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Samsung Galaxy Nexus Smartphone Review

What can be said about this paradox of a mobile computing device that hasn’t been said to death in podcasts and reviews? Hundreds of millions of search results made up of billions of words all describing the hopes and dreams of a generation. A fourth generation to be exact. To intimately know the pain of someone who’s been waiting for this dual core dynamo since it was first announced back in October, you must know the struggles and the heart aches of what it’s like to buy the hype, and hang on every last false release date rumor and false technical specs that you can manage to scrape off the Internet.

Let’s start over. What you need to understand is that in order for a launch like this to go well, a lot of things have to happen at the same time. You need a great operating system, super fast hardware and a carrier to provide you a wireless voice / data signal. If any part of cracks, the whole system breaks down and you have chaos. Poorly connected chaos.

Let’s start with ten things I hate about you. On a scale from one to five, I give Android 4.0.2 Ice Cream Sandwich a four, the hardware a two, and the carrier a ZERO. Verizon please listen. You have one thing to do. Provide the signal. Make it a good signal, and make it strong. Don’t code apps for the devices the signal is going to help power, just provide the signal. I’m sure by now you’ve all read the countless forum posts and YouTube comments about angry nerds with two or less bars. Let me relay you my own story.

When you put the Galaxy Nexus into WiFi, 95% of the time the 3G won’t reconnect. I say 3G because we don’t have 4G here. Not for one to six years, or so I’m told. You can send text messages and make phone calls, but there is no data. In order to get the data connectivity back, a reboot is in order. Stock Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) has no reboot option that I could find. Only a power off option. This seems oddly reminiscent of the stock Droid X. No reboot option. Once you put CM 7 or another custom ROM on the device, the option magically appears. Is this Verizon playing with your pure Nexus Android experience? As someone in the comments section of the verge put it, “Signalgate”. Well, the iOS copied Android’s notifications, so we can copy their crappy signal. At least it’s not the antenna. Plus, it’s probably just as good it wants to stay on WiFi, because when I reboot and finally connect up the 3g, the speeds remind me of a dialup modem trying to pass something much larger than itself.

Face to unlock is cool, but a gimmick. Once it got dark outside, I quickly went back to slide the circle to unlock. But when in good lighting and once it really gets a chance to know your face, the face unlock is very fast. The cameras are pretty much daytime only, and of course the LED flash still makes people look like the devil or something out of the show Grimm. Although I will say this, if you want to take a whole bunch of completely average pictures, really super fast. Then this is your phone. The camera is so fast. You almost need a tripod for it to be useful. The panoramic function is pretty cool, I took a picture of the podcast studio which you can see here. Maybe I’m being too harsh, but this was amped up to be it. The end all Android experience…at least until the next one.

While we’re talking about hardware, we might as well get this uncomfortable little issue out of the way. The screen gets scratched up too easily. I’ve had my Droid X since it first came out and the screen isn’t scratched as much as my Galaxy Nexus is. I do like how it has Oleophobic display coating, which means it repels grease. It’s fingerprint resistant, which is pretty cool, but I’d rather wipe it off then not be able to wipe it off for fear of scratching it. You also need to turn the screen up to full brightness for it to look nice. Otherwise it looks like you’re wearing sunglasses in the shade. It’s weird, but again, that’s probably how these screens are and I’m just not used to it. I feel like I have to treat it like my Oakley sunglasses — don’t touch the lens.

In the sun when the screen is off, the screen has an odd blue tint, but maybe I’m just not used to it. I’m almost afraid to do the key scratch test with it, but who cares right, we have insurance. Who wants to see a drop test? So that’s the UK version, impervious to keys and being tossed down stairs, but the Verizon version scratches from going in and out of a pocket? Maybe we’ll throw mine around on Attack of the Androids before I take it back and trade it in for a RAZR.

