Review: Real Life With The Galaxy Nexus Android 4.0 Smartphone

The third generation of Google’s “pure” Nexus-series phone goes on sale tomorrow, the Galaxy Nexus. Sporting the latest version of Android, is this the phone you’ve been waiting for? As always, maybe. There are nice things, there are bad things. Here’s my past month living with the phone.

First Impressions

I’ve had a Galaxy Nexus review unit since the middle of November, and I covered some initial thoughts about the phone in my earlier review, First Impressions: Galaxy Nexus Android 4.0 Smartphone.

In particular:

  • Finally, a “pure” Android phone comes to Verizon’s awesome 4G network
  • It’s big, but it feels good
  • The camera gets better controls
  • Despite having NFC, there’s no Google Wallet support
  • Android 4.0 takes getting used to after Android 2.2
  • Button confusion! How do I go back? Where’s the search button?

I’ll revisit some of these issues, but not all of them. My focus in this review is on how I’ve found the phone to perform with real life tasks that I do each day.

Size & Feel

This is a big phone, continuing the trend of super-sized phones I hate so much. To the right, you can see the iPhone 4S sitting on top of the Galaxy Nexus.

My earlier review talks more about the size. A month in, it’s pretty much the same thing. Despite being so large, the Galaxy Nexus doesn’t feel that big. It slips easily into a pocket, assuming you’re fine without a case. It’s nice to hold.

It’s also feels light. But the Verizon version, rather than the T-Mobile one I’ve been carrying, might not.

The Galaxy Nexus version for T-Mobile’s and AT&T’s networks is 4.8 ounces or 135 grams.The iPhone 4s comes in at 4.9 ounces or 140 grams. The main phone I use, the Droid Charge, is 5.0 ounces or 142 grams.

The Verizon version of the Galaxy Nexus is 5.3 ounces or 150 grams. How noticeable that extra weight will feel, I can’t tell, obviously.

Text Entry & Keyboard: Mostly Nice

I’m pretty demanding of my phone’s on-screen keyboard. I want it to accurately let me type one handed, with my thumb, while I’m walking off an airplane or otherwise on the move.

My real torture test is how well I can type when I’m rollerblading. I usually go out for a skate at the end of the day, and the return journey is often against a heavy wind. It’s a handy distraction to kill off some emails while I’m fighting that. Or to tweet some sunsets.

OK, I know that’s not a typical use case. But if a phone can handle that for text entry, it can handle most anything

The iPhone does this beautifully. In part, it does this well because as it’s not a super-sized phone, you can easily hit all the keys with a thumb-reach.

Thumb typing is a further reach on the Galaxy Nexus, but it’s not as bad as I expected. The keyboard is nice, clean, easy to use and doesn’t require me to toggle though a strange set of three different keyboards if I want to use a symbol, as the Droid Charge does.

Here’s the iPhone 4s keyboard compared to the Galaxy Nexus:

Better, the auto-prediction is very good. I can type away without looking, and the correct word, even if I misspelled, is often entered. It’s far better than with the Droid Charge; maybe a little less accurate than the iPhone. But that might also be down to me being more comfortable with the iPhone (even though the Droid Charge is the phone I use the most).

Where it all goes wrong is with the space bar. It sits right above the system’s home key:

I find when I’m really on the move skating, I’m always hitting that home key by mistake rather than the space bar and so exit out of what I’m typing. This never happens with the iPhone or the Droid Charge, because they use “hard” menu buttons that you have to physically depress. You can’t accidentally push them.

Like I said, typing while skating is an unusual case. When I’m just walking off a plane, I’m far less likely to hit that home button. But it still feels a bit annoying that it’s so close to the space bar.

Email Client Disappointing, Confusing

While I use Gmail (through a Google Apps account), I’m a fan of the native email app on my phone, rather than using the Gmail app.

I think this is because native apps usually group emails in conversations, yet you can view each individual email separately and delete/archive them, if you want.

In addition, not everyone uses Gmail, so I think a close look at the native email apps (which sadly get neglected by Android handset makers) is worthwhile.

The iPhone is my touchstone here. Doing email using the native iPhone app is a delight (doing it using the quick preview feature of the iPad is even better).

