Android is becoming an unstoppable force in the mobile industry. A wide range of manufacturers, each have their own spin on the OS, have cranked out device after device. Google, however, has released the unbranded, vanilla version for a select few handsets which go under the brand ‘Nexus’. The Nexus One which was the debut of this series, this was followed up by the Nexus S from Samsung which featured a new version of the OS and a unique curved screen.
Now Samsung have come out and upgraded to the Galaxy Nexus which just might be the best in the series yet?
We covered the Nexus quickly when it came out back in November and have managed to have quite a lot of hands on time with this device since then, Three kindly sent out one recently to run some extra tests on which have been updated in this review including thoughts on using Netflix on this massive screen.
The Galaxy Nexus has some very impressive specifications, as you’d expect on a flagship ‘Google phone’…
- Android 4.0 ‘Ice Cream Sandwich’
- 5 Megapixel Camera with 1080p Video
- HSPA+ 21mb/s
- HSUPA 5.76mb/s
- Bluetooth, WiFi & GPS
- 1GB RAM
- 16GB Storage
- 1750mAh Battery
With so many phones going on sale at the moment it really takes something special to stand out in the crowd , especially in the high end £40+ a month or £500+ SIM-free route. Thankfully the Galaxy Nexus has a lot to impress you with it’s sleek, slim, gorgeous hardware design and an OS which has had a nice visual upgrade. Pair these together and you get a winning combination.
Being powered by a 1.2Ghz Dual Core processor and 1GB of RAM, the Nexus is a multimedia powerhouse and can easily run application after application without you needing to worry about anything slowing down or crashing. It gives really fast access to things when you need them.
There is 16GB of memory built in which will be more than enough for most people, and it’s a good thing because there is no memory card access in the Nexus. That 16GB is the maximum you will get, although to be honest that didn’t present me with many problems. After using Spotify and saving my main playlist on the internal storage, taking some photos and videos, I still had 10GB left.
Another way of looking at is is the most popular iPhone on sale at the moment is the 16GB model due to being the most affordable, and users have not had any problems here.
Looking at the front of the Galaxy Nexus it’s all about the massive screen at 4.65 inch with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels. It is the highest resolution screen we have used on a phone at CoolSmartPhone even beating the retina display seen on the Apple iPhone 4S!. The screen is not only massive but, as seen on the Nexus S, it has a slight curve. Although this doesn’t really add anything special to the device itself, it does look really cool from the side or when in the hand!.
Above the screen is the speaker grill, the light sensor to switch off the screen when you put the phone to your head, and the front-facing 1.3 megapixel camera used for video calling applications such as Skype or Tango. Both of these are both available on iOS which means you can now have cross platform video calls.
Below the screen is….well…. nothing really, Samsung have replaced the normal touch buttons for HOME, BACK, MENU and SEARCH and replaced with an on screen option for BACK, HOME and OPEN APPS which is a new feature of Ice Cream Sandwich. It takes a little getting used too but is a nice change especially as we have seen the same options on Android for years now.
The back of the Galaxy Nexus has the 5 megapixel camera (yes you did read that right it has a 5, not an 8 megapixel camera) with a single LED flash, the Google logo and the Samsung logo. The back cover feels quite cheap and flimsy as you might have experienced on the Galaxy S2 but then again this is only a back cover so not really a problem. The design on the back makes it perfect for putting on a desk and not worrying about scratches – unlike a BlackBerry I had recently where the back cover got some marks after just 2 days of use. Below the back cover is the speakerphone which is both loud but also very clear especially when using in voice calls.
The camera is very hit and miss and this is why I am still 50/50 on what to think. First of all there is only a 5 megapixel camera included instead of the 8 megapixel shooter on the Galaxy S2. Second is a problem when using the camera indoors, as you can see by the first picture above. When I used it indoors there was a pretty bad reflection effect going on, which ruined the picture (almost a ghosting effect). However, take the camera outdoors and it does perform better – even more so with the instant capture feature. This takes the shot as soon as you press the shutter on screen. You can snap picture after picture with no delay, great for sporting events to make sure you get the best picture possible.
