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Samsung Galaxy Nexus: The Closest I’ve Come to Switching to Android

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I’ve been using the iPhone for three generations now — starting with the iPhone 3G, then the iPhone 3GS, and finally the iPhone 4 which is my current companion. I’m finally due for an upgrade and I must say that I’ve come closer than ever before to picking an Android phone (specifically the Galaxy Nexus) over an iPhone, but it just wasn’t meant to be and I’ll explain why. Be sure to note that what’s important to have in a phone for me might not be the same for you; I’m just laying out my thoughts here as to why the Galaxy Nexus has been the phone that has come the closest to tempting me over to Android.

Android 4.0

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich feels like the first truly full package in the history of Android. Finally there’s good hardware acceleration and enough performance for a nearly smooth home screen. This hasn’t quite translated over to all apps just yet. Android finally seems to have all of the vital default apps and has long included a turn-by-turn navigation app that blows Apple’s Maps app out of the water. Google just launched the Chrome Beta browser which offers a rich browsing experience which should have been included in Android long ago. Photos can now be robustly edited right in the gallery without scouring the Android Market for the right app. Home screen folders are extremely fast and a pleasure to use, while resizable widgets further the level of flexibility and customization. There’s better battery and data analysis, and much more. This has all come together in bits and pieces over the last few years as Android has grown, and 4.0 is the first time it feels like a complete package to me.

The saddest part about all of this is how hard it is to get your hands on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Google has crafted this seemingly complete package, but less than 1% of users have access to it right now! I’m actually limited to the Galaxy Nexus if I want a top-end phone that also runs Android 4.0 at the moment.

Camera

The camera app in Android 4.0 is super fast in both launching and taking consecutive photos. Unfortunately, I still find that all Android handsets that I’ve tested have lacked in camera quality (for both stills and video) when compared to the iPhone 4, often despite higher megapixel ratings. For me, camera quality is more important than speed. The new panorama mode in the Android 4.0 camera app is neat, but I find that I can achieve better results by taking individual photos, then stitching them together on the computer. It’s a shame that Nokia never got into the Android ecosystem as they’ve long been heralded as having some of the best optics in the mobile industry.

The iPhone 4S camera is supposed to be even better than the iPhone 4 camera with 8MP instead of 5MP and reworked optics. If I can achieve photos like the following with the iPhone 4, then I’m looking forward to what the iPhone 4S has to offer:

Notification System

I’ve said it before and I think it’s still true today: Android is the best at managing notifications, while iOS is the best at delivering them. Between Android 4.0 and iOS 5.0, Android absolutely wins when it comes to managing notifications — you can toss away individual notifications or dismiss them all at once if you’d like. Tapping on a notification takes you directly to the item you are being notified about. All of this is better than how iOS does it. However, Apple’s push notification system is best in class. I don’t understand why Google doesn’t have push Gmail through the official Gmail app. Side-by-side with the Galaxy Nexus, my iPhone 4 shows changes to my inbox almost instantly, while the Galaxy Nexus doesn’t do anything until significantly later, unless manually refreshed. I can literally receive, respond to, and be done with an email on my iPhone 4 before it even arrives on the Galaxy Nexus. For some people, getting notifications instantly isn’t a big deal, but as someone who works on the web it’s a big advantage and one that I can’t easily give up.

Screen Size

If you follow Carrypad regularly, you’ll know that I’ve got some gripes with 4″+ screens. One-handed usability is important to me because I’m frequently on the go. The 3.5″ screen of the iPhone (all versions of it) is far more comfortable in my hand than anything 4″ and above. The Galaxy Nexus, at 4.65″, is just too big to be used comfortably in one hand for me. Everyone’s hands are different sizes, so everyone has a different limit, but with the massive-screen fad that’s been growing in Android over the years, it’s almost impossible to get a top-end Android phone in a size less than 4″. If the Galaxy Nexus came in any size 4″ or less, I’d be far more inclined to pick it over the iPhone 4S.

Customization

This is one of Android’s greatest strengths, but it always runs the risk of being over-complicated. I’m the kind of person who loves to tinker with their gadgets and get them to work just the way I’d like. On the iPhone, this urge is satisfied with jailbreaking, which enhances the customizations you can make on iOS, but it’s not much compared to what you can do on Android. With Android 4.0 on the Galaxy Nexus, I can fit tons of apps efficiently on one page with folders. On other screens, I’ve got at-a-glance access to my calendar, weather, inbox, and music player. It’s nice to be able to do much of what I need to right from the homescreen instead of jumping through hoops between apps. This category is a major win for the Galaxy Nexus.

