Galaxy Nexus Review Part 2: Software Overview and Final Thoughts

Daniel Bader

November 19, 2011 10:23 am

Let’s start from the beginning.

Take the phone out of your pocket. It’s clean, black, unassuming. A soft white LED pulses at you. You grip the phone firmly in your right hand — it is comfortable, secure. Slide your thumb to the power button, its tension satisfying, just the right amount of feedback. The black screen alights, a crisp image of a city at dusk stares back at you, makes you long for a room with a view. Text is like ink on paper, in a font you’ve seen somewhere before but different, new. You unlock, a comforting fade to black as a home screen appears: icons floating in air, a small analog clock ticking away.

This is Android. More so, this is function. No more scraping for context — where is the menu? why does the back button exit the app? why is everything so hard? — this is consistency.

Welcome to Ice Cream Sandwich. Have a taste.

(Check out Part One of our review for an in-depth hardware overview. Part Two covers mainly the Ice Cream Sandwich software)

 

Performance

As we teased in Part 1, the Galaxy Nexus is a beast. Despite having some 40% more pixels to process, it holds up extremely well in most of the real-world and synthetic benchmarks we use in our suite. More importantly the device feels faster than perhaps any other Android phone on the market. The real test will be if and when Samsung brings its Exynos processor to a Galaxy device with a 720p screen.

We’d say the experience of moving from Gingerbread to Ice Cream Sandwich is comparable to how much faster the Nexus One felt moving from Eclair to Froyo (2.1 to 2.2). When you take a look at the benchmark results, keep in mind that for any graphical test the Galaxy Nexus is running at its native 1280×720 resolution; the GPU is pushing some 40% more pixels than a qHD display, so it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. That being said, the device holds up extremely well — superbly even — given the circumstances. The one non-graphical benchmark, Sunspider Javacript test, scores higher than any other device to date, including the venerable Bell Galaxy S II.

The Home Screen

Google has wisely kept things fairly unchanged from Gingerbread, except in the areas that count. There is a permanent four-icon dock at the bottom of the screen, two icons on either side of the new app drawer. The dock is customizable, fluid; you can put individual apps or folders on it, or leave it blank. Mimicking iOS it is possible to create a folder by dragging an icon atop another, though in many ways we prefer this implementation. Once a folder is created, it doesn’t open and force you to interact with it; you can leave it unnamed if you wish as Google doesn’t presume to know what you’re thinking.

When moving an app or widget around the screen, a subtle grid appears, showing you the allowable space. Much of the aesthetic has been taken from Honeycomb; certain widgets are now resizable, according to whether they adhere to the new Ice Cream Sandwich APIs.

One of the more contentious changes made in ICS is the permanent Google Search bar that floats below the notification area. Supplanting an optional search widget from previous Android versions, the bar serves as both local and web-based search. You can choose what local content to index, but we found that at its default setting (which indexes apps, contacts, bookmarks and music, among others) results were almost instantaneous. We suppose you could put a Bing or Yahoo widget below it if you really wanted to, but we really got used to using the bar as a Google Instant replacement. It also supports the new instant voice transcription feature which we use in the car all the time: “Call Dad home” for example.

The notification area has been tweaked to allow for swiping away seen or unwanted messages. In fact much of the OS has been overhauled for gesture and swipe support — we’ll see this later in Gmail and Calendar, among others.

Once in the app drawer, you can hold down an app to bring it to one of the home screens, or drag atop to uninstall. This is a feature we graciously used in ADW Launcher, and are pleased it made its way into ICS. (We have to note that the notification swipe-to-disappear debuted in CyanogenMOD 7 — Google owes a lot to the open-source modding community for some of ICS’ best features). Widgets, instead of holding down on the home screen, are now accessible in a separate tab of the app drawer. This allows for a larger area in which to seek out the appropriate choice, but can get cluttered and frustrating having to swipe horizontally page after page to find the right one.

We love the new look of the home screen, and although it is not a drastic overhaul in functionality, we believe most of the changes are for the better. While we’d like to see an option to scroll vertically through the list of apps, we understand Google wanting to adhere to consistent swipe-based navigation throughout the OS.

First-party apps

As we showed you in our short hands-on video, Gmail, Calendar, Contacts (now known as People) and a few other first-party apps have received upgrades. The simple description would be that each has been modified to support swipe gestures and pinch-to-zoom (though for some reason Gmail still does not support pinch-to-zoom in the email body) but that’s too simple.

Gmail looks fantastic, with a minimalist interface that opens up only if you want it to: most of the more advanced options are hidden in the multiple deep context menus, but the majority are within one-touch reach. You have complete control over your labels and the new Priority Inbox, and the sender has a dedicated blue banner just above the message that links up with the People app.

