Verizon Galaxy Nexus Review

Introduction and Design

Tearing it up overseas and making its mark in the Android universe, it has surely been a roller coaster ride for US consumers, but Verizon’s version of the highly esteemed Samsung Galaxy Nexus is finally making its rounds in the US – with that oh so lovable 4G LTE connectivity in tow. Timing couldn’t have been any more favorable for the handset, as it’s seemingly chiming in at the literal tail end of the year, but despite that, it’s heading into serious competition against some other top caliber smartphones on Big Red’s lineup. And as we all know by now, you really need to bring you’re A+ game in order to be regarded as a profound competitor.

Yes, Verizon’s lineup is undoubtedly crowded and rich with handsets sporting their own specialty refinements – like the Motorola DROID RAZR’s impeccable design and the HTC Rezound’s  Beats Audio support. Indeed, there were probably many people bummed by the fact that Verizon didn’t get the Samsung Galaxy S II – though, this one is easily regarded as one great substitution. Still, there’s no arguing that Verizon customers have plenty of options, but even before its official arrival, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus was being heralded as a landmark device.

Knowing all of that, will it eventually reign supreme and be considered the one Android powered smartphone to rule all others? Naturally, we’re dying to find out, so let’s not waste any more time and simply dive right in!

The package contains:

  • microUSB cable
  • Wall Charger
  • Stereo Headphones
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Product Safety & Warranty Information


By now, you’re probably familiar that Verizon’s variant is similar in design to the GSM model – and rightfully so, that’s the initial perception upon holding it our hands for the first time. Almost everything about it is identical, like its appearance and choice of materials, with the exception that it’s minutely thicker at 0.37” (as opposed to 0.35”). Honestly, it’s not bad at all and is actually considered to be very streamlined by today’s standards. Moreover, it’s very comfortable to hold thanks to the Hyper Skin finish in the rear, its balanced weight (5.29 oz), and skinny bezel around its display. Unsurprisingly, it’s your typical Samsung construction as it utilizes an all-plastic body and decent build quality.

You can compare the Verizon Galaxy Nexus with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

When it’s turned off, it sports a clean looking facade because it doesn’t boast any of the typical capacitive or physical Android buttons, but beyond that, there isn’t anything particularly resounding about its overall design. Yes, we did drop the handset by accident, and seeing that it’s plastic, it endures some of the damages. As a whole, it doesn’t particularly wow us like the Motorola DROID RAZR, and honestly, it’s rather underwhelming as a whole, which is glaring considering that this is a flagship device.

Already, US consumers are all too familiar with 720p displays – like the ones found on the HTC Rezound and LG Nitro HD. Nevertheless, the 4.65” HD Super AMOLED display of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus still enthralls us thanks to its sharp details, high-contrast, wide viewing angles, and iridescent color production.

In fact, since it boasts a resolution of 720 x 1280, it translate to an excellent  pixel density of 316 ppi – thus, making even the tiniest of fine text remarkably visible. Sure it uses an RBGB PenTile matrix pixel arrangement, which can cause individual pixels to be discernible upon closer inspection, but from a normal distance away, it’s hardly noticeable. Furthermore, it sports a curved display, just like the Nexus S from last year, but it doesn’t offer anything that’s advantageous – rather, it’s merely there as a complementary aesthetic look.

As we mentioned already, it flaunts a clean look with its display because Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich doesn’t rely on separate capacitive or physical buttons – rather, they’re integrated with the platform. Above the display though, there’s a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera that can shoot 720p videos, but more importantly, it’s used in tandem with the platform’s new face unlock feature. Finally, although it’s barely visible, there is an LED light smacked below the display that lights up for things like incoming phone calls.

Following in line to other Samsung’s Android powered smartphones, we dig the placement and springy feel of the handset’s volume rocker and dedicated power button. Around its sides, it features a 3.5mm headset jack, microphone, dock connection pins, and a microUSB port. With the latter, it doubles as an MHL port to provide us with the useful functionality of video-out – albeit, it’s an optional accessory of course.

