A new Beginning – The Samsung Galaxy Nexus:
Ok ok, so you all know I had quite a big moan about my Samsung S2 (which I essentially love). The issue I had was wholly related to the general battery life, so forgive me when I get quite excited about another Samsung smartphone seen as most people who read this mobile news site think I get paid by Apple..:)
So what to expect from the Samsung Galaxy Nexus?
Many are saying that this new addition to Samsung’s high end smartphone range is a market changer, the kind of phone that brings about a new dimension to consumer behaviour and use via a brand new operating system that puts all others to shame.
Well, it has some pretty great features which I will be delving deeper into later but let us get one thing straight, it is a high quality smartphone, perhaps even a touch inspired, but it is not the most amazing phone ever and compared to its nearest rivals it is only in some areas a touch ahead, and some may argue that in others it actually lacks…but more of that later on.
Ice Cream Sandwich:
Ok, in my humble opinion, as an early adopter of the iPhone and subsequent user of a Google Android based Samsung S2, I have to say that speed aside, the iPhone interface just looks and works that little bit more intuitively and allows me to enjoy my phone a touch more.
Yes the earlier (Gingerbread) version of Android is easy to use but it looks and feels quite tacky in a Windows kind of way (think default night sky swish effects and naff looking transparency layers).
Additionally before ICS, the way icons could not be moved once dropped into folders was such a usability oversight it made me think again about Android as this “advanced” O/S that so many people go on about.
Users of Windows and Android based devices often seem to compare Apple products to their own devices based on areas such as specification, speed, and an ability to alter things easily, i.e customizations to the interface and such like.
The truth is that none of these things really matter to end users if you get the usability right in the first place.
Trust me, Apple know this and sell their products on what you “can do” with their devices not what “the devices can do”…this is a subtle but significant mind shift and marketing position….think “Facetime” as opposed to “Dual Core power”.
So while I agree that Android based devices certainly pack some punch when compared to the iPhone, this is not the be all and end all in my own summary of a phones potential and desirability.
So without further ado let us take a good look at the Samsung Galaxy Nexus in more detail.
Samsung Galaxy Nexus Look and Feel:
Well it has to be said that the new Samsung looks pretty much like a slightly tweaked version of their Galaxy range, this makes sense really.
With a pretty big 4.65 in screen (more on that display later) and weighing in at 135g and a rather large 67.94mm x 135.5mm x 8.94mm dimension. The new Galaxy Nexus is a bit more of a beast than the Samsung S2 and practically may be a little too large for smaller hands.
Similar to the Samsung S2, they have managed to keep the device extremely thin considering what is packed inside but it is at the detriment of quality and that all important tactile element that Apple, Nokia and HTC seem to be able to deliver with aplomb almost every time.
I must say that Samsung phones feel cheap to me, especially after using an Apple iPhone and various HTC’s on and off.
In fact as soon as I got my S2 I went straight out and bought a protective cover so much was my concern that the flimsy back was going to snap or crack.
The back of the Nexus is made from what is termed “hyperskin” and to be honest is neither hyper or a skin, it is a bit of plastic with a textured finish.
My advice to Samsung: Make it thicker so people believe they are holding a tough and durable phone, and once you buy the device get some protection, shame Samsung think we all care about an additional 2mm or so at most on our already huge phones, for the sake of making it lighter and thinner.
A nice feature of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus that is introduced with this model is a tailored glowing light that allows you to see who is messaging or ringing you at any one time, the idea being you assign different hues to different contacts. This is great for simply glancing at a call if the phone is elsewhere so you know how urgent or non urgent it may be if the device is on silent, a nice touch, these things make me smile.
Samsung Galaxy Nexus Display:
As we have mentioned, the display is pretty big for a smartphone at 4.65 diagonally, but as the short-cut tray sits at the bottom of this display there is really only a usable 4 inches on the home screen, but bigger is better surely?
Well for watching videos I must say that the 1,280 x 720 HD resolution from the Super AMOLED display screen is a joy, with truly jaw dropping resolution and colour fidelity.
Like all Android devices, you are able to customise areas of the interface much more than on device specific operating systems such as iOS, so users and developers can have a go at meddling with the “developers options” which will give access to background process limiting, CPU usage, and visual feedbacks for the touch-screen, as well as general configuration settings which if you like personalisation then the new Android 4.0 ICS allows for plenty of that. Me personally, not that bothered, give me it working well and let me just use it with some minor tweaks if I am particularly bored which is pretty much ever.