People is the new Contacts and brings a magazine-like aesthetic to the interface. Google wants your friends to be presented in big, bold photos and easy to read text. You can swipe between views (you even have your Google+ circles in the Groups tab) and your favourites are presented as large photos pulled down from their Google account.

Calendar now supports pinch-to-zoom to expand or contract the selected view, though it doesn’t switch between day/week/month automatically. The Gallery app has thankfully eschewed its accelerometer-sensitive 3D proclivities in favour of a more touch- and swipe-friendly horizontal overview. You can edit photos directly from the app with built-in filters (hello, Lomo), auto-fix, crop, rotate et al. This is really a full-blown editing solution, though it won’t replace your copy of Picasa.

Messaging and Email have received aesthetic overhauls, too, and support the new instant transcription feature present on the greatly improved keyboard. Seriously, this keyboard is amazing. We won’t claim the third-party keyboard market dead, but it’s certainly no longer necessary, and that’s good news.


Camera

The camera interface, like the gallery app, has been completely redone, though Google insists on using a shade of grey on the right-hand bar that should be relegated to wool dress pants. Nevertheless, most options can be enabled or disabled with two touches, though we wish it took less time to enable or disable the flash. This has been a point of contention for us that only HTC seems to understand: instead of having three separate buttons for Auto/Flash/No Flash, have a permanent icon on the settings bar that cycles through the options.

The quality of the sensor depends completely on the available light; unlike the iPhone 4S or HTC Amaze the Galaxy Nexus does not perform well in poor lighting conditions. Outside in the sun we were able to take beautiful, dynamic shots that focused quickly and accurately; indoors, or in shadow, the lens seemed to have trouble focusing on a foreground subject, often resulting in the whole image being blurry.

The sensor seemed to adjust to changes in the environment very well, seemingly the result of a well-tuned white balance algorithm. Autofocus generally excels, though the aperture doesn’t appear to be high enough to achieve true depth of field. ICS also includes a cool face detection feature that automatically adjusts exposure according to the foreground subject (and allows for real-time face morphing in videos). You can touch the screen to focus at any time, and when you’re done taking photos there are a number of filters and settings to play with, adding up to a powerful still shot experience.

Ultimately, though, Samsung and Google made too high an image quality sacrifice in order to achieve an instant shutter. While 90% of photos turn out great, it’s the blurry 10 percent that ruin the fun for everyone. The shutter is indeed instant, so you may be able to take that candid action shot your other phone wouldn’t have been able to. It’s a tough trade-off, and will be the obvious choice for most people.

Google has implemented a very cool and usable Panorama feature. We enjoyed being able to pan across a room and have the phone do the work of keeping us steady and straight. It may be a little-used feature but it shows off how powerful the processor is in the Galaxy Nexus: results were available in seconds.

Video looks good at 1080p, though overall quality doesn’t remind us enough of the excellent sensor from the Galaxy S II family. There is a noticeable softness to what is captured, though frame rates maintained fluid even in difficult conditions. Our main issue with the end product, however, was not the quality but the smoothness. If you look at the video sample above you can see that while the sensor handles light changes with aplomb there is a noticeable shakiness to the camera movement that the Galaxy S II was able to overcome. And while continuous autofocus is a fantastic feature to have, it created a woozy judder to a simple outdoor scene.

Overall the camera experience is much better than the camera quality on the Galaxy Nexus. While most of the photos and video exhibited ample detail and accurate colour we can’t wait until other OEMs integrate their higher-quality sensors into the existing ICS architecture.

Keyboard & Typography

We feel like this deserves its own section for a couple reasons. First, because Gingerbread’s keyboard was terrible, and second, because Google finally got it right.

Let us put it another way: the delta between the Gingerbread keyboard and this one is enormous — entire cities could fall into the gap. Even though they share more than a close resemblance, we can trust the ICS keyboard in a way that was never possible before. Not only is autocorrect good but it’s smart. Any word that the software is confident enough to change is underlined in a light grey: you can always tap on it to change back to the original. If deemed misspelled, a word is underlined in red and will bring up a list of alternatives.

Perhaps a combination of a stellar touchscreen digitizer and software optimization but this is the first time we can confidently just type without checking every few words for the inevitable double-letter or, worse, a missed space. Gingerbread was notorious for inserting the first letter of a word twice, and even more for missing spaces. Nor did we notice any slowdown, another common trait of the Gingerbread keyboard: however fast we typed our presses were picked up.

Dictation has been improved and localized, meaning it is no longer necessary to be connected to the internet to speak a note to your phone. Transcription is almost instantaneous, too, and only seldom got the input wrong. The worst offenders were words like ‘Nexus’ which got turned in ‘Texas’, but generally we were pleased with the results, especially for the speed.