On the iPhone (i use iOS 5, but iOS 4 was similar), you can easily open to view all messages in a conversation, archive some individually, archive the whole conversation, reply to a single person, reply to all and so on. You can also turn off the “Organize By Thread” feature, if you want.

The menus that the iPhone offers are intuitive. Refresh or write from your inbox:

They stay in the same place when you’re reading an actual email, joined by new options that appear between them to move email to a folder, to delete/archive and to reply:

In contrast, the Galaxy Nexus is more limiting and confused. There is no conversation view, kind of absurd on a phone from the company that popularized through Gmail the concept of threaded email.

I know. I hear the Android fanboys screaming: use the Gmail app! I shouldn’t have to, and as I said, not everyone does. If the iPhone’s native client can do threading, so should the native client on the Galaxy Nexus.

As for menus, there is no consistency as with the iPhone. From my Galaxy Nexus inbox:

Compose is on the left, followed by search, switch to another folder, refresh and the menu to open more settings. Let’s call that thing the triple-colon, because it looks like a colon with an extra dot. We’ll be seeing a lot of it.

Go into an email, and the buttons are all over the place:

Reply is at the top; Reply All & Forward are available through the triple-colon at the top right. At the bottom is the trash/archive button, move to new folder, move to older/newer email and another triple-colon menu button, this time to open settings. Even further down are the overall system buttons.

Now, the iPhone has buttons at the top and bottom of its email window, too. But two key differences. First, a single reply button is smart enough to offer all the reply options you need (though you’ll need to take a second tap to actually reply, something not required with a basic reply with the Galaxy Nexus):

Second, the buttons aren’t in the email itself. If you scroll down in your email on the Galaxy Nexus, the reply buttons disappear. You read to the end of the email, think “Hmm, I want to reply,” and then you have to scroll back up to do so.

If you do reply, more menus are offered, as you can see on the left:

If a single button had asked about me doing reply, reply all or forward at first — as the iPhone does — I might not need this reply menu.

Meanwhile on the right, in the screenshot above, there’s an option to save a draft of what you were writing.

With the iPhone, if you hit cancel after entering something, it asks if you want to save a draft. With the Galaxy Nexus, you have to know to use a menu. Fortunately, if you don’t use the menu and exit, the Galaxy Nexus will save a draft anyway. So, then, why ask about saving?

Meanwhile every time I send email, I get confused. The iPhone has a Send button. It even clearly says Send:

In contrast, the Galaxy Nexus has this weird little arrow at the top that I’ve yet to learn means to send:

Instead, I keep heading for that arrow down below that’s really my return key or occasionally my back button from the system menu.

By the way, when you delete a message, it will auto-advance to a newer message. That’s a pain if you’re like me and read from older to newer messages. But under General > Settings > Auto-advance, this is easily changed. Phew!

There are more issues, enough so that if I were permanently going to use this phone, I’d probably seek out a different email client. That’s disappointing.

Screen Resolution Great, But Browsing Has Some Issues

The Galaxy Nexus screen is beautiful. When the iPhone’s Retina display came out, I definitely noticed a difference. This is the first Android phone that’s felt like it caught up in crispness.

Of course, you’ll see much more simply because the screen is bigger and has more resolution, 4.65″ and 1280×720 to the iPhone 4S screen of 3.5″ and 960×640.

Here’s an example of the extra real estate, what my iPhone and Galaxy Nexus both showed for the same page. The iPhone screen is on the left; the Galaxy Nexus is on the right (and that’s true for the other examples below):

But to me, it’s not just that you can see more. The crispness also means you can read all you can see, in those screenshots above. There’s no need to zoom in.

Crisp resolution might not make that much of a difference as you actually browse, however. Here, a story on the Google LatLong blog gets auto-zoomed by the iPhone while the Galaxy Nexus stays wide (I’ve added a border so you can fully understand how much white space was left with the Galaxy Nexus rendering):

In this case, the iPhone is nicer in that the text fills the screen, making it a bit easier to read. But tap twice on the text with the Galaxy Nexus, and it zooms to fill the screen as well. An extra step, but you can read a lot more in one go.

Here’s another case from the Consumerist, where both browsers rendered pulled back to the degree that you’d probably want to zoom to read in both cases:

Double-tap to zoom work in either case, but with the Galaxy Nexus, you have to adjust after doing it. Here’s how both zoomed:

Now, all the side-by-sides above were done by using screenshots from both phones and putting them together in my editing program. That means the sizing’s not perfect. The iPhone screens look larger than if I’d taken a picture of both phones next to each other.

