17
Dec
galaxy-nexus-product-image-1

Finally. It's real.

After all the rumored release dates, and Verizon's best efforts to sweep this phone under the carpet, the Galaxy Nexus for Verizon is real. It's real and I have one.

I picked it up on launch day at 8am, at a pretty busy Verizon store. I went on a long Ice Cream Sandwich bender, and now I'm here to report my first impressions.

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First off, forget all that technical Pentile stuff. I want to hate Pentile, I really do, but the screen is just gorgeous. I'm normally the type to complain about Pentile's checkerboard layout, but the pixels are so tiny I just can't see it. No one else notices it either, everyone that sees the phone marvels at how good it looks. Black pixels give off no light, and colors jump off the screen. Set a black background and you won't know where the screen stops and the bezel starts.

The screen isn't perfect, there are one or two shades of colors that show some banding (like Rom Manager's dark grey background), but 95% of the time the screen just blows me away. You've got to turn off auto brightness though. It's just wrong. It's always too dim and makes the screen look ugly.

Ice Cream Sandwich is a revolution. The virtual buttons work exactly like they should. They rotate when you rotate the phone, menu only pops up when you need it, and they hide when you watch a full screen video. The whole OS and most Google apps received a loving coat of polish. Android has finally been designed rather than just assembled by some programmer with no eye for aesthetics. It's going to be a real shame when OEMs ruin this.

The lack of a search button is already killing me. Having to go back to the home screen and hunt for the voice button makes Voice Actions much less useful. It almost seems like they don't think voice commands are important any more.

The Google bar is a permanent fixture at the top of the home screen. I really wanted to put Icons there.  In terms of picking a homescreen app, stealing 4 slots from me for a stupid search bar is really a deal breaker. XDA has a bar less version that's getting installed as soon as I am done taking screenshots.

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The front of the phone is just striking. Google somehow managed to keep all carrier and manufacturer logos off the front. The screen is slightly curved and, in most lighting conditions, it's very hard to distinguish the screen from the bezel. The result is an uninterrupted, black obelisk of a phone that just oozes sex. This is how things should be designed.

The virtual buttons allow the bezel to be cut down considerably. Put on a full screen video and you'll just be astounded by how little bezel there is. We are definitely one step closer to Tony Starks phone.

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The whole phone feels very expensive. The aforementioned black obelisk effect gives off a very high tech vibe. The subtle curve on the front and back of the phone and decent weight gives it a very classy feel in-hand. I just wish the back had the same faux-leather backing as some of the GSII variants. This back is just textured plastic.

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I'll have the full review up in a few days. There is just so much to talk about. I can already tell that this is the phone everything else will be measured against for a long time. It's by no means perfect though. I'll talk about all that in the full review.

Oh, by the way, you know all the pictures in this article? They were all taken with a second Galaxy Nexus. So you've just formed an unbiased opinion about the camera. Surprise!

Is there anything special you'd like to see me address in the review? Leave a comment and I'll try my best. We'll talk again in a few days.

Ron Amadeo
Ron loves everything related to technology, design, and Google. He always wants to talk about "the big picture" and what's next for Android, and he's not afraid to get knee-deep in an APK for some details. Expect a good eye for detail, lots of research, and some lamenting about how something isn't designed well enough.
  • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

    A bit too grainy for my liking, could definitely use to go down the ISO level a few notches.

  • keridel

    it's exactly the same as my first impressions of the GSM nexus. "it's android the way you always wanted it to be"

    • Kevin

      Is this a Samsung or google phone?

      • Robert

        Both, actually.

      • Joshua

        Both!

        Samsung: "Galaxy"

        Google: "Nexus"

        Two well known phone franchises coming together.

  • Evan

    Please address the notification bar being too dark and the volume on touch sounds is super quiet

    • Ron Amadeo

      The notification bar is too dark?

      What does that mean? It's black, like gingerbread was.

