Google Galaxy Review
Whether you are a fan of Android or iOS, you can be sure that the smartphones coming out now and in the future will completely change the way you look at handheld devices. Smartphones have the capability to assist your everyday life in a variety of ways with just a few simple applications (apps) and swipes across the screen. Is Google's Galaxy Nexus a worthy device for your hard earned money in a world where new devices come out 3 or 4 times a year? Hopefully this review will help you know if the Galaxy Nexus is enough to hold you over until the next “big” device is released.
Google first entered the phone market by introducing the G1 in 2008. This was the first turn of the Android phone industry since the G1 offered an unobstructed view of Android in its pure, vanilla form. I will discuss the software a bit more later. From here, Google started its Nexus series starting with the Nexus One in 2010. The Nexus series was continued by the Nexus S in late 2010. Then, the Galaxy Nexus was released in late 2011; however, it was exclusive to only Verizon for a few months until it was released on Sprint in early 2012. Since the Galaxy Nexus release, there have also been other additions to the Nexus series such as the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets and the Nexus 4 smartphone which is to be released in late 2012. Over the course of the Nexus smartphones,
Google had asked select manufacturers to make their phones. HTC was the manufacturer for the G1 and the Nexus One. Samsung manufactured the Nexus S and the Galaxy Nexus. LG is the manufacturer for the Nexus 4. However, bear in mind that these phones are still considered to be Google phones because of the software that is on them.
From one look at the Galaxy Nexus, the first thing you will notice is the huge screen on the front face of the device. The top edge of the phone is completely featureless. As you go down the right side of the phone you will find a firm power button and three pogo contacts that could be used to charge the phone in a car dock that was available on Google's website. The bottom of the phone has a 3.5 mm headphone jack and the micro USB charging port as well as the primary microphone. The left side of the device showcases the volume rocker roughly one-third the way from the top of the phone. The back has a textured diamond crosshatch battery cover that takes up the majority of the back of the phone with only one cutout for the camera. The primary speaker is directly below the battery cover.
Overall, the phone has smooth corners and is slightly oval in shape. The front of the device is slightly curved to contour to your face, though you will hardly notice it in normal use. This is to allow for a more accurate microphone placement. I personally do not like this aspect of the design because I would prefer to have a completely flat front face.
The major drawback with this design is the obsessive amount of plastic. With the exception of the front face, all buttons and materials used in the construction of the exterior of the phone is dark grey plastic. This may be good at tolerating low drops without too much damage, but outside of that, definitely be sure to keep it in a case.
As mentioned before, the most notable feature about this phone is the 4.65" Super Amoled HD display. The resolution on this screen is 1280x720, for a pixel per square inch count of 316. Outside use proves to be easily efficient at ~75% brightness, but for normal inside use, ~25% will be more than sufficient.
As I started discussing in the history overview section, the software of the Nexus series has classically been marked by its vanilla experience. Typical Samsung phones will have a TouchWiz skin over Android that alters the Android features and experience from its simplest form. HTC phones (except for the Google phones already mentioned) have a Sense skin. Though these other skins may enhance or showcase some features, I feel that they tend to diminish other important features from the way Android designed. Additionally, since the Nexus phones are using the most basic form of Android, any updates to the Android software will be pushed to the Nexus devices first, since the software will have to be converted to be compatible for the various skins of other manufacturers.
One thing to note about the vanilla, or non-skinned form of Android is that the interface is simple to understand and easy to figure out even if you are new to Android. The main settings menu accurately names the various aspects that can be user controlled and the menus do not seem to be too difficult to navigate around. If the user would prefer to have a different launcher to have more control over various customizations, there are several available, but they are definitely not necessary in my opinion.
When this phone was originally released, it was the first phone to be running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS). ICS brought with it a taste of the Honeycomb tablet OS. This was a big deal for Android users because of the change of Navigation buttons. The new featured buttons are Back, Home, and Multitasking. In most apps, you can still find a search button that users will find familiar, but the menu button was tricky to spot unless you used Honeycomb on a recent tablet. The menu button now looks like colon except there are three stacked dots, and again you can find it somewhere on the screen for most apps.
