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Criteria Comments Rating
  • Reception and call quality No comments good
  • Display Super AMOLED offers deep blacks and vivid colors, but text on the PenTile display isn't quite as crisp as on the HTC Rezound. good
  • Battery life Battery life has been a mixed bag. It has been ok for me, I definitely have to keep an eye on my usage if I want to make it through an entire day. so-so
  • Camera No comments
  • Ease of use ICS improves on Gingerbread (and Honeycomb), but for all the advances in UI there are still things that are not at all intuitive. good
  • Design and form factor The plasticky casing is nothing special, but the phone does feel solid and well-built. good
  • Portability (size / weight) Despite having a 4.65-inch screen, the Galaxy Nexus is not at all too big. It feels surprisingly comfortable in the hand and find it very easy to type on. great!
  • Media support No comments good
  • Durability No comments good
  • Ecosystem (apps, accessories, etc.) I'm sure they're out there, but I have to encounter any issues with app compatibility. Everything I've installed has worked fine on ICS. good
Detailed review
Where to begin? I guess the easiest way to say this is that, as much as I like the Galaxy Nexus, I don't quite love it. Yes, it's probably the best phone I've ever owned, and I don't think anyone who wants one should have any reservations about buying one, it's just that there are too many little things that clearly need improvement before I can just let myself go and fall completely in love.

Rather than run down everything there is about the phone -- there are plenty of other places you can read a 5,000 word review -- I thought I'd just talk about a few different features where the improvements are tempered by one issue or another.

UI - Yes, Ice Cream Sandwich improves upon Gingerbread -- I quite like the new color scheme and font -- but I think that they've made some odd decisions here and there with respect to user interface. They've done away with the dedicated menu button, which is fine, but now it shows up only in context and often in totally different places depending on which app you are using. There are even places where TWO menu buttons appear (like when you're viewing a message in Gmail), which is not at all intuitive. I also wonder why they are so dead set on having a dedicated button for viewing recent apps. In previous versions of Android you could see this list just by holding down the home key, and I wonder why they did not just apply that same action to this new interface. It certainly would have freed up space for a dedicated search button (which I find myself longing for). There are a few other issues like this I could point, while Android has definitely been enhanced with ICS, it still feels like it needs a little more work.

Camera - The camera is another example of "two steps forward, one step back." It's super fast -- seriously, the first few times I used the camera on this phone I had to check and make sure that a photo had actually been taken -- but image quality is lower than we've seen from other recent phones. (It's possible the the smaller image size is what makes that faster shutter speed possible.) I can live with the trade-off -- and I suspect most people won't care or notice -- but it's still disappointing.

Display - The phone's Super AMOLED PenTile display is great at rendering deep blacks and vivid colors, but it is not quite as good at rendering text as the 720p display on the HTC Rezound (which isn't PenTile and is also slightly smaller). This isn't a dealbreaker -- I mean, let's keep things in perspective, the screen is still good -- it's just something to be aware of.

Overall I'm pleased with the phone and have no qualms about recommending it to others, but I want to be honest that I think this is more of an incremental improvement over what came before rather than a dramatic leap forward. To put it another way: if you like Android you will be very happy with this thing -- I know I am -- but if you don't like Android, ICS probably won't convince you otherwise.
review history
2011-12-05
Updated detailed review

Comments (1) subscribe to this review's comments

Kenworth

I think you summed up best when you say that "I don't quite love it." I totally agree. I think I truly loved my HTC Thunderbolt because it was the first Android phone I ever had and it just blew me away even with its flaws. And this Galaxy Nexus really is a step up from that phone in so many ways. I really like its Vanilla approach so that you can pretty much treat it like a blank slate. But overall, I am just happy with it.

Great summation in your overall review for certain.