With the Samsung Galaxy Nexus out, many Verizon subscribers may be deciding whether to choose it over one of this carrier’s other high-end Android models, the Motorola Droid Bionic. To make this process easier, we’ll compare them head to head, to see the strengths and weaknesses.
A Weighty Issue
Even though the Galaxy Nexus sports a substantially larger screen, 4.65 inches versus 4.3 inches on the Droid Bionic, the two devices are nearly the same size. Of course that’s not the whole story — there’s also weight. Despite both having similarly sized batteries and the Nexus a larger screen, the Droid Bionic actually weighs more. 20% more, in fact. This is, in large part, the value of using an AMOLED screen, which is lighter and thinner than the conventional LCD used on the Bionic.
That’s also why the Nexus is a tenth of an inch thinner than the Bionic. I wouldn’t call that a big deal though, in this case “twenty percent more” is around 30 grams.
Beyond that though, the units look more dissimilar than they really are. Both have a large-screen slate-type design, with no keyboard or just about anything else to complicate it. The Droid’s lines are much more angular, whereas the Galaxy Nexus is very smooth and organic feeling, but both are fairly comfortable in the hand.
Obviously, one big difference is those screens we mentioned earlier. The Nexus bumps up its screen resolution to a full 1280 x 720, the same as a 720P high definition TV. Combined with the far greater contrast of a Super AMOLED screen, it makes for a display that’s a pleasure to look at, and which the Droid Bionic’s 960 x 540 standard LCD pales in comparison to. While the resolution difference isn’t as noticeable as you might think, overall the combination of resolution, size, and contrast make Samsung’s model clearly superior.
There are some features I’m skipping over because they are identical on both models. For example, each can connect to Verizon’s 4G LTE network, and has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS.
A New Platform
Hardware aside, probably the biggest difference to the user between these two is their operating system. Although both run Google’s Android, the Droid Bionic runs the same OS 2.3 version we’ve been seeing on smartphones for what seems like an eternity. The Nexus, however, features the new Android OS 4.0, also known as “Ice Cream Sandwich” or just ICS. There’s not a lot that you can do on OS 4.0 that you can’t do on 2.3… at least, not yet. But as more and more developers jump on 4.0, having the latest version is going to be valuable.
Plus, being a “Nexus” unit means that the Samsung device will receive more and more frequent OS updates, keeping it “fresh” for a long time. When you’re talking about signing a two-year contract, that can mean the difference between having a device which is at least still relatively useful by the time you’re shopping for a new phone, and something that is outdated to the point of being just annoying.
Features Missing in Action
Of course not everything is ideal about the Galaxy Nexus. Although it boasts 28 GB of memory free out of the box, it doesn’t have a microSD card slot for expanding that. What you get out of the box is all you’ll ever have, excepting of course online “cloud” storage like Dropbox.
While the Droid Bionic only has 16 GB of built in memory, it comes with a 16 GB microSD card, and can take up to a 32 GB card, making it possible for you to have up to 48 GB. Assuming, of course, that you could find the need for that much memory.
There’s also the slightly more practical matter of video out. While both devices are capable of outputting in 1080P high definition via HDMI, how they do it is a little different. The Droid Bionic has a standard micro-HDMI port. Plug in the right cable, and you’re good to go, no fuss no muss. With the Galaxy Nexus, however, you need to use one of the complicated and annoying MHL adapters, which also require external power, a micro-USB cable, and a separate HDMI cable. Plus the adapter itself, which does NOT come with the Galaxy Nexus. So that’s four parts you have to carry around to use HDMI on the Nexus, versus just one cable on the Droid.
The Motorola Droid Bionic has a couple small advantages in the realm of flexibility. But in the end the Samsung Galaxy Nexus has a big advantage — not so much in its great screen, but in its shiny new software. With the Android OS 4.0 platform and regular software updates from Google, it’ll stay current a lot longer than the Droid Bionic will, and thus provide better usage over the length of a long service contract.
The Droid Bionic, meanwhile, won’t be receiving an upgrade to Android OS 4.0 for some time, leaving it one step behind its competitor. Its ICS upgrade is coming, but there’s no guarantee any any upgrades after that, however.