      The volume is TERRIBLE though. There is an app that will fix it for rooted users.

      • Circs

        What kind of terrible, too quiet? I have an Evo 3d and everyone loved how loud the main speaker was for calls and frankly I hate HATE HATE it. it's just too loud even on the lowest setting.

        Are you seeing any of the signal issues others are complaining of?

        Also completely weird question but do HDR camera apps function correctly? I know they did not on the Nexus S but they worked incredibly well on the Nexus One.

        • http://profiles.google.com/ISantop Ian

          "HDR Camera" works great on mine.

    • keridel

      is the notification bar too dark? mine is perfect. it has a slightly transparent back ground and the roboto font pops out of it perfectly

  • Lorenzo in a Benzo

    I am loving the hell out of mine too!! Now I just need to figure out if it will fit in the GSM car dock or not...

    • Ron Amadeo

      The car dock availability is killing me. I want the real one (not the crappy Verizon version) SO BAD.

  • cyclothunder

    Hi,
    Nice preview.
    If possible, for the full review take more photos and make a 1080p video sample.

    :D

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      More photos are a given.

  • Shamalama

    Is anyone else having really terrible battery life, or did I just get a bum phone?

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Are you in an area that switches between 3G and LTE a lot?

      • Shamalama

        No, we don't yet have LTE. The network is set to CDMA only, and the brightness is set down almost as far as it can go. The voice quality also cuts out in areas that my old original Droid would still be somewhat audible (I live near a reception black hole that I drive through).

        • Shamalama

          I can live with the the voice quality, but the phone not making it through the day is unacceptable.

        • http://droidsamurai.blogspot.com PixelSlave

          Did you turn off LTE then? I read from another site's review that turning LTE off to use only the CDMA network will make the phone's battery last longer than the GSM version.

        • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com Cody

          I think you nailed it right there, if you're in low-reception areas your battery will almost always get worked double hard. Some phones do much better than others with poor reception (usually dependent on how good the antenna is). The phone has to turn up the power just to squeeze out a signal. Judging by a few things I've read, I can't help but think that the GN's antenna is maybe not big enough/well designed.

    • scott

      Im not in a 4g area and i have the lte radio turned off, and i can still barely make it 4-5 hrs. Also the service has been horrible. In areas where i have full signal with my other phone, ill have 0-2 bars with the gnex. Speedtest.net speeds are 2/3 less than what i get on my other droid. Alot of times it wont even get connected. in most situations, im not impressed by the camera. The volume cuts in an out. Its very dissapointing. I wanna love the phone soo much, but i shouldnt be having these issues with such a great phone...

      • Shamalama

        I've had similar. @PixelSlave, the LTE radio has been turned off, and while it made a slight difference, it wasn't a big one. I haven't run speed tests, but I do think that the signal bars are more accurate on the Nexus than they were on my original Droid.

    • ChrisLH

      The battery life is awful. I'm trying 3G only to see if its the LTE. I'm in Houston and haven't noticed it switch between 3G and 4G at all and I've never heard of Houston having spotty 4G coverage.

      It's saying the display is taking up 50+% of the battery life even though I have it on automatic which is usually very dark.

      Also, having some definite connectivity issues as well - it just stops in the middle of downloading something. Also had it not connect with the bluetooth in my car as well.

      Speakerphone volume is very low.

      Finally, I've also had a few random reboots.

      I'm thinking about returning it to see if its just a bum phone.

      Love ICS though.

  • http://phorq.com phorq

    I got one too, and agree that ICS is great, but still dont like the camera in most situations. The volume is too low, and even though Volume+ fixes loudness, music doesn't sound clear at the new fixed volume. And finally, any brightness 30% and lower makes the screen look grainy and ugly. Other than that, i love it.

    • http://profiles.google.com/ISantop Ian

      But do you really want to listen to music on your phone speaker? Anywhere else, clarity doesn't really matter.

