Galaxy Nexus Hands-on

Vincent Nguyen - Oct 18, 2011, 11:51pm CDT
Galaxy Nexus Hands-on

Samsung and Google unveiled the Galaxy Nexus and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich in Hong Kong today, and we grabbed some hands-on time with the new dual-core smartphone. Just 8.94mm thick, with a Contour Curve design, huge high-resolution display and choice of LTE or HSPA+ versions, the Galaxy Nexus is a fitting flagship to continue Google’s Nexus brand. Keep reading for our hands-on first impressions.

It’s hard to beat the 4.65-inch Super AMOLED HD display for wow-factor. Packing a 100,000:1 contrast ratio and huge 1280 x 720 resolution and 16:9 aspect, it’s incredibly bright, color-rich and vivid. Samsung’s preloaded demo videos were obviously picked to showcase the Galaxy Nexus’ abilities, but they’re definitely lag and smear free. More than that, though, Ice Cream Sandwich has apparently been designed especially to suit 1280 x 720 as a native resolution, which means there’s no icon jaggedness, while the new Roboto font has been designed to suit high-res screens. The 4.29mm bezel means the display is about as edge-to-edge in appearance as an Android device has managed to-date.

Galaxy Nexus Hands-on:

There’s been some surprise about the Galaxy Nexus’ specs, particularly the 5-megapixel camera. In a year where 8-megapixels has become the start point for high-end smartphones, Samsung’s choice is unusual, but the two companies still say the new Nexus can compete. The camera app loads quickly and the sharing menu is refined, with an icon carousel rather than the pop-up list of before. There’s tap-to-focus/exposure-lock too, as well as face detection, and Google’s zero shutter lag technology is incredibly fast.

You can shoot multiple images in rapid succession, too, though we found you can end up with blurry pictures since it’s all too easy to get trigger-happy when you’re moving the phone. Hipstamatic-style filters and panoramic shots can be easily accessed. Video, meanwhile, supports 1080p, while Ice Cream Sandwich’s support for continuous focus and zoom within video capture, time-lapse clips and the ability to take snapshots while simultaneously shooting video are incredibly useful.

iPhone 4S vs Galaxy Nexus camera speed test (first to five complet shots win)
This is a very close call. Note that iPhone 4S actually took 6 pictures to Galaxy Nexus’ five.

In the hand, the Galaxy Nexus feels solid and slick. Gone is the fingerprint-magnet, cheap-feeling plastic of the Galaxy S, replaced by soft-touch plastics and metal. The Contour Design curve is subtle, as before, but more obvious thanks to the bigger screen; whether it actually has an impact on usability remains to be seen, but it’s definitely straightforward to slide a thumb down the display while using it one-handed. Considering this is one of the biggest panels on an Android device – or, in fact, a smartphone – today, it surprisingly doesn’t feel oversized, either. You can slot it into a front trouser pocket with no problems.

Google is understandably using the Galaxy Nexus and Ice Cream Sandwich to push its increasing app and services portfolio, and most notably the Google+ app comes preloaded. Google’s social network and Facebook rival will now be baked into every Android device. We’ll cover more impressions from Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich in a separate post shortly.

Ice Cream Sandwich hands-on demo

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus will go sale from November, with a Verizon LTE version in the US and other carrier versions in Europe and Asia. More details in our hands-on gallery and video!


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62 Responses to Galaxy Nexus Hands-on

      • The word is November 10th in the US on Verizon.  That’s not confirmed yet and that might be the day pre-orders open, as opposed to in-store availability.

  1. Vincent,
    I have to say you have the best pictures of the device out of all the tech sites that i visit.

  2. on the fourth pic with the battery cover removed.  what is that section to the right of the camera?  is that a micro SD slot?

      • It’s on both.  On the Nexus The SD card symbol is stamped just above that square area next to the camera.  On the GSII The symbol is stamped to the right of the square area below the camera and above and to the left of the battery (where it also says MicroSD)

        • I believe what you are referring to is the SIM card slot. According to Samsung and Google, the Galaxy Nexus does not have a Micro SD Card slot. It comes in either a 16GB or 32GB version.

  3. 5 MP camera.Joke. 1.2 GHz dual core. Big deal, so does every other top smartphone. ICS? So what. In time, the GSII will have it, and then it will have the same OS, better camera, better front camera. I just don’t get it. Why should we care?

    • More MP does not mean a better camera not to mention the lack of shutter lag and other options you get with the camera on this phone. If Samsungs track record with updates is any indication then it could be several months before the GSII will see ICS. The HD screen on the Nexus tops the GSII and any other phone on the market today.The GSII is a great phone but the new Nexus is now the phone to beat.

