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Samsung Galaxy Nexus - an ice cream sandwich above the rest
brilliant clear screen (hi - res), latest Google updates and Android version, highly reactive screen
small storage capacity
Look & Feel
Durability & Robustness
Battery standby time
Value for money
Range of features
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Now, before I go any further, Iíll tell you a story. I am an Android fanboy. I have been for a year. Iíve been a Google lover for longer than that, but after moving from a Blackberry Curve to a HTC Desire HD, I fell in love. However, I made the mistake of taking up a 24 month contract and although thereís nothing wrong with the Desire HD as such, Iíd seen the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and had been lusting after it. But with a year left to go on my contract, I couldnít really justify £500 just to get a new phone. I was drawn in though by the adverts, the features and just the sheer awesomeness of it. The Galaxy Nexus is instantly appealing to any Android fan because itís the standard Android phone. There are no manufacturer extras (like HTC Sense) which will stop you getting updates, no, the Galaxy Nexus gets the official Android updates straight from Google. Which is brilliant.
There are plenty of other features which are instantly appealing. The panoramic camera which automatically stitches together snaps to make one long picture, the gimmicky face unlock which makes getting into your phone fun, Android Beam, the sexy interface, the speed. Thereís plenty to love. But I couldnít have one.
So I entered the competition and forgot about it. I knew Iíd never win, I never win anything. Thatís life. But then I did win and what a day that was! Now Iíve had the Galaxy Nexus for a while, so Iím going to write a review from the perspective of an Android lover who won the awesome phone he was lusting after.
Now, Iím not going to go into massive detail, because there are plenty of other reviews out there from professionals who do it properly and in-depth. Instead, Iíll just tell you what I like.
Anyway, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus arrived at work, and I was quite pleased.
Alas, my wife had just renewed her contract and got one that way, so it wasnít the first time Iíd seen one in the flesh (so to speak) but it was mine. My first impressions were much like everyone elseís and youíll see this a lot on the web Ė itís massive, itís light and it feels cheap. I think I need to clarify that quite quickly, especially that last point. It feels cheap because itís made mostly of plastic, but once you turn the screen on, you see the value. It has a truly magnificent screen that has an amazing resolution (1280 x 720p) which, when you think about it, is pretty impressive. Thatís nearly a full HD screen on a 4.65‚Ä≥ screen. Imagine if it was blown up to the size of your TV while maintaining that ratio of pixels Ė youíd be looking at something that would make your current HD TV look like a black and white set from the 1950‚Ä≤s.
No, once you turn it on, the quality is instantly apparent. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus doesnít care about looking flash or shiny. Itís not a fashion statement, itís just an amazingly brilliant product. Sure, there are complaints Ė thereís only 16gb of internal storage (unless youíre lucky enough to be American in which case you can get 32gb) and thereís no SD card slot. The camera is a measly 5mp (but letís be honest, if you want amazing pictures, you wonít be using your phone) and itís brown, but otherwise, itís a work of art.
Compared to the HTC Desire HD, the screen isnít a great deal bigger. It is taller and thus wonít fit properly in the pouch I used to use for the Desire HD, but it isnít offensively huge and it just works really well. Itís instantly obvious that thereís a clarity and quality to the screen that you wonít see elsewhere. Itís vibrant, impressive and beautiful Ė especially if you turn off automatic brightness and whack it up to maximum.
Whatís the difference between the Nexus and the Desire HD? Well, plenty. For a start, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is running Ice Cream Sandwich which is version 4 of the Android operating system, while HTCís lack of updates leaves the Desire HD stuck at 2.35 (for the moment). This in itself was a treat, but not the only benefit. As a test, we put my new phone next to my colleagues rooted Desire (with ICS running) and checked to see the difference.
The Galaxy Nexus was visibly quicker and smoother between windows and applications. Impressively so. I wasnít expecting to be blown away by the Galaxy Nexus after using the Desire HD as it was only a year old and had been a good spec when I bought it, but I wasnít let down by the Galaxy Nexus either. The first thing I noticed was web pages seemed to render more quickly, even with only G signal, which I was both impressed and surprised by. It might less time waiting on the train for pages to load.
Multi-tasking seemed to work well too, though that was the case on the Desire as well. But the introduction of new features meant my old apps were no longer necessary. You donít need advanced task killer on the Galaxy Nexus, pressing the application button (bottom right) brings up the current apps running and you can just swipe them off to close them. You donít need an app to monitor your data Ė thereís data usage built into the operating system so you can set data limits, restrict background data and more. Itís just sleek and sexy.
One of my favourite new features isnít phone specific, but belongs to the OS and thatís screenshots. Pressing and holding both the power button and the volume down button at the same time snaps a pic of what youíre looking at on screen which makes it handy to show off your apps or current setup.
You have 5 home screens on which to arrange apps and (resizable) widgets, but a new addition to Android is the ability to be able to drop apps on top of each other and create folders. Iíve got one for email, one for Google apps, one for social and one for games. The default buttons across the bottom include phone, contacts, messaging, web and apps. But you can move and change these to your will. These buttons remain static which ever screen youíre on, so you can always easily access them.
For Android lovers, thereís plenty of interface updates and improvements which just make ICS the best operating system yet, but also work well with the new phone. The music player has been updated with a new look and a graphic equaliser and integrated to work with the lock screen.
The contacts page has been tweaked, so you can easily reach all the necessary info. Itís clever too, it took people/companies I was following on Google+ and stuck all their information right there for me to see Ė including all the phone numbers, email addresses and more, swipe sideways and youíve got access to live updates of their social profile which is handy if you donít want to trawl through all the messages out there to see what one person is saying.
Disturbingly, I found contact phone numbers for people I didnít even know, taken straight off the web.
The browser seems faster and can import your Google Chrome bookmarks, which is another improvement. With the Labs settings, you can even ditch the traditional address bar when viewing pages and opt for the rather stylish menu system which is accessed by touching the very edge of the screen.
To give the phone a proper test, I bought a film from Google videos and I have to say, the picture was impressive, even if it was on a small phone screen (rather than tablet or PC). It wasnít an HD video, but youíd have trouble telling with the quality of the screen and the sheer presence of the pixels. Itís delightfully delicious.Watching HD videos on the Youtube app is both impressive and immersive. The quality is far superior to my old phone and no doubt it's the best on the market.
But still, one of the best features has to be the panoramic camera, which lets you take wide shots by just moving the camera side to side. If you arenít careful and steady you can see stitching or blurring, but itís a very cool toy.
I think if I lost this phone or it was stolen, Iíd have to buy it to have it again, itís just that much better. The only complaints are easily dismissable. Especially the size of the storage Ė when you consider that Google Music is out there (and hopefully will make it to the UK) then you can store all your songs in the cloud. The battery life is short, but it is with any smart phone and if you turn the brightness down or limit background data and other things, then you can easily manage that Ė personally I just charge it when Iím at my desk Ė USB charging makes life easy. As for feeling cheap, that soon fades and you have a fantastic phone which is a joy to own.