Samsung Galaxy Nexus Review
We were especially thrilled upon opening the ICS web browser on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Being one of the most used applications on a phone today, the web browser needs to be flawless. That's exactly what we find on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. All kinds of navigation like scrolling, panning around, zooming in using pinch-to-zoom and double-tap work very smoothly, which is very important for us. If we have to compare it to the iPhone 4S, the Galaxy Nexus is a few frames-per-second behind, but the difference is negligible. The Android browser has always offered very quick page loading times (when coupled with the right hardware), and this tradition has continued with ICS on the Galaxy Nexus.
You may think that when all high-end Android phones lately have come with support for Adobe Flash Player, the latest and greatest newcomer will have this feature as well. Think again, as Adobe is yet to optimize Flash Player for ICS. As you've probably heard, the company has also announced that it's dropping support for Flash Player for mobile, but the good news is they will at least support Ice Cream Sandwich, so Galaxy Nexus user wannabes don't have a reason to worry.
Now, the browsing experience itself is awesome, not only because of the outstanding responsivenes, but also because of this giant screen with an incredibly high-resolution. Naturally, the bigger the display, the better your experience, as long as the pixel density is kept high, and in the case of the Galaxy Nexus, you can be sure that its HD resolution, providing for a pixel density of 316 ppi is more than enough to make even small text very legible, on par with what you get with the iPhone 4S's Retina Display, if not slightly better.
A good extra new feature of the browser is that you can save a web page for offline viewing, which may be very handy if you know that you won't have internet access later. In addition, the user can also “request” to see the desktop version of a site, without having to scroll to the bottom of the page in search for a special link.
As you can imagine, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus comes with a complete set of connectivity options, including Wi-Fi b/g/n/a and Bluetooth 3.0, as well as some exotics like NFC and MHL. Despite the fact that the Galaxy Nexus sports NFC, keep in mind that the handset is not support by Google Wallet yet. For this review, we've been testing the HSPA+ version of the phone, which offers theoretical peaks of up to 21.1 Mbit/s download, and up to 5.76 Mbit/s upload. However, the Galaxy Nexus is also expected to hit Verizon's shelves a bit later, where it'll come in an LTE flavor, so that users of the carrier can enjoy some blazing-fast data speeds.
The GPS of the Galaxy Nexus works very well. Even without the help of wireless networks, our location got pinpointed in just a couple of minutes.
The new camera interface looks pretty simple and is relatively easy to get used to. In the meantime though, it does offer an array of basic options like white balance, exposure and scene modes. Video recording, on the other hand, comes with a set of fun face-detection-based effects like Big Eyes, Big Mouth, Big Nose and so on. We doubt that anyone would be using the much, but we're sure they will be particularly funny and entertaining for little kids (great way to get some alone time).
The new Camera app also comes with a built-in Panorama mode, which works surprisingly well.
Google promised to strip shutter lag off the Camera app, and indeed we found the Samsung Galaxy Nexus to be extremely speedy in this aspect. As a whole, the Galaxy Nexus's camera is very fast. While testing the actual photo- and video-taking capabilities of the handset, we ran into a couple of problems. The first one is with image previews. When you've taken a photo and you want to preview it, as always, what you need to do is hit the little preview button on the side of the on-screen camera shutter key. However, this takes you to a photo-sharing screen, where you have a list of services, on which you can share your creation. In order to get to the actual preview screen (where you where you can zoom in, pan around, or even do some image editing), you have to tap on the image once again, and wait for another half a second. Of course, this isn't much, but we wonder why they have designed it this way, when you can easily choose to share your photo from the image preview screen as well... What we want to say is that we feel this intermediary “sharing screen” is unnecessary.
Anyways, the other issue is related to the continuous autofocus capabilities of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Sometimes, the phone will be very, very slow to shift the focus from the background to the object that's closer. At other times, it won't even change it, no matter how patient and stubborn you are. This doesn't happen always, but often enough to cause frustration.
The new Gallery comes with image-editing options built-in. Google has chosen a nice selection of tools that would definitely come in handy when you want to quickly tweak a photo that you've taken (or any other image). You can do various kinds of stuff like adjusting exposure or saturation, fixing the red-eyes, as well as applying different effects to your pictures.
The Galaxy Nexus only has a 5-megapixel camera, but the photos that it produces aren't bad by any means. Quite the contrary, they exhibit natural and lively colors, as well as a pretty decent amount of detail. Objects are usually normally exposed, but the camera doesn't handle more dynamic scenes very well, meaning if your shot's going to be a more contrast one, some areas will probably turn out overexposed (as in our case).
Doing macros with the Nexus is very easy and fun, using the touch-to-focus functionality of the device. We found this to work flawlessly.
When we moved indoors to check how the smartphone's camera performs in lower-light conditions, we noticed that it managed to come up with some pretty tolerable pictures when shooting in situations with a strong light-source. However, once we started dimming the lights, the Nexus quickly started to lose quality. The LED flash is also pretty weak, causing some considerable loss in color quality, and failing to illuminate objects even at close distances.
To tell you the truth, we're a bit underwhelmed by the video we shot with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Yeah, it's 1080p and all, but it's a bit choppy at 24 fps, which isn't something that we normally expect to see in a contemporary smartphone of this class. It's also somewhat jerky, and lacks fine detail.
Samsung Galaxy Nexus Sample Video:
Samsung Galaxy Nexus Indoor Sample Video:
Samsung Galaxy Nexus Time-lapse Sample Video:
Honestly, if you tend to be really strict with regards to the quality of your phone's camera, keep in mind that the Galaxy Nexus is good for outdoor, daylight images only. And its video-recording capabilities shouldn't be seriously considered at all. Compared to the iPhone 4S, for example, the Galaxy Nexus is visibly worse in this respect.
The Music app is nothing to write home about, but this doesn't mean it isn't good. Actually, in line with the rest of the interface, it's rather simplistic in its nature, but naturally, it doesn't save you important content like album art covers. Digging deeper into its options, we actually find a full-fledged equalizer that can be freely adjusted by the user. Of course, it has a number of presets as well.
Video playback with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is flawless. The handset easily plays 1080p videos of all sorts, including MPEG-4, DivX, Xvid and H.264, without a hint of stuttering. Not only that, but the Nexus makes the experience even better thanks to its larger than life screen, with super-vibrant colors and high contrast, courtesy of the Super AMOLED technology.