      • dont get me wrong i think the galaxy nexus is awesome, but i still think the GS2 is slightly better.
        GS2 still has micro sd, 8mp cam, 2 mp front, fm radio
        while nexus has HD screen, NFC, 4g network (im ozzy so that doesnt apply unless u with telstra)

        Both have great features going for them, when GS2 is updated to ICS, id still pick the GS2.

        Now the Moto/Droid RAZR i think this is the phone to beat!

    • such amateurs…….its also all about software integration. ICS is built around the TI OMAP 4660, it feels snappier than the galaxy s II and it actually has its pro’s vs exynos. It has a different HD acceleration which makes it a lot smoother especially now that its a 720p screen. It also has dual-channel memory for better multi-tasking. Vanilla android also > anything companies are putting out right now and i say this from experience. Megapixels are also not everything as said, a better lens and sensor etc..will produce better looking images. Nikon D90 has a lower megapixel count than a T2i but it performs on par if not better, it’s also much older but still one of the best DSLR’s for entry/professional level. There are tons of websites showing pro’s of a galaxy nexus vs the galaxy S II or any other android phone

    • The Galaxy Nexus wasn’t meant to be something far better than the Galaxy S2. It was meant to have some few features that are better (screen, NFC, etc), but overall be about the same. It’s about trade offs so that people can choose between the two best phones on the market. This is so that something incredibly better isn’t released so soon after the release of the S2.

    • First..camera def isnt better on the gs2..where do u get this from/ because it says more MPs..lol..Nexus has better lens, shutter and camera software…without a doubt…and if the GS2 follows along the lines of the first galaxy s line then u wont see ICS till jelly bean is ready to drop….

  4. Has anyone discovered whether or not the Galaxy Nexus will have MHL/HDMI connectivity and mirroring like the S2?

  5. I hope this device comes to T-Mobile in the US. If it doesn’t I will probably get the Amaze 4G because the Galaxy S2 has much too low of a resolution for a 4.5 inch screen. Either way, this is looking to be an amazing device (besides the 5mp camera).

    • Just to warn you so you’re not disappointed after you buy the Amaze, even though the Amaze has higher resolution, its display quality is still worse than the Galaxy S2.

      Think about how higher resolution doesn’t mean better picture quality when choosing cameras, which also happens to address your last concern about the 5mp camera on the Galaxy Nexus. It might have a better sensor and lens that takes better pictures than one with 8mp.

      Anyway if you want a better screen, the Galaxy S2 is the better choice instead of the Amaze.

    • MP should not be used to determine how good a camera is..a camera can be 2 MP but if it has a top of the line shutter and lens it will be better than a 12mp with crappy hardware..People have such uneducated views on phone cameras..no offense

    • More like useless o_o

      1. It’s slow [although, interestingly G claims they ‘intentionally’ made it slow]
      2. It’s even less secure then a PIN or even a zig-zag-pattern unlock

      This feature has been brought mainstream by software (albeit /different/ software) integrated even on discount laptops years ago. More often than it should, the implementations I’ve used fail to recognize people very well due to poor illumination of the face it’s trying to study; and the Galaxy Nexus doesn’t have a flash on its face to avoid this (the Galaxy Nexus implementation didn’t work in the surely rehearsed official demonstration before the press, even).

      It’s just a gimmick. To their credit though, it’s a gimmick that isn’t getting called out by any reporters I’ve read from yet. Don’t get me wrong. The phone and OS look promising (I’m considering swapping networks for it), but Face Lock is the least of the reasons this package should appeal to anybody.

      •  I’ll agree with you that Face Lock is gimmicky, although I’ll reserve judgement until I can actually try it out.  At the very least it may be fun to play with.  That said, Apple’s promotion of Siri is equally gimmicky if not moreso.  Voice action/recognition software has been available on Android for ages and works very well, but I’ve never found myself needing to use it.  I’m sure Apple users will be the same way.  Talking to your phone in public looks just as retarded as talking through bluetooth (apparently, to no one).  That’s not to say it isn’t a nice feature to have, but it will not go mainstream, at least not until we have true AI. 

        Unlike Android, though, Apple REALLY emphasized Siri as a selling point, whereas, Android merely glossed over Face Lock as one of the many new improvements.  That’s the difference b/t the two.  Google lets you decide if something is useful to you and lets you make improvements if you feel the stock experience isn’t good enough.  Apple tells you want you’re supposed to think is good and if you don’t, then tough luck because that’s all you’re getting.

        • I agree with you guys that both Siri and Face lock, at this point in time, are gimmicky and not exactly ready for prim time.  once they mature it will be a different story, but not right now.  What i see as a big plus are:

          1.  the super fast camera shutter!  +1
          2. The ability to readily see all active processes, jump from one to another, and killing them by just flicking them off the screen.  +1+1+1
          3. and most importantly, the ability to take accurate, real time dictation.

