Samsung Galaxy Nexus Review
A Samsung and Google collaboration
Reviewed by Isabella Wong.
The Galaxy Nexus is the third in the Nexus series of mobile phones that Google has developed. This particular handset is a collaboration between Google and Samsung which means that we have got high expectations, especially considering Samsung’s massive success in the mobile phone industry this year.
One of the most attention grabbing features is the size of Galaxy Nexus’ screen. At first glance it looks quite big, though at 4.65-inches it is slightly smaller than other popular smartphones on the market, such as Samsung’s Galaxy S3 which has a screen size of 4.8 inches. With more mobile phones having the same functionality and capability than desktop computers have, it is becoming standard for mobile phone manufacturers to release devices with a bigger screen so that there is a richer visual experience. In this sense, the Galaxy Nexus fits into the current market perfectly.
Moreover, the quality of the model’s display is exceptional. Images and text are shown in crisp and sharp colours, which is good for viewing content such as articles and photos.
Due to the bigger screen size, holding the Galaxy Nexus didn’t sit comfortably in my hand, possibly due to the fact that I’m used to holding a smaller handset. And possibly because my hands are quite small. Despite this, I liked how light it felt when I was holding the phone as a result of the slimness of the device.
In comparison to its predecessor (the Nexus S), the Galaxy Nexus is slightly heavier by 6g, weighing in at 135g. That said, this isn’t in any way heavy for a smartphone, and is actually lighter than the iPhone 4S.
Furthermore, even though the casing seemed be quite plastic in nature, I would imagine that the phone wouldn’t shatter if it was dropped, which is definitely good if you are as clumsy as me. I should say that no mobile phones were harmed during this review.
The smartphone has a smooth design and the display quality is superb. It really is a beautifully crafted handset, though I wasn’t overly enamoured with the cross-hatched effect on the back casing of the phone, as I felt that this detracted from the overall sleekness of the design.
Phone Set Up
The Android operating system on this device ranges from Ice Cream Sandwich to the latest Android update, Jelly Bean, which makes using the Galaxy Nexus a breeze to use. The simple yet effective design of the mobile phone makes navigating your way around the different features easy. Once you get to grips with the three main soft buttons at the bottom, accessing messages, emails and the internet is quick, especially if you customise the home screen. The connectivity features, and pre-installed apps and widgets are a great asset to the device, making this smartphone both a practical and stylish mobile phone.
Like most Google-operated smartphones, there is a dock at the bottom of the screen where you can set the apps you want for quick access, such as messages and emails. You can also copy the apps or widgets you want on a customisable home screen if you prefer to have fewer icons on display.
Another feature that I really liked about the Galaxy Nexus is that there are only 3 soft keys; a return button that leads to the previous screen, an exit button that takes you back to the home screen and a button that shows the most recent applications you have used so you can easily activate them again.
Although there is a main menu where the pre-installed icons are located, it is possible to create your own home screen which features the apps you want, organised the way you want it. This is great for when you don’t want to have too many icons to clutter up the display. A neat feature on the Nexus is the way that the home screens overlap and tilt as you scroll through them, which, despite having no valuable function, is a cool design feature.
The lock screen gives you three options; to unlock the phone, go to Google or take a picture. This is similar to a number of phones where you have the option to take photos from the lock screen, and is quite useful when you are in a rush to capture a moment.
The added feature of searching on Google is a bonus as I know when I reach for my phone nowadays it is usually to look up more information, especially if I’m shopping or looking for a restaurant! However, you do have to press the button on the side of the phone rather than on the front of the phone to activate the screen which I found tricky.
Unsurprisingly, there are Google apps installed on the mobile phone already. Google Plus, Google Maps and Gmail are just a few examples. Syncing the device with a Google account is possible, which means that all the information associated with the account will be accessible on the phone. This is great for when you need to view a Google document on the move.
One of the apps that I really like is the “News & Weather” app which is on my customised home screen. The weather section isn’t as good as the weather app on the iPhone (where you can set several locations to view weather conditions in different areas easily), but the news section is great for finding out the latest stories in different categories. The app aggregates the latest news articles from different sources in one app and you can choose the categories you want to view, such as politics or entertainment. As someone who is interested in knowing the top stories happening in the world, this is a brilliant app to get all the information at my fingertips. The only downside is that you can’t view the articles directly in the app as you are prompted to go to the browser or GoogleChrome to read the full story.
