A first look at the Galaxy Nexus

We take a first look at the latest flagship Android phone, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus

The Galaxy Nexus is the first Android phone to ship with Android 4.0 or "Ice Cream Sandwich"

The Galaxy Nexus is the first Android phone to ship with Android 4.0 or "Ice Cream Sandwich"

The Galaxy Nexus is the first smartphone to run the latest 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" version of Google's Android operating system. Thanks to online store MobiCity we've managed to get our hands on this impressive smartphone well before its official release in Australia. So let's take a first look!

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Galaxy Nexus: What we like

I've spent my first weekend with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and my overall impression is very positive. I can say it up front right now: the Galaxy Nexus is without a doubt the best Android phone on the market right now and the best Android phone that's ever been released. It's the only Android phone that I would ever ditch my iPhone 4S for.

There are a few reasons why the Galaxy Nexus is the best Android phone on the market. The first is its display. It's a strikingly large 4.65in Super AMOLED HD display — the HD denotes a high definition resolution of 1280x720, and the Galaxy Nexus displays an ultra sharp and crisp image. Its bright, vivid and clear and text is crisp and smooth with no visible aberrations. The large size of the screen makes the Galaxy Nexus great for video playback but the most positive aspect of the screen is reading and Web browsing: the clarity of the screen makes reading Web pages and books an impressive experience.

The big screen doesn't make the Galaxy Nexus uncomfortably large. The phone has on-screen controls rather than capacitive keys that were previously standard on Android phones, so the phone itself isn't too much bigger than the popular Samsung Galaxy S II. Aiding the look and feel is a curved screen and a body that has a teardrop profile — this means the Galaxy Nexus is thicker at the top and slightly wider towards the bottom. The curvature makes the Galaxy Nexus feel natural to hold and therefore comfortable to use.

The hardware on the Galaxy Nexus is only half of the story, though. Google's latest Android software, Ice Cream Sandwich, is the star of the Galaxy Nexus show and the changes are both exhausting and impressive. The entire user interface has been refreshed to create a more uniform look and feel. It's faster and slicker than any previous Android software. It feels more consistent and easier to use. The camera shutter is staggeringly fast: there is almost zero shutter lag, so images are captured as soon as you press the on-screen shutter key. The Web browser is speedy and smooth. In my first three full days of use, the Galaxy Nexus has not crashed or stuttered once. Performance is consistently excellent.

Galaxy Nexus: What we don't like

There are a few things we don't like about the Galaxy Nexus, however. The most annoying issue is the volume of the external speaker: its not loud enough so ringtones and notifications tones can be difficult to hear when the phone is in your pocket. We tried downloading an equaliser app from the Android Market to boost the volume but even with a slight boost the low volume still remained a significant issue. We can only hope Samsung might be able to fix this with a software update, but its likely hardware that's the issue.

The Galaxy Nexus' battery cover is way too fiddly and difficult to put back on once its removed. You really need to press it with force to click it back into place. On my review unit, there is a small spot on the edge of the cover that moves when you press it, suggesting its not clicked into place properly. It's only a minor issue but the fit and finish is a step behind the iPhone 4S — the plastic feels durable but it doesn't look or feel as sturdy as a premium device should. We do really like the non-slip grip that the back of the Galaxy Nexus provides, but we wish Samsung paid more attention to detail when it comes to the fit and finish of its phones.

We love most of the changes that Google has made to Ice Cream Sandwich, but Face Unlock isn't one of them. Its largely a gimmicky feature in the first place, but we found using it a hit and miss affair. Sometimes it worked flawlessly, but other times the front facing camera was affected by a lack of light (especially if I used it indoors) and the unlock didn't work. In the end, we switched it off and used the regular pattern or PIN unlock.

We also found an annoying issue in the new People app. The interface and layout is excellent but the images the app pulls from your contacts look distorted and pixelated. Though its ultimately a minor issue, this takes some gloss of what should be a great UI. You can get around this by replacing your contact images with ones taken with the Galaxy Nexus' camera, but even then, the image inside the contact menu is blown up and looks a little blurry.

I've also discovered some apps in the Android Market aren't compatible with the new Ice Cream Sandwich software. Some apps like Facebook will work but are missing the ability to access the options menu due to the on-screen keys replacing the hardware buttons. Others, like RemindMe, don't work at all. This is an issue that will be resolved over time as developers update their apps to support Ice Cream Sandwich, but it remains a stumbling block for early adopters.

Two more minor issues — I hate the headphone jack on the bottom of phones and the Galaxy Nexus is no exception. It feels out of place and requires you to turn the phone around when you pull it out of your pocket. I also noticed that the volume buttons on the Galaxy Nexus are too easy to accidentally press when the phone is in your pocket.

I'll be publishing a full, comprehensive review in the coming week, but in the meantime if you have any questions or thoughts on the Galaxy Nexus, please let me know in the comments below!

Tags Galaxy NexussamsungSamsung Galaxy Nexusmobile phonesGoogle AndroidsmartphonesIce Cream Sandwich

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

PC World

19 Comments

Seriously?