          Deep integration with all things google is the biggest selling point for me.  My biggest concern is that as the software continues to evolve and improve, that once again the hardware will fail to perform adequately and bog down a year or two don the line.  This is the main reason I’m buying a Nexus, as opposed to some other (possible higher specd) OEM phone.  I don’t want unnecessary overlays and crapware to burden the hardware and ruin the android experience.

  6.  I don’t know why they underclocked the 4460 to 1.2GHz instead of the 1.5GHz from the spec?  I also wish they didn’t use the outdated PowerVR SGX540 GPU, which is over 4 times slower than the latest Apple phones SGX543MP2.

    If the CPU was running at its standard 1.5GHz and it had a better GPU, more tech-savvy people would be all over it.  Looks like we are waiting a few months for those or the Exynos processors.

    • “waiting a few months for those or the Exynos processors”

      Do you know something the rest of us don’t know?  Perhaps other phones will use them, but I would not hold my breath on Google upgrading this particular Nexus phone to a different hardware architecture.  Maybe the next nexus pone, but not this one.

      •  Who knows how long it will be before we see another phone with a better GPU.  I’m due for a new phone but not happy about the tamped-down speed of the 4460 and the SGX540 from 2007.  I can’t see why they chose to not use the newer GPU?  The multicore 543 does 4.5 times as many GFLOPS.  Bummer. 

        • Maybe they opted for the older GPU to keep the price down. The CPU is probably underclocked to save power, and while I’m new to Android, I think there might be a possibility later to overclock it back to its normal speed, as the phone will be rootable/rooted.
          Anyway, I want the phone because of its display, OS, design and general openness/purity (I’m a dev), and I don’t play mobile 3D games at all, so I guess I’ll be fine. (I’m finally breaking from the iPhone/iTunes slavery.)
          However, what confuses me is that there’s no word on the 32 GB version yet – like not at all. I’m wondering what chance is there that the 32 GB model will come with a better CPU / GPU / RAM(!), and when it should be coming out?
          Edit: I also love the “software” buttons on the front panel, I really hated the iPhone’s home button – and they break too. Plus the dock pin is heavenly – no need to push the phone anywhere!)

  7. I do have on question.  Where is all the awesome Bumptop technology that was supposed to be integrated into Android?  I know a lot of the old bumptop team has been working on Android Desktop look and feel, but other than being able to stack files and flip through them, I’m seeing none of the promise that Bumptop offered.  I was really hoping that this would change somewhat with ICS, but it seems to not be the case.  Or am I missing something?

    • Android Beam its called…lots of uses and features and plenty more to come im sure from devs

      • No.  Beam is  a a new feature that copies an app called BUMP.  BumpTop is a 3D desktop environment that google purchased about 1.5 years ago in order to integrate its technologies into Android.  That is where the stackable files came from.

  8. Why do you keep saying there are no capacitive buttons? THOSE ARE CAPACITIVE! Start reading up before you say stupid completely wrong things.

    • He means dedicated permanent capacitive buttons, which these are not.  These are temporary Icons on the capacitive screen.  They can move and animate like those on Honey Comb tablets do today.  He hasn’t said anything stupid or incorrect.

  9. What is the 3 golden dots on the side (near power button) for ? Saw it in the ads and this hands-on

  10. “Gone is the fingerprint-magnet, cheap-feeling plastic of the Galaxy S, replaced by soft-touch plastics and metal.” Wait where’s the metal? I see soft touch and plastic but not metal. The dark grey chassis surrounding the outer outline of the phone and bump looks like plastic.

  11. I don’t get the camera test, if it was to see which phone can get 5 pictures first, why did Vincent take 6 pictures with the iphone?

    On another note, I feel a mixed sense of relief and disappointment with the Galaxy Nexus. Disappointment because I was expecting to be blown away – yes I know ICS is the main attraction and that hardware is not everything – and relief because my S2 has not been rendered obsolete nor blown away. I only bought my phone in July and I don’t feel any buyer’s remorse at this point. Here is why.

    1. ICS sounds great but I will want to read reviews on performance and battery life before I get to excited. Furthermore, even though samsung will take ages to get an update, if I truly wanted to, it should be to difficult to update on my own once people put it out there.
    2. Screen: People are raving about the resolution, I was quite excited to until we all noted the conspicuously absent “plus” from the HD AMOLED. If the screen size were 4.3 I’d be a little more excited but at 4.65 inches its a bit hefty for me. Furthermore, I will be very curious to see what the batterly life is like before getting too enthusiastic.
    3. Lack of removable storage. At a max of 32 gb internal storage with no expandable memory the storage options appear woefully inadequate against its other android counterparts. This is especially true now that we know many other droids will be able to support sandisc’s new 64gb micro SD.

    Anyway, that’s my take on it. I can’t wait to see the reviews on the nexus galaxy though. 

  12. not worth it !! I will just wait a few more months to see what other cell phone they take out … and that is really annoying !! just wondering when will other cellphones get its ice cream update??

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