Google has changed up the traditional Droid font in ICS, opting to create their own dubbed Roboto. While it adheres pretty closely to Helvetica and a few san serif iterations, it is a pleasure to read on the Galaxy Nexus’ crisp 720p screen and a drastic improvement over previous Android versions. Read more about Roboto on Google+.

Browser

In a word, blazing. Not only can you request the desktop version of a web page, but when loaded those desktop pages scroll like the wind. Pinching to zoom is effortless, though we noticed the occasional stutter when loading a graphics-intensive page. Thankfully the ICS browser can sync with your Google account for bookmarks, and all the settings are located conveniently on the top right corner Action Bar.

One thing we noticed was that, occasionally, the request desktop feature would not work, relegating us to a lifetime of mobile simplicity. We also found no apparent way of getting into the Downloads app from the browser itself — if you accidentally remove the Download Compete notification you have to exit the browser and open the Downloads app separately. The tabs menu, like the new multitasking paradigm, utilizes big static pictures of a web page which can be swiped to the left to dismiss. It’s these small functional flourishes that help cement a consistent and enjoyable user experience throughout ICS.

In terms of overall performance, we achieve a ridiculously fast 2023.2ms result on the Sunspider Javascript benchmark. HTML5Test.com scores a 230+3, some 50 points better than the stock Gingerbread browser. Unfortunately ICS does not comply quite as well as Mobile Safari in iOS5: our iPhone 4S achieved a 296+9.

This is clearly the Honeycomb browser ported to phones, as the Labs feature with its awesome Quick Controls is present. This hides by default the address and top action bars, which are then activated by sliding your finger from either the left or right side of the screen. This was one of our favourite features of the Honeycomb browser, and we’re thankful for its presence here.

Diving Deep & Tidbits

There is a lot more going on in ICS under the new veneer and updated apps. It’s a fundamental change in how we interact with our Android phone. Here are a few snippets of some of the more miscellaneous improvements.

- Google has implemented per-app data administration to prevent specific programs from using too much bandwidth. It’s nice to know that you can natively restrict a data-hungry app’s ability to max out your monthly allotment. For example, due to Google+’s auto photo upload feature, it used 104MB of data in less than two hours. Many apps, like the browser, have their own bandwidth management settings, bringing a level of granularity to an OS that was notorious for errant background bandwidth usage.

- Google has also included a number of APIs to aide developers make more beautiful, functional apps. While few third-party apps have been updated to take advantage of ICS’ features, we’re excited to see many of the swipe-and-gesture elements implemented into phone apps.

- We must talk about the fact that SD card storage is now available to apps, meaning that OEMs no longer need to set aside a portion of the internal memory for app storage. This is also brought over from Honeycomb, and essentially eliminates the issue of low app storage space.

- Android 4.0 introduces Android Beam, the NFC-enabled API that allows two ICS-powered devices to touch, back-to-back, and share content. While we haven’t had a chance to test it out, the possibilities are pretty much endless as Google has opened up the API to third-party developers. Also present is WiFi-Direct, which allows two devices connected to the same SSID to share content directly without explicit routing paths. We first saw this on the Galaxy S II and are pleased it’s been brought over natively to ICS.

- Because there is no longer a dedicated menu button, it is not possible to access the Settings app with that method any longer. Instead, swipe down the notification bar and there is a small icon that quickly enters the Settings.

- Visual voicemail is now standard within the People app, so if your carrier supports it and you subscribe to it a transcription of that person’s message is available.

- If you get a phone call and want to ignore it without being too impolite, swiping upwards reveals a list of pre-canned text messages that can automatically be sent to the despondent respondent.

- To kill an app, open the multitasking menu and swipe it away. The gesture kills the process. You can also do this for tabs in the browser, though only a left-hand swipe works in that case.

- There is no explicit USB Mass Storage Mode in ICS (or, at least, on the Galaxy Nexus). Instead there is a Media Transfer Protocol (MTP) and a Camera Transfer Protocol (PTP). This allows for greater compatibility across systems, but is ultimately much less flexible than a generic Mass Storage Mode. You also, by default, don’t have access to the SD card contents (which is likely why apps are allowed to share the same partition as SD storage).

- There is a special Developer Options section on the Galaxy Nexus that allows you to enable debugging features such as Show FPS and, for apps, Don’t Keep Activities which explicitly kills an app process whenever the app leaves the foreground. You can also limit the number of background processes to 1, 2, 3, 4 or none.

- The Music and Video apps have been separated, allowing for easy consolidation of your Google purchases from the Marketplace. Though Canadians do not have access to the new Music Store, we are able to rent movies which will be stored in the Videos app. The music player has received a nice boost in functionality, too.

- Finally, Google have taken the Movie Studio app from Honeycomb and shrunk it down for phones. While it is fairly simplistic, we achieved good results piecing and editing brief video clips for home use. Unfortunately the Galaxy Nexus does not have an HDMI-out for HDTV mirroring.

