Featuring a full 720p high-def screen, 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, and Android OS 4.0, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is making big waves in the smartphone market, ushering in a new high point for Android phones, as well as a lot of excitement. Here, we'll be taking a look at whether the hype is justified.
A quick note before we begin. The Galaxy Nexus is available in two different versions. The first is as an unlocked GSM/HSPA phone suitable for use on AT&T or T-Mobile in the US, Telus in Canada, or any other GSM provider. The second version is available through Verizon Wireless in the U.S., featuring CDMA and LTE. This review is based on the Verizon Wireless version.
Verizon is charging $300 with a two-year contract. Without the contract, the price goes up to $650.
On first opening up the box, it was a little bit of a surprise to me that the Galaxy Nexus was relatively compact. I've used the Samsung Infuse a lot this year, being my primary phone for awhile, so I have an appreciation of how large a device you need to sport a 4.5 inch display.
With the Nexus boasting an even larger 4.65-inch screen, I was pleased to find that it was very comparable in size to the Infuse. While the Nexus is a little longer, it's also a little narrower, and about the same thickness. That's also despite the Galaxy Nexus' battery: a whopping 1850 mAh, more than even the Motorola Droid RAZR, Droid Bionic, or Infuse.
Of course, "not as large as I had expected" shouldn't be confused with the Nexus not being a big phone. It is definitely large-ish, and one that is not particularly well suited to people with small hands. But if you've handled other broad, flat phones comfortably, you should be fine.
Probably the biggest and most hyped feature of the Galaxy Nexus is it's 4.65-inch, 1280 x 720 pixel HD-resolution Super AMOLED screen. It combines the highest resolution found on any smartphone, with the exceptional clarity, viewing angles, and contrast provided by AMOLED screens. So clearly then, it must be the most mind-blowingly impressive smartphone screen of all time, right?
Actually, you might be surprised. Although the GN sports an amazingly high res screen, there's a limit on the amount of detail you can show before it becomes too small to notice. It's sort of like showing a Blu-Ray movie on a 20 inch TV: the detail may be there, but it's not going to look quite the way it would on a bigger display.
This shouldn't be taken as a disparagement of the Galaxy Nexus' screen -- in fact, in the right applications, it shines. Google Maps, photos... if you've got good enough eyes, you can even read full, desktop web pages in Opera Mobile without zooming in. It's a beautiful screen with amazing detail, bolstered by excellent contrast and clarity as only Super AMOLED can provide. But going from 800 x 480 (WVGA) to 1280 x 720 isn't as big and visible a difference as, say, going from 320 x 480 (HVGA) to 800 x 480 (WVGA) was. Go into it expecting an evolutionary improvement, and you'll be fine.
Build & Design
Down at the bottom of the screen, you'll see the navigation buttons -- or not, since these aren't really buttons anymore. With Android 4.0, the nav buttons are now virtual, displayed on the bottom of the screen, making the phone that much closer to buttonless. I have to admit, at first I was very, very skeptical of this, since it seemed like a good way to make navigation harder if the "buttons" were entirely software. But despite that, it's turned out fairly well. I have yet to see the buttons fail to work or be messed with by software problems at any point, nor do they disappear when an app goes full screen.
But no matter where you look on the device, there's one thing you won't find: a microSD card slot. For reasons I still find baffling, Samsung decided not to include one of the most basic features, expandable memory, on their flagship device. With expandable memory, you could pop in a 32 GB microSD card and have a 64 GB phone that would, in every substantive way, beat even the iPhone 4S. As it stands, you're artificially limited to the 28 GB free out of the box. Granted, that's a lot of memory, and more than most people will need. But then, the entire Galaxy Prime is designed around being "more than most people will need." In that context, leaving out the option of more memory is utterly nonsensical.
The Galaxy Nexus adopts the same "snap plate" battery cover Samsung uses for some other models, but with nicely rounded edges that make it fit organically into your hand while still being very thin. Along the right side of the phone, there are three tiny, barely noticeable copper contacts. I'm guessing that these are for use with a car dock, or something similar, but I'm not sure. Other than that, the only controls are for power and volume -- everything else is done through the touchscreen.
This is Part 1 of a multi-page review. Please continue reading Part 2 to learn about this cutting-edge smartphone's performance.
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