunt who just wants a happenin' new telephone to text her girlfriends, check the weather, and browse the Internet for new recipes.  Call it foolish or say they should spend the time to learn a new OS, but that's the mainstream consumer base - the majority of people that buy cell phones on a daily basis.  I'm hoping that the manufacturer UIs will do their job to make the experience easier (and I'm fairly confident that they will), but until then, I'd recommend the Galaxy Nexus to a very specific person.  If you love Android (particularly of a stock flavor), love to root and tinker with your phone, and like being on the forefront of software updates, this is the ultimate device for you.  For the mainstream consumer, I'd recommend a different Galaxy.


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67 Reactions to this post

"Is it the ultimate Android phone?"


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Antony Carrington sensation xe is.....
Antonio Palermo I know that when ICS comes to the Galaxy S II it will defeat the nexus so badly =) yep!
Anonymous some fones make it obsolete now
Anonymous For like a week it is...then sumthin better'z gonna come out and make it obsolete
Reyna Griz pero cuidate mucho y que dios te vendiga
Reyna Griz yaq mir lo que ati te gusta todo estaba bien pero me entere que te tatuastes
Michele Rose Reynoso It'll be the ultimate android phone... For all of 4 months maybe.
Steve Doric Galaxy S3 will be my next phone! Guarantee that will be one bad ass phone...
Christopher Sullins Epic Fo Gee Touch beeyotches! Will be the best when it gets the ICS update.
Nick Mayner I have had the razr for a few days and the Rezound. I wasn't that impressed with either. Cameras were ok, battery life ok in razr, sucks on Rezound. Beats audio is disappointing (static during quiet parts of songs). If the nexus doesn't measure up in the 3 or 4 days I MIGHT have with it. I MIGHT just get the iphone 4s
Danu Carrión Perales It just boil my fucking blood hear people say its camera sucks... why? Because it is not 8mp? Try zooming in in you 8mp cam and make sure it doesn't look blurry because the "shitty" camera in de gnex doesn't.. it may have less megapixels but the lens is much more advanced, higher pixels is just for marketing ever guessed why they used it on the ip4s? So it would be one of the selling point along with siri and dual core
Danny Spaide Sensation.
Lester Dedrick made by samsung....nope
Vincent Hung R.I.P great tyrant Apple
Zach Cline It's not just a phone
Erik Rosli It may not be the ultimate phone, but it offers pure Google experience. Have you guys not read the phone review? The Nexus' camera is great for a 5Mp shooter, a close second to the 8Mp 4S. If that is amazing, I can't help but ponder what a beast Galaxy S3 will be when it is released :D
DeMonte Greene Is sprint getting it
Adrian Salazar Not sure how the gs2 is better when it only has 800x600 screen res, galaxy nexus will be and is better than the gs2...
Daniel Cuadrado Not very happy with it. Took to long to release. Camera is major disappointment. I say the S2 is ten times better!
Miguel Sahagun The Galaxy SIII will be the ultimate Android phone next year
Joel Rivera Galaxy S 4G I want Galaxy Note. With ICS. Yum.
Catherine Ashley Unger 5 mp camera, really? Skyrocket owner here but I am anxious for the Samsung Galaxy Note.
Chris Northcutt No... Still like the Galaxy S2 better fo T-Mobile
Ispongklong Dacoycoy I think no,for example the camera,it suck's
Chris Corliss This is an excellent phone no doubt, but I got completely turned off when I saw the button layout
Bogdan Rusu if ICS comes on GS II, it will be like a reinvented SUPERSTART...GS II is still best android phone yet !!!
ElMalevo @Eskias Great post. You hit on the head with that one.
John Garbo Galaxy nexus or droid razr? Which one would you recommend?
Dylan Wacker http://www.myfacewhen.com/371/
Joshua Marquez Fuck best buy should hook me up wit a phone
Eskias McDaniels Its the creme of the crop as far as android goes but the camera (and no SD slot?) is a little disappointing
Hector Portalatin R.I.P iPhone
Marcus Cadwell Not even in today's standards. It's tied with the Rezound and galaxy s2
David Mendez Could be
Scott Braunworth @Aaron @PHONEDOG, Whats up with your site? I cant even get in anymore. says I gotta log in, but keeps randomly logging me in and out over an over.. Been doing it for awhile now. Help me Fix
Anonymous Meh, most of it's selling points belong to ICS, so when the SII gets ICS, it'll do whatever this phone can do and better...
Cory Wilson Forget all the other phones I'm getting the samsung galaxy note for christmas
Mark E Lynch new droid or the nexus ... i need some input ?
Marisa McCann Have the HTC vivid and love it
Eduardo Ordaz Galaxy nexus is really great. But every Android phone is the best. But i agree S2 is better.
Jen Scott Happy with my new Razr. No more waiting around for Gnex on big red.
Anthony Ochoa Happy with my sensation xl
Steve LeBoeuf No way. The Rezound is better. And in a couple months something else. And the GS II.
Matt Peters Hell no.
Mark Belkowski Im not impressed by the nexus.
Arnulfo Barajas no,,they are plenty of android phones that have better specs
Cesario Brito Jr. I don't consider it the ultimate android phone. All it got going is ICS and 720p. Other than that its not better than the Galaxy S II. Now if the GSII gets ICS.....game over.
Pheap So Love sumsung galaxy note
Anthony Vantreese nope im fine with my galaxy sII phone ( :
Nolan Howard best thing Since "Sliced bread" gingerbread that is ...LOL
Chansey Chiang got it, battery drains like a leaky faucet
Ray Munoz No something else gonna beat it
David McClellan Got one in the US already eh Christian Carlos Falu?
Veen Oui I do not even watch the unboxing anymore, all the same.."yawn"..that being said, Galaxy model's ROCKZ
Ayoub Hage HTC SENSATION XL what a phone loving the massive screen :)
Christian Carlos Falu Its not as good as I thought it would be...
Spencer Bartholomew yes it is king
Daniel Quintero Yes Take that ios
Jon Recinos Christian Carlos Falu megapixels don't mean everything.
Iam Talat 32gb..im in
Christian Carlos Falu Shitty camera
Miguel Gosteelers Lopez Have been waiting all year for this phone.
Filip Misovski no it isn't!
Dee Jae For the next 3 weeks until a newer phone comes out i bet . . .




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