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

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 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

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

    Nexus v S2 HT LTE--the S2 has a better camera, similar screen and size, and a faster processor (or at least clocked faster). Different carriers, though. Is the PURE Android interface really worth those features?
    • RE: Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (first impressions)

      @dspg <br><br>The S2 has a higher MP count than the Nexus. That does NOT = better. The quality of a 5MP picture can be substantially better than an 8MP picture, and in this case is. Also, I can sum this up by saying one thing... "ZERO SHUTTER LAG". <br><br>Furthermore, both phones have 1.2ghz dual core processors, so the clock speeds are exactly the same. That being said the Nexus beats the SII in basically every benchmark out there. <br><br>Also, 4.65 @ 720x1280 > 4.3" @ 480x800. Period.
      • RE: Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (first impressions)

        @jmsheehy I totally agree. Nice clarification. Though there is a 1.5 ghz SII on T-mobile, but there isn't much of a difference in performance vs the 1.2ghz.
      • Both these phones are behind of iPhone 4S in few key areas

        Namely:<br>1) iPhone 4S has twice better resolution/clarity/refinement of picture (SAMOLED is a fake PenTile resolution), and the colours are not acid-oversaturated;<br>2) SoC A5 is times faster in graphics;<br>3) mode advanced photocamera with IR sensor, image signal processor, patented stabilization via gyroscope (not purely software as in competitors), additional lens for clarity in the corners of the image;<br>4) due to outer antenna design, it holds weak signals better than classic internal antenna design;<br>5) not plasticky;<br>6) you do not have to use second hand anywhere as often as with behemoth phones;<br>7) it fits in pockets normally comparing to almost VHS-sized smartphones;<br>8) Siri intellectual assistant;<br>9) AirPlay, AirPrint;<br>10) much bigger media and applications library;<br>11) no bloatware preinstalled;<br>12) higher quality, more consistent user experience and applications, which are malware free and designed for 326 dpi Retina display.<br><br>However, these competitors better than iPhone 4S in the following areas:<br>1) faster cellular connection speed -- though only on single-digit percentage of USA territory;<br>2) SAMOLED display gives actual black -- though it is not seen unless you try to use device in the darkness;<br>3) they are twice less fragile since the glass is only on one side of the device;<br>4) Android OS is much more customizable -- great advantage for geeks.<br>5) alive icons/widgets might be very convenient.
      • RE: Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (first impressions)

        @dderss You left out some major doodoos for the iPhone4Sux..<br>- the iPhone4Sux is a pathetic slow 3G; the Galaxy Nexus is super fast 4G<br>- the iPhone4Sux doesn't have a 720p display; the Galaxy Nexus does<br>- the iPhone4Sux is a pathetic slow 3G; the Galaxy Nexus is super fast 4G<br>- the iPhone4Sux doesnt have build in HDMI; the Galaxy Nexus does<br>- the iPhone4Sux is a pathetic slow 3G; the Galaxy Nexus is super fast 4G<br>- the iPhone4Sux has a tiny 3.5" screen which makes for crappy browser and readability; the Galaxy Nexus has a 50% HIGHER Resolution and 4.65" screen that shows more with less scrolling, is more readable, and hugely more productive<br>- the iPhone4Sux can NOT access the full web. The Galaxy Nexus can<br>- the iPhone4Sux is a pathetic slow 3G; the Galaxy Nexus is super fast 4G<br>- The Galaxy Nexus Android 4.0 ICS is leaps and bounds 1000s of times better than iPOS5<br>- did I mention the iPhone4Sux is a pathetic slow 3G; the Galaxy Nexus is super fast 4G
      • RE: Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (first impressions)


        Grow up.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • &quot;Better&quot; is in the eye of the beholder...

        @dderss Most of the points you make on why the iPhone 4s is "better" are really just personal preference. For example you cite the size of the device. With Android devices you can choose from a wide variety of phones with many different form factors. If the Nexus is too big for you, you are free to choose a smaller phone or even a different manufacturer's phone. With iOS, you get whatever size Apple decided to offer...so there is no choice. The size is a take it or leave it affair. If you want an iPhone with a bigger screen you are out of luck.

        Graphics? Ditto. Android: Many different phones available with many different hardware options. Don't like the graphics on the Nexus? Well there are many different choices available.

        Cameras? Once again ditto. For someone like me who rarely uses the built in camera, it makes little difference one way or another.

        You also mentioned "bloatware". Now that IS a problem with many Android devices....but not with this one. The Google Nexus phones are straight Android with no manufacturer addons or bloat ware. That's one of the reasons for choosing a Nexus phone in the first place.

        I just wish everyone could get past this constant mantra that whatever works best for them is "better" for everyone. It isn't.
    • RE: Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (first impressions)

      double post
    • RE: Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (first impressions)

      @dspg I would say yes, considering Samsung's poor record of keeping up with updates in the past.
    • RE: Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (first impressions)

      @dderss Um. Just Stop it. You're just an Apple Lover trying to Support your device with Rotten Information. Why I say that?

      A OLED Display does not need a backlight, that does mean that black is black. As you can see in a variety of pictures the contrast ratio of an IPS LCD Display can not compete with an AMOLED Display. And this problem does exists also in the Iphone 4S Retina Display. Super AMOLED offers a better contrast ration then 800:1...

      The Super AMOLED is much more better visibillity in sunlight! Samsung suggested that this new Super OLED is five times more vivid than regular and performs 20 percent better when it is used outdoor. So excuse me but with your Iphone 4 the display is not really optimal for outdoor using.

      Samsung Galaxy Line
      mDNIe(Mobile Digital Natural Image engine)
      Best outdoor readability
      Wider viewing angle
      No motion blurs on video play
      100.000:1 contrast ratio
      Longer battery life (no backlight)

      The LCD Display on the Iphone 4 is 960??640, 326 ppi resolution and 800:1 contrast ratio, the Super Amoled on the Galaxy S alone has a resolution of 800??480, 260ppi and a contrast ratio 100.000:1

      So don't expect it to dominate the Galaxy Prime anytime soon my friend. BTW. The Galaxy S2 won the T3 Award for the most innovative mobile device over the Apple 4... so that should say a lot. lol
      • RE: Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (first impressions)


        I also found it interesting that dderss had a couple of reasons having to do with the size. For a lot of us the iPhone is WAY too small. If it works for dderss than it is wonderful, but it isn't really a feature if you aren't offered any options.
    • RE: Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (first impressions)

      @dspg Is the galaxy nexus is better then this phone: http://www.technologyfazer.com/the-motorola-xt615-hits-fcc.html
      • RE: Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (first impressions)

        @nomikhokher YES
    • RE: Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (first impressions)

      I can't believe how many times I have written responses to show how much people don't know about cameras. MP has NOTHING to do with picture quality. All a higher MP implies is that you can take a picture and blow it up to the size of your car. MP is a great gimicky marketing tool that you have fallen victim to.
      • RE: Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (first impressions)

        @rengek tru dat!
  • RE: Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (first impressions)

    I wish it was available for Verizon. I hate when they do that. It's not like I'm going to up and change carriers all of a sudden.
    Gabriel Bowen
    • RE: Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (first impressions)

      @Gabriel Bowen

      Verizon is going to be the first US carrier to get this phone.
    • RE: Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (first impressions)

      @Gabriel Bowen Umm. It will be available for Verizon. First. lol
  • Galaxy Nexus

    Are you using it with T-mobile? How is the call quality? Any software glitches? I want to avoid the G2X issues and the flexibility to change carrier. thanks in advance. Jose
  • How does this rate compared to the N9?

    Dietrich T. Schmitz *Your