Battery Life, Redux

We hate to admit to being wrong, but perhaps we were a little bit hasty heaping praise on the Galaxy Nexus’ battery life. While not bad per se, it by no means impressed us. After 9 hours of admittedly thorough use we were left with 19% of the 1750mAh battery remaining.

While it is possible to prevent background data from eating up too much battery, we suspect that anyone looking for the Galaxy Nexus and ICS to dramatically change their perception on Android’s traditionally poor battery life will be sorely disappointed. We understand that three days is not ample time to judge a phone battery long-term, so we’ll monitor it over the coming weeks and report back.


Further issues

After using the Galaxy Nexus and Ice Cream Sandwich non-stop for a couple days we can safely say there are some problems that need to be resolved.

First, on the phone itself. We found that noise cancellation, depending on the type of ambient noise, is not cut as much as on, say, the Motorola RAZR. While wind seems to be at the right frequency for the algorithm to suppress much of the ‘whoosh’, walking around a mall with its more varied din of screaming children and hushed talking caused our friend to ask whether we were sitting next to a loud family.

We also found maximum call volume to be low — equal to the Galaxy S II line, which we also faulted for the same thing — and we found it hard to hear the person on the other end of the call in certain circumstances. The same thing can be said for the speaker which, paired with a default ringtone that would put a symphony orchestra to sleep, caused us to miss several important calls throughout the day. By default call vibration is turned off, so that’s something you will need to set manually in the settings.

Auto-brightness is a little too sensitive for our tastes. While we understand the need to save battery life at times we could barely read what was on the screen.

We continue to have issues with the Android Marketplace. While we like the new design the software itself is flaky, prone to crashes and unresponsiveness. Occasionally when downloading an app it will not proceed past the initial “Downloading” prompt, forcing us to exit the app and start again. We saw this on previous versions of Android, but it is high time Google fixes whatever outstanding bugs remain; apps are the gateway to user adoption.


Development

Of course the Galaxy Nexus is going to have an extremely lively developer community — it’s the name of the game. Being an unlocked pentaband device brings it into a whole new market, one that need not trouble itself with contracts and subsidies.

The CyanogenMOD team has recently announced it has begun work on CM9, the follow-up to CM7 (they’re skipping 8 because Honeycomb was not open sourced) and for anyone who wants to dip his or her feet into the community, XDA-Developers already has a lively forum for the Galaxy Nexus.

The Upgrade Dilemma

Let’s break this down into three groups: those who already have a developer phone such as the Nexus One or Nexus S, those who already have Android devices less than, say 18 months old, and finally those who don’t have an Android device or have one pre-2010.

To the first group: by all means upgrade your device as this is Google’s new testing platform. Nexus One users should note that they will never officially get upgraded to ICS, while Nexus S owners should begin receiving the OTA update in the coming weeks. Though significantly sleeker, faster and more capable than the Nexus S, the Galaxy Nexus is not a home run and, considering its predecessor was released just under a year ago we wouldn’t push you to upgrade unless you’re dying for that 720p screen. With the ICS upgrade the Nexus S should get the majority of hardware-accelerated software enhancements that are present on the Galaxy Nexus, and a speed boost as a result.

To the second group: ask yourself why you would want to break a contract for the Galaxy Nexus. Is it the fastest phone on the market? No. Does it have the best camera? Nope. The best build quality? Uh-uh. What is currently has is a piece of software that, unless you’re using a cheap Asian knockoff, your device will eventually get in some form. HTC, Samsung and Sony Ericsson have already committed to updating their latest fleet of devices to ICS in 2012; whether that means in two months or twelve months remains to be seen, but you will get it. Unless you are particularly unhappy with your device, or again, looking for that gorgeous screen upgrade, hold onto your device.

To the third group: buy the Galaxy Nexus. You won’t regret it.

Final Thoughts

The Galaxy Nexus is the best Android device ever because it’s the best all-round Android phone. Not only is the design almost flawless but the screen is sharp, the camera capable and the software  a huge leap forward. Considering it will have a software lead of at least three to four months on any new device being released with ICS, for many people it is reason enough to upgrade. Ice Cream Sandwich is the biggest leap in smartphone operating systems since perhaps iOS 2 to iOS 3 (or maybe iOS 4 to iOS 5, we can’t decide) but it fundamentally alters the way Android users interact with their phones.

Gone are the hardware-dependent capacitive touch buttons. Out are the design inconsistencies, ugly context menus and frustrating, stuttering performance. Google has proven that without embossing the Galaxy Nexus with the fastest everything it can easily compete, both in performance and enjoyment, with any device currently on the market. The Galaxy Nexus is fast because the hardware and software were designed to complement one another. We believe that it competes with, and bests, iOS 5 in many areas, though it cannot quite pull out the flawless victory card just yet. There are some lingering hardware and software issues that mar an otherwise perfect experience.