Notable features for customisation include the ability to set alerts and stop functionality of your device related to data use. Yes this relates to Android being a beast that eats quite a lot of data up in general, and with data charges at such high levels this is a nice feature that can be set up if needed.
I was using a new Nokia Lumia 800 yesterday and I could tell straight away the difference in responsiveness of the phone when compared to Android devices, and while people say that Android is so advanced, it lacks in important areas such as lagging, it just feels poor tapping your key pass in and the device not responding as you would expect, this is less apparent in iOS and Windows devices.
Saying this the new Ice Cream Sandwich is no slouch and the responsiveness is notably improved form Gingerbread.
Swype and Keyboard:
With no physical controls on the front of the smartphone the virtual keyboard when used will dominate your screen (in either portrait or landscape), I am unsure what I think of this as I like to see what is behind in case of errors that often occur when typing, so I would suggest that the keyboard feature allows a little more real estate so the actual text that is being input has more proportion surrounding it.
No Swype support:
Now one thing I love about Samsung is the “Swype” feature on the S2, unfortunately this is not currently offered for the Galaxy Nexus, and is a real shame that this technology is not being pushed more as I believe it makes light work of texting, and is a joy to use when you get the settings right.
With a totally new update the new Gmail app is a vast improvement on what I had initial problems with on the Samsung S2, never seemed to sync, only just now after a cache refresh (the fourth time) does it seem to work as I expected it to do in default settings.
Offline search is a major bonus for the app and other usability features have vastly improved the ease of use of the application which is one of my most used on any Android device.
GPS and Navigation:
So has the GPS area, that, frankly Google should shine on been improved on the Galaxy Nexus, after various reports of getting lost on earlier Sammy device using the inbuilt GPS?
Well yes and no. In tests it appeared to be working fine for 90% of the time but also got me lost twice, so not overly impressed to be honest. But what is pretty cool is that the new 3D rendering engine within ICS allows the buildings to take on a little more form when you use two fingers to glide down the screen to go 3D street view style.
Support of real time turn by turn voice directions is an iPhone beating area the new Samsung Nexus offers, which includes utilising the built in gyroscope and compass that can help to tell where you are turn by turn, so, in theory is much more responsive and should be able to pin point your location pretty accurately, you will need to have GPS and WiFi enabled to get the most out of this service though.
Be warned 2G users in rural areas:
We do hear that there is a pretty big bug in Android 4.0 that stops 2G users in rural areas from hearing anything as the bug simply turns the volume down on your device without any warning…and that is it, end of call!
Notable features and omissions:
- 5 megapixel resolution main camera
- Front facing 1.3 megapixel camera
- 16 GB+ internal storage
- Full HD video recording (Up to 1080p) plus 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera
- Integrated handsfree speaker
- Music Player: AAC / AAC+ / AMR / AMR-NB / eAAC+ / MP3
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, USB 2.0, 3.5mm audio jack, NFC
- 270 – 290 hours?
- 500 minutes (3G) – 1060 minutes (2G)
- No SD card slot
Would Munnsy buy it?
Yes and no.
I would not “upgrade” to this model from my own Samsung S2 just now, there is simply no huge benefit, only cost, the battery life is not as I would like so my replacement batteries will be in the stocking for Xmas whichever of these I went for, and the extra screen real estate, while nice, really is not needed for me, the power, great but not needed.
So while this is a great phone, and if you have a smartphone from perhaps 12 months or more or looking to try a Samsung smartphone for the first time then yes by all means go for it and enjoy a truly high class phone, though it may be prudent to wait for Ice cream Sandwich to go through an initial revision in order to iron minor niggles that keep getting reported, however nothing much to worry about.
And you know, while a reviewer such as myself may moan a bit about new phones when they come out, this is only because it is our job, otherwise you as potential purchaser would never be able to make informed decisions and devices would never improve.
Most smartphones that get released are basically high quality, so yes we have to pick faults to let you know that one performs better in certain areas than the other, in the case of the Galaxy Nexus, leave it a while until ICS gets an update is again my only advice, otherwise in the wise words of my mother…”Stonking” phone….and that third vowel is correct OK…!Anthony Munns