Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus reviewed


The Galaxy Nexus is an undeniably big phone, but not uncomfortable in the hand. It features a plastic shell with a textured back, although we’re told it lacks the impact and scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass we’re accustomed to seeing on Android smartphones.

Samsung and Google have fitted the Nexus S with a 4.65 inch screen, one of the biggest displays on a mobile to date. While HTC’s Sensation XL is bigger at 4.7 inches, the one on the Nexus S provides greater resolution – an industry topping 1280 x 720 pixels. With a resolution this fine, graphics, text and images are crystal clear, with razor sharp detail and pixels that are near-to indiscernible.

There are no physical buttons on the front of the Galaxy Nexus.

The screen doesn’t have the same pixel density as the Retina screen seen on the smaller 3.5 inch iPhone 4/4S, but the difference is mostly academic – Samsung has really delivered here.

If you want to watch videos or browse the web in big-screen, HD glory, then this is the phone for you.

There are also no buttons on the front of the Nexus, making it the first phone to abandon all main buttons. Instead, a small section of the touchscreen at the bottom has been sectioned off and converted into on-screen buttons that change orientation with you when you rotate the device. These buttons also provide new functionality when programs request it.

It’s this functionality that makes Android 4.0 more like the version seen on Android-equipped tablets. From the get-go, these eschewed “device acne” in favour of software buttons, and the adoption of this design in a mobile phone makes it feel like you’re holding a piece of the future.

Android 4.0 is more than just missing buttons though: it’s sleek, fast, and well designed. While much of the staple Android design remains – widgetised home screens, a drag-down notification bar, app menus, and multitasking – it now looks clearer, is organised better, and runs very well.

The settings screen is now easier to use thanks to better organisation.

Take the menus, for instance: these show your apps with a simple left-to-right drag, separated by a tab at the top that identifies whether you’re browsing apps or widgets. A shortcut to Google Market sits in the top right corner at all times just in case you want to download a new app quickly.

The drag-down notification bar now looks clearer and features a shortcut to the now redesigned Settings area, organised into sections such as “wireless & networks” and “device”, making it much easier to read and use.

The dock at the bottom of the home screen is still just as easy to use, and app shortcuts can be added and removed just as easily as they can on any other device, simply by holding the app down and dragging it in and out. Adding widgets and shortcuts is more precise too, with “plus” signs working as guides to help you snap your widget into place.

Bright blue colours occupy other parts of the design, making the phone dial pad literally pop off the screen and giving Android its own special look. Google calls this style “Holo” and while it wants it to appear on every Android 4.0-equipped device, manufacturers are free to add their own overlay.

Here on the Galaxy Nexus, the Holo look is sexy and easy to fall in love with.

The keyboard is slightly clearer (left) under Google's Holo design and now you have little guide marks to help you place widgets (right).

In fact, there’s a lot to love about the Nexus, including a loud speaker, excellent ergonomics, the super-large screen and fast multitasking.

The battery is pretty good too. During our test period, we managed roughly a day-and-a-half of use per charge, which is pretty good given the fast processor and new OS.