Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (first impressions)

Summary:The first device running Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) is now available as the Galaxy Nexus from Samsung. You can buy import versions with the Verizon one likely to arrive before the end of the year.

Google decided to partner with manufacturers to release Nexus devices running the latest version of the Android operating system with the Nexus One released in early 2010, powered by Android 2.1 (Eclair). We then saw the Nexus S released in late 2010. And now we have the Galaxy Nexus with Ice Cream Sandwich and my device arrived yesterday.

I have been using the Galaxy Nexus for several hours, but will be spending much more time with it since I purchased it for myself. I purchased the Nexus One and regret ever selling it, but I skipped the Nexus S because it did not have support for T-Mobile's high speed data network and I did not find the reception on the Sprint model to be acceptable. Regular readers know I am a huge fan of pentaband devices, only Nokia had them until now, so I decided to jump on the Galaxy Nexus with pentaband and many more high end specifications. Check out my image gallery with product photos and screenshots from the device.


Image Gallery: Check out some photos and screenshots of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus Ice Cream Sandwich smartphone.
Image Gallery: Galaxy Nexus retail box
Image Gallery: Galaxy Nexus home screen

Purchasing, in the box and first impressions

The Galaxy Nexus is not yet available from Verizon, where it will be coming first in the U.S., but you can purchase the GSM HSPA+ pentaband model from a number of importers. I first ordered one from a UK reseller, but couldn't wait for the shipping and import clearance process so I found one from MobileCityOnline.com along with a $20 online coupon. I see now that Amazon is serving as a store front for multiple vendors, Newegg sells them, and they are available from a number of online vendors. The current import price is about $750, but there is no contract requirement and the phone is SIM unlocked for world travel needs.

The Galaxy Nexus comes in a rather long box, but has the traditional Nexus white and prime (red, green, blue, and yellow) color scheme. You will find the device, large battery, small A/C plug, USB cable, wired stereo headset, and Quick Start Guide inside the box.

The Galaxy Nexus is quite large, but thin, so it still feels good in the hand. I was impressed by the sparseness of the device, in terms of minimal hardware buttons and a very clean front. The back cover is very thin and flimsy, but when it is mounted it does add a bit of texture to the back.

Specifications

Specifications for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus include the following:
  • Ice Cream Sandwich Android 4.0 operating system
  • Quad-band GSM radio
  • Penta-band HSPA+ 21.1 Mbps radio (Supports 3G on AT&T and T-Mobile)
  • 1.2 GHz dual-core TI OMAP processor
  • 4.65 inch 1280x720 pixels Super AMOLED display with contoured glass (316 ppi)
  • Preinstalled 16GB internal storage
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 5 megapixel camera with LED flash
  • 1.3 megapixel front facing camera
  • Proximity sensor, light sensor, gyro, barometer, NFC and digital compass
  • Integrated A-GPS
  • Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n)
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • 1750 mAh lithium-ion battery
  • Dimensions: 135.5 x 67.9 x 8.9 mm and 135 grams

The Galaxy Nexus is not lacking much with a high end display, processor, all the wireless connectivity you could want, and every sensor found in a phone. 16GB internal is acceptable, but I would have liked 32GB or the ability to use your own microSD card. The camera resolution is a bit low and the sensors are nothing exciting. If Samsung would have put a higher end camera then there would be nothing really holding back this device.

Walk around the hardware

The front is dominated by the 4.65 inch display and it is unique to see there are no physical or capacitive Android hardware buttons on the front. These buttons appear on the display bottom in portrait and rotate to be on the right side when you rotate the device 90 degrees. The Super AMOLED display is gorgeous and everything is crisp and clear. You can find a multi-color LED hidden in the center black area below the display and if you download and install the free Light Flow utility you can customize the colors and notifications to your delight. There is a headset speaker centered above the display and a 1.3 megapixel front facing camera to the right of the speaker.

There is nothing on the top of the device with a volume button on the upper left. Like all Samsung devices, the power button is found on the upper right with connectors down further for dock accessories. The 3.5mm headset jack and microUSB port are found on the bottom.

On the back you will find the 5 megapixel camera and LED flash towards the top with the speaker down at the bottom. The back cover is very thin material and pops off to reveal the battery and SIM card slot.

Quick thoughts on Ice Cream Sandwich

Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) is one the the more radical updates we have seen for Android with features found in iOS and webOS devices integrated with improved Android features. You now get a device with great notifications, slick multi-tasking card interface, and 5 customizable home screens. We finally have an official Gmail home screen widget as well. Normally on Android you will find four bottom buttons for back, menu, home, and search, but on the Galaxy Nexus you have buttons on the display for back, home, and card multi-tasker. You will also see five icons above the buttons, four of which can be customized with apps you regularly use. The center icon is used to start the launcher.

The app launcher now has apps and home screen widgets in a single interface with a button to the Android Market. You have five home screens that you can customize, but you cannot add or remove them like you might have seen on other Samsung Android devices.

The settings area is new and appears to be much like what I see on my Nokia N9 running MeeGo. There are some cool utilities in the settings, such as data tracking and battery status.

Summary thoughts

So far I am really enjoying the Galaxy Nexus, but it is very early in my evaluation. Everything FLIES, the display is beautiful, it is a big device that is pretty wide, and I really like the new ICS operating system. RF reception seems to be very good so far and with support for T-Mobile's HSPA+ network at 21.1 Mbps I expect it to have very fast download speeds on the order of what we see with LTE on Verizon.

I own this device so I will be spending a LOT more time with it. Please let me know if you have specific questions and I can include responses to them in my review after extended usage.

Other reviews and experiences

A few websites received review units and a bunch of other writers also bought their own Galaxy Nexus so make sure to check out these other reviews as well.

Topics: Samsung, Android, Google, Hardware, Mobility

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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