1

"I hate the headphone jack on the bottom of phones and the Galaxy Nexus is no exception. It feels out of place and requires you to turn the phone around when you pull it out of your pocket."

Are you serious? It should be illegal to put the headphone jack anywhere but the bottom. It's quite simple, that then you put your phone in your pocket, out it in up side down so its right side up when you go to take it out again. The headphone jack is perfect on the bottom.

Ross Catanzariti

2

It's ultimately a personal preference but I disagree. I prefer it on the top. Maybe that's just what I'm used to. Like I said, it's a minor issue anyway.

Blue Folder

3

What is it like having the power/lock button on the side of the phone, as opposed to the top? Does it make more sense on the side, because having it on the top would be inconvenient to reach on the large phone?

Does the power/lock button suffer from the same "accidental press" problem as the volume buttons, either in your pocket or while you're holding it in your hand?

Jefbystereo

4

Can you elaborate on the pixelated contact pictures and how much better they get once replaced with a camera picture? One of the things i hate about android is the small blurry contact pictures so id like to know if they made a good effort in fixing it.

Ross Catanzariti

5

@Blue Folder: Volume button makes more sense on the side. It's easy to reach with one hand. Can't tell if the power button can be accidentally pressed easily, didn't notice it so far.

@Jefbystereo: The images are much better once they're replaced. The original ones mine synced were pretty much not visible, just giant pixelated blocks of colour. Once they're replaced, contact pictures when viewed in the favourites menu look fine. It's only when you click on an individual contact that they look a little blurry.

David

6

I agree with the "seriously" comment. On the bottom is the only place it makes sense. The bottom is "the top" when it's in my pocket.

Further, I own a Nexus One and always keep the phone in its sleeve, but I can't charge it and use the headphones at the same time, because of the top/bottom locations.

Vincent

7

I like your post which addresses some important things that other reviews don't mention.
You didn't mention the battery life of Galaxy Nexus. Is the battery life improved compared with other Android phones? How often do you have to charge your phone with average use?

Ross Catanzariti

8

Hi Vincent,

I refrained from mentioning battery life as I have only had the phone since Friday afternoon. Battery life also improves after a couple of weeks so I expect it to get better as I keep using it. That being said, battery life is not great so far: yesterday I got 11.5 hours with moderate use.

DR TOM

9

Hi
Great article
Well i am an Oncologist based at Singapore and am planning to shift from the os ( iphone environment ) to the android environment and had earmarked this phone
Your review was great but am a little concerned about the volume and back cover issue
Would it be corrected and do i go ahead with buying the phone
would appreciate your personal email
thanks

DoctorB, the B is for Bargain

10

Hey Dr Tom

If you want a loud really sturdy android phone, you really can't go past the Samsung Galaxy S2. As soon as it gets the Ice-Cream-Sandwich OS update, it will be one beasty phone.

If you had your heart set on the Nexus, then I wouldn't be too worried. Software updates will be able to help with the volume (As Ross mentioned though, could be hardware, which if it is, software can only do so much).

Justin

11

Hi I'm a student and I need my phone to be able to take clear pictures of notes and writing. On your review can you please try taking pictures of writting and then show them? Thanks!

Rick

12

I preffer the headphone jack at the bottom of the phone. I'm glad Samsung did this with the Galaxy Nexus. I have a Thunderbolt and it has the headphone jack on the top of the phone,when I listen to music in my car I usually connect my stereo to my phone through the headphone jack but because the jack is at the top of the phone I have to flip it upside down to place it in a compartement on my dashboard. If I want to change the song I have flip the phone everytime. With the headphone jack at the bottom of the phone I can now just slip the phone straight into the compartment without having to flip it righside up to switch songs and it makes it much more convenient.

Xavier

13

When will the ice cream sandwich update be released for the Nexus S 4G?

Ross Catanzariti

14

@DR TOM: Volume is an issue but I suspect Samsung may try and fix this with a software update. Only time will tell. The back cover really is a minor issue, not enough of an issue to recommend another phone over it. Just thought it was worth noting.

@Xavier: I have no idea. Very soon I would imagine.

JG

15

Hi Ross,
Good to have the analysis, but still i think there should be more detailed analysis as it's been 3 days now for you of using the phone.
Also do you have any idea how much would it may cost and when it may be available worldwide to buy for us.

Thanks
Jatin Goel

David

16

Headset jack on top or bottom makes no difference. Have been using BT stereo headsets for 6 years and haven't plugged in a headset since (with exception of in-flight)

Richard

17

Hi there,

Great write up on initial impressions.

Please do a comparison of this phone against the Motorola RAZR!!!!

Cheers!
Richard

Ross Catanzariti

18

@Richard: Will definitely be doing some comparisons and the RAZR will be included in that.

For anyone interested, I have talked about battery life of the Galaxy Nexus here: http://www.pcworld.idg.com.au/article/408840/word_galaxy_nexus_battery_life/

Otis Burnham

19

Will the Nexuls let you "search" the calendar and find future appointments with doctors, board meetings, etc.? My DroidX will not do this and other phones can search and ultimately list ALL your doctors appoints that you have made for future dates. Please reply.
Otis Burnham

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