Before I start talking about my Samsung Galaxy Nexus, I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and recovering well from what should have been a time of feasting and celebration. I for one, am deliberately cutting back on all things tasty, at least for the next couple of weeks! Now back to the topic at hand, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. As most of you have seen in my tweets, I have already rated it as the best Android that I have played with in 2011. Coupled with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich aka known as ICS on the web, it sets a blistering pace for all other Androids to follow.
However, having said that, I’ll say straight up and on a personal level, it is not good enough to replace my iPhone 4S.
No, I am not an Apple fanboy, rather I’m a fanboy of technology and at the moment the iPhone 4S is just the best smartphone out there for me. I’ll elaborate more below.
Samsung Galaxy Nexus Features:
- Google Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
- 4.65-inch HD Super AMOLED Screen with 720p resolution
- 1.2GHz dual-core processor
- Redesigned UI in Android 4.0
- Improved multi-tasking, notifications, Wi-Fi hotspot, NF support, full web browsing
- Android 4.0 features Software Navigation buttons
- People App with Google+ Integration among other features
- Redesigned camera with panorama mode, 1080p video, zero-shutter lag, silly faces and background replacement features
- Face Unlock: Facial recognition to unlock your phone
- Android Beam uses NFC to easily share content with other Android users with the bump of phones
- All the Google Apps you love from Android Market and GMail to Movie Studio and redesigned Google+ app
- 8.94mm thick, 4.29mm bezel
- LTE and HSPA+ connectivity
- 135 grams
I applaud Samsung for doing something different with their design of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. I like the curved screen styling, which I believe aids better phone call quality by cupping the mic and bottom of the phone towards one’s mouth. The way it thickens at its bottom to provide the user with the feeling of what’s the top-end and bottom-end of the phone is also praiseworthy. And the 4.65 inch HD Super AMOLED screen…what a sight to behold! Colours are vibrant and sharp and can be viewed in both day and night light. I initially thought that with a screen of this size, I wouldn’t be able to navigate the Nexus with one hand like I can on the iPhone 4S – but I was wrong. Maybe it’s the long piano fingers that I have been blessed with, but I was able to easily perform most functions on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus with one hand.
Despite this large screen, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is super-light, tipping the scales at only 135grams. Without a case adorning it, there were numerous times when I actually forgot that it was in my pocket. For business users, it fits perfectly in the shirt pocket or inside a business suit jacket easily without adding to much bulk to your person.
There were two things that I didn’t like about the Nexus design: plasticky feel; and position of the volume control (see above image). In regards to the first point, in order to achieve the lightness of the device I’m sure that materials would have been a key consideration. At the moment, plastic is simply the lightest so it’s a tradeoff between stylish feel and weight. In regards to the placement of the volume controls, I’m not sure how smartphone manufacturers can still get this wrong – for right handers (majority of users) the volume buttons rest underneath the middle finger which means it’s way too easy to accidentally press. It becomes annoying when you’re performing other functions like answering emails, tweeting, or taking photos.
Along with the HTC Sensation XE, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is among the fastest Androids I’ve ever played with. There is almost zero lag when switching between apps. One test that shows me just how fast a smartphone is, is the time it takes to get the camera function open and ready – both optics and software have to be primed before the user can take a photo. With the Samsung Galaxy Nexus it takes approximately 2 secs, which is blazing fast.
As mentioned above, the 4.65 inch screen is a dream to use. The inbuilt “Back”, “Home” and “Open Apps” buttons on the screen, can deceive the user into believing that the screen is not as large as it really is. Personally I would have preferred every bit of screen real estate left for display purposes and have slim hardware buttons assigned to the aforementioned functions. While we’re talking about the screen, I recommend that you get a Samsung Galaxy Nexus screen protector. It’s an automatic step for me whenever I buy a new smartphone.