  • TareX

    I wish the search button returned in Jellybean.... I use it all the time...

  • rania labib

    What about Arabic support. I've been waiting for this for so long.I used to have an iPhone and it supports arabic from day one.millions of Arab across the world, I am surprised Google can't solve this issue considering the number of Arab users.

    • hassan

      i received the ics update on my nexus s
      and yes it does support Arabic, it connects letters and the default keyboard have Arabic support

      • Imran

        Hassan where r u from? I am from pakistan and I havent received it yet and cant install it manually. it gives signature verification error.

  • Jeano

    My EVO 3D with sense 3.0 is hard as a mofo

  • https://twitter.com/#!/psycho_maniac_ Jerry Lange

    wait.... how did you get it at 8am? lol my store opened at 9am

    • Icefreez

      He didn't go to your store.

  • Brian

    Been loving mine so far as well.

    Here's my little issues. The volume is definitely not loud enough. I wish the notification bar was a little larger because the icons are so small. Any one else think the phone is slippery? I'm going to have to grab a cover of some kind or I will drop this thing, and I spend a lot of time on a concrete floor or even a few feet up in the air.

    And apparently Swype keyboard does not support this screen size. At least not yet. I've gotten so used to it that typing on a regular keyboard is hard to get used to again.

    One of my biggest time savers I've done since making folders is so easy is that I've taken the people I call and text the most and made two folders on the home screen for them. Two clicks to call or text my favorite people and it only takes up two slots on the home page.

  • Todd

    Which weather widget is that?

    • Ron Amadeo

      Beautiful widgets with the "Tick" skin.

  • Devin

    I find the screen atrocious about 20% of the time. Grays are total fail. Burnin effects are noticable evwn if you just go to 'settings', you can see the quick launch bar.

  • Tarukai788

    I had to play with one in the store today because I was so excited, lived up to my expectations and more.

    And you mention the decent weight, but it feels lighter than my original Incredible does, which is neat.

  • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com Cody

    Maybe I'm mixing up phones, but I thought that the Galaxy Nexus was supposed to come with a Kevlar backing, not plastic. Did VZW make a change or am I thinking of the wrong phone.

    btw, just to say it, gawd I'm glad I'm not on Verizon ;)

    • Todd

      Pretty sure that's the RAZR

  • http://danaross.com dana ross

    I'm looking forward to hearing about the Video performance.

  • Jimmy

    Whats that widget u got the weather one!?

    • Ron Amadeo

      It's beautiful widgets with the "Tick" skin.

  • http://archshrk.com archshrk

    What about word suggestions while typing? My Original Moto is awesome but later phones totally failed. If it wasn't for adding Swift Keyboard to my wife's Thunderbolt, I would turn it off completely.

  • P p

    Could someone explain to me all this hype about this phone?

    When I first heard about it before launch I imagined it would be for android what iphone "5" was rumored to be for apple- a real leap forward. Instead it seems to me more like an android version of iphone 4s...
    Compare it to the almost year-old galaxy s2- Bigger, higher res pentile screen, weaker camera... Thats it. Otherwise the same specs. sgs2 hd exists now as well so it is basically better cause it has a better camera with the same screen. And ICS doesn't count- Its already on its way to the sgs2 and will be more polished when it arrives, and might run better on lower res screen.

    So have I missed something? I wish I had a reason to be in total awe, I just don't see it.

    • Ron Amadeo

      Software.

      The SGS2 will get this software, eventually, but it will be ruined with Touchwiz.

      • Tashlan

        CM9 will be available for the SGSII and undoubtably not ruined.

        • Circs

          Let's just hope we don't have a repeat of the Vibrant in that case then.

    • thetruth

      ^ I totally agree, seems few people want to open their eyes to the truth.

