Nexus smartphones have always been lookers. At least when compared to the rest of the Android crop, Nexus-branded devices have been standing out of the crowd with their more refined and considered design. The same goes for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, although to a smaller degree. The Galaxy Nexus is certainly appealing with its perfectly clean front (after all, the device doesn't even have capacitive navigational buttons), and it also retains the unique curved glass shape from the Nexus S, but we're afraid that this is all there is to it. Not that it's bad – actually, the Galaxy Nexus is a great-looking handset, but it just won't blow you away.
One of our biggest gripes with the design of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is with regards to the materials used. Being a typical Samsung slate, the Galaxy Nexus is all-plastic, with a neutral color tone to it. The back side of the handset uses the so-called hyper-skin finish, which definitely feels nice and provides for a good grip, but in the end, it's still just plastic – nothing out of the ordinary. If you want a premium build quality featuring some fancy materials, this isn't the Android handset for you (the Motorola DROID RAZR would be what you need).
The screen is a main selling point for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. The handset features a very crisp 4.65” HD Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 720x1280 pixels (if you're wondering why we are placing “720” first, and “1280” second, it's because, like with 99% of all other phones, the screen has a portrait orientation). Due to the high resolution, images and fine details are indeed very clear, allowing for even tiny text on web pages to be easily readable. When it comes to the curved glass on the screen, well, it doesn't really make much of a difference for us. It's very, very slightly curved and we can't see any real benefit from it.
The coolest thing about the Samsung Galaxy Nexus however, is undoubtedly the Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS. As you know, the ICS platform is built on top of Honeycomb, rather than Gingerbread, and it has the purpose of unifying the Android experience on both phones and tablets. Not only will the platform look extremely similar on both types of devices, but it will also allow developers to create better apps more easily. Pretty much everything is different, compared to Android 2.* - from the contacts, through the calendar, to the web browser. Unfortunately, our unit has a very early build of the ICS software installed, so won't be able to test all of its functionality in for our upcoming preview.
Anyways, ICS definitely seems like a pretty good thing happening to Android. The operating system does look very fancy, although we're not really sure just how much of an appeal it would hold for the mainstream audience. With its dark, tron-style looks, it's by no means uninviting, but we wouldn't doubt that manufacturers will opt to customize it with their own interfaces down the road.
Overall, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus looks like an intriguing smartphone, ushering us into the ICS era. We sure are excited about all the technology that's been implemented with its execution, like the HD Super AMOLED screen and novelty software platform. However, there seems to be much more that we could ask for, at least on hardware level. For the rest of it, we would rather wait until we have the chance to play with a final unit. Right now, it's only known that Verizon will surely be offering the device in the States, complete with LTE connectivity. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is expected to hit the shelves sometime in November.