Android Dilemma: Samsung Galaxy Nexus, or wait for Droid HD, Nexus 2012?

I get asked this a lot lately: should I pull the trigger on a Samsung Galaxy Nexus, or wait for the Motorola Razr HD, or 2012 Nexus? Here's one guy's take.

Nexus and Napa: the ultimate pairing. Speaking of the Napa Valley Festival del Sole, if you're interested in the non-Android part of my life, check out this video I shot with a Canon EOS 60D.
Nexus and Napa: the ultimate pairing. Speaking of the Napa Valley Festival del Sole, if you’re interested in the non-Android part of my life, check out this video I shot with a Canon EOS 60D.

I get asked this a lot lately: should I pull the trigger on a Samsung Galaxy Nexus, or wait? Usually the waiting idea has to do with seeing what Google has up its sleeve with its next flagship “pure Android” Nexus smartphone.

If history is any indication we’ll see a new Nexus before the year’s out.

Recall past releases: Nexus One (Jan 2010), Nexus S (Dec 2010), Galaxy Nexus (Nov 2011). Wouldn’t it be something if Google released a 5-inch Nexus this December running Key Lime Pie (Android 5?) with a quad-core processor? Sign me up. Merry Christmas. I’m not so sure that will happen, but I do know this: it will have “Nexus” in its name, and it will be good, possibly the greatest Android ever. Well, one can speculate.

One interesting point about 2012 in general is the slowdown in the number of Android models. I talked about this earlier this week, and you can get my perspective here.

Ok, about that question then. Do you go ahead and buy a Galaxy Nexus or wait?

For the casual user who doesn’t mind Running with the Devil for another two years, then by all means sign on the dotted line with T-Mobile, Verizon or AT&T. You can get a Nexus free if you’re willing to commit. Just be aware if you go with the LTE version you’ll most definitely need an extended battery, or constant access to a charger.

I’d still go with the Nexus over the HTC One or even the Galaxy S III. I much prefer the capacitive onscreen buttons as opposed to their physical counterpart. And Google finally got it right, there are three simple icons: back, home, apps. Perfect. Gone be the days of wild variation. If you like HTC Sense or the somewhat well received (as far as skins go) updated TouchWiz, then by all means these phones are good choices.

For the power Android guy, or the person that just be on the leading edge, the decision is a little trickier – or fun, it just depends on your perspective on life.

First, here’s what we think we know about the rest of the year when it comes to major Android handset releases:

Samsung – probably nothing significant. The S III is a bonafide hit. Sales-wise that should get them through until 2013.

Motorola – the big news here is of course the Droid HD.

HTC – facing financial headwinds, and with the HTC One lauch I wouldn’t expect anything new – rumor mill seems to be dead wrt new models out of Taiwain.

Others? Maybe. Sony could have something, though I’ve been hugely underwhelmed by its existing Androids.  There’s always LG. But I suspect most of us short list the big 3, and when it comes to Android that’s Samsung, HTC, and Motorola.

I’d be remiss not to at least mention Apple and the iPhone 5. There you go. Mentioned.

But then there’s Google.

Word is we’ll see a stable of Nexus devices come Thanksgiving. I’m not sure yet if they’ll be made by Samsung, as has generally been the case (though Asus was tapped for the Nexus 7 tablet), or if Google will finally turn in-house to its Motorola unit. Regardless, the prospect of a fresh line-up of Nexus smartphones this fall is a tantalizing proposition.

Here’s what I did.

My trusty OG Droid (2009) had all but become a senior citizen. A nice one at that. Respectable even. But not about to take down Usain in the 100m anytime soon. I had to upgrade. It was long overdue. I’m partial to Motorola (made in America!) so the Droid HD is definitely on my radar. As is the impending 2012 Nexus, whatever that looks like.

Clint’s Nexus home screens

For some reason I get DMs and emails asking what my home screens look like. So here they are. All 5 from my Nexus. I didn’t realize this stuff was really that interesting. But, then again, I’m curious too what widgets/apps others are running.

(3) Home, sweet, home. I use my phone mostly for work, but stream a lot of music in the car – check out Songza if you’re looking for a good alternative to Pandora or Spotify. The concierge feature is sweet.
(1) My Dad and I. In front of his restored 1967 Mustang. I wish there was a way to rotate photos. There’s probably an app for that…
(2) News360. And photo of some unknown actress.
Google Calendar. Of course.
(5) I don’t know why I need the weather forecast. And, yes, I’m a lucky guy and keep winning all sorts of cash from Best Buy. No wonder they’re struggling financially. (and thanks T-Mobile for opening the spam floodgates on my new line)

Decision: unlocked Google Galaxy Nexus. Unlocked. For $350 I was free and clear. Running on T-Mobile with unlimited data for $30 per month has been surprisingly decent. No complaints here.