Lastly, a 5-megapixel auto-focus camera with LED flash protrudes very slightly from the surrounding area in the rear of the handset. Meanwhile, two notches are found squarely in the middle towards the bottom edge and tucks away its internal speaker. Prying off the flimsy rear plastic cover, it grants us access to its beefy 1,850 mAh battery and microSIM card slot.

Verizon Galaxy Nexus 360-degrees View:


Being the very first handset to run Android Ice Cream Sandwich, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus represents a true milestone for the Android operating system. Ice Cream Sandwich is one of the most-anticipated Android iterations ever, since it finally bridges the phone and tablet experience. What this means is that both Android phones and tablets will run Ice Cream Sandwich (and the versions after it), and not two separate platforms, like it has been until now with Android Gingerbread and Android Honeycomb. The case with ICS is that it's built on top of Honeycomb and not Gingerbread. Because of this, ICS brings a brand new experience to Android phone users, equal to a complete redesign of the platform.

First of all, if you have used a Honeycomb tablet, you'll feel right at home with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Most of the UI elements are preserved, and pretty much the whole interface follows the same logic. If you haven't had the chance to work with Honeycomb yet, there'll be a slight learning curve, but very slight indeed – we promise! After all, this is still Android.

As always, your homescreen is divided into multiple pages, on which you can place widgets, app shortcuts and so on. A new element in ICS is that you can create application folders by simply dragging an app shortcut and placing it over another one, just like in iOS. The styling of the new folders is also quite appealing. Overall, we love the entire clean and uncluttered appearance of the platform, making it very beautiful and practical – though, Gingerbread users will initially think of it to be somewhat foreign. For a more detailed look of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, you can read about it in our in-depth review.

System Performance:

Beyond looking at the flashy new platform, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is outfitted naturally with a contemporary processor to keep itself in good light with the competition. In fact, it sports a 1.2GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4460 processor and coupled with 1GB of RAM, which is ample enough to handle most basic tasks flawlessly. However, the evidence of choppiness while navigating across its homescreen with a live wallpaper dulls its prestigious aura. Yes, we expect better movement with this, especially when it’s a device showcasing the most up-to-date Android experience. Nevertheless, we’re greeted with that ubiquitous fluidity when using a static wallpaper instead. Although it’s not the fastest thing to come around the block, it’s admirable enough to accept wholeheartedly – still, we would’ve liked it to exhibit a consistent fluidity with its operation.

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The highlights of the new UI start with the brand new People app. This replaces the Contacts app and is a much cleaner, visual solution to showing your contacts. “Visual” because the person’s image occupies a much larger space, and “cleaner” because it gets rid of all boxes and many delimiters, leaving some nice blank spaces between fields, so you don’t feel in a clutter. Contact images borrow a magazine-style UI in Google’s words, but the Windows Phone community cried foul that ICS is borrowing Metro UI elements. The Phone app has also been redesigned allowing you to call contacts with a single tap.


The Calendar has been swipe-enabled, so you can now use gestures in the Calendar. Here, though, by swiping you switch between days, weeks and months. You can also pinch-to-zoom for a more detailed view of your agenda, which can be really helpful when you have set lots of appointments.


With plenty of screen real estate available to us thanks to its ginormous 4.65” display, the messaging experience is undoubtedly very easy on the fingers. Visually, the stock ICS keyboard is nearly an exact facsimile to the Gingerbread one, which isn’t bad seeing that the layout is very spacious. Add to that its peppy responsiveness, we’re able to easily type up long messages with little effort, but more importantly, we’re making very few mistakes along the way. To make things even better, the landscape QWERTY is one of the very best that we've ever used!

Setting up and operating with email (and Gmail) is a trouble-free process. While straightforward in their nature, the Email and Gmail apps are still equipped with lots of options to let you customize and refine your mail usage. Strangely, you can pinch-to-zoom in the Email app for a better view of the content of an email, but you can't do that in Gmail, which can make viewing of certain messages (some picture-rich newsletters, for example) a bit cumbersome.