  • Michal

    As you said buttons sometimes disappear - You mean fully disappear or just change in dots to pretend they are not there?
    Could you provide information when exactly they hide? Certainly I don't need to have all apps listed, I just want to get a feeling of that.
    I am also really curious how nexus manages freezes - if software buttons are really separated from all apps running. It would be unimaginably awesome if you manage to freeze the device and see how it behaves.
    I hope I don't ask for too much - it might be my phone soon ;)

    • Ron Amadeo

      Some apps have them turn into dots, and others make them completely disappear.

      Youtube and Netflix can kill the buttons and completely fill the screen with video. I'll have a screenshot.

      Painted on buttons have always been run by the screen touch panel. On screen buttons are also run by the screen touch panel. There is no difference in how they behave during a freeze.

      • Michal

        Thanks, that tells me a lot :D

      • Michal

        Additional question - as you said there is no difference between those two type of buttons, so what happens when application freezes and software buttons are hidden? There is no other way than holding power button or pulling out battery?

        • Ron Amadeo

          Well, ok, you've got me there. That sounds incredibly rare... I guess you would just wait for the force close dialog.

  • anonymo

    A paen of joy by a gadget head with almost zero technical content, or critical attitude.

    i.e., worthless space-filler

    • Ron Amadeo

      0/10

    • Circs

      I'm really surprised that you used paen correctly when you can't manage to understand the words "Initial Impressions."

  • http://na jeff

    I have this device as well im writing this with it and i agree gorgeous display and best.pjone ever, period. The lack of a dedicated search button is killing me but i switched to Adw launcher (i dont like the default one) and you can set gestures up or down , so i set one to search and one to camera. Work well.

  • Robert

    I think the Google Search bar can be removed. Though it disables the app completely, but still...

    • Michal

      And still takes place, so you don't gain much.

  • Jaime

    I agree with the horrible battery life comments. I get barely 4-5 hours as well. My Dinc running the experimental and not refined at all ICS rom got better battery life than this phone, and thats with an abused battery (Used to tether with it every day... I'm talking 2-3 full discharges a day for like 6 months straight).

    And yes, all the perks are off. GPS, BT, LTE, WiFi (When not used), NFC, Google sync, vibration on keyboard or button press is off and auto brightness is on.

    • Shamalama

      Just wondering, when you look at the battery usage, is it above and beyond by a wide margin your screen, or something else?

      • Jaime

        45% screen, 25% Android OS

        • Shamalama

          Ok, interesting. Mine's somewhere around 72% screen, even though it's turned down nearly all the way. Thanks!

  • WeakRadiosDontDeserveApass

    I notice in one of your screen caps the signal bars are zero. Looks like yours has the same weak reception as mine. Get a razr and take a shot of them side by side with the dBm showing. When I do that the razr has 10 db or more of an advantage.

    • Ron Amadeo

      That's a perfectly normal signal level for my area.

    • Chris

      My only complaint is the signal. Sitting side by side with my Thunderbolt (running CM7) I generally see at least 10dBm less signal on the Galaxy Nexus. It also seems the WiFi signal is less as well.

      Well, and the auto brightness is too aggressive and keeps the screen too dim.

  • Jay W.

    Could you include something about the LED/notifications during the full review? Thanks

    • http://www.phorq.com phorq

      I'm happy they finally included LED notifications, but it flashes way too infrequently... I haven't installed NoLED yet, but loved it on my Fascinate.

      • Ron Amadeo

        It's way too slow. Get Light Flow.

        You can set individual colors for many apps, and set the blink speed to very fast or steady on. It's awesome.

        Stuff like this will be in my review, There are lots of little problems, but almost all of them are fixable with software.

  • Rob

    You have just helped convince me to skip ICS!

    • http://www.pretentiousname.com Leo Davidson

      ICS is fine, just use a different launcher to avoid wasting space on that stupid Google bar.

      No different to Gingerbread, TBH, where the stock launcher had horrendous bugs if you used folders and thus had to be replaced, too.