So here’s my recommendation…

If you’re contemplating a carrier Nexus (i.e. not unlocked) versus waiting for the new one, I’d wait. The nextgen Nexus is just around the corner. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with the current Nexus (2011). It’s a phenomenal phone (though the camera is a sore spot for some). But if you’re going to lock down for 2 more years, you might as well wait just a few more months for the new, new Nexus – it will surely be the new king of Android.

For the hardcore guys like myself, just go buy an unlocked Nexus already. Get with the Jelly Bean. In fact, you probably already have done just that and here I am preaching to the choir. If I want to swap out my SIM for the next Nexus, I can easily do just that; selling my Nexus will result in say a $100 loss or so, but being on the bleeding edge with Google’s flagship, and being contract free are the way forward in my books. Meantime I can dig through the forums, and see how that Droid HD and nextgen Nexus are shaping up.

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  • Luis

    Nexus phones are the best ever “updates” all the time, btw a lot of people complaint about the camera, but do really people need 8MP and above camera for just uploading pictures to social networks?!…. i never see people printing the pictures from their phone plus at 5MP camera if your printing regulars size picture you should be fine, i would understand if you doing 8X10

    • I’m right with you regarding the camera. It’s perfectly fine for me – turns out decent photos for Instagrams, Facebook updates, etc. Nothing fancy. For the higher res stuff I use a DSLR.

    • gah

      True but I record videos and upload them on youtube and honestly even the droid 8 megapixel camera is a bit low in like specs 8 megapixels is plenty though just wish they made them higher quality in specs and lighting

  • Slowhand00

    First, no, the next Nexus will not have Key Lime Pie. Google is turning to a yearly update cycle and with Jelly Bean just announced we won’t have KLP until next year. Second, Google has stated they plan to release “a stable of Nexus devices” this year. While one has already come out in tablet form and one may be a TV, that leaves several in the air to be released by each major manufacturer (Samsung, HTC, Motorola, Sony, LG, ASUS, etc) hopefully. This is the best situation for everyone; more Nexus choice, less update fragmentation AND Google doesn’t look like it’s playing favorites by giving the best manufacturer (Motorola) a shot to make the greatest phone ever. Last, I am not hoping for a 5 inch screen on the next Nexus like the author is. 5 inch is a niche size and the Nexus needs to hit the masses at an ideal size around 4.5″ with on screen buttons on a smaller frame.

    To Motorola:
    My dream nexus is a A15 dual core (or better, no quad), 2 gig ram, 8/13MP rear, 1.5MP front, 4.5″ beautiful screen, huge REMOVABLE battery, MICRO SD CARD SLOT with plenty of docks and 4.1 Jelly Bean. Make it happen. Chop chop.

    • Score one for an overly active imagination. You’re right we won’t see Key Lime Pie until 2013. I like what you say about more Nexus choice, I’m looking forward to Q4 and agree it could be the solution to the fragmentation issue. As for your Moto dream Nexus… Ditto that: chop, chop.

  • Guest

    Check your date on the Galaxy Nexus release in paragraph 3. Of course, if anyone were to have a time machine, it would certainly be Google.

    • Ha thanks. Fixed. Right: Project Glass is a no-brainer compared to the time machine Sergey built in his garage.

  • You are right, the unlocked Galaxy Nexus is awesome. Was on the fence but went for it 2 months ago and so glad I did. Wanted to wait till the fall for the next Nexus but just couldn’t anymore. I am staying on ATT since I am grandfathered with unlimited data (regularly use 7, sometime 8 or 9 gb a month and they have never hasseled me or throttled me). In October I will be contract free and I think less likely they would bother me since then I am free to jump ship to TMobile and save money. We’ll see, but will love being off contract, and I love my phone!

    • Sid

      Hey how do u use dataplan with ATT on Nexus ? I too have the unlimited data plan from ATT but somehow I am unable to get it working on Nexus, the data plan works fine for my old Nokia E71 (I know thats ancient :P)

      ATT doesnt support Nexus for dataplan as mentioned on their webpage. So is there any workaround to get it working ?

