At the beginning of the year it appeared the DROID Bionic would be the most hyped and anticipated phone of the year, but the Galaxy Nexus blew it away. The fact that Verizon waited so long to release it sure helped stir the pot. The anticipation for the Galaxy Nexus felt much like the original DROID did, but did it live up?
Before we get into that, we need to talk about the controversy of whether this a true Nexus device. This is the first time a Nexus device was made available on Verizon, and with that came Verizon branding on the battery cover and a couple of bloatware apps like VZ Backup Assistant and My Verizon Mobile. Some declare this as a complete sin and no one should buy the Verizon version. Instead we are supposed to buy the unlocked GSM version, which costs $700+. That cost isn’t so bad when you figure in that you would have free tethering without rooting, but the problem for many people is that T-Mobile’s coverage is dismal in many areas. Where I am, I barely get Edge service from T-Mobile. Some of us have to be on Verizon because even AT&T or Sprint can’t deliver either. So technically, if you want to say the Verizon Galaxy Nexus isn’t a true Nexus, then I won’t disagree with you, but I am more than happy that Verizon added this complete stock experience phone to their lineup. The fact that the battery door has the Verizon logo on it and there are a couple of pre-installed apps (and many might actually find useful) doesn’t bother me. Since the original DROID, there hasn’t been an opportunity for a stock Android experience on Verizon, so this is something to be excited about.
I review many devices and I don’t purchase the majority of them. This is one of those that I actually can say that I own so I am reviewing my device and not just a review unit from the manufacturer. You can also checkout my initial hands on.
Since Samsung manufactured the Galaxy Nexus, it’s no surprise that it looks and feels like many Samsung devices. The curved screen is the biggest difference which looks and feels nice. The 4.65-inch display is not as scary as it sounds since there are no physical navigation buttons. Unfortunately, my biggest complaint about this phone comes in the hardware and design as just like most Samsung devices, its slippery in your hand. Those prone to dropping their phone will definitely need a case. I personally don’t like cases as it adds too much bulk, so I will live with it. The textured battery cover does help, and honestly, I’m not sure I would keep this phone if it didn’t have one. Speaking of the battery door, this has to be one of the worst ones I have seen. It is so thin and it’s insane to put back in place.
The other complaint I have with the design is the volume rocker on the left side. I sticks out way too much and I find my self hitting it by mistake.
I will discuss the software later, but the biggest reason to buy this phone is Ice Cream Sandwich and the fact that it’s pure Google stock Android experience. The hardware is always what has turned me off from actually buying a Samsung phone.
The Verizon version is a little thicker than the GSM sibling as it comes in at 9.4mm. This is mostly because of the additional LTE radio. At 144 grams it’s not too heavy. All in all, it does feels solid, and Samsung is probably the most popular Android manufacturer so most people don’t seem concerned with the build.
The Verizon version is virtually the same specs as the GSM version except for the addition of the LTE radio and a bigger battery. It features a 4.65-inch 720p (1280 x 720) Super AMOLED contoured display, a 1.2GHz TI OMAP processor, 1GB RAM, 5MP rear camera with 1080p video recording, 1.3MP front camera, 32GB for storage, 1800mAh, HDMI through MHL micro USB to HDMI cable, and Bluetooth 3.0.
Other than the design, if there is another achilles heal for the Galaxy Nexus, it’s battery life. This wasn’t a surprise as all 4G LTE phones suffer this. I do think the DROID RAZR is a little better in this category, but all Verizon 4G LTE phones have issues. You can barely make it through the work day with the Galaxy Nexus and I would say I’m not a heavy user during the work day. It’s possible an update may improve things, but I don’t expect much. Many will recommend getting an extra battery or an extended battery, but I personally don’t like spending the extra money to make my phone “right.” Being an early adopter and a tech geek gets me used to these issues so I will live with it, but many mainstream consumers may have a difficult time swallowing this. It’s the biggest reason why the iPhone 4S isn’t LTE capable. Battery life isn’t there yet for LTE phones and its no fault of any of the manufacturers. It’s just something we have to live with for the time being.
Forget benchmarks, this is one of the best performing phones I’ve used. Spec-wise there are phones that are better, but what separates the Galaxy Nexus from other devices is the fact that its stock Android. There is no UI skin holding it down. This is the way Android was meant to be experienced. From launching apps to scrolling through the app drawer, things just run smooth. The other big difference with the Galaxy Nexus is that the performance six months from now should be the same. A lot of phones perform great out of the box, but then get bogged down after some usage. Again, I believe the UI skins have a lot to do with this. I’m expecting the experience to hold up which is yet another reason to buy it.