The Multitasking button is probably the most noticeable change. Now for quickly switching tasks and managing open apps, you can use this navigation button and see all open tasks you have used. They appear in a stacked column. You can see four apps at a time and a small snapshot of how you left the app. You can tap on one of the apps to jump into it, or you can close recent apps by swiping left or right. I have found this to be incredibly handy and efficient, especially when I am looking up a restaurant phone number or address and want to text the information to a friend.
The navigation buttons are located on the screen. There is a wide debate on whether these software keys (since the navigation keys are part of the LCD screen) or soft keys are better. There are various valid arguments for both sides but really I do not see much of a difference. I can relate to both sides. The software keys do take up the bottom ~1/2" of the screen, but they will be ready for any alteration that may be added in future versions of Android. Also, the buttons do leave the screen when you are watching a movie or looking at a picture, as long as you are using the dedicated applications. On the other hand, the soft keys are appealing since they are always visible regardless of what is process is occurring on the screen, and they can be reprogrammed and altered by long press gestures if required. Therefore, I do not see the software keys as an asset or a hindrance to this Nexus phone; it just depends on your personal preference.
In addition, users now have a voice in the size of the widgets on the homescreens. To change the size of widgets, simply long press on the widget and then a small pop-up menu should appear and give you the option to resize. There is also an option in settings to allow for some widgets to overlay each other. This is very useful if a particular widget has a bit of dead space and you want to fill that space with other apps or widgets.
In early September 2012, there was an update to the Galaxy Nexus software with the release of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Users still have the three main navigation keys, but now it also has a gesture option on the home key. If you long-press on the home button, there is option to go into Google Now. This is similar to Siri on Apple devices except it does more than just voice searches. It has “cards” that go into different aspects that you may find useful. For instance, there is one for the weather and maps. This function picks up on the “cards” you use most often and then sends you reminders about them when it feels you may be interested in that specific information.
Another main update to Jelly Bean is invisible but you will definitely notice it when you use it. I am talking about the work Google did with Project Butter. There was at times a small bit of lag when changing homescreens or going into apps. Now, navigation through the phone or browsing the web is fast and liquid smooth, provided you are able to get 4G speeds to keep up.
Another main feature of the Galaxy Nexus is the camera software. This is one of the first phone cameras that has a panorama mode built in. The camera reacts surprisingly fast if you repeatedly tap the on-screen shutter button. The camera settings allow the user to manually set the scene, exposure, and white balance. Overall, the camera is not quite good enough to replace your high end point-and-shoot, but it will hold its own in comparison to the iPhone 4.
In my opinion, the biggest feature missing on this phone is that there is not an external micro SD slot anywhere on the device. There is 32 GB internal storage which I have found to be more than I use and I have not held back on the music that I keep on my phone. In short, that is one feature I would have rather liked to have.
The Galaxy Nexus is using a TI OMAP 4 1.2 GHz dual-core processor. It has 1 GB of RAM. This phone operates very smooth and reacts smoothly with very little issues. Especially with the firmware upgrade shortly after the release of Jelly Bean, the hard work of Project Butter is definitely present. A recent Quadrant test on the device showed a score of 2500 or higher, which is definitely on par with a smooth user experience.
As far as signal service goes, the phone does have an LTE antenna. Only recently have I started to have moments where I noticed that I have been getting 4G service, but as Sprint continues to roll out their LTE, I am hoping to see more of it. Until then, my phone is ready for 4G when Sprint is.
The stock battery is 1850mAH and this would usually get me through my day at work but I would need to put it on the charger shortly after getting home. There is a slim extended battery available from Samsung that provides 2100mAH. With this extended battery, as long as I put it on the charger overnight, I have not had to worry about battery life. Under really heavy usage, you may need to grab a charger in the afternoon, but for quick browsing and a reasonable amount of texting, you should not have much to worry about. However, if you so desire, the battery is removable and if you keep a spare battery for it you can swap it out and not have anything to worry about.