Samsung Galaxy Nexus Review: “One of the best smartphones ever made”

I was leaning towards Nexus for two reasons: (1) it ships with ICS, and (2) it has softkeys. Now I'm not so sure, and am re-considering the RAZR. I am partial to Motorola. Buying American is always a bonus too.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus Review

Samsung Galaxy Nexus Review

Heady praise is making the rounds today across various tech sites that have finally spent significant hands-on time with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, arguable the hottest Android handset. Though not all agree.

Here’s some of the highlights, and my thoughts on my continued OG Moto Droid upgrade dilemma (HTC Rezound or Motorola Droid RAZR or Samsung Galaxy Nexus).

Best smartphone ever produced?

In a lengthy, must-read review for us Nexus starved, well-respected Joshua Topolsky of The Verge writes, “The Galaxy Nexus is the best Android phone ever made. It’s one of the best smartphones ever made, and with a couple of minor tweaks (particularly to the camera), it could be the best smartphone ever produced.”

… But subpar build quality

One common criticism is the build materials. With the iPhone 4S made out of metal and glass, some are disappointed that the Nexus, a flagship device, is made out of plastics:

“The casing of the device is a gunmetal-gray plastic, which is a bit of a disappointment considering the gorgeous metal and glass of the iPhone 4S, the solid new HTC devices, and the futuristic polycarbonate of the Lumia 800 / N9.”

But, you know what? That’s never bothered me when using a Samsung Galaxy S II or other non-metal phones. In fact, I suspect they might do better than a metal phone when dropped. Just a theory. Like an ant, they don’t crash as hard, and get right back at it without massive dents. Or maybe I’ve had one too many Diet Cokes today.

Android 4.0 not bringing it

We’re all eager for ICS; no doubt, Google would like to erase the flop that was Honeycomb as soon as possible. In CNET’s review which gave Nexus 4 out of 5 stars (Excellent), they weren’t exactly heaping on praise:

“Now that we have it in our hands, it is indeed hot, but it’s also a hot mess. Without a doubt, the new features are welcome and the interface is pretty, but it also can feel cluttered, disjointed, and overly complicated. So while it pushes Android a big step forward, it doesn’t fix all of Android’s problems.”

The Verge’s opinion on ICS is near opposite:

“Ice Cream Sandwich easily gives iOS and Windows Phone a run for their money, and in many ways, it’s a superior operating system than either of them.”

It’s unusual for such stark disparity. You wonder if they were even reviewing the same phone; the conclusions regarding ICS were so contrasting.

Is RAZR the sleeper?

Interestingly, despite all the headlines the Nexus has been grabbing, CNET gave the RAZR a stronger rating, at 4.5 out 5 stars (Outstanding).

For those of us that have been eagerly awaiting the Nexus, the RAZR may well turn out to be the sleeper. Sure, it doesn’t ship with ICS. From what I can tell it has better build (Gorilla Glass), is super thin (7.1mm), and has higher quality cameras (8MP on rear). It’s also available for only $199 on Amazon. Maybe the thinking should be: buy RAZR, let Google smooth out ICS, and by the time it hits RAZR early 2012 everything will be peaches and cream.

Face Unlock – kick it to the curb already

Regarding Face Unlock, why bother: I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why people want this. Is swiping a quick gesture or entering a PIN not faster and more convenient? In Silicon Valley we often like to roll out sexy features that demo well. With differentiation so critical in a crowded marketplace, finding a unique feature (Siri) is essential to standing out. So I understand all of that, but find it odd that this was the best that Google could do with Ice Cream Sandwich- surely there are far better, more interesting features to rally marketing around.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus Video Review

What’s an Android Upgrader to do?

Like a lot of you, I’m coming off a two-year contract with Verizon. I still recall typing in my Google credentials into the first-gen Moto Droid in 2009 and–boom!–all my contacts, and emails were synced; table stakes by today’s standards, but it started an absolutely love-fest with all things Android (except, sadly, when it comes to tablets). Google Maps Nav, Google Voice… killer stuff. And earlier this year, Google Music. While I wasn’t impressed with the Android Market back then, it’s come a long, long way, and now is approaching respectability. Even if it’s not quite ready to take down iTunes, it’s a strong alternative that consumers should celebrate. My world is not iPhone black and white!

At first I narrowed down my choice to the three heavyweights (all purposely timed to coincide with this massive, two-year upgrade window): HTC Rezound, Motorola Droid RAZR, Samsung Galaxy Nexus.

I was leaning towards Nexus for two reasons: (1) it ships with ICS, and (2) it has softkeys.

Now I’m not so sure, and am re-considering the RAZR. I am partial to Motorola. Buying American is always a bonus too.

What to do?

[Photo: Wired]

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  • Rob Mickus

    Same here.  Saw the Razr yesterday & thought wow what a phone.  Did a little research and found that not everyone likes the screen.  Pixelates rather poorly some think.  Samsung AMOLED screen though so how bad could it be?  My thing is can I see it in the sunlight?  Also, they tend to hate the camera.  Won’t bother me as I’ve never thought a cell camera should be any good anyway; I like carrying my Lumix waterproof.  Speaking of, Razr is slightly waterproof and the build quality is really good – advanced composites used and they show.  Battery life is supposed to be awesome on the Nexus, but the smart scripts on the Razr seem to really work well for people (muting the ringer as you enter church, for example, based on GPS data.) Very cool.  ICS?  Eh.  It will get it.  I’ve had an HTC Incredible now stuck on 2.3 for what seems like forever.  By “forever” I mean the length of time I’ve been waiting for a Verizon availability date for the stupid Nexus.  Very annoying.  I’m going back to have a look at the RAZR and see what the exchange options are; it might be worth it to try the RAZR for a while and get the Nexus if it sucks or if I just contract Nexus envy.

    • Kobby Laast

      The Galaxy Nexus’ 5mp camera is way better than any camera that Motorola can make.

  • edward zoof

    trust me, from what I’ve seen of the two cameras, the Galaxy Nexus’ 5 megapixel shooter OWNS the RAZR’s 8 megapixel one

  • Dincman


    • Rezound.

    • Trob6969

      Easily the best choice is the htc rezound.

  • Anonymous

    Table STAKES

    • I must’ve been thinking of the Freudian Baja grill.

  • SylinMino

    i find the OS to be the big factor. stock android runs better, faster, and stronger than any custom skin ui that any company makes for the device. if that’s on the device, i couldn’t care less if one device has dual 1.5 and i have dual 1.2 ghz processor! give me stock, verizon!

  • nexus is easy choice, it includes NFC, has a better processor(omap 4460 compared to 4430 for razr), its camera comes with zero shutter lag, and it has an HD 720p display, the razr doesnt have real HD

  • Anonymous

    I would never buy an LTE phone without a removable battery like the Razr.

  • Anonymous

    I think you will find the lack of carrier/manufacturer skins to be the biggest thing going for the nexus, not only in performance, but also in sales. It is just simpler, more likely to be updated, and has the google brand. The other thing going for it is the screen. Only thing I like about the RAZR is the expandable memory.