Apps

There’s no denying that there are some great apps on Android, but Apple’s iOS App Store still has a greater number of apps than the Android Market. When we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of apps in each store, the aggregate hardly matters. Where iOS has the real advantage is in quality and consistency. Because Apple has strict guidelines, most apps are intuitive and work well without crashing. When it comes to apps from the Android Market, you might have two great apps, but they might have two completely different interface approaches — one app trying to emulate an iOS-like ‘everything on screen’ style and the other trying to do the Android thing by hiding features away in long-presses and hidden menus. Alone, each of these is arguably as good as the other, but when you have to jump between apps that go back in forth in their interface approach, the user interaction aspect of it becomes increasingly convoluted, and this is something I quite dislike.

Availability

If everything above held an advantage for the Galaxy Nexus, there would still be one huge issue for me choosing it over the iPhone 4S — availability. I’m on AT&T, and the Galaxy Nexus is decidedly not available for purchase. AT&T has not one Android 4.0 ICS phone available at the moment, which means the best I could do is buy one of the top-end Android phones then wait and hope that it would receive an ICS upgrade. If Google thinks the Galaxy Nexus and Android 4.0 is such a great pair, they’ve got to do a better job of making it available for people to actually purchase it. The only way for me to actually get my hands on the Galaxy Nexus would be to switch carriers or buy an expensive unlocked version of the phone without a subsidy from my carrier.

So, Google, you almost had me on this one, but unfortunately I’ve made up my mind to continue with the iPhone — for now anyway. Fix the stuff above that needs it; you’ve got two years to work on it before there’s another chance to convert me.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus Officially for Sale in the US, Finally!

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The Samsung Galaxy Nexus was announced almost two months ago (a fairly long time in the tech world) and though almost all of the details of the device had been spilled by Google and Samsung, one bit was kept from us: the Galaxy Nexus release date. Until now that is.

After weeks of speculation the Galaxy Nexus is officially on sale in the US, as of today, from Verizon, Best Buy, Wirefly, and directly through Samsung. All of these outlets are selling the 4G LTE version of the Galaxy Nexus, so those hoping for an AT&T/T-Mobile/Sprint compatible version still have some waiting to do.

Of the four stores currently selling the Galaxy Nexus, Wirefly has the cheapest price by far: $189 — that’s $110 less than Verizon, Best Buy, or Samsung who are all selling it for $299. The WireFly page claims that this is the same 32GB version as sold by the other sites, but if you’re going the WireFly route, definitely double check on this as it seems a little too good to be true (chances are, they are selling a 16GB model of the Galaxy Nexus). These prices are of course for those who qualify for an upgrade or are purchasing new service. If you’re curious, the official MSRP for the Galaxy Nexus is listed at $799.

While the Galaxy Nexus isn’t the most powerful or feature-rich phone on the market, it is the first ever to run the latest version of Google’s Android OS: 4.0 AKA Ice Cream Sandwich. Ice Cream Sandwich is expected to bridge the gap between Android phones and tablets which have been running forked versions of Android ever since the release of Honeycomb. With Ice Cream Sandwich, phones and tablets will share a more consistent interface and feature set.

European folks were able to begin purchasing the Galaxy Nexus nearly a month earlier than in the US. Importers were bringing the phone into the US initially, but now that it is available through the usual channels, those looking for the Galaxy Nexus will probably end up buying it right on US soil.

Now the wait begins for ICS tablets!

Galaxy Nexus Now in Product Database, CPU Details Revealed — UK Availability on the 17th?

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The Samsung Galaxy Nexus was announced last month by Google and Samsung as the first phone to run the latest version of Android, 4.0 AKA Ice Cream Sandwich.

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While we knew of the large (4.65″) high resolution (1280×720) Super AMOLED display, the 5MP camera, NFC, Bluetooth 3.0, and most of the other details, Samsung stayed oddly quite about any information regarding the CPU and GPU, giving us nothing more than “1.2GHz dual-core CPU”.

Thanks to the Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo, the beans have been spilled on the Galaxy Nexus’ CPU. The 1.2GHz dual-core CPU is indeed the Texas Instruments OMAP 4460 platform which also includes the PowerVR SGX540 GPU. TI claims that the PowerVR SGX540 has up to 2x better performance than the previous SGX530 GPU. OMAP 4460 also has support for 1080p encoding (capture) and decoding (playback) at 30 FPS. Samsung’s last Nexus phone, the Nexus S [review], didn’t even record 720p video. This time around, Samsung is taking full advantage of the platform’s capabilities.

You can see full official specifications at the Samsung Galaxy Nexus tracking page in our mobile device database.

Samsung UK has confirmed Galaxy Nexus availability for November 17th, but it seems that retailers aren’t so sure about that. Amazon UK has moved the shipping date for the Galaxy Nexus from the 17th of November back to December 2nd. Amazon UK currently lists the 16GB Samsung Galaxy Nexus unlocked for £519.99, which converts to a pricey $837 USD.

Most phones in the US aren’t bought off-contract, so when it comes to typical US pricing, Android Central has shown what appears to be a leaked Costco inventory screen which prices the Samsung Galaxy Nexus at $289. The phone is expected to be available across both AT&T and Verizon in HSPA+ and LTE flavors, respectively.

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