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Samsung Galaxy Nexus review

 Review: November 2011  

Last updated December 2011

Rating: 5 stars

In a nutshell: The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is the most advanced Android phone released, and the first to run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.



Update (2 Dec 2011): The initial version of the Galaxy Nexus had a bug which caused volume to randomly drop to zero. This has now been fixed with an update.

Sometimes you unpack a new phone and a tingling starts in your fingers. You know that this phone's going to be something special. Something unlike any other phone.

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is one of those phones. The Galaxy Nexus (originally named the Google Nexus Prime) is Samsung's flagship phone for the final quarter of 2011. The Nexus line of phones has a single purpose - to demonstrate the ultimate in mobile technology - at least in Android flavour. And this is what the Galaxy Nexus does. It's a phone that smashes lesser phones out of its way. It's the kind of phone that makes even owners of the Samsung Galaxy S2 wonder whether it's time to upgrade, and have iPhone 4S owners wondering if they spent their money wisely (but obviously not saying so out loud).

What is it that makes the Nexus so special? It could be the fact that it's the first phone to run the latest version of Android (the stupidly-named Ice Cream Sandwich, version 4.0). It could be the fact that it's the first phone with a genuine HD resolution display. It could be the fact that it uses facial recognition to unlock your phone. But it's actually the fact that all these amazing things and more have been brought together in a single product.

Let's take a look at the screen first, because it defines the thing you first notice when you hold the phone in your palm. Its size! For this is one of the largest displays even seen on a mobile phone. At 4.65 inches it's even bigger than the huge display on the Galaxy S2. You might be worried that it's too big. But it doesn't feel that way to us, partly due to the phone's amazing thinness, at just 8.94mm. That's thinner than the iPhone 4S, and it makes the phone perfectly manageable. Sleek curves, including a subtle but rather beautiful curve to the glass screen and a minimalistic design help too. We've previously played with the HTC Sensation XL, with its 4.7 inch display, and we found that HTC's clever design made it no problem to handle. But the Galaxy Nexus is even easier to hold. In fact we'd go so far as to say that once you've spend a few minutes using the Nexus you'll never want a phone with a smaller screen again!

The screen isn't just physically big. It's spectacular in every way. Using Super AMOLED technology it renders 16 million colours with super-bright richness and is easy to view outdoors. If you've not seen Super AMOLED in the flesh before, you're in for a treat. And it's a genuine HD display, like you get on your flatscreen TV, but here in miniature. That means 1280 x 720 pixels. Yep, that's more pixels than on an iPad 2. And it means you can watch HD video in real HD for the first time on a mobile phone.

Let's take a look at Ice-Cream Sandwich (ICS) next. Android version 4.0 brings a wealth of developments. After all it's been a year since Gingerbread launched and the guys at Google have been busy. Key features are better performance, faster multi-tasking and greater ease of use. Plus gadgets. Let's take a look at the gadgets then. First must be the face unlock feature. Yep, just like in Hollywood movies we can now all look at our phones to unlock them. This is not a high security feature, you understand, as you can trick the phone using a photo of yourself. But it's still cool. And it's an optional feature - you can secure your phone with a PIN or password if you prefer. Another feature of Android 4.0 is voice recognition. This is not like Apple's Siri - your phone won't respond to complex instructions, but you can at least dictate text messages, etc and the voice recognition seems to be accurate and reasonably fast. You can, in fact, give simple direct instructions by voice. More broadly, there are lots of subtle changes in ICS. The home screen feels much more active, with more live widgets, and more going on in the notifications bar. Contacts have been polished too. Generally speaking, ICS takes the already very friendly Gingerbread and refines it further. And the Nexus brings you pure Android, unadulterated by Samsung's TouchWiz enhancements - a good or a bad thing, depending on your view - but it means that the Nexus will be first in the queue for over-the-air updates to the operating system when they are released. That's definitely a key factor to consider if you're about to sign up to a 24-month contract.

The camera may not sound great on paper, being just 5 megapixels, but when it comes to picture quality it's actually one of the best we've seen. Not only are pictures very sharp and with good colour reproduction, but lag time is near zero, so you'll never miss a shot. Autofocus is very fast and accurate too. You can even take multiple shots in quick succession, like a pro. There are also some surprisingly good picture editing tools, plus an automated panorama tool. Video recording is absolutely first class, recording at 1080p full HD with very little jerkiness or blur visible. ICS now makes it possible to zoom during videos, and there are a range of weird and wonderful video effects available. A secondary 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera can be used for video calls, and is also used by the face recognition tool.

The Nexus has a 1.2GHz dual core processor and a huge 1GB RAM at its heart, so you'll never be waiting for it to keep up with you. Start-up time is very quick too. When it comes to storage, you'll find 16GB of built-in memory, but no microSD card slot. We're a bit puzzled by that omission, but we can live with 16GB.

