Samsung Galaxy Nexus GSM:
Price: $399 off contract through Google's Play Store
- Great 720p screen
- Ice Cream Sandwich lives up to the hype
- Silky smooth performance
- Sub-par camera sensor (camera app is amazing)
- Not comfortable to hold
The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is the first, and currently only, phone that runs Android's latest operating system: Ice Cream Sandwich. This review is going to focus on the device as a whole, which includes Ice Cream Sandwich, but will go in depth on the operating system at a later time. It is hard not to compare the Galaxy Nexus to the Galaxy S II line of phones but in reality the two phones do not share much in common. Being a Nexus device the Galaxy Nexus is considered Android's premier device, for the time being at least. One thing to note about the GSM version of the Phone is that it is not officially available for sale from any carrier in the US, and thus is sold completely unlocked, and will work on the HSPA+ networks of both AT&T and T-Mobile. For me this is important because it allows users to create a Wifi network for no added cost.
The Galaxy Nexus has a large 4.65inch screen, and also has a very thin profile. This combo makes for a phone that isn't overly comfortable to hold, but I wouldn't say this phone is too large. The large screen isn't powered by Samsung's Super AMOLDED plus technology, but instead uses last year's Super AMOLED. Even with last year's technology the screen looks amazing thanks to a boost in resolution up to 720p. While the screen's picture looks good, it does seem to be slightly darker than other AMOLED devices.
The Galaxy Nexus, like every other Samsung phone, is made completely out of plastic. Unlike every other Samsung phone in recent memory the Galaxy Nexus feels overly sturdy in hand, and does not feel flimsy whatsoever. The removable battery cover is very similar to the Galaxy S II and Focus S in that it is a thin piece of plastic that doesn't provide much confidence. One time when I dropped the phone the back panel popped off, but no damage was done to the device, I'm not sure if that was part of the design plan, but it worked for me.
The contour display feels as though it is just a gimmick and doesn't really provide much is any boost in ergonomics. It does provide the Galaxy Nexus a very unique profile, and helps to hide the signiture Samsung bump on the bottom rear of its phones. The contour shape makes it so the Galaxy Nexus will never sit flush on any surface, which is a minor gripe, but something to take note of.
The performance of the Galaxy Nexus is great, but it's hard to tell if that is due to the 1.2Ghz dual core processor or Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. All functions of the phone are super smooth and I couldn't even cause it to hiccup when I tried to. The star of the Galaxy Nexus really is Ice Cream Sandwich, and to be honest when I heard others talk about how great it was, I didn't fully believe that it would make such a difference.
The 4.65inch Super AMOLED HD display looks great, and the boost to 720p is noticeable. I would have loved to see a Super AMOLED Plus screen on the Galaxy Nexus, as I loved it on the Focus S and the Galaxy S II, but that is a compromise Samsung made to jump to 720p. As stated earlier in the review the screen looks great, even if it is slightly darker than other screens. As someone who loves large screens I feel as though this screen is a great size, but I can totally understand if it might turn some buyers off.
As this is the GSM version of the Galaxy Nexus it doesn't have the LTE antenna to suck up of the battery's juice. The battery life is quite good on the device, and if I tried I could actually get two days of light use out of the battery. Normally I watch a decent amount of movies, and play video games on my commute to work, and even with that kind of abuse I could easily last a full day. There is an optional extended battery, which is said to add up to four hours of use, I haven't had the chance to test this out.
As stated earlier the physical camera on this device is actually not as good as most cameras Samsung has released this year. It is only 5megapixels, but the pictures don't look too bad. What you will notice is the improved camera interface built into Ice Cream Sandwich, which for me makes up for the lower quality sensor. There is next to no shutter lag, and you can take pictures back to back, which is neat, but you will find that many of those pictures are out of focus. For uploading to Twitter or Facebook the camera will do just fine, but if you are looking forward to launching your photo career on Instagram this is not your phone.
I have tested this phone on both AT&T and T-Mobile, and the HSPA+ speeds on both networks are respectable. This is without a doubt the fastest HSPA+ device I've tested on AT&T, and while T-Mobile couldn't keep it, it still put up good numbers. Voice quality on calls was normal, nothing overly great, or horrible to report. As someone who hops between phones and networks having the Galaxy Nexus be able to connect to two networks is very helpful for many people.
As a high end device, aimed at power users the Galaxy Nexus has a lot of competition. HTC's One series of phones are set to come out soon, and they might uncrown the Galaxy Nexus, but for the time being I would say this is the best Android phone you can buy. The HSPA+ speeds are quite up to Verizon's LTE speeds, but it has a quick connection, has better battery life, and you are able to take advantage of the free Wifi tethering. While it would have been nice if Samsung was able to put in a Super AMOLED Plus screen, and a higher resolution camera, but overal the complete package, with Ice Cream Sandwich puts this phone at the top of the heap.