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Samsung Galaxy Nexus - Ice Cream Sandwich Interface

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is the Samsung Galaxy Nexus's primary reason to exist. The phone is here to show off the latest, greatest version of the Android operating system - to make sure no third-party manufacturers mess it up right off the bat.

Ice Cream Sandwich squishes together Android 2.3 Gingerbread for phones and Android 3.2 Honeycomb for tablets, trims off the bits that shouldn't be there and adds some new features to sweeten the deal. For the most part, it's great.

Galaxy Nexus 8

One of the most significant user interface changes here is that Ice Cream Sandwich no longer relies on physical interface buttons. Instead, the software nav bar of Honeycomb steps in, giving you three buttons (back, home and recent apps) that sit near wherever the phone thinks your thumb will be - and they're part of the screen rather than the bezel.

Hold the phone upright and it sticks down at the bottom. Rotate the phone by 90 degrees and it'll cling to a side. The orientation is very pro-right-handed, though, and there isn't a way to flick the buttons to the other side for all the poor lefties out there.

Interface

Those transitioning from an Android 2.x phone should feel at home with Ice Cream Sandwich, as it uses the same core layout, but there's definitely some tablet DNA left over here. Homescreen interface elements are chunky, with an immovable universal search bar at the top, and a shortcut dock at the bottom, of the screen. We have a feeling Google may have come to the conclusion that many people don't use single homescreens to take on a great deal of different tasks, as about 40 percent of each is taken up by pre-determined elements.

That said, there's still plenty of space on each home screen - the customisable area is a 4x4-slot grid, and you also can choose what goes in the static launcher dock. However, you can't change the middle button in the dock. This takes you to the apps menu.

Galaxy Nexus 6

The Ice Cream Sandwich keyboard

In Honeycomb tablets, this app menu nav button sits at the top-right of the screen, and we're very glad to see it a thumb-friendly distance from the bottom instead here. It ensures that, although this is a giant phone, it can be used one-handed without risking permanent tendon damage.

Other practical bonuses of Ice Cream Sandwich include the universal search bar, easier app folder management (just drag one app onto another), and the data counter. The OS automatically tracks your mobile data usage, and will alert you once you step over a pre-determined amount. Plenty of third-party apps do this for Android 2.x devices, but it's great to see that Google still has the geek crowd in mind by packing native support in - complete with graphs. Now that's hardcore.

For a less hardcore Android user, hardware acceleration is perhaps the most important addition of Android 4.0. Using the full power of a phone's CPU is what makes Windows Phone and the iOS so quick, and there's more of this super-slick speed in Ice Cream Sandwich than previous Android iterations.

Galaxy Nexus 9

The Settings menus in particular have been tweaked to scroll a lot faster than before - reminiscent of the blisteringly-fast scrolling of Windows Phone. There's also some attractive visual tweaks that provide a layer of gloss Android has until-now lacked. The static nav keys glow momentarily after you press them and there's a cute animation upon entering standby, emulating the look of an old-school TV being turned off.

We did experience a few glitches and moments where the touchscreen refused to respond but these tended to result from using third-party apps. And, let's face it, it wouldn't be Android without a bug or two.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

Dark of Day

December 15, 2011, 11:55 pm

Sorry to be a dork but you refer to the "gorilla glass" screen; I understand it's been confirmed that it doesn't use the trademarked Corning Gorilla Glass. In the performance section you mention "dual core phones running honeycomb" did you mean tablets or gingerbread? Android 4.0 looks fantastic but software aside the phones hardware is hardly much of a step forward from a Galaxy S2. To me it feels like the last phone of 2011 tech not the first of 2012. Will be languishing in quad core dust before we know it..I'm bitter you see because I want to buy a nexus they just wont build one I'd pay for.

MilleM

December 16, 2011, 4:45 am

I don't follow the smartphone market closely, but I assume the Nexus is competing with; amongst others, the new iPhone 4S. Your review states that at the same GBP 499, the iPhone comes with 64GB of storage compared to 16GB in the Nexus. Despite your very positive review, I still come away with the feeling that the Galaxy Nexus is a bit pricy.

Dark of Day

December 16, 2011, 7:25 am

I should have sourced https://twitter.com/#!/Corning/status/128803261749805056

Andrew_TR

December 16, 2011, 1:39 pm

@Dark of Day Mixing up the terms Honeycomb and Gingerbread is something I've done more times than I care to admit - a bug I hope will get fixed once I get a firmware update. I'd say you certainly don't have to upgrade from the S2 - better screen but the S2 still holds up very well. Just won our phone of the year award too. A problem with Android is that because power upgrades mean much less than they do on iOS, thanks to the less tenacious dev scene, it can feel as though we've hit a plateau. I personally still question what meaningful improvements quad core processors will add in phones.

Andrew_TR

December 16, 2011, 3:31 pm

Unfortunately the iPhone 4S is not that cheap. The 16GB 4S costs 𧺫, while the 64GB version is a whopping 𧽳.

Glenn Gore

December 16, 2011, 3:40 pm

So what I'm getting from the review is that you're getting a 16 GB phone for the price of a 32 GB iPhone 4S, with a worse camera, while in the interest of thinness, it sacrifices a battery adequate to power the phone for more than one day, actually much less I am sure if you are using the 4G version. Best have several spare batteries on hand and charged up. I think I'll pass.

Andrew_TR

December 16, 2011, 3:53 pm

It's actually the same price as a 16GB iPhone 4S, rather than the 32GB edition. The camera is worse, but the buyer's comparison between an iPhone or Android device needs to be about much more than just hardware. They are completely different experiences.

Jawad Mateen

December 16, 2011, 9:50 pm

@MilleM I didn't read the whole review but if it says the 16GB Nexus Prime costs the same (𧺫) as 64GB iPhone, no, not in this world... The 64GB iPhone is... wait for it... 𧽳 from Apple store. So yeah, in it's own right the Nexus Prime maybe pricey, or not but compared with the iPhone it's the same for the same amount of storage...

ort3

December 24, 2011, 5:40 am

So as an owner of a Galaxy Nexus, I have to admit that I am somewhat underwhelmed. I'm not sure what all the hype of Android is all about. Whilst the device is really light, the gentle curved display is gorgeous, the specs are insane and this is Android as Google intended, the package lacks in the spit and polish that Cupertino offers. ICS is not very intuitive with the "menu" options appearing in inconsistent places and the multi-tasking soft key being visible within the browser - I've often tapped it thinking that it will show the open tabs. Some elements of the OS are great - I do think that the multi-tasking aspect works very well and widgets are inspired. The browser is super quick and the support for Adobe Flash is a bonus (though I've actually yet to make use of it). However, my main gripes so far are that the so called "freemium" apps are littered with adverts which are so very annoying; the battery life is not so good either - I don't think I've been able to go a day without having to reach for the charger. The camera quality is severely lacking with images appearing heavily pixelated (1080p - that's a joke, right?). A case of specs over substance. Oh and 16GB - puh-lease! Google Music does work wonderfully with all of the equaliser settings in the right place and the management of music is so much easier than having to be chained to iTunes. Video playback quality is pretty good too. I could go on, but in short, what I've found here is that the Galaxy Nexus is not greater than the sum of its parts which is disappointing. Ultimately, I'm worried that Android will go down the path of Windows Mobile / Pocket PC: highly customisable but massively fragmented with inconsistent implementations. I hope I prove to be wrong. I think will have a look at Android at the next point release. For now, I'll be listing my Galaxy Nexus (any takers?!), I think I'll give Windows Phone 7 a go or head back to my old 32GB 3GS and the iOS walled garden. ort3~rating = 7/10

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