This is my very first Samsung smartphone, and I have to say I’m not impressed. Always having used either HTC or Motorola, I’ve gotten used to how something like this should feel. When the Galaxy Nexus is in my hands, I feel like I’m going to break it. Maybe it’s psychological because of the signal problem. It’s also not nice how the car dock Verizon is selling does not have the three pins or the built in charging of it’s UK counterpart which is really annoying. Having those three pins, I assume, is the only way to kick the device into car dock mode. There is no stock car dock app like on the Droid X and other devices. So Verizon is basically selling people a 40 or 50 dollar plastic holder that can attach to your windshield, for no apparent good reason. Of course none of their associates know that. Luckily some developers have stepped up and you can get a copy of Car Home Ultra. It’s like the stock car dock app, on steroids. It’s awesome.

If you have a device running a 1.2 GHz TI OMAP 4460 ARM Cortex-A9 dual-core processor with a 720×1280 px at 316 ppi Super AMOLED PenTile HD screen, you want a battery that is going to last. I ran on the 1850 mAH standard battery for a few days of normal use, and got around four to five hours before it needed a charge. Your mileage will vary. My use of GPS due to Waze puts more of a drain on it than normal. I could get through an eight hour day at work on the 2100 mAH extended battery. Verizon was selling them for half off, around 25 bucks. I highly recommend you get one.

The device also gets pretty toasty, which if you live as far North as I do, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Keep in mind, you have a dual core 1.2 Ghz processor in there, and when you play graphic intensive games like GTA, or Sonic CD, the CPU and the 384 MHz PowerVR graphics processor really start to heat up.

If you live in a place that supports Google Wallet, don’t get too excited. The Galaxy Nexus doesn’t come with it, but I doubt that’s a big deal for most of us. The battery handles the NFC and you are able to get a copy on the device without having to root it. Whether or not you want a hacked copy of an app that deals with your wallet, is a whole other discussion.

Let’s talk the good. Honestly, the hardware is “ok” once you get used to it. It depends what device you’re coming over from. Coming from a Droid X made the Galaxy Nexus feel super light and easily breakable. I’ve only dropped it once and it seems fine.

What I really love about it is the operating system. Android has been redesigned and it’s an intuitive experience. Being powered by dual core processors probably helps, but it will be interesting to see how it fairs on devices with less power.

I do miss CM7 and I still keep my Droid X close, but only as a WiFi mini tablet. I can’t wait to see what kind of custom ROMS we get built on the ICS branch. I’ve only had a couple of random reboots, which I assume has something to do with the cell tower software issues causing the poor connectivity issues.

ICS feels stable and is user friendly. Once you get used to where things are, the whole experience is more intuitive. Voice to text, the new Gmail app and watching videos on the HD screen are all very smooth, especially if you are on WiFi. I’m sure once they get the signal issues worked out, and 4G becomes the prominent standard it’ll will work better. Also having that barometer really does give a boost to your GPS locks. This phone locks faster than any other I’ve used. Maybe I’m just getting good satellite coverage lately, but it really does seem like having that third signal in there makes a difference when searching for satellites.

I like it, but I don’t like it. I’m sure once everything gets sorted out it’ll be a great smartphone. But between how Verizon handled the launch, and the various problems users are experiencing, it’s an early adopter phone. If you could put ICS on something like the RAZR, something with some nice hardware it would be unstoppable. Samsung and Verizon need to both step their game up if they want to ever see another Nexus phone. Maybe Google should have gone with Motorola to make the next Nexus, instead of giving Samsung another whack at it. It is nice to get that pure as can be Android 4.0 experience, but it should have better physical standards for the cost.

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5 Responses to Samsung Galaxy Nexus Smartphone Review

  1. Mat December 21, 2011 at 6:47 pm #

    Be sure to listen to the next episode of Attack of the Androids to hear more!

  2. Jerry December 24, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    build quality is FINE. i love my GSM Galaxy Nexus’ design.

  3. Mat Lee December 29, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    You know, I keep hearing and seeing scratch tests on the gsm models that are totally great looking, for some reason, I think they changed something in the CDMA version, not quite sure what it is though. I’m now on my second one because the first one’s screen got more scratched then in the pictures. We’ll see how this one does.

  4. Conservative Blog February 8, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    I have this phone now and love it. Good choice except there are some bugs that are being worked out since it is a brand new item.

  5. mat lee February 8, 2012 at 11:47 am #

    what kind of bugs did you find? Does yours have a problem connecting to 3 g when you turn wifi off? The more I use it the more that becomes my only major issue.

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