I might try that in the future, but that doesn’t take away from the real issue. Both have great screens. The Galaxy Nexus will show you more. But I consistently found odd rendering with the Nexus like you see above, where the double-tap zooming didn’t quite fill the page right. It was a minor irritant, but one I hope will get fixed.

A far bigger issue was flipping through open pages. The iPhone shows the number of open windows you have at the bottom of your browsing screen, and selecting that makes it easy to flip through what’s open:

With the Galaxy Nexus, I continually confused the Recent Apps button at the bottom of the screen with the actual button I needed, the Open Windows button at the top:

Over time, I suppose I’ll learn. But it’s confusing to have an option that lets you flip through apps (I’ll come back to this) when you’re also trying to find something to flip through pages. What I really want is for my open pages to be separate apps I could get to.

Finally, one thing I really love is the “Request Desktop Site” option on the Galaxy Nexus, which the iPhone lacks. I’ve used this plenty of times.

Taking Pictures & Video

In general, the picture quality of the Galaxy Nexus is fine. I could do side-by-sides and try to figure out if my iPhone 4S camera with 8 megapixels is better than the 5 megapixel camera of the Galaxy Nexus.

But as I always say in these reviews, c’mon — it’s a phone. Pretty much any phone is going to shoot decent enough pictures for the types of reasons people use it: a spur of the moment shot, when just getting a shot, rather than the best quality shot, is the priority.

Instead, I find that the photo controls are often more important to me, when using my phone. If I’m shooting into light, can I overexpose? If it’s dark, is there an easy night-setting I can use?

I love shooting panorama shots and do it all the time with my Droid Charge. The downside is that the Charge requires me to shoot eight frames. With the Galaxy Nexus, I can record as wide or not as I like. Nice. That’s not something you can do natively with the iPhone.

As I previously wrote, the Nexus also has a range of scene controls that are handy, along with exposure controls. There aren’t as many as with the Droid Charge. This continues to be an area where handset makers can add value to Android. But they’re far more than the iPhone, which offers none natively.

Another surprise was when shooting video, you can zoom in and out. This is the first smartphone I can recall offering this feature. Perhaps others may have this, and I’ve missed it. But I know it’s not offered on the iPhone 4.

The main thing that drives me crazy are the disappearing system buttons with the Galaxy Nexus. In camera mode, it decides to turn these into dots:

As a result, I seem to always clicking them accidentally and exiting camera mode.

Photo Sharing Natively To More Than Twitter

I share a lot from my phone, but how the apps work is really down to the individual social media companies, not to the Galaxy Nexus or Android 4. But some of how photo sharing is handled seems to be a hardware-specific feature.

With Twitter or Facebook, if you want to share a photo, the iPhone app asks if you want to take a fresh picture or choose from your library. If you use a library pic, you’re taken to your camera roll, where the latest picture you’ve taken easy to find.

With the Galaxy Nexus, you choose whether to take a photo or go to your library using different buttons, which is a slight time-saver. But if you go to your library, you then have to pick from a variety of libraries. I have things like “Camera” or “November 4, 2011″ or “Screenshots,” as you can see on the right.

I’m not exactly sure how my pictures got grouped this way. Some of it may be due to my Google account mixing camera photos with those from Google+ and Picasa. But on my Droid Charge, while there are also some various albums, these are far less than with my Galaxy Nexus.

However it happens, last picture in, that’s what I want to share generally makes more sense. That’s also how things work with the Google+ app on the Galaxy Nexus, for whatever reason. In that case, pictures are listed chronologically, with the most recent at the top.

Another way of sharing is from the picture itself. Here, the Galaxy Nexus does better than the iPhone. The iPhone lets you send a picture to Twitter. The Nexus (like my Droid Charge does) lets you also send to Google+ and Facebook:

Task Manager Is Tiresome

With Android 2, a hard press on the home button opened a task manager/swapper. Android 4 introduces the Recent Apps button.

So far, this has failed to grow on me. I should like it. It is easy to flip through what you’ve had running recently. But for some reason, I find it almost overwhelming.