The ‘panorama’ mode also works very well using the on screen guide for which direction to move.
Video is recorded in FULL HD – that’s 1080p for all the technical people out there – and the quality is actually really good, the video recording was more impressive than the standalone camera that is for sure. With the massive screen acting as your viewfinder you can get some fantastic footage, and the recording also has continuous auto-focus so even when you are moving around it’lll stay in focus no matter what.
The bottom of the phone has the MicroUSB port which is used for the charger and to connect to a computer for data transfer. The bottom is also where you find the 3.5m headset jack and this a pet hate of mine, I still think personally the headset port belongs at the top of a handset, but there are still phones out there which insist on putting them on the bottom and this is one of them. Not a deal breaker by any means but something I am sure other people will also find annoying.
There is absolutely nothing at the top of the handset, the buttons have been kept to the side and with the headset being located at the bottom there was nothing else left to put on top.
The left side of the phone has the volume up and down keys which, as you’d expect, control the volume for in calls. You can also control the volume of the media and switch onto Silent or Vibrate. This is not a new feature and is found on lots of phones already but a feature well worth pointing out as it saves going through menu after menu to change the volume of the ringtone. This seems to be the same on a lot of Android phones now.
The right hand side of the Nexus has the on/off button which is also used to put the phone into sleep mode where you can save battery when not in use. Below this is are 3 gold connectors, so far I have not seen anything this is compatible with but would expect due to the position this is for a desktop stand or cradle to switch the phone into a different mode like a desk clock.
So after getting some good hands on time with the Galaxy Nexus what are my overall thoughts?
First of all, the positive points, and there are quite a few here. First of all the new OS, Android 4.0 (aka Ice Cream Sandwich) is simply stunning! It almost looks computer ready but on a mobile device, the layout, the design, the whole interface has been ‘upgraded’ to another level and with the new font used gives the Galaxy Nexus a new feel to it.
With the new OS comes the updated core applications and the best of these to see a facelift is in GMail which now looks just awesome! The new font with the larger screen and new design takes GMail to new heights and is simply a joy to use.
The gorgeous 4.65 inch screen, with its 720p 1280×720 resolution, trumps even the retina display on the iPhone 4S! What with the HD resolution and the large screen, the Galaxy Nexus takes the crown as ‘King of the Screens’ with Apple now bumped to second place.
The battery was also outstanding getting me easily though a day even with quite heavy use and push email on 2 different accounts. This is no doubt thanks to the large 1750mAh battery you get included, but there’s also some great power management on the software side in Ice Cream Sandwich.
Netflix was something I was really interested at testing out on this massive screen especially as I have All You Can Eat data from Three there was no problem me sitting on the bus to work watching a film.
Quality will depend on the signal quality you get but as I live in a HSPA+ enabled area speeds are never a problem at home or heading too or from work so this is a great way to pass some time instead of listing to your already overplayed music collection.
As with any phone there are some negatives…
Whilst the Nexus is a stunning piece of hardware, for a lot of people a 4.65 inch screen will be too big and this will put a lot of people off from trying one out or looking to purchase. For anyone falling into this category, before you write it off I highly recommend going to a local phone shop and checking one out for yourself. You have to handle one to know if you are happy with the size or not.
Second is the camera, not just because it’s 5 megapixels instead of 8, but because the images it produced during the review were not up to standard. I loved the instant shutter feature allowing for rapid shots, but just be careful to avoid those blurred shots.
If I had to score the Samsung Galaxy Nexus out of 10, I’d personally score it a solid 8. The size does not put me off, I used to think anything over 4 inch was too big for a phone but my view as soon changed after using a few larger devices recently. Ice Cream Sandwich is a great move forward with the Android OS and the visual improvements can really be seen. This makes the phone feel like new instead of ‘just another Android phone’.
Whilst £500+ is a serious commitment for a phone (when purchasing outright) there are not many Android phones out there which pack the features, design and style into a single device. The Galaxy Nexus does this very well.
The Nexus is available on Three now for £499 on PAYG or free on The One Plan when you sign up to a £40 a month contract over 24 months.
Link: Three UK