Be that as it may, Android will never be the same, and we’re so, so happy to be saying that.

Hardware Rating: 9/10

Pros:

-     Stunning 720p screen makes graphics, text and media a pleasure
-     Excellent performance throughout the OS
-     Very good still camera quality, instant shutter a real boon to candid photography
-     Build quality greatly improved over previous Samsung devices
-     Design is perfect marriage between Galaxy S II and Nexus S
-     Excellent sound quality from earpiece and headphone jack

Cons:

-     Earpiece and speaker volume very low
-     Video produces soft results; stills often out of focus
-     Low-light shots quite grainy
-     Battery cover quite thin and flimsy
-     Disappointing battery life
-     Lack of LTE will disappoint some users
-     Auto-brightness too sensitive

Software Rating: 9.5/10

Pros:

-     Incredible new design changes everything about Android
-     First-party app improvements dramatically increase productivity
-     New camera software makes Android photography fun
-     Honeycomb features like re-sizable widgets and virtual many buttons implemented well
-     Noticeable performance improvement in apps, games and general UI throughout OS
-     Lock screen features legitimately useful
-     New APIs such as People and Android Beam open doors to third-party devs
-     Browser much faster than previous versions
-     Unique style complemented by Roboto font
-     Multitasking dramatically improved
-     Data usage caps a potential money-saver
-     Many more subtle changes, mostly for the better

Cons:

-     Still buggy in places
-     Overall “smoothness” can’t quite match iOS (though smoothness is highly subjective)
-     Android Marketplace still unreliable
-     App drawer cannot be set vertically
-     Permanent Google search bar should be removable


If there are any questions or comments, or requests for future articles please email me at daniel [at] mobilesyrup.com or find me on Twitter @journeydan 

  • Marc

    This is a very nice phone and I love ice cream sandwich!!!

    • havy

      Since this is pentaband, guess next iPhone will be pentaband. Let the software competition begin!

  • Galaxy_nexus

    GOD I love this phone more and more as I read about it <3

  • russ

    Been thinking about getting an iPhone but this seals the deal. ICS on a mediocre phone…gotta be better than iPhone!

  • keiYUI

    Thoughts on the device: Holy crap why didn’t I wait for this phone… :(

  • Drodro

    Quite disappointed by the camera review. On the official site they advertise that the phone has top notch low light performance. What happened?

    Hope that the noise cancellation and ambient light sensor can be improved by a software update.

    Still getting this phone for sure. :)

  • mike

    Ics is a noticible and substancial leap. This is a great review Nd puts alot of things into perspective. Being and Ios user, the Google Nexus has alot of features and upgrades that are very appealing to me. Keep up the good work MS!!!

  • Sean

    I really need to get one of these but I already have a device with a confirmed ICS (transformer) coming to it what should I do

  • KapitalK

    Excellent job review the Nexus Prime, very through and honest!

  • Randy

    Wondering if the Nexus S drops to say ~$200 outright, would that be worth more than paying $550 for the Galaxy Nexus? I have an entry level android at the moment.

    • jnrbshp

      yes it definitely would if you dont mind having the high end features, which it sounds like you dont

    • aka

      if you have to ask for opinion on price…

  • freestaterocker

    Biggest thing that stands out to me as a WP7 user: all highlights of new software features discussed in this review are either already present in mango OS or irrelevant on Windows Phone. The world needs to see that there is better phone software than just android and ios.

    • joe

      yes… apps would be irrelevant on wp7.

  • freestaterocker

    Also, I can’t discern any difference between roboto and wp7′s metro font.

  • Mark

    Awesome and honest review! Thank again. Is it any wonder I come here? Not sure I’m dissuaded from buying the GN in the least, but it is nice to know what I’m walking in to.

    I take issue with only one point:

    “those who already have Android devices less than, say 18 months old… HTC, Samsung and Sony Ericsson have already committed to updating their latest fleet of devices to ICS in 2012; whether that means in two months or twelve months remains to be seen, but you will get it.”

    No, the vast majority will not get it. I’m in that <18 month group and I'm not even getting Gingerbread on a former high end flagship brand name device unless I want to hack it in myself. I'd say that *most* high end phones released in the last 6 months will get ICS. The rest of us are likely SOL.

  • bobsbiggerballs

    So this review was on a At&t/tmobile Galaxy Nexus and not the Verizon Galaxy Nexus, Hopefully the Engineers at Verizon Caught these hiccups which is causing the delay with the phone to get them fixed.. i can dream right. LOL

    i am stilling going to buy the galaxy nexus, has anyone invented a small portable SDcard attachment so i can download backs up to the card, sort of a external SDcard back up..