The battery – where do I start? Although it’s better than the notorious battery life on the Samsung Galaxy S II, the battery life on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is not much better. I blame the 4.65 inch screen and when reviewing the battery page on the Nexus my theory is supported (see below). On the third day of using the device, I went from 100% at 7am in the morning to just about dead after 1pm. That’s around only 6-7 hours battery time.
I’m hoping that these battery issues can be addressed by Google and Samsung with a patch just like Apple iOS 5. In the mean time, I’m going to see what I can tweak in the Samsung Galaxy Nexus settings to increase battery life. Hopefully in the next day or so, I’ll have a post with these tips and advice.
The 5 megapixel camera is one of the biggest letdowns of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus – it’s just average. You’d think by the end of 2011 and proliferation of social media that all smartphones would be equal or not very far off in their camera capability. This is not the case with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Please don’t let any of the Android fanboys talk you into buying the Nexus for its camera ability alone, otherwise you will be totally disappointed. I found that colors on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus were often washed out; objects weren’t sharp; and in low light conditions, images ended up with a tinge of green. Below you’ll see a comparison of photos taken by both the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (first photos) and the iPhone 4S.
Before you check out the examples below, please don’t ask me to explain the mish-mash of food on the plate – hey it was a buffet and it had been a while since I had cocktail frankfurts!
As you can see, you just can’t compare with the image quality of the iPhone 4S. No wonder photo-sharing app developers like the @instagram team designed for the iPhone first. It’s sad because imagine if Nexus’ blazing fast camera captured awesome quality images too?
For some, this may not be a huge factor but as an avid hobby photographer who often likes to share landscapes, people and food via the lens and apps like @instagram on a daily basis, this is a deal breaker for me.
User Interface – Android 4.0
Google’s latest version of Android is definitely the best yet. Codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich, Android 4.0 has a lot of improved and new innovative features. Here are some of my favourites:
- Face Unlock: much more convenient than having to punch in your PIN everytime. Yes, you can fool it with a photo, so not the most secure option
- Screen Widget Customisation: adding information display where you want is definitely an advantage of Android 4.0 over iOS. I especially love having the weather and my calendar visible on the home page
- Voice Input: while not as good as Siri, voice input on Android 4.0 is quite decent
- Fast performance: coupled with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus’ dual processor, Android 4.0 is as fast as can be. It seems like the only bottle neck now is data speed
- New fonts and icons: make it readable and gives it a more stylish feel
- Camera capabilities: particularly liked the speed of camera app and photo editing options – considering the average quality of the photos, editing becomes a necessity
I don’t have many gripes with Android 4.0, except that Google should have done a better job with notifications. Rather than provide a notification that aggregates total notifications from a social media app, they should have learned from Apple and separated out each notification with detail of what that notification is about, e.g. Android 4.0 will say there are new Twitter replies which doesn’t give the user any information about each message. Whereas iOS creates a notification for each reply or comment, which provides the user with more information as to whether they should stop what they’re doing and check out the app.
Conclusion – Samsung Galaxy Nexus Is The Best Android For 2011
All in all, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, despite its shortcomings, is still my favourite Android for 2011. It’s styling, blazing performance, and operating system make it better than any other Android I’ve played with this year and it is currently the smartphone that I recommend to anyone who asks me: “what type of Android should I buy?” If on the other hand, they are looking for something that takes great photos, I will send them to Apple to buy an iPhone 4S. If Samsung fix the camera, volume control and @instagram comes to Android, I’ll be one of the first in line for Samsung Galaxy Nexus 2
- Super-light weight
- Stylish design
- Improvements to UI in Ice Cream Sandwich
- Better battery life than Samsung Galaxy S 2
- Beautiful screen
- Extremely fast performance
- Customisability and widgets
- Face Unlock
- Camera is average – over exposed, washed out colours and lacks sharpness
- Positioning of volume button
- Plastic feel
- Not as good battery life than iPhone 4S
- No Siri
- My post on “19 Tips to Improve Batter Life on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus“
- Protect your screen with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus Screen Protector
- Keep your device charged with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus Car Charger