The 720p screen is really nice, but I wasn’t as wowed by it as I thought I would be. Maybe it’s the fact that a screen of this size really can’t show off a 720p display properly. It could also be that I’ve held a lot of Samsung phones in my hand, all of which have nice displays. It could be the fact that it’s PenTile. Either way, I think it’s a really nice display and I can’t imagine anyone complaining about it. I was just expecting more for whatever reason.
As far as phone calls go, the quality is great, but I think the speaker phone quality is a little lacking. The only other complaint I have is the ring vibrator is very weak. You can barely feel it, and I’ve already missed a few calls as a result. It’s possible a software update could fix it, but for those that use the vibrator more often than not, it will be an issue.
The software is where the Galaxy Nexus outshines the competition. It’s the only phone (or tablet) with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. There are so many changes that it’s hard to go over them all. Most of them are for the better, and I’m sure many of you will find some of the changes a pain at first. Most of it is just the fact that it’s a “change” and it takes getting used to. It will take you a couple of days to get the feel for it all, and for those that never used Honeycomb, it may take longer.
Many people ask me what my favorite feature of ICS is, and it’s impossible to pinpoint it because there are so many subtle enhancements like folder creations, the new GMail app, the new Roboto font, and the newer magazine style theme with contacts. Taking screen shots is also a major plus for those that don’t have an interest in rooting. The face unlock feature is definitely hit or miss, but I think it could develop to be a nice feature. Speaking of the lockscreen, surprisingly they didn’t put a built in feature for changing the wallpaper for it. All in all, ICS is a major improvement and the changes are for the better. You can’t make everyone happy so I’m sure there will be some complaints. For me, it’s just sometimes annoying changing old habits, but it doesn’t mean it’s not for the better.
The camera is what everyone has been shaking their head about. Why on earth they decided to put a lower quality 5MP camera in it is beyond me. Maybe its the software or maybe it’s for the zero shutter lag, but this should have an identical (if not better) camera as the Galaxy S II. Fortunately for me, phone cameras are not that important to me, so it doesn’t bother me so much. However, it’s one of those things that does annoy me as I feel like this is a flagship phone, so why should any corners be cut? Here are some sample photos.
I’m not a camera connoisseur, but I don’t think a lot of people are going to find too many issues with this camera. I think it compares well with the Galaxy S II, but again, it still bugs me that it isn’t the same exact camera.
Video quality is great and the added time lapse feature is a nice plus. I didn’t get a chance to play with it, but from the examples I’ve seen on the Net, it’s definitely a nice addition.
The Galaxy Nexus is one hell of a phone, but I do find myself not as excited about it. The hype surrounding it almost felt like the original DROID and I remember the excitement when I bought that phone. I was somehow expecting the same thing and it wasn’t there. I don’t think that’s a bad thing because the DROID was my first experience with Android and that’s why there was so much excitement. The Nexus brought us a major software update, but it’s not as dramatic as going from an old crappy Windows Mobile device to Android. It’s still Android, but it’s just a much better Android. Maybe my excitement level dissipated because of the long delay from Verizon, but don’t misunderstand me, I love this phone and to me, having the best phone on the market is what it’s all about, so I’m satisfied knowing I have that. It’s one of those rare occasions where the end result didn’t live up to the hype, but I was still satisfied.
Is this the Mother of all phones? I guess it kind of is by default, but to me it would really be if it was Motorola hardware and it had the Galaxy S II camera. Is it ready for the mainstream consumer? I don’t think Verizon has any interest in selling anyone a Galaxy Nexus as they continue to pour money into the DROID line. I still feel that most consumers really don’t care about ICS or stock experiences, and if they were to walk into a Verizon store and see a DROID RAZR sitting next to the Galaxy Nexus, they will chose the RAZR 9 times out of 10. When you think about it, they both cost $299 on contract so other than the RAZR being a little thinner, it makes sense to buy the Nexus. Unfortunately the marketing isn’t there, so it won’t be as successful as it could be. In due time, there will be a DROID branded phone with ICS so it won’t be an issue to consumers over the long haul. However, the Nexus will still be a better phone because it’s stock so it will run smoother over the long haul. This is again something most consumers aren’t concerned with, but they should be.
When my friends ask me what phone to get, I feel safe in recommending the Galaxy Nexus, but I won’t be adamant, only because I know that mainstreamers like to buy something that feels mainstream and the RAZR feels like that as opposed to the Nexus. It’s really sad to us tech geeks when the latest and greatest gets lost in the shuffle. If you consider yourself the average consumer, and you are just about to sign a 2-year contract with Verizon, do yourself a favor and get the Nexus. You won’t see a cool DROID Eye during the boot sequence, but you will have a great user experience that is likely to last more than the first couple of months. You can also put a DROID themed wallpaper on it if it makes you feel better.