Speed / Screen / Design / OS: These were the key words repeated at Samsung and Google’s global launch event for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus in Hong Kong earlier today. Our man in the city was there to get up close and personal with this new Google phone which, previously quoted as the Nexus Prime, will be the first to run the next version of Android 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich.
Samsung’s head of mobile communications J.K. Shin claims that 80% of smartphone users put display quality ahead of any other feature when selecting a smartphone. The Galaxy Nexus features a giant 4.65 inch Super AMOLED screen with a native display resolution of 1280x720 within a 16:9 ratio, surpassing that of the iPad 2 and on par with many of the best tablets currently on the market. It’s big and bright, with extremely vivid colours and an incredibly swift response time of just 0.01ms.
The handset feels big but not uncomfortable, its slim bezel definitely a wise design decision here. Colours are vivid and the contrast ratio is obviously extremely high and noticeably brighter than previous AMOLED displays. Unfortunately, we couldn’t test how it would perform outdoors and under bright sunlight.
The same curved contour display from the Nexus S is carried over to the new phone and, at just 8.94mm thick and featuring a 4.29mm bezel, the Galaxy Nexus feels extremely light – and considering the screen size, not wide enough to make it uncomfortable in the hand.The migration of the Home, Back, Menu and Search buttons onto the touch-screen itself gives the handset a sleek look when locked. The Galaxy Nexus comes with an improved “Hyperskin” on the handset's rear cover, similar to the one found on the Galaxy S II, only with better tactile response and grip.
It's 0.4mm slimmer than the iPhone 4, but screen-wise quite a bit larger, and you expect it to be heavier - so its lighter heft (135g versus 140g) surprises. The build quality is still lightweight compared to the iPhone's industrial glass weight.
The 1.2GHz dual-core CPU ensures a snappy feel to the OS. It's not the fastest dual-core smartphone CPU out but is rumoured to be heavily optimised for Android 4.0. Navigating was a smooth experience, as was loading the camera up and firing off multiple shots in quick succession and switching quickly between open apps. It may “only” be 1.2GHz but is definitely no slouch.The camera is a somewhat surprising five-megapixel shooter with LED flash, surprising as the iPhone 4S surpasses it with its “revolutionary” eight-megapixel sensor. Still, the five-megapixel camera on the Galaxy Nexus is capable of recording full HD video at 1080p and features almost no shutter lag at all. Other specs include Bluetooth 3.0, NFC, WI-FI 802.11n, LTE and HSPA+ featuring 21mbps download speeds and 5.76mbps upload. Unfortunately, the Galaxy Nexus appears to have lost its SD memory card slot, and comes in 16GB and 32GB versions, both with 1GB of RAM.
The Galaxy Nexus feels like it should be a much larger phone than it is, partly due to the large 4.65-inch screen, but in the hand it feels svelte and comfortable. It is definitely more durable and less likely to flex or bend compared to the somewhat flimsy feel of the Galaxy S II. Samsung have ratcheted up the build quality ever so slightly here.
Navigating the menu system is a delightful affair and the introduction of side-swiping capabilities system-wide means getting around apps and their sub-menus is much faster and more elegant than before, though one can’t help but feel Google are taking certain cues from the tile system in Windows Phone 7's Metro UI. To conclude on what has been a rather exciting new product launch, Samsung appears (again) to have the most exciting Android phone on the market. Based on the short amount of time we were allowed with the Galaxy Nexus, Android 4.0 is well worth waiting for, and the entire operating system has a level of polish that has been continually lacking in Android handsets. Meanwhile, Apple has reportedly sold more than four million units of its iPhone 4S since its release, and so the question on everyone's lips is: what will be this year’s hottest phone? Stay tuned.