UPDATE: This preliminary review was written based on a short time with this smartphone. A much more in-depth version based on long-term testing is now available:
The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is the latest cutting-edge phone to hit Verizon Wireless. Sporting a full HD display, 32 GB of memory, and a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor, it’s also the launchpad for the next major Google platform, Android OS 4.0.
It’s available now from Verizon Wireless for $300 with a two-year contract, or $650 without one. AT&T and T-Mobile subscribers can get an unlocked version for $700.
BUILD & DESIGN
My first impression on getting the Galaxy Nexus out of it’s box is that it was smaller than I had expected. From my long experience using a Samsung Infuse 4G and it’s 4.5-inch screen, I expected the Nexus phone, with its 4.65-inch screen, to be bigger. Surprisingly though, the Nexus was actually very comparable to the Infuse: a little longer, but also a little narrower, with the same thickness. Make no mistake, it’s still a big phone: at 0.4 inches wider and 0.8 inches longer than the iPhone 4S, it’s not for the faint of heart, or the small of hand.
Despite a lot of promotional material mentioning the Galaxy Nexus’ curved face, it turns out that it’s so slight, that it’s only noticeable if you’re actually looking for it. Which isn’t a bad thing, really, since too much curve would make the phone hard to use.
Much more prominent is the large Super AMOLED screen itself — one which boasts full 1280 x 720 pixel resolution. For comparison, that’s more than many Android tablets (even the 10-inch ones) and more pixels than the iPad has. Packed into such a small space, though, it’s not quite as stunning as you might expect, at least at first glance; it’s hard to see that much detail. That’s not to say that it’s not a superb screen, because it is. Combining Super AMOLED and a high resolution, you’ve got about as good a screen as you can possibly expect on a mobile device.
Something you might not notice at first glance is that this smartphone lacks the physical buttons that are typically located just below the display. It doesn’t even have the silkscreened buttons that Samsung often includes. Instead, the Back, Home, and Menu buttons are now on screen. One advantage of this is that they can now move when you switch from portrait to landscape mode.
There’s one change on the Galaxy Nexus that’s even bigger than the screen: the Nexus boasts Android OS 4.0, also known as “Ice Cream Sandwich” by the developers, or simply ICS. This is the first really significant revision of Android for smartphones in some time: Android OS 3.0, also known as “Honeycomb,” was used for tablets only.
A lot has changed in Android OS 4.0, but a lot has stayed the same, too. Actually it has a “feel” closer to Android OS 2.x than some of the Honeycomb devices I’ve used; if you’re familiar with previous Android phones, you won’t feel overly mystified or lost. Widgets are in a different place, the navigation buttons have changed a bit, but in the end it’s still Android, and with some fun new features.
Google has also taken a cue from the webOS, adopting a “recent apps” menu that lets you not only quickly switch between recently run applications, but close them by “tossing” them off the screen with a swipe of the finger.
One of the neatest new features I’ve run into yet on Android OS 4.0, though, is the data counter function. This operating system now has a built-in mechanism to tell you exactly how much wireless data you’ve used in a given period of time, warn you if you’re going close to your plan’s limits, and even disable wireless data when you reach them, so that you don’t get hit with huge overage fees. It’ll even tell you which apps are using data, how much, and when.
That’s all for now, but keep reading for our full review of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus in the coming days, with an extensive photo gallery, benchmarks, in depth exploration of Android OS 4.0, and lots more.