Sprint's version of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus promises support for the carrier's upcoming LTE network as well as a beautiful full HD screen and Android 4.0. Retailing for $200 with new contract, and promises of a $50 Google Wallet credit, Brighthand investigates how this high-end smartphone fares.
When I first unpacked this device, I realized it had been a long time since I had tried out the Verizon version and I forgot how big this thing is. True, it's not really any larger than some of the other high-end phones like the Galaxy S II, but it still has a formiddable footprint. Fortunately, that footprint doesn't extend into thickness or weight, both of which are extremely reasonable, particularly given the large capacity battery.
Having had my hands on both of them now, I can say that, functionally speaking, there's very little difference between the Sprint and Verizon versions of the Galaxy Nexus. They sport more or less identical specs, starting with a design-dominating display. In fact, the screen is almost the only physically remarkable thing about the phone; with nearly no other buttons or external features, the display is the center of your Galaxy Nexus experience.
That's not to say that there's no difference between the two versions. If you're curious enough to pry off the battery cover, you'll notice that the Sprint version doesn't have a slot for a SIM card, the way the Verizon version does. That's unfortunate for a couple reasons. Not only does it mean that you won't be able to unlock one of these and switch between Sprint and Verizon, it also means you probably won't be quickly switching between Sprint LTE phones by swapping SIMs. When every other carrier including Verizon has finally embraced SIMs as being the future, that's disappointing.
Overall, the Galaxy Nexus has a solid feel. It's fairly well-built, and even though the snap-on battery cover is a little annoying, it's unlikely you'll have to take it off, so no big deal. It feels good in the hand, and has a very sleek exterior.
The main selling point of the Galaxy Nexus is definitely its screen: at full 1280 x 720 HD resolution, and 4.65 inches, it's among the upper tier of smartphone screens available. The screen uses a PenTile Matrix arrangement, meaning that it has fewer sub-pixels than a regular LCD. In theory, this makes it less crisp, but in practice it's already pushing the limits of what's visible to the human eye. Studies have shown that humans can't see a visible distinction in quality or crispness beyond about 300 dots per inch; the Galaxy Nexus' screen is 315 DPI. That's comparable density to the iPhone 4, but with much more square area to it, as well as much better contrast.
As regular readers already know, AMOLED screens are designed differently from regular LCDs, making them able to display true black colors rather than black simply being a very dark grey. The big boost in contrast makes the picture much more vivid, sort of like the difference between a photo on glossy paper versus one on plain.
As regular readers may also know, although this Nexus model has one of the best screens you can get, you shouldn't go in expecting a revolutionary result. Going from a medium or high resolution like on most high-end phones to full HD on the Galaxy Nexus is a much less dramatic step than going from a low resolution to a medium resolution. There's a limit to how much detail you can pack into the same area. So expect an evolutionary improvement on screens in recent devices, just not a revolutionary one. Still, it's gorgeous to look at and currently impossible to beat for quality, even by the iPhone's much touted "Retina" displays with similar sharpness.
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