Remember the Droid RAZR? That's so yesterday. Or, earlier today. Whatever. The point is, Samsung's just busted out the planet's first Ice Cream Sandwich-based smartphone here in Hong Kong, a few days late but hardly worse for the wear. The Galaxy Nexus (formerly referred to as the Nexus Prime) carries on the Nexus torch in spectacular fashion, and we've just spent a few quality moments with one here at the launch event. Design-wise, it's clear that the Nexus S DNA is here, though the rear reminds us most of the Galaxy S II. Those who abhor physical buttons will also be delighted, and while we'd gotten used to the whole Power + Home for a screenshot on the GSII, Power + Volume Down works just fine on this fellow.
The 1.2GHz dual-core processor was startlingly fast. It actually felt a wee bit quicker than our Galaxy S II, and given that Ice Cream Sandwich and the Galaxy Nexus were apparently built for one another, we're assuming there's some deeply ingrained optimizations to thank. Swiping from pane to pane was faster than its ever been on Android, and the new Roboto font actually is super eye-pleasing. The touch response of the capacitive buttons -- much like those on the original Nexus One -- take a bit of getting used to, and we had to mash 'em just a touch harder than we anticipated to elicit a response. [Update: turns out our demo phone was a bit of an early build; we touched another model later in the day, and our response gripes were gone. Perfectly responsive. Hopefully that's the one that'll ship out.] Not necessarily a bad thing, just a thing worth noting. We've built our impressions after the break, replete with a video. Enjoy! %Gallery-136933%
The overall phone feels adequately thin, and while the 4.65-inch display sounds gargantuan, the handset itself doesn't feel so massive to hold. Until, of course, you grab the comparatively minuscule Nexus One. Still, we've been clamoring for a 1,280 x 720 display on a smartphone for what feels like forever, and now that it's here on the Galaxy Nexus, we aren't about to kvetch. Indeed, the panel looks downright gorgeous, with unbeatable viewing angles, remarkably crisp text and graphics and a beautiful feel as one swipes across it. The fingerprint magnet that is a glossy overcoat is still here, but it's the only feel niggle we've found on the screen as a whole.
Having the 3.5mm headphone jack on the rear seems like a necessary design choice given the tapering at the top, and unlike that other phone, there's no mute switch here -- you'll just have to hold the Volume Down button for a few seconds. The rear cover pops off in similar fashion to the Galaxy S II, but the ridged plastic cover has a far softer touch than the aforesaid contemporary. The camera is also situated right in the center, with branding kept to a minimum. Oddly enough, we're being told by Samsung that two models will be available in terms of capacity -- a 16 gigger and a 32GB sibling -- but neither will have a microSD slot for adding your own expansion.
The lack of a physical Home button may be disorienting for Galaxy S II loyalists, but the Galaxy Nexus is truly the first smartphone that expresses Google's desire to make "one Android for all" -- a mantra we heard about at Google I/O, but haven't seen birthed into anything until today. Digging into the particulars of Ice Cream Sandwich a bit, it's clear that folks who aren't elevated to Android 4.0 (we're still waiting on word of what phones will and won't make the leap) will be missing out on a fair bit. Face Unlock isn't particularly special in our estimation -- typical laptops have been using this forever, and we've never found 'em to be entirely intuitive. However, the bump-to-share functionality that was lost when webOS croaked will undoubtedly be cause for celebration. Also, just so it's known, the Galaxy Nexus we played with here was running Android 4.0.1.
The data usage manager is a total godsend in this nasty, depressing world of tiers, and while apps have done similar things for quite some time, tight integration like this is hugely appreciated. We found in our play time that ICS was amazingly responsive in every aspect. Swiping was a breeze. Gestures worked beautifully. The entire experience just felt polished. In a way, it's as if Android's growing a bit and maturing before our eyes, and it's obvious that Goog's focused on making its mobile OS as "enchanting" (Google's word, not ours) as iOS seems to be.
Overall, we're thrilled with how the first ICS handset has turned out. It's understated, sleek, beautiful and packs a display that's destined to drop jaws. Now, if only we knew how much, and what carriers...
Check out the rest of our Galaxy Nexus coverage right here!