  • deewash

    I just started using smart phones a while back. My first smart phone was a Droid 2, now I have the droid 3 which I am not satisfied with at all. I am eligible to upgrade with Verizon and I have been trying to research and see what is the best smart phone to buy when I do decide to upgrade. So I am just trying to feel around and see what is the best phone to purchase so I won’t spend a ton of money and end up with something that I don’t want.

  • Mike

    Clinton,

    This was a wonderful article. I agree!

    I have been and still
    am a T-Mobile customer and went off contract just a few months ago. I had the
    Samsung Galaxy S (Vibrant) which I liked, but was wanting something more up to
    date. I had not updated the software from Eclair so was spoiling for ICS or
    Jelly Bean. So I set about my search. I looked at the Galaxy S 3, which I didn’t
    really like – mainly because of the physical home button but I’m not such a fan of Touch
    Whiz either – or any overlay of pure Android. I like the idea of the HTC One X Plus
    coming to T-Mobile in September, but then again – we have an overlay of Android in
    Sense, it does not have a removable battery and it would be back on contract. I
    wanted to go unlocked and contract free as I had several years ago with a Nokia
    E63, which I really liked, but wanted to have a touch screen phone. So, here
    we find ourselves.

    I did my due diligence in searching and arrived at the
    Galaxy Nexus, which I’d actually looked at back during the spring. The price
    was tough to pass up at $349.00! I would get the best of everything!…
    unlocked and free to stay at T-Mobile or go to AT&T at my leisure, get
    Jelly Bean and get a phone with all the newest stuff. The result was that I
    pulled the trigger and got the Galaxy Nexus last week! I used it during the
    second half of the week and loved it. I did begin however to notice that when I
    took it out of my pocket from time to time the screen wouldn’t turn on when pushing the power button. I knew that had
    just put into the screen off mode either by pushing the power button briefly or screen timeout. I
    was thinking to myself… I didn’t turn that off… hmmmm? So it continued to
    happen more and more frequently. I began to search for similar occurrences by
    others on Google. Sure enough this is a known problem. The internet has the ability to magnify
    a problem, so I don’t know how prevalent it is. There are a number of people
    that do have the same problem that their phone somehow turns off while in their
    pocket. I did find a video on YouTube where someone tapped the back center of
    their phone just above the battery and it turned off. I then read that a small
    twist or torque of the phone end vs. end would cause this. So I tapped my phone…
    and nothing. OK, good. So then, looking at the screen I gently twisted the
    corners of the phone in opposing directions, simulating what might happen in a
    pocket and all three times I did this the phone turned off, resulting in my
    having to turn the phone back on again just as if it had been turned off in an
    normal way. As we know the process of shutting down the Nexus requires a 3 step
    process: 1. push the power button for several seconds, 2. touching the Shut Down
    option on the screen then lastly 3. touching the OK to acknowledge the shutdown
    and cause it to happen. This is a very deliberate process and one which would
    not just happen in one’s pocket like “butt-dialing.” Strange shut downs seems to be
    a known problem with Samsung, yet there is nothing that addresses this except
    other forums that discuss it.

    I then called Google as I’ve only had the phone 3 full days
    and they contacted Samsung for me. There was no argument and they offered to replace
    my phone with a new one right away – no questions asked. I did ask if the 14
    day count restarted with the new phone’s arrival and they said it would. I will
    give this second phone a try. If it works – which I sincerely hope it does –
    that will be great! If it doesn’t work and I continue to experience the same
    problem – or others, I’ll be sending it back and getting a refund on my purchase – waiting for
    the phones rumored in the Wall Street Journal’s article about multiple Nexus
    devices from multiple manufacturers… just using my old Samsung Vibrant until
    that time.

    I really want to keep this phone! I generally run it on 2G
    to save the battery, which enables me to go much longer than a single day on a
    charge. I turn on the 3G/HSPA+ only when I need that functionality. I also keep the
    screen fairly low – only as high as is needed. The camera is also good for me.
    I’m a hobby photographer and have several nice cameras and I still find the
    camera on the phone very nice. I guess I’m not so picky and understand that it
    is after all… a cell phone camera. I can adjust the color and do a bit of “post
    processing” with the onboard software or with the Photo Shop mobile app that I
    downloaded. They make pretty good snapshots.

    In short I love the phone! I just want it to stay on and not
    turn off. Any thoughts you or anyone else might have? Has anyone else
    experienced this same problem and had to exchange it?

    Again, thanks for your excellent article!

  • Hannah Martin

    The Samsung Galaxy S III has seen mixed reviews since its launch http://search4reviews.net/ but personally I am happy with mine, has all the things I look for in a phone and more.