There are no disappointments when it comes to the battery though. A big phone needs a big battery, and Samsung have given the Nexus 1750mAh, which is larger than the battery on the S2, and seems to be up to the job.

Of course there are so many other features that we haven't had space to review - GPS with Google Maps, youtube, facebook, twitter, music and media players, messaging (including Google+ Messenger), a fully-featured web browser and super-fast HSPA offering 21 Mbps download speeds. These features are all present, as are so many others. The fact is that the Galaxy Nexus does it all. It's a living showcase for the potential of mobile technology at the end of 2011. This is certainly the best Android phone ever, and we'll stick our heads above the parapet and proclaim it to be the best phone ever! If you put a gun to our heads and ordered us to find fault, we'd probably mumble "microSD card slot", but that's a very minor quibble.

Why are you still reading? Go to the links at the top right of this page and just get yourself one of these beauties ;)

Samsung Galaxy Nexus features include:

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Samsung Galaxy Nexus user reviews

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Average rating from 21 reviews:

Reviewed by Ryan from Mauritius on 21st Aug 2013
Only 2 words: Flipping Awesomeeeeeeeeeee :D

Reviewed by Jamie from Nottingham U.K. on 31st Aug 2012
Had this phone for 2 and a half months now and I can honestly say that it is the best phone I have ever had! I normally get quite bored with phones but the Nexus has left me more than content. It is lightning quick and the 16GB storage is a more than adequate amount, not to mention its duel core processor. The battery is just what you would expect from a top Android phone getting a good 12 hours average use, it charges quickly too. It does feel a little plastic sometimes tho so be sure to buy a silicone case of some sort to protect it against a drop which without one would certainly scuff at the least.
On one more quick note to end on a high, the 720p HD display is truly stunning and it really stands out from the rest of the chasing pack of Android phones.

Reviewed by preston from england on 26th Jul 2012
Had this phone a few months now. Love it to bits. Much better battery than my s2. And it now runs on jelly bean. Every aspect of this one is first class for me. A fault would be as someone has mentioned you need a case due to fear of damage. Other tthan this can't fault it. Highly recommended. Will definitely go for the next nexus phone whenever it comes out.

Reviewed by Locohero from UK on 3rd May 2012
Had this phone for a few months. It really is very good but you have to buy a case or cover as it's so rounded and smooth. Once in a case it's a lot easier to handle. Volume nice and loud and with the recent software update it now remembers downloaded ringtone and notification sounds

Reviewed by mike. from england on 25th Apr 2012
Having traded my Samsung galaxy s2 for the nexus I'm finding it very hard to justify
After a few weeks why did I jump ship and ditch my s2. although the nexus is far from being a bad phone I just don't think it's any better than the s2.hopefully my disappointment wont be for to much longer before the Samsung galaxy s3 takes to the stage and pushes the rest to one side as the best phone on the market. I hope.

Reviewed by sumansumit from india on 22nd Mar 2012
nice mob

Reviewed by Paul B from Englannd on 15th Mar 2012
I've had my Nexus for two weeks now and am very happy with it. When I first received it (bought sim free from Amazon) I thought "hmmm, not bad" but no "wow" factor. A very solid handset, easy to hold, the right weight and surprisingly not as big as I thought that it was going to be. The screen is truly fantastic. Dare I say better than my Galaxy S2 which it replaces (at the moment)? The physical buttons are minimal with the power button on the right and volume rocker on the left. The charging/syncing micro usb is on the bottom and three charging contacts (very similar to Blackberry) on the right. At the time of writing this review the genuine Samsung Dock and car dock that utilise the charging contacts are still not available. Anyway, the operating system is Google's new "Ice Cream Sandwich" or OS 4.0. The new features don't take long to get used to if you're coming from another Android handset and I've certainly had no problems adjusting. The face unlock feature is really a gimmick in my opinion but very cool!!! The main improvement I have found is the typing experience. The auto correct and fluidity of messaging is a vast improvement and I would say that I am completing texts and emails in half the time than I was on my Galaxy S2. The screen is apparently not Gorilla Glass but Samsung's own version. I always buy screen protectors for my handsets but after a bit of research I was in two minds as it seems to be extremely scratch resistant but still opted for a cheap one just in case. Overall I'm very impressed with my Galaxy Nexus. The new OS is very user friendly and a good step in the right direction in the battle with Apple. Yes, it has failings but nothing is perfect. Will I keep it? Who knows?