Now there’s a good reason why Big Red’s version of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is a tad bit thicker than its GSM sibling – well, that’s because it’s packing along a 4G LTE radio. Even though we’re quite familiar nowadays with 4G LTE connectivity, we’re nonetheless always excited to know that we’re going to be blessed with lightning fast data speeds. Rightfully so, the handset is able to load complex web sites like ours in under 20 seconds.

By default, you won't find the Flash Player plug-in installed on the Galaxy Nexus, but thankfully, Adobe recently announced that it has ported Flash for ICS, so you can now grab it from Android Market and enjoy all the Flash content on the web.


As you can imagine, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus comes with a complete set of connectivity options, including aGPS, 802.11 Wi-Fi b/g/n/a, mobile hotspot functionality, 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. Considering that this one is specifically tuned to work with Verizon’s 4G LTE network, we’re happy with the data speeds it’s giving us – though, upload speeds tend to be a teeny bit slower than other devices.


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. However, we still find it rather pointless to present us with the “sharing screen” when trying to preview a taken photo – rather, we would simply prefer being taken to the gallery instead.

One would’ve probably hoped to find something larger than a 5-megapixel camera on board with this hi-end smartphone, but as we know, it’s not the size that counts. Honestly, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus excels in capturing macro shots, or pretty much anything outdoors in sunny conditions. In fact, detail level is on par with what we get from other premium smartphones, while color reproduction is on the neutral side. Unfortunately, it struggles with dynamic range because high contrast scenes tend to look overexposed in certain areas. As far as indoor and low-lit scenarios are concerned, its quality is so-so. When there's a strong light source, pics do look tolerable, but when there isn't, things get ugly. Naturally, fine details are dulled down, which results in an overall grainy appearance, but it’s the pronounced digital noise in poorly lit shots that diminishes its quality considerably. With the flash, it seems potent up to 3 feet away, but anything more than that, colors simply look inaccurate.

Come on! When almost every top shelf smartphone shoots 1080p videos at 30 frames per second, we’d only expect the Galaxy Nexus to obtain that mark. Sadly, it doesn’t, and instead, we’re presented with a choppy performance due to  its capture rate of 24 frames per second. And you know what? You can almost kiss the handset goodbye when trying to shoot video in low lighting conditions seeing that it’s marred by some scary artifacting and poor details. So yeah, you can probably tell that we’re a bit underwhelmed by it.

Verizon Galaxy Nexus Daytime Sample Video:

Verizon Galaxy Nexus Indoor Sample Video:

Verizon Galaxy Nexus Nighttime Sample Video:


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 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. Essentially, it looks similar to the Honeycomb music player, but it lacks that cool looking 3D carousel when browsing through albums. 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.

Adorned with a lovable and sizable HD Super AMOLED display, there’s no kidding that it’s going to offer a pleasurable video watching experience that’s enjoyable on so many levels. Using our test video that’s encoded in MPEG-4 1920 x 1080 resolution, we’re enamored by the flawless performance thanks to its smooth playback, sharp details, and dreamy looking colors. Even better, the Android on-screen navigational buttons disappear to expand the video so that we’re given a full fidelity experience.

Much like the stable of Android powered smartphones from Samsung’s camp, the Verizon Galaxy Nexus offers us video-out functionality with the aid of an MHL adapter. Interestingly, we’re given a landscape only orientation when we connect it to an HD television. Still, it’s nice to see everything we’re doing on the smartphone directly on the big screen – thus, making it very easy to share multimedia content!

Out of the 32GB of memory tucked away inside of the smartphone, only 28.13GB of it is available out of the box. Needless to say, that’s ample enough to handle most people, but seeing that it lacks expandability, you might want to be careful in what you throw into the device.


