Google is the father of Android operating system and unlike Apple they decided to stick to making solid software independent from hardware. Android is not a phone but really an advanced computer system to smarten any device with an on and off switch, phones, appliances, car media systems, televisions, watches…All those OS (operating system) implementation are actively being researched in Mountain View facility by remarkable engineers.
Andy Rubin – Mr Android- created the Nexus series. Nexus phones are especially designed to match Android operating system with most adequate hardware. First gPhone was made by HTC, sold exclusively via Google.com under the overblown Nexus One name, fully unlocked. Google managed to piss off everyone in the process: manufacturers (why pick HTC), carriers (why no deal a la Apple) and consumers who expected subsidized phones and live support (not Google’s strongest point).
Bottom line, Nexus One was called a failure. Google was ridiculed and attacked from all sides. A nice welcome from the Telecom industry to Silicon Valley giant.
But Google is too big to fail. Too smart to be impressed. They learned from their mistakes, they poured more gazillions of dollars, invaded every space left open by Apple and Nokia, making Android the dominating platform as we speak. Apple fanboys will argue about revenues, look and feel but it doesn’t really matter. The simple fact that there is an actual argument is a victory for Google.
Google Phone Nexus phone was manufactured by Samsung under the name Nexus S. Launch was simultaneous in the US with T-Mobile and UK with Vodafone. All carriers distributed new Nexus phone. It became an immediate success thanks to its amazing Amoled screen, SIP/Voip capabilities, NFC chip, 1Ghz cpu, true multitasking – all those things still absent from iPhone.
While Apple had 3 iterations of their phone since June 2007 with 1st generation (iPhone 2G), 2nd generation (iPhone 3G and 3Gs) and 3rd generation (iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S), Android jumped 7 major upgrades (from Cupcake to Ice Cream Sandwich) since March 2010. Progress of Android is incredible for a large corporation going through extensive Q&A before release.
It brings us to a short review of latest Galaxy Nexus phone. I’m using a GSM version (not the Verizon LTE). Note this GSM is a penta-band which means it operates identically on both AT&T and T-Mobile 3g/4g network. It will provide HSPDA on any GSM network. Amazing.
Phone is running latest ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich) 4.0.3, rooted, non branded and factory unlocked.
In hand phone feels large but not thick and holds pretty well. Case is all plastic, not very elegant. Thin sporting a large, vivid 4.65-inch screen.
Face unlock will certainly be standard in smartphones a year from today. It works well, and in case it doesn’t you can use PIN login.
Once unlocked i was amazed by transition speed between screens. Android always struggled at it while 3rd party launchers offered good alternatives. I guess Google looked into those apps and patched their OS on ICS.
Another standout for Nexus and ICS is the notification system. Apple recently introduced notification drawer which often overlaps native applications. On Android each notification can be dismissed with a single swipe to the side or can be batch cleared with a simple touch.
Now diving into built-in apps we discover a brand new stock browser offering realtime sync feature between Nexus and Chrome browser, fullscreen view, “request desktop site” which you can click if you want to see the full desktop version of a site and incognito mode (browser doesn’t keep browsing history).
A redesigned Gmail app adding an action bar allowing almost any operation, and best of all you can now store up to 30 days of your emails for offline viewing. Very handy during long flights.
Among cool gimmicks, you also find a panorama mode in camera settings, time-lapse video recording, magazine UI mode in gallery and DUC – Data Usage Control to monitor your data usage according to your billing cycle and Android beam which is like Bump app on iPhone but uses NFC technology.
NFC (Near-Field Communications) is a technology that establishes radio communication with each NFC enable device by bringing them into close proximity. Practically NFC can be used in contactless payment systems, you load a virtual card with prepaid credit and you can make payments using your phone. How does it work? Simple, bring your phone near the credit card terminal, a popup appears on your phone prompting for a PIN code. Enter your custom PIN and bing you just made a purchase. You don’t have to show your credit card to teller, no need to put your PIN in front of a waiting line, no phishing, no skimming, no identity theft. You lose your phone, still fine unless you have a post-it glued in the back with your pin-code.
Verizon has blocked Google Wallet on CDMA version. My GSM factory unlocked device is working fine with Google Wallet. Only thing wrong with this technology is the non awareness of cashiers. I paid using my phone at local CVS and it created a real drama. They had to call store manager, who then called CVS HQ to find out what this NFC thing was all about.
One important thing to know about Galaxy Nexus is NFC is integrated into the battery. Be very careful when buying an extra or extended battery to use exclusively Samsung batteries. Forget about eBay knockoffs.
Battery life wise I’m holding a full day with standard 1750mAh but arguably I’m not running the LTE version which apparently drains much more power. In case you need more you can upgrade to a second battery or the 2100mAh extended one. An option iPhone users don’t have.
There are few differences between LTE and GSM version. GSM is 10grams lighter and about half a cm thiner. LTE carries 32Gb while EU version is only 16Gb. LTE stock battery is 1850mAh vs 1750mAh for GSM.
Bottom line Galaxy Nexus is a true innovative device adding much more features than any other phone. Google Voice, Google Talk, Google + and Google Search are so deeply integrated into Android that it’s make usability a bliss.
What Google wants, Google gets and unless Apple pulls a rabbit out the hat quickly…