  • furyagain

    I am glad i got myself the HTC amaze,
    which should have ICS pretty soon, from offical release or XDA

  • Cave Man

    Hmm…don’t know if I should sell my Sensation to get this or not. I’ll probably wait until end of February. If by that time a good CM9 version gets released or HTC releases the update, then I’ll keep it, else I’m switching.

  • dave

    I’ll be keeping my ‘S’. Wait for the next Nexus. Hopefully Google will un-puff it’s chest and smoke the search box on all screens… what a bunch of turkeys.

    Anyway looking forward to getting ICS on my ‘S’ before xmas!

  • jim

    Ok so the battery sucks the camera is not as good as the iphone and the speaker volume sucks? No thanks

  • anonymous pedant

    The black screen alights? I doubt it. Stick with the technical details and leave the overwraught creative writing to high school English students.

  • Erix

    Will the 32 gb model available on Rogers?

    • aka

      Not to hijack this thread and no intention of spreading rumours, but what if Rogers & Telus delayed their launch of SGN for the LTE model instead? However, I still believe that Bell paid Samsung a pretty sum of money to be first, so that’s probably not the case, it’s still nice with 21 Mbps.

  • Wellner

    Wow. I really enjoyed the review. Thank you for the good read. Unfortunately I’m one of the US Verizon end users still awaiting for this delicious phone to hit stores, and I feel this review has been one of the most thorough and informative to let me know what I should expect(excluding the LTE and even more of a disappointing battery despite the slightly larger capacity). Happy to see ICS has come to the maturity many were expecting to see, though I still see Google as an experimental development team and unless they have consistent bug free releases I will expect bugs here and there, especially off a fresh release. Not even Apple has had a complete perfect release, but they are much closer to the aforementioned perfection.

  • monsterduc1000

    What about gaming?

  • bob

    Why no mass storage device? How do you transfer files to the phone?

    • Greeneking4

      Even though it lacks a SD slot, you should be able to connect the phone via USB and transfer files to it, as you would any mass storage device.

    • Greeneking4

      Sorry Bob, I didn’t read the review properly. Forget my comment :-(

  • Merckx

    So do I buy the nexus or SG2? I can’t decide (first world problems!)

  • Dalex

    Love the review, very detailed look at ICS and the GN sounds like a great device, though I’ll be sticking to my white GS2. In my opinion it looks sleeker and is the more powerful device.

    My only gripe is in the beginning of the review when ICS is introduced you mention ICS making everything easier and that the previous versions were “hard”. That seems to tick me for some reason. What exactly was hard about using android before? Everything is intuitive and easy to tinker with. I admit I love tech so maybe my opinion is biased, but was it really that “hard”? Are people so tech challenged they can’t figure out the older versions?

  • Endless

    Thanks! Reading all of this just makes me more excited to get the phone. It’s almost the perfect timing. My 3GS has been annoying me, and my grandpa iPod Video has just died after 5 years of service. I like my MP3 player and phone to be different devices, so when I get the Galaxy Nexus, my 3GS will become my dedicated music player!

    Honestly, the “disappointing” camera is still extremely impressive to me. I myself have a DSLR, so super high quality photos on the phone don’t matter!

  • guillaume

    So, after reading this nice review, i’m still undecided between the galaxy s II x and this device. I’m a Telus customer and i have an old blackberry, this would be my first Android phone. Do I buy the sIIx right away or do I wait about 2 months for the Nexus? Help! :p

    • Dalex

      If you don’t mind waiting, its a better idea. The Telus S2X is not as good as the international/bell one. The Nexus has a higher resolution, a faster SoC, and will have ICS out of the box. I’m not even sure if Telus’ version will get ICS, let alone when.

    • aka

      Just like the review said, for those with SG2 currently, there doesn’t seem to be any compelling need to upgrade, unless you’re digging the screen rez and ICS immediately.

      For you deciding between the SGIIX vs SGN, and waiting, by the time you wait for Jan 2012, could be end of month, you’ll hear more about HTC’s quad-core Tegra3 devices, and may wait for that. Then after Feb 2012, you’ll probably hear Samsung announce their SGIII lineup with far superior hardware specs, just like what happened with Nexus S (though that’s also a great phone).