Reviewed by Rob from Uk on 2nd Mar 2012
Had this phone now for 2 weeks, this is a stunning phone, but it does come with some really annoying issues, first off, the sound for the ringtone and notifications is just too quiet even when turned up fully, and it is difficult to hear when in your pocket even with the vibrate turned on.
The other really annoying thing is when you are typing out a message, the home button is so close to the space bar, you find yourself accidentally pressing the home button and the phone obviously goes out of the message to the home screen, took me a while to figure out why the phone was doing this.
Apart from these two issues which would be nice if they were addressed with an update, the phone is amazing, not the best looking, but the screen is lovely, and it is lightening fast, although this can depend on your connection type/speed.
Would have been nice if the phone had the option to expand the memory with an SD card slot, but 16GB seems to be ok, I'm one for downloading loads of stuff and I still have loads of free space, the 5MP camera, some people have moaned about, to be honest, it's not that bad and the 1080 HD recording is lovely, as I've said in the past, if you want a decent camera, buy a camera, not a phone.
I did get a bit annoyed that a week after getting his phone, HTC announced the HTC One x, with some pretty amazing spec, including Ice Cream Sandwhich, but with Nexus you will get any software updates first, and the HTC has overlayed ICS on top of HTC Sense, which in a way hasn't given it true ICS......so I'm convincing myself that I have made the right choice.
All in all, a great phone, which will not disappoint, even friends with the iPhone 4s are blown away by this beast, you can even sense their envy.

Reviewed by alistair from uk on 14th Feb 2012
bought my galaxy nexus about 4 weeks sgo. it has rebooted 3 times since i bought it, the message ringtone goes dead and the phone has to be rebooted to get it to work it has done that a few times now,am hopeing these are software related problems that will get sorted, apart from that its a pretty good phone, certainly not 5 star, been doing some research and from what i read others have the reboot problem. ive done a reset and left any added software off but it still rebooted a few days later, i think samsung rushed it on the market, ice cream sandwich needs some bug fixes,

Reviewed by richard from uk on 21st Jan 2012
great phone everything works as it should long as you know how to work them

Reviewed by gary tolland from uk on 19th Jan 2012
ive just had the galaxy nexus and its has great features and the screen is really crisp but one thing is letting it down big time is when you try and watch a video on youtube in HQ on wifi it takes a while to load then plays for say 30s then buffers for ages then stops and starts its a shame because the videos look really good when it plays i thought it may be my wifi but its showing full signal and when i play the same video on my galaxy s2 in HQ it plays fine and loads instant i was looking forward to having this phone but its a bit of a let down theres a few people online with the same problem but nobody seems to have a solution if i cant find a fix im going to sell it and go back to my S2 which is just as good if not better and everything works!

Reply by john from uk on 29th Jan 2012
thats a internet buffering problem you cant blame the phone i dont have that problem mine is perfect

Reply by Rich from UK on 1st Mar 2012
That doesn't sound like a problem with the phone. It sounds much more like a problemw with the connection to the Internet.

Reviewed by Dennis from UK on 18th Jan 2012
got this phone just after release and I think it is one of the best I have had, and I have had a few. my last phone was a Galaxy S2 and this just blows it away. Was worries about the battery life but to be honest it is easily as good as my S2 was and the virtual keypad is one of the best I have used. If your thinking about getting one don't think just get one.

Reviewed by Fred from UK on 17th Jan 2012
Android 4.0 rocks!!! SGN is one of the fastest android phones I used. Multitasking is great, Android 4.0 completely new experience. Phone already had 2 updates, running 4.0.2. Most manufacturer has not even released ICS. Negative bits: Camera could be bit better. Lack of Memory card. Battery life (android os eating battery) but compare to other Samsung phones, battery life better.

Reviewed by Richard Jenkins from UK on 16th Jan 2012
Recently lost i phone 4 which I bought upfront but foolishly didn't check my home insurance renewal policy and wasn't covered so opted for a contract with 3 via butmobilephones.net. It was my first break from apple and it took me a day to work around the device but im extremely pleased. There are a few good videos on you tube on working the handset.The wifi is quicker than my 2 year old laptop running 2 gig of RAM. The camera is instantaneous and in my opinion the lack of delay out strips the galaxy 2 s with an 8mp. It works like shutter burst. the panoramic facility is amazing. Its the super screen plus battery life that has blown me away, along with the drag and drop MP4 functionality that makes it great for a film on a flight or train. I was also amazed at the amount of free android apps and games available out of the apple zone. I have however synced my daughters i P touch with all my other apps should I phone 5 manage to compete with this. The major drawback is lack of memory card slot & AVi files wont play, but im sure theres an app to solve the latter. The drag and drop USB style enables you to quickly save and delete your stuff from the phone, something I never worked out on i tunes. The side lock key also is annoying for about 2 days if you have been used to the i phone 3 & 4. Day 1 unsure, day 2 shopping with wife impressed, day 3 alone with the handset - blown away and would need to be very impressed to move back to apple.