I think this is because with Android 2, you can easily see the apps you’ve been running in one go:

Similarly, with a hard press on the iPhone’s main button, you get an at-a-glance view:

But with Recent Apps, I’m having to scroll through more than I want to in order to return to a particular task:

Far more screen real estate is used to show me fewer options. As a result, I’m finding it easier to ignore the Recent Apps button and go back to the home screen.

It is pretty cool that you can “swipe” away any item in recent apps to remove it. That’s a way of keeping your Recent Apps list tidy and focusing on what you want the most, but it won’t be static display, and it still doesn’t show as many apps at-a-glance as with Android 2.

Menu, Menu, Where’s The Menu?

Another thing that drives me crazy is that the Galaxy Nexus has dropped the system-wide menu/settings button that used to exist. Now, I never know where to go to find settings for a program.

With the Galaxy Nexus, apps put the menu/settings button all over the place. The browser has it up top in the “chrome” outside of the actual content:

Email has it up top but within the content of the email:

Email also puts it at the bottom above the system buttons:

Facebook and Foursquare put it at the bottom but outside the app, making it appear next to the system buttons:

The photo gallery has it at the top, outside the application:

The iPhone, like the Galaxy Nexus, lacks a system-wide menu/settings button. So why doesn’t it suffer the same problem? I think it’s because the iPhone never had a button at all. I get the impression this caused app designers to think more intuitively about where and how to surface a button leading to controls.

Searching For The Search Button

Another change with Galaxy Nexus and Android 4 is that the system-wide search button is gone. I miss it terribly.

I’ve used that button so often on my Droid Charge to speak searches or voice commands like “Navigate to…” followed by a place name to quickly launch the GPS. It worked. It worked well.

To do the same thing on the Galaxy Nexus, I have to reach up high with my thumb and make sure I’ve hit the microphone icon in the search box. That might sound like a little thing, but it becomes annoying over time, especially when the other way worked so well.

Meanwhile, with an app like Foursquare or Twitter, on my “old” Droid Charge, the Search button still works to give me a simple direct way to search within those apps. With the Galaxy Nexus, I have to find where the Foursquare soft search button is. With Twitter, I have to actually click a tab to be able to reach search.

Ironically, with the iPhone 4S having Siri, though a long-click on the home button, I feel like it’s actually easier to voice search on the iPhone than on the platform that popularized voice search, Android.

Battery Life & Background Processes

Until recently, I assumed that the Galaxy Nexus just had cruddy battery life. In reality, it’s on par with my other phones. The missing link was that I hadn’t disabled background data, as I have on my other phones.

With Android 2, this is generally a fairly easy option to find. Here it is on my Droid Charge:

With Android 4, it’s pretty buried. Because I turned off everything in my Accounts & Sync screen, I’d assumed that was stopping background requests. I certainly didn’t find any other options to control this.

However, after I kept getting notifications from all types of apps on my phone, I started looking deeper. Under the menu option for Data Usage, there’s a Restrict Background Data tick box:

For that to work, you first have to set a mobile data limit, which is annoying. Not hard, just an annoying extra step. After that, you can globally restrict background data. Alternatively, from the Data Usage screen, you can pick individual apps to restrict:

Where’s Find My Android?

About two months ago, I lost my Droid Charge in a cab. Fortunately, it was turned in to the cab company, and I got it back the next day.

While it was lost, I learned to really appreciate the Find My iPhone feature that’s baked into the iPhone for free. Using it, I could have tracked my phone, locked it or even remotely wiped it.

For Android, you have to find a third party app to do all this. That means you also have to find some third party that you’re going to trust. Alternatively, your carrier might offer this — though finding Verizon offered it for $7 per month, and only at purchase time, made me pretty grumpy.

I settled on Lookout Premium, a $30 per year solution that already helped me find my phone once, making it scream where it was in my hotel room even though I’d had it set to silent.

But this is something you’d think Google would have baked into Android by now, at least into its own brand of phone.

Phone Calls

Call quality is pretty crap on the Galaxy Nexus. But it’s pretty crap on my iPhone 4. It’s pretty crap on my Droid Charge. I use Google Voice in most instances, so maybe that’s the problem.

Then again, when I don’t use Google Voice, call quality is still crap. I’ve learned to live with the fact that with any smartphone, I have to repeat everything over and over again. Ah, technology, leading us from best to good enough.

I don’t like it, