Galaxy Nexus rocks, but I don't recommend you buy one

Galaxy Nexus rocks, but I don't recommend you buy one

Summary: Android 4.0 will knock your socks off, but that doesn't mean you should go out and buy the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Learn why.

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Photo credit: Jason Hiner | TechRepublic

I consider the Samsung Galaxy Nexus the best Android device that I've ever put my hands on. Even so, I can't recommend that you buy one, and I'll explain why.

First let's quickly talk about what the Galaxy Nexus is and what it's trying to accomplish.

The "Nexus" brand is Google's reference design for smartphones (and the name itself is a nod to the powerful androids in Philip K. Dick's sci-fi novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?). With the Nexus phones, Google selects a hardware partner and then collaborates on the hardware design and the hardware-software integration to produce a device that gives phone makers an idea of Google's latest vision for Android smartphones.

For the third straight year, Google has debuted a Nexus around the turn of the year to provide inspiration for phone builders in the year ahead. The original Nexus, the Nexus One designed in partnership with HTC, set a high standard. At the time, it clearly lept ahead of the the iPhone 3GS in a number of ways (better display, great widgets, slimmer form factor). Last year's Nexus S, designed in partnership with Samsung, wasn't as much of a breakthrough since the Android ecosystem was really percolating at that point, but it was the first device to include an NFC chip.

Google chose to hook up with Samsung again to build this year's Nexus device, the Galaxy Nexus. While this one is more innovative than last year's bland Nexus S, it still isn't the ground-breaker that the original Nexus One was. The Galaxy Nexus features an uninspired design and unremarkable hardware, with one big exception -- the gorgeous 4.65-inch Super AMOLED display with 1280x720 resolution.

The other big factor that the Galaxy Nexus has going for it is that it's the first phone to Android 4.0, "Ice Cream Sandwich." Like previous Nexus phones, it runs the stock version of Android without any of the additional animations, widgets, and UI modifications that the phone makers add to Android. (That's a plus since most of the additions are actually subtractions.)

Frankly, I was dazzled by Android 4.0. It smoothes out many of Android's rough edges and makes the device more pleasant, self-evident, and less complicated to use. There are still times when Google seems to think that flashy animations -- rather than imminent usability -- make a good UI, but Ice Cream Sandwich is absolutely a big step forward. I consider it the biggest step forward since the leap from Android 1.0 to 2.0, when the platform first came of age with the release the original Motorola Droid.

Here's the best thing I can say about Android 4.0: It makes it really tough to go back and pick up an Android 2.3 device and not feel constrained and disappointed by the user experience.

That said, here's my quick summary of my likes and dislikes with the Galaxy Nexus and my final verdict:

What I like

  • The display is big, beautiful, and far better than anything out there other than the iPhone Retina Display
  • Android 4.0 is a quantum leap forward
  • Verizon's LTE 4G speeds (I got 30Mbps down and 15Mbps up) paired with a 1.2GHz dual core processor make the Galaxy Nexus incredibly responsive
  • I always prefer the stock version of Android to the skins that the phone makers add

What I don't like

  • The battery struggles to get through a full day; it maxes out at 15-20 hours (see screenshot below); but if you really need 24 hours of battery life then don't get an Android device and especially don't get one with LTE; get an iPhone or a BlackBerry
  • The hardware design is surprisingly uninspired for a high-end device with so much oomph under the hood
  • The plastic backplate is slippery (I dropped the device twice) and it makes the phone feel cheap
  • The camera is mediocre and limited to 5 megapixels (although Android 4.0 dramatically improves shutter lag)

Final verdict

As much as I love the amazing 1280x800 display and Android 4.0, I can't recommend the Galaxy Nexus. At $299 (with a contract), it just makes too many important compromises. Its hardware design looks like something you'd expect from a $99 phone or a free phone. Its plastic back is cheap and slippery, and demands a case, even though its curved contour design and large rump on the bottom won't make it easy to fit into a case.

Ice Cream Sandwich is what really sets the Galaxy Nexus apart from other Android devices. When the Motorola Droid Razr gets ICS in the near future (as Motorola has promised), it will have virtually all the benefits of the Galaxy Nexus with a much better hardware design, better battery life, and a better camera. The Droid Razr doesn't have the amazing display that the Galaxy Nexus does, but it still has a very good display and most people won't won't notice the difference. The Samsung Galaxy S II will be getting Android 4.0 in Q1 2012. I'd even recommend that hardware design over the Galaxy Nexus, which is a step backwards in smartphone design for Samsung.

If your current device is dead or dying and you have to get a new smartphone this month and you absolutely want the best Android device that you can get your hands on, then get the Galaxy Nexus. Otherwise, wait until the Droid Razr or the Samsung Galaxy S II get Android 4.0 in the coming months, or wait until you see the amazing round of new Android 4.0 devices that are going to be announced next month at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show.

Photo credit: Jason Hiner | TechRepublic

Photo credit: Jason Hiner | TechRepublic

View the full photo gallery of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus

This was originally published on TechRepublic.