Reviewed by karl from uk on 11th Jan 2012
not amazing but pretty good. screen is pin sharp and it almost hurts your eyes, and the touch screen is fluid and responsive. i find web browsing an utter joy on this phone, again due to the gorgeous screen but also as it loads web pages pretty quick. but the phone has a couple of niggles. one, u pay a price for having a large pin sharp screen the battery life isnt that impressive, im hoping this will improve over a few charges, but with moderate use im having to charge it twice over 24 hours. with my 3gs i was doing this once a day, and getting alot more use out of it with the ipod part of the phone. secondly, the virtual home back and task buttons are cool, but whilst text messsaging u can accidently hit the home button instead of the space bar which takes you out of whatever u r typing. i suppose thats i minor niggle but it can become frustrating. other than that its a great phone and im happy with it.

Reviewed by JohnnyBluewood from Thailand on 3rd Jan 2012
Oh... dear... god... This phone tops my chart of best phones out there. This phone draws with my Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S. It is simply fantastic! When waiting in an airport or dentists, this is the phone to have. Lovely colouring, sensitive touch and excellent memory. A must have phone XD

Reviewed by Tony Crawshaw from uk on 16th Dec 2011
Well i have this phone a week and all i say is wow. Big hd screen, slim phone and good camera. I was going to get a iphone but the battery put me off. My son watchs movies on my mobile so the iphone would be a nightmere. Ive got a a replacement for a online shop and thats all i need. The phone is simply amazing . Even the camera is good quilty and the shutter lag is zero. Buy it now u wont regret it. Only downside is the lack of micro sd but hey u get 16 or 32gb which is enough.. The new isc is easy to use and the app groupin is cool too, just waitin on thr dock to come out for it. Oh and two more things the sound problem has been fixed and also it now has flash player Trust me buy it now...

Reviewed by Martyn Phillips from UK on 2nd Dec 2011
I have been an iphone user for some years, but felt rather annouyed when Apple just churned out a "fixed" version of the 4 that should of been correct in the first place! When I saw the "dark side" Nexus I was sceptical, but this phone is not just everything the iphone 5 that never was should have been, it is a landmark for Android. The Nexus doesn't even try to compare to the iphone 4s it's just ignored it and jetted off leaving it in it's wake! The Nexus will play any movie you want, any music type you want, install apps from non market sources, er all of which itunes wouldn't do, and this does it all on a 4.65" AMOLED HD SCREEN!!! The default apps are very good, even the default music player is one of the easiest I've used. Everytime you think this phone can't do something you want, you try a different setting & and it's done! I particularly like the way the browser tabs work and especially the option to touch the side of the phone to control tabs rather than having a menu bar at the top. So many little features have been thought of, that set this phone apart. It's fast, slim, light and it has no buttons so it uses all of that lovely screen. The battery has been great (AKA HTC) and I have had no issues at all with volume. I also particularly like the way it updates over the air, no need to download updates to your computer and plug in. We should recognise here though that the iphone pushed the rest of the world to do better, but it rested on it's laurels for too long, assuming that just being an iphone was enough, it was..., until it got in the ring with Samsung (and it's trainer Google)....now it isn't.

Reviewed by Huzrat Imam Ali from UK on 22nd Nov 2011
Good phone but big time issue for all users in 2g areas, the phone goes to silent and you will not hear the person on the phone as the phone automatically lowers the phone volume to zero! Known issue / bug with the phone and a patch is to be released soon!

Reviewed by JustinL from UK on 19th Nov 2011
By far the best phone I have used bar none, I have got the Iphone 4S, had a Galaxy S2, Sensation XE and loads more, this beats them all. Excellent build quality, screen quality is superb and the Pentile matrix is not noticeable. Sound quality is excellent and the camera has virtually no shutter lag at all with decent focus and colours. I'm still getting to grips with ICS but it is a quantum leap over FroYo and Gingerbread. Only negatives so far are the screen is quite dim with the autobrightness enabled and the volume button currently seems to have a life of it's own. If you need or want to get a new phone you MUST look at this one before deciding what to buy!

Reviewed by facekicker from Ireland on 18th Nov 2011
This is simply the best phone I've ever owned! Face recognition works a treat, the screen is HUGE and crystal clear! the battery is on 67% at the minute, despite the fact I've been using it (sorry, playing with it) since 11 am this morning (it's now 6pm). Camera is unreal, even rivals my sgs2 (maybe its just the photos look so much better displayed on this screen?) This phone is also one of the most comfy phones I've ever held, fits easily in my Jeans pockets. My friend had an iPhone 4s,, I've been showing him this for the last few hours and he is not a happy chappy lol. (think he's ready to kick me in the face lol) Get this phone for Christmas folks, you will NOT regret it!

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