      It’s a hard debate between the two,
      * SGIIX has higher clocked CPU at 1.5Ghz Snapdragon S3 vs 1.2Ghz TI OMAP 4460, though benchmarks
      * SGIIX has better camera (8MP vs 5MP front and 2MP vs 1.3MP back)
      * SGIIX has faster radio (42Mbps vs 21 Mbps)
      * SGIIX has Super AMOLED Plus ( vs SGN’s Super AMOLED)
      * SGIIX has higher capacity batter ( 1850 vs 1750)
      * SGIIX has DLNA support, unable to confirm for SGN support
      * SGIIX has HDMI out via expansion port through microUSB charging port, not sure about SGN, maybe.
      * SGIIX has microSD expansion up to 32GB, SGN doesn’t.
      ~
      * SGN has ICS out-of-the-box and a bigger and higher rez screen (4.65″ vs 4.52″, 720p vs WVGA)
      * SGN has higher pixel density (315 ppi vs 207 ppi), and the pentile matrix display doesn’t affect it much.
      * SGN is made for ICS, no button on bottom of phone, making the current SGIIX buttons redundant when ICS is out?
      note: Samsung will release ICS for the SGIIX if you’re willing to wait, or you can root it and get it immediately as ICS source has been released to developers. It’s already being ported unofficially to SGII devices at this time.
      * Both screens seems to be provide sufficient anti-scratch protection.
      * SGN comes with a higher clocked version of SGX540 inside the current Nexus S, however the SGIIX has a much more powerful Adreno 220 GPU. May make a difference in future gaming applications.
      * Samsung will be announcing a more powerful SGIII generation devices later in 2012, with screen rez and most likely Super AMOLED Plus to match.

      Please feel free to add more differences in followup replies.
      Hard decision, I dig the higher rez and larger screen of the SGN, it’s never good time to upgrade.

  • Alex

    I hope that future phones can have 2 speakers in back, would give a left right audio (top and bottom of phone) when holding it landscape, and wouldnt have issues with speaker volume sounding low. Its very annoying when trying to show off something using your phone, and everyone turns away because they cant hear unless they put speaker to their ear. Audio hasnt improved in 5 years, its ridicuilous, i think my bold 9000 from 5 years ago was best performing audio i ever had.

    My infuse is 4g, and quite loud.My only complaint of my infuse is i doubt it will get os4.0, and the gps is useless.
    I reserved this nexus phone on rogers, but if speaker volume is that low, that might be a deal breaker for me.

    Unfortunately, i dont think the gs2 is much louder.Im hoping with htc and beats, maybe future phones will put more emphasis on audio quality and loudness.

  • Gilbert P.

    Worried about the google seach bar on every home page? Install a different launcher.

    All the news I’ve seen so far points to only the Verizon version having the 32gb storage.

    I just hope messing withe the ISO settings will improve night time pics. Google made a point that this device takes great night time pictures.

    The battery issues don’t bother me too much, there’s always a way on Android to improve battery issues. Just requires some patience and experimentation. 9 hours is a great starting point compared to many other Androids. People have have found ways to double their battery life, heck JuiceDefender alone will help achieve that.

    I can’t wait to get this device in my hands. I hear it calling my name in the distance!

  • Lazed

    I hope HTC brings out a phone with some metal on it and a better camera. Definitely not a fan of plastic overload.

  • Justin

    you guys have to realize that ICS just got announced. This phone is a great phone, but if the Galaxy S II is getting the update as well, which phone would you get??? because the Galaxy S II is holding up its own as well!!

    • bob

      I would take the Nexus just for the display.
      But not having to wait for ICS is an other plus.

  • swa

    Just noticed that you s**t the video at Sheppard station.. great place to be and quite close to where I live :-) great review..

  • swa

    I meant shot*

  • Steve Dion

    Nice fanboy review! Give me a break 9.5/10 software and 9/10 hardware? Crappy camera, buggy software? Those are the two most important things on a smartphone. No way do they deserve 9.5 and 9. Should be more like 8.5 and 8!

  • Aydin

    for those with newer HTC devices who want to wait of ics. dont because you wont see the update till at least april and thats why i will be selling my sensation and getting this.

  • whocares

    Why did you rate it so high, it completely sucks – the camera, noise cancellation, call volume, battery life, size.

    FANBOY ALERT!

  • Sylvester McCoy

    It’s not LTE.

  • michael

    Finally a worthy upgrade to my vibrant.
    The SII was not worthy because of the terribly unavailable updates for the vibrant. (Us version)

    • daveloft

      The updates to the Galaxy S in Canada were timely, so as long as your not in the US I’m not sure why that’s relevant.

  • cass_m

    Nice review. I plan on upgrading from my i9000m *if* the GS feels good in hand. I passed on the Nexus S because it wasn’t any better than my SGS but this has enough more features. I like the fast camera speed for outdoor shots. I really like my Galaxy Tab 10.1 with honeycomb and would like consistency across devices.

  • aka

    I really like this review for the benchmark chart comparing similar devices. It really puts into perspective on the kind of performance expected from the devices.

  • Johnisgay

    I heard theres no Adobe Flash?

    • Steve Dion

      Doesn’t matter if no flash, the camera is sucky, software buffy handmade of plastic, it beats the iPhone 4S OK?!!!! Bunch of fanboys, face it, the phone is sub par! That being said i’ll still get one!

  • 69iner

    damn should I wait for this or get the HTC Amaze??!!