      (Or did you mean you wanted to skip ICS due to the soft-button stuff? That's going to be dictated by the hardware, not ICS itself.)

      I installed ICS on my Nexus S yesterday (thanks to AP for the heads-up and download link!) and I'm liking it so far, although I'm also surprised by how little has really changed.

      I tried the stock browser for 5 minutes, then ran back to ADW while wondering what the **** Google were thinking putting that useless, waste of space bar there.

      (It's bad enough that space is wasted on every single screen for the dock at the bottom. WTH are they doing wasting even more space, on every single screen, for a bar at the top which could be replaced by two icons (search and voice search) on one screen instead of all screens. Utter madness, and clearly caring more about getting their branding on the launcher than about actual usability or aesthetics.)

      The web browser seems to have fixed some of the bugs in the Gingerbread browser. It still has problems with large text-input fields (e.g. phpBB forums) but they aren't quite as phone-smashingly annoying as they used to be.

      • Rob

        The soft buttons do bother me yes but I know i'm safe while using my phone with hard buttons. The problems I see are that horrible search bar(I mean seriously, what idiot can't open the browser and just go on Google?) and the fact that ICS is ugly as sin.

  • Dei

    Doesn't battery life improve somewhat over time with a few full charges/discharges? My battery life seems to improve daily, however I am optimizing my apps (avoiding those that frequently fire up/sync/use GPS as much as possible, though still using a few)
    The speaker volume IS a problem though. ~Still on stock, unrooted

  • Rob

    "It's going to be a real shame when OEMs ruin this." AGREED. And that's why I'm sticking with stock Android or at best a custom ROM that stays as true as possible to it. :D

  • Rob

    It would seem that placing the carrier logos on the back of the phone gives them more visibility since if it's on the front of the phone no one will see it when you're using it for voice activity.

  • mikeymop

    Can you try unlocking it, navigating and reaching the notification bar and other menu elements in apps only using one hand? Left and right, how does it feel in hand?

  • Doug

    I would like to see a giveaway for that second Galaxy Nexus you mentioned! :-)

  • Mike

    Could you mention the docking abilities with the Galaxy Nexus in the full review please (the three gold dots on the right side of the phone and what the do and are used for)?
    Also, definitely talk about the battery life too.

    • Ron Amadeo

      I'll mention it and all, but none of the docks are out in the US. =(

  • Michael Kennedy

    I'd like to see your input for what you think about the menu button in different places depending on the app

  • Dei

    Seems to me that having GPS location services on is doing more damage to my battery's charge than 4G is. Was looking at my usage, and while I was using GPS, my battery took a nosedive, steadier at other times. (LTE on the entire time)

  • jim

    Agreed. Great phone and fantastic OS. ICS is simpky amazing.

  • Antoine

    Galaxy Nexus VS Nexus S running Android ICS.That could be interesting.

  • taylord

    Lot of people getting mad for no reason.

    "ICS sucks, samoled blows, too big, too plastic-y, and idk what LTE is but my battery life is terrible and I'm blind as a bat so my brightness is at 100% why am I getting 5 hours what's juice defender derp"

    come on.

    • Shamalama

      And some of us are having battery issues, but know to turn off GPS, LTE, Bluetooth, and set the brightness down low. Juice Defender hasn't made much of a difference either. Just saying, you don't need to be rude about it.

  • Mike

    This phone is fast!! Many hidden features. CPU real time usage and touch point among others.
    Check out the VOIP capability. I loaded GrooveIP and reduced my talk plan minutes. Explain Regex inclusion and regular expression in this best use scenario or as a lay person. THANKS

  • Brandon

    I have the epic 4g touch right now, but I'm really thinking about getting this device. Not sure if I should get this bad boy or wait until next year when the gs2 gets ics.

  • Alexis

    I think if you press the options button continually then it activates the search in apps! like in the Galaxy SII...

  • James

    "Black pixels give off no light"

    Well that's a lie, lol.

