Just about a month after the international Galaxy Nexus was released, Verizon got it’s first Nexus device packed to the brim with LTE goodness. To go along with that added network speed, the Verizon Galaxy Nexus picked up a few holiday pounds as well. They managed to squeeze a slightly bigger battery than it’s European kin. Along with being Verizon’s first Nexus device, the Galaxy Nexus also brings Ice Cream Sandwich. Ice Cream Sandwich is Google’s latest OS, and is now the single OS across both phones and tablets. I’ve been using the Galaxy Nexus for about a week, so let’s get into my thoughts on this device.
The first thing you are going to notice when you pick up the Galaxy Nexus is that lovely screen. Samsung has brought a 4.65 inch HD Super Amoled Display (1280 x 720)to the table. You’ll find it underneath the contour display first seen on the Nexus S. Notably missing from the back of the device is the Google name. In it’s place you’ll find both the Verizon logo with their LTE logo. While this is unusual for the Nexus line, I’m willing to deal with it. It is on the back where I can easily ignore it. On the back you’ll notice a 5MP Camera with flash. It can shoot video up to 1080p and has zero shutter lag. Under the textured battery cover you’ll find the 1850 mAh battery and a Verizon Micro-Sim to access those 4G speeds. No Micro-SD slot is available, but the phone comes with 32GB of storage. Inside the device is powered by a dual-core TI-OMAP 1.2 GHz processor and 1GB of RAM. The top of the device is empty, the left has a volume rocker, and the right has a power button as well as three charing pins. The bottom is where you’ll find both your micro-usb port and headphone jack. The battery pulls double duty here as it also contains all the necessary NFC technology. Google Wallet isn’t supported, mainly because Verizon has their own wireless payment technology coming down the pipes. (Don’t worry, the homebrew community has righted this wrong and Google Wallet is now installable via a downloadable APK.) Back on the front you’ll notice an ear piece, (These things do make calls you know) a 1.3MP front facing camera, and that’s about it. The rest is just smooth glass. All button functionality is left to the display to keep it that way. You may notice a multi-colored notification LED at the bottom of the phone.
While the housing of the device is plastic, the textured back keeps the device from feeling cheap. Besides, all you’ll be able to see is the massive screen. Even though you get a large display, it feels smaller because of minimal bezel. At first I thought the lack of hardware buttons would turn me off on this device, but they are absolutely wonderful. They can be there when you need them, and get out of the way when you don’t. While it is still needed for legacy support, a lot of apps no longer have use for the menu key. When it isn’t needed you will not even see it as an option. No longer will you need to dig for hidden options under that key. This of course will keep getting better as more and more apps move their settings into their app interface, where it should be. Another thing I love is the zero shutter lag camera. Being able to take multiple pictures faster than I ever have gives me more chances of getting the shot that I want. Mind you that the camera is not the highest quality we have seen from even Samsung themselves, it does produce pretty good shots outside, in good light. Things start to get a little grainy when we go indoor and start reducing the lighting conditions. For some this might be a deciding factor, but those quick shots are now tough to go back from for me.
This is the first device to ship out of the box with Google’s latest operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich. On top of that, Nexus devices lack all the device manufacturers’ customization that populate all the other devices come with. This is definitely a big draw, and helps updates to be a lot more speedy. I’m not an Android expert who knows all the differences that Google has baked into this latest version, but I can say without a doubt it is the smoothest interaction I’ve had with Android to date.
The Nexus has a button dedicated to multi-tasking. Hitting it will reveal all of your opened apps in a vertical, scrollable column on the right side of your screen. Killing an app is as easy as swiping it to the right, off the screen. This is a big improvement from the limited list view used in previous versions, and a lot easier than the multi-tasking found in iOS. Multi-tasking works from any app, so getting around is that much easier.
Widgets have been moved from the home screen menu, to the app drawer. I like this move to having everything in one spot. They are also easily resizable.
Like previous versions, the software keyboard can be used in either portrait or landscape orientation. I find landscape a little too large for good typing. I must say the size of this screen allows for a lot more content to be visible when the portrait keyboard is in use, compared to other devices. I’m still waiting for Swype to be updated to be compatible with Ice Cream Sandwich. The Swype developers say that Google made a change in how Android reports screen size. This makes sense since Ice Cream Sandwich works on both phones and tablets. The stock keyboard works well enough for me, and there are plenty of keyboards available in the Market once they are Ice Cream Sandwich compatible.
This handset is equipped with Verizon’s 4G LTE network. When you have it available, this is a huge improvement in speeds over 3G. However, the fact that 4G is a battery drain has not been unfounded yet. This maybe the reason every other major device OS has yet to implement LTE into their devices. If you find yourself not going to be able to top off your device, it might be best to disable the LTE network. This will help immensely with battery use. When on the 4G network I averaged between 5-7 mb/s down, and 2-5 up. (Pensacola, Florida)Of course those in other 4G areas have speeds much higher than this.
Like I stated earlier about network speed. Right now LTE and battery life don’t mix. If the rest of this handset appeals to you, you have to have a strategy to get through the day. With 4G turned off I was easily able to make it through my 7-3 job. With 4G on I was looking for a charger around 1. The power control widget is already in place for a reason. You need to use it. This makes it super easy to toggle WiFi, Bluetooth, location services, account syncing and screen brightness. You’ll want to at least have a charger in your car. Extreme users will want to look into either the slightly extended battery, or an extra battery. For my money, I’d buy the extra battery and charger. You won’t need to switch doors that way. This is mainly because the extended battery is only 2100 mAh, or a 14% increase in capacity. A second factory battery will double your battery life, except for reboot time. Your opinion could be different of course. Remember as more accessories come out that the NFC chip for the Nexus is located in the battery, so third-party batteries would likely be without that circuitry. Without NFC, mobile payments through Google Wallet will not work, nor will Android Beam, or any other NFC based application that might hit the market.
The main camera comes in at 5MP, and is capable of shooting in 1080p with continuos auto-focus. It also features “Zero Shutter Lag” which, just as the name implies, allows you to fire off shots just about as fast as you can hit the button. The shots come out generally well, but low light conditions are not as good as we have seen on other top end handsets.
If you are an Android fan on Verizon, this handset should definitely be on your list of phones to check out. Packing LTE and a 4.65 inch HD Super Amoled Display into a single device is a big factor. Add in that this is a Google device that will have huge developer support going forward for all your hacking needs, and you get a pretty convincing message. A Nexus device is always first in line for updates, and free from all the skins that lay on top of Android. While the camera isn’t the highest quality, the zero shutter lag is definitely a thing of beauty. I definitely want both quality and speed in my next device. Ice Cream Sandwich is the smoothest Android experience to date. As with previous versions, the beauty of Android is the ability to replace almost any piece of the user experience, making a device that is truly yours.
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