Taking to account the pure Google experience we’re given, the handset isn’t filled with the normal set of bloatware that’s found with other devices – though, VZ’s presence is well established. Specifically, it’s preloaded with Verizon branded apps like VZ Backup Assistant and My Verizon Mobile. Thankfully, that’s the extent of non-Google software installed on the phone.  With the exception of the YouTube app, all the other Google apps on the handset are identical to the ones found with other Android smartphones. Although its functionality is the same, there’s a slight difference with the interface of the YouTube app for ICS – though, the biggest noticeable item is the white theme that it’s sporting.


Despite its average volume output with its earpiece, we find calling quality on our end very pleasant thanks to the natural and distinctive voices heard through it. However, our callers on the other end of the line mention hearing robotic-like voices, but it’s still more than audible to comprehend. Meanwhile, the speakerphone’s volume output isn’t the strongest, but unfortunately, it doesn’t help that it emits squeaky tones.

Above all things, the biggest frustration that we find with the handset is its wonky 4G LTE connection – simply, its signal strength is rather weak! Blessed with great Verizon coverage in our area of testing, the handset is strangely putting out a signal strength of -100 dBm on the average, thus, giving us roughly 2 bars on the average. Even though losing 4G LTE connectivity isn’t uncommon with other devices we’ve tested, it’s alarming that the issue is happening constantly – even outdoors! Worse yet, it can go from 4G, to 3G, and then lose the connection entirely in a matter of minutes. Then, it would take a long minute to reestablish a connection to the network. Yes, the entire ordeal is maddening at times, but luckily, it didn’t drop a single call during our testing. Thinking about it more, we wonder if this issue has something to do with the handset’s launch delay. Reading through some other reviews, we found out that we aren't alone in this, although not everyone's experiencing this issue. Unfortunately, we can't be sure what's causing it, but we hope that it's something software-related that will get fixed via an update soon.

Boasting 4G LTE connectivity, we’re obviously inclined to not expect much out of its battery life – even though it’s packing a beefy 1,850 mAh battery. Confirming our suspicious, we’re able to obtain 10 hours of normal usage on a single charge with the handset set to connect via 4G LTE. Furthermore, we enabled the handset to connect via 3G only, and even though it’s better, the 15 hours of normal usage is still rather slim – then again, it’s packing a monstrous display. Getting us by through a solid work shift, we still find the need to charge this one whenever and wherever we can.


Undeniably, Verizon Wireless customers are surely lucky because the Samsung Galaxy Nexus managed to make its landing this year – as opposed to being delayed to next year. Who cares that the carrier missed out with a Galaxy S II model of its own, well, customers have consolation knowing that the Galaxy Nexus makes for a wonderful alternative seeing it’s the first device stateside to land with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Yes, its pricing is still remarked as being on the pricey side, but as we’ve come to expect, a $299.99 on-contract device represents the best of the best. Obviously, its incorporation of a 4G LTE radio is what differentiates this model apart from the previous one we reviewed – and with that, it provides us with an unrivaled experience in chomping down data lightning fast!

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus represents itself as an industry-leading smartphone thanks in part to being a very balanced product with several strong points. However, its lack of maintaining a steady data connection is by far the biggest distraction that we find with the handset.

If you can overlook that problem, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is one of those smartphones that will constantly be in contention. Knowing that this is a Nexus branded device, we love the fact that we can sleep knowing that it’ll receive the latest and most up-to-date software updates – and it in a timely manner even! For right now, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is as good as it gets in the Android world, considering that its high-spec’d hardware ensures that it’ll be future proof for some time. Is it perfect? Of course not, but it has enough lovable qualities to perfectly end the year on a wonderful note.

Software version of the reviewed unit:
Android Version:  4.0.2
Kernel Version: 3.0.8-gaaa2611
Build Number: ICL53F

Verizon Galaxy Nexus Video Review:


  • Clean, complete, and thought-out interface
  • Large & sharp looking display
  • Offers 4G LTE connectivity


  • Constantly losing 4G LTE connection
  • Poor battery life

PhoneArena Rating:


User Rating:

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