Topics: Hardware, Android, Google, Mobility, Samsung, Telcos

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80 comments
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  • Message has been deleted.

    <br>
    Return_of_the_jedi
    • And it begins...

      @Return_of_the_jedi

      Any criticisms of Android must be dismissed with a wave of the hand--even if the criticism is valid.

      Of course the headline is misleading, the author's main point it seems, is that the phone isnt worth the money.
      otaddy
      • And lets start over ...

        @otaddy <br>Any criticisms of Nokia Lumia 800 brings out astroturfers.<br>The author's main point, ... is that the phone isnt worth the money.
        Return_of_the_jedi
      • RE: Galaxy Nexus rocks, but I don't recommend you buy one

        @otaddy ??? Best Kindle light ever. Super blight and soft at the same time. Reading in the dark is such a joy. http://www.solarmio.com/en/OnlineStore.aspx
        sreeseche
    • The Galaxy Nexus rocks and I highly recommend everybody gets it!

      I think this is the best Android (personally think any phone period) out there. For all those folks out there that don't know much about Android or the Nexus brand name...you should know this is the phone to have. It will be relevant longer than any of the other phones put out by manufacturers with their custom (read: slow to update) skins!
      jivester
  • Message has been deleted.

    <br>
    Return_of_the_jedi
  • Battery life is difficult

    Until 4G LTE is everywhere, you wont see LTE only phones and so today's devices have to support/monitor 2 networks. This drains the battery.

    That's why you wont see an LTE iPhone anytime soon. Im sure they already have an LTE only device design ready to go and tested, however they wont release it till 4G is ubiquitous.
    otaddy
  • RE: Galaxy Nexus rocks, but I don't recommend you buy one

    Having tried out the Nexus, I agree that the case is somewhat slippery but not nearly as slippery as the iPhone 4/4S.
    cbbaker
    • RE: Galaxy Nexus rocks, but I don't recommend you buy one

      @cbbaker I'll take a durable plastic back with a grip texture over a glass back any day of the week.

      How people can complain about the Galaxy Nexus back and then hold up the iPhone on a pedestal the next moment I'll never understand. They should fire the moron at Apple who though it was a good idea to encase a mobile phone entirely in glass... Seriously... I don't think anyone has ever managed to make a phone more slippery than the iPhone 4. Yet iPhone fans seems to think glass is a non-slip surface... Even dead, Steve Jobs' reality distortion field is a force to be reckoned with.
      brother451
  • RE: Galaxy Nexus rocks, but I don't recommend you buy one

    It is always so ironic to hear how wonderful and great Android is but with each new flavor, the previous one is slagged to no end.
    nothingness
    • Message had been deleted.

      <br>
      Return_of_the_jedi
      • RE: Galaxy Nexus rocks, but I don't recommend you buy one

        @Return_of_the_jedi Really? Jason recommends getting the RAZR or Galaxy S2 and waiting for ICS. WP7 is not even mentioned.<br><br>Face, meet palm...
        dazzlingd
    • RE: Galaxy Nexus rocks, but I don't recommend you buy one

      @nothingness - It's not ironic, it's just an indicator of how awesome each new version is that it can actually make the last awesome version pale by comparison.
      brother451
  • Thanks Jason this would have been nice to know

    YESTERDAY! when I ordered one of these
    Larry Dignan
    • Message has been deleted.

      <br>
      Return_of_the_jedi
    • RE: Galaxy Nexus rocks, but I don't recommend you buy one

      @Larry Dignan

      You must have been very naughty this year since Santa seems to be bringing you a lump of Samsung coal for Christmas. Grin.

      Anyway .. it was a good year. May you and your family enjoy the holiday season together in happiness and peace.
      kenosha77a
    • RE: Galaxy Nexus rocks, but I don't recommend you buy one

      @Larry Dignan Don't worry, the Galaxy Nexus will still be cool for about two more weeks.
      jasonhiner
  • please...

    I dont understand why everyone keeps saying the galaxy nexus feels cheap...it doesnt. It looks and feels great! I for one dont want a brick in my pocket. As far as the sub par camera...it is better than many 8mp cameras. Finally...you recomend phones that wont get ics for months and that will probably be their last update while the galaxy nexus will be the first phone to get updates for years...this article is really misinforming. I recomend everyone ONLY buy nexus phones from here on out!
    jivester
    • RE: Galaxy Nexus rocks, but I don't recommend you buy one

      @jivester

      Remember, people (just like you) are expressing their opinions. If "everyone" is saying something its probably something that I would want to look into before buying this phone.
      gribittmep
      • RE: Galaxy Nexus rocks, but I don't recommend you buy one

        @gribittmep sure, I just get tired of that criticism, it feels like people think everything besides metal and glass is cheap...and composite plastics are low tech, which I think that is crazy...I hope you do check it out and put it in your hand. Wish you could get back to this thread with your analysis too.
        jivester