Another app which I find really useful on the Galaxy Nexus is the Local app, which uses Google Maps. This app allows you to search for a place and you can use your current location so that the app will tell you how to get there. Since I started using smartphones, these kind of apps have been invaluable when I need to go somewhere and I am not familiar with the area, such as if I’m looking for a café in London to meet a friend.
Uploading music onto the device is easy and tracks are stored in the “Play Music” app on the phone. Playlists can easily be created so you can select specific songs for a particular event, for example, adding uplifting and energetic tracks for the gym. As a music player, the audio quality is fantastic from both the speakers and headphones. However, the headphones are in ear headphones which some may find uncomfortable.
The voice recognition feature, known as Voice Actions, is a great asset to the phone. The main use of Voice Actions is to search for information on Google, which can be done by tapping the microphone button at the top of the home screen. This is great for when you want to quickly find out information without having to spend time typing it out.
The model also has the Google Now feature which functions as an intelligent personal assistant, which is Android’s counterpart to iPhone’s Siri. Therefore, you are able to ask questions and delegate tasks just by speaking to it. The Galaxy Nexus responds by giving you the answers, making recommendations or performing tasks that you dictated, such as scheduling a dinner event in the Calendar, for example. The great thing about this feature is that Google Now will collate all the information you provide in the past, such as remembering location you visit often or even friends' birthdays, so that in future it will predict what you want to do based on previous interactions with the phone or provide more relevant information. In effect, Google Now really can be considered your own personal assistant, making the Galaxy Nexus a really smart device.
Camera & Video
The Galaxy Nexus has a 5 megapixel camera, which is the same as its predecessor, the Nexus S. Although this is lower than many of its rivals, such as the 8MP Samsung Galaxy S3, the Nexus is still capable of taking wonderful photos.
This Android phone can pick up a range of vivid colours, but some shots do come out blurry. Here are a couple of pictures of Birmingham in December, the annual German Market at night and the Bull statue just outside the Bullring shopping centre.
There is a good zoom function, activated by sliding the button from left to right with your finger. There is also the ability to flip the camera around so you can see pictures you are taking of yourself. Once you take a picture, it quickly stores the image and within a second before you can take another picture. Therefore, you can take multiple shots so you can choose the best one to use when you browse through the images. A negative aspect of taking photos is that there are very few scene modes for you to choose from to optimise the pictures that are taken in different settings. They include auto, action, night, sunset and party.
What I really like about the camera feature is the in-built editing suite. For example, you can take sepia or black and white photos which save as a copy without updating the original, which is great if you just want to play around with your images. You can even doodle on your pictures so you can get creative!
Panoramic photos can also be taken using the Galaxy Nexus; it takes practice to get it right, but it is worth the effort as you will be able to take cool photos with more packed into the image. Taking beautiful photos of the Hong Kong skyline at night comes to mind! On the left you can see my attempt of getting a panoramic photo of my kitchen.
The quality of videos taken on the Galaxy Nexus is superb. Coupled with the fantastic screen display and the 1080p recording and playback specification of the video feature, capturing motion pictures is a delight. Another cool feature of using video is the ability to take pictures while you’re recording.
The handset is capable of capturing the special moments in your life in brilliant colour, whether if that’s taking a picture with friends or recording a video of a street entertainer. However, it is disappointing that the phone only has a 5 megapixel camera which I find a little disappointing.
After using the phone for a few days, I noticed that the battery life is quite good. As always, it depends on how much you use the phone that dictates how often you need to charge it. The battery does drain quite quickly if you are touching the screen a lot, which is especially true if you are reading articles on the internet and scrolling numerous pages. You can find detailed information about the battery life and how much each app is using by selecting the Battery Settings icon, which identifies exactly which features are using up the battery,enabling you to maximise the battery life.
Usage patterns obviously vary from day to day, whether you are making a lot of calls or just leaving it idle for most of the day,but one thing that I did find was that charging the phone fully again did take several hours, which is a lot longer than what my iPhone 4S would take.