As the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is an official Google phone, there's absolutely no bloatware installed as standard - just Google's own selection of apps. Almost all of these are must-download titles, like Google Mail, Talk and Books, aside from the slightly niche Google Messenger. Google - not quite Facebook, is it?
This vanilla approach helps to give the Galaxy Nexus great overall performance. With a dual-core 1.2GHz CPU and 1GB RAM, performance is among the top Android handsets out there. The HTC Sensation XE features a dual-core 1.5GHz CPU, but performance is not strictly comparable as the two run different OSs - our guess is that operation would be virtually indistinguishable. In the AnTuTu benchmark, the Galaxy Nexus scored 6071 points, which pips most dual-core phones running Gingerbread.
As the Galaxy Nexus doesn't feature full integration with every popular social network, unlike HTC's latest Android phones, an early trip to the Android Market is a necessity. If you haven't been recently, you may not be familiar with its (reasonably) recent redesign. It's now more visually rich, to make browsing at leisure more of a pleasure, and puts greater emphasis on recommended apps. This makes picking Android apps feel a little less like pot luck, but a neat new UI hasn't solved all - or even many - problems with Android app culture.
There are more than 300,000, but somehow the selection still feels limited in comparison with the iPhone/iPad App Store. In fairness, there are dozens of great apps and games, but the rate at which they appear is much lower than on iOS.
The Galaxy Nexus is a great example of a device that can max out the potential of Android apps, though, as its 13.5GB of internal storage is available to write apps and games to. Other Androids only give you a small chunk of memory to treat in this way, limiting how many apps not provisioned for installation on SD you can install.
With 1.2GHz to play with, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is capable of playing the top-end games available from the Android Market. It has enough power to play high-end 3D games, but there are currently compatibility issues with some titles thanks to the newness of Android 4.0. We tried to run Glu's Blood and Glory, but it kept booting us out before we even got to enter the combat arena.