    As for the search bar, if you don't like it you can just disable the Google Search app to get rid of it.

  • Andrew – Des Moines

    ICS is Google's gambit to hold off WP, and dominate BOTH high-end and mid-range (previously feature) phone markets -- and to compete with IOS in the tablet market. To be successful, ICS will have to be high-performance, flexible, aesthetically pleasing, intuitive, and still allow a phone to do its most simple tasks with ease and minimal user input -- all the wow with virtually no learning curve for the uninitiated. From this perspective, how does ICS fare?

  • Terence

    The phone is super fast. The screen was fantastic... but.... BOTH of mine, suffered the same issues of staying in the colored tiles screen.
    The Verizon store didn't believe me, till it was witnessed by them in the store one stayed in that cycle for 48 minutes till they just removed the battery all together (they did that twice before to to reboot) its a great phone but bugs an problems exist.

    I love the experience when it was working. But I also know I wasn't the only one in the
    world that had this problem of sporadic reboots and stuck in a cycle.

  • Reggie Thomas

    Even though the search bar is a permanent fixture, you still have a 4x4 area for apps/widgets which is exactly what my Gingerbread phone had. Having said that, I do which the voice actions button was a little easier to hit.

  • pwsfinest

    So you complain about a missing search button, but then complain about a search bar with a microphone that is on every screen?!

    • ted

      the search bar is only on the home screeens, while the search button is for allll screans, even apps/

      • pwsfinest

        Hitting home then (even from an app) would bring you to a search bar with mic. Still just a button press away...

        • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com Cody

          Actually, that's 2 presses, which requires a very large motion of the thumb to get from the first tap location to the second.

          This is also FAR less ideal when driving as you have to look at the phone to first tap Home and then find the Mic on the screen.

          As already mentioned, it also means losing the search button inside of Apps...though, truthfully, I never used that feature and neither did anybody I knew. I wonder if apps could possibly enable a search button like they can with the menu button?

  • Shriod

    stock email client please..every review i have watch only reviewed the gmail client.

    • Ron Amadeo

      It's identical to Gmail. What do you want to know about it?

    • pwsfinest

      It's a Nexus phone... the stock email client IS gmail...

  • UKAndroid

    This review seems to mention ICS more than the Galaxy Nexus! It will be more interesting to see this compared with a phone like the Razr or Galaxy Note when they too have ICS.

  • LSH

    The search bar is a deal breaker because it takes up four icon spots? Really? Use folders, my friend. At some point, a search bar at the ready has to be more handy than whatever apps would fill that space once your folders below it are filled.

    P.S. This phone is phenomenal. Nobody said it was going to make dinner for you or mow your lawn, but as a sweet gadget to play with all day (oh, and make a few phone calls), it fits the bill nicely.

  • Teovald

    A quick tip on the Galaxy Nexus : give the search bar a chance. You can use it to search anything you want : installed apps names of course, but also to make a Google search, to translate something, you can even search the content of your aldiko books, ....
    You can easily choose what you want to search from the settings of this app. During my 3 weeks of use of the phone, it has slowly become one of my favorites features of Android 4.

    The lack of search/menu button is weird at first, but the truth is that you should not have a button that is associated with nothing in half of your apps.

  • Aeires

    Google search bar is always the first thing that gets trash canned, sucks it's permanent.

  • Henry

    Actually, I can attest to the search button being removed as a bad feature.
    I longpress on my search button all the time on my Droid2Global, and it activates the voice search/command app instantly.
    Remember how amazing "Siri" is? well Google Voice commands works just as well (look up the Droid RAZR vs iPhone4S Face OFF video on Youtube). removing that function entirely, just sucks.
    I want to be able to push a button from ANYWHERE and quickly dictate something into my phone and have it perform that action!

  • SK

    Hey Ron,

    Are we getting a full review anytime soon?

    You have had the Nexus long enough! We demand a full review stat! ;-)

    -SK