  • Marc

    So if I am a Rogers customer with a 3+ year old BB curve 8310 and my choices are get the SGSII LTE now.. or wait till early – mid january for the Galaxy Nexus.. I should wait for the Nexus?

  • MrMarvelous

    Hold on, your video review for this is really only 3 minutes? It was kinda of hit and miss and left out some much needed points. Thank you for including an actual rating but I highly suggest you re-do your video review. Especially for a phone with this kind of clout, don’t you want to further your websites reputation? Look how good it felt when Matias shared you. Please re-do.

    • Nick

      I agree.
      Daniel, I realize you put a lot of effort into the review and it’s appreciated. However, I would prefer a lengthy video review, especially for a device with so much hype. A milestone
      The scripted video review you gave feels much less genuine than when you just go through the device and do some benchmarks in front of the camera. Like the one you made for the S2.
      Just a thought. I think most would agree though.
      Keep it up

    • aka

      You kids and your videos. Not everything needs to be in a video. For example, I’d rather see the raw benchmark data in the written report, than waste bandwidth on watching a 10 min video of the benchmarks actually running, and coming to the same conclusion.

      In the right context a video review can be effective, keyword on “right context”.

  • DesireHD

    Nice overview, maybe I’ll wait for quad-core phones after all!

  • Sylvester McCoy

    @Nick

    Right on. The review could be 30% shorter if the author would take out the melodrama and useless verbiage.

    “Welcome to ice cream sandwich. Have a taste.”

    Arrrrgh.

  • Marc

    I have a 3 year old BB cure 8310. Should I wait till january for the nexus and not get the SGSII LTE now? (on rogers but have an upgrade option available)

  • Deo

    is this phone really going to cost $800? was going to buy it, but was anticipating $499

    • MrMarvelous

      Where did you get $800 from? The American sites which list the Verizon LTE model?

    • aka

      you’re mistaking the UK price in £ vs the North American price in $.

  • Theturtle

    Lets not judge those benchmark tests. Remember Quadrant is not optimized for hardware acceleration yet. Just an FYI

  • Abdul

    Does it have Google Wallet pre-installef? And does it support scrollable calender widget?

  • Richard

    This phone has some really nice specs. Though i dont know what all the fuss about the ice cream sandwich OS. The htc sense im running on my gingerbread HTC incredible s looks better in most regards. Unless you can customize ICS, then there is no real point to get this phone based on ICS. Your better off with the HTC amaze.

  • Quick

    HELP !!!
    Could someone could help me please. I’m still hesitating with buying this wonderful phone or buying the HTC Amaze 4g who should receive ICS upgrade in a couples of months. Camera is important for me and I dont know what to do.

  • kendomaster

    9/10? seriously 9/10?

  • Moritz

    Nice review. Thank you. So I know all the specs, have read all reviews, but now I would like a simple one scentence opinion. What phone would you choose as your primary: iPhone 4s or galaxy nexus?

  • KingK

    How about no Flash for ICS???

  • hey

    you are a bunch of i****s. all of you. all

  • tom

    I have been an iphone user since 2007 (iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, almost iPhone 4). I have spent lot on ios apps but who care, I am definitely getting the Samsung Galaxy Nexus when it comes out.

    Bigger Screen, LTE on Verizon, and Pure Google Experience…

  • RC

    How can this be the best phone out there?

    -no SD card
    -No HDMI out – how the hell can I show my family/friends the photos/videos and movies on my HDTV?
    -No mass storage means same issue as no HDTV access above. Yeah you can try and use DLNA but with limited codec support from the TV itself. It’s best to run off the phone itself!!!
    -Utterly upset at Samsung for limiting hardware on the “best phone” ever.

  • OAbrey

    My son and I have been talking about our acquiring new smart phones. He bought a Samsung S2 for his gf the other day. He has been trying to convince me to pass on the Nexus and go for one too. I have read numerous articles about the phones, and this was very thorough.

    After reading this, I feel like the Nexus might be the way to go, but am conflicted because of the difference in camera resolution. Has the Nexus better interpolation software than the S2? Does it “feel” like a step upward or a step backward from the S2?

  • BT

    So it’s Jan 13 2012 and the Galaxy Nexus was released on Rogers today. I am still torn between this and the Galaxy S2. No expandable memory, inferior camera and no LTE on the Nexus, but better resolution and ICS right now and better support, faster OS upgrade in the future (due to it being google’s flagship device).

    The primary use for the new phone will be consuming media, so the Nexus should be the obvious choice as the slightly larger screen and higher resolution would be most beneficial. But everything else, including the ICS update coming soon for the GS2 seems hard to give up

    I won’t wait for the Galaxy S3 unless it’s being released in Q1 of 2012, I just can’t wait any longer to upgrade. Decisions…decisions! Which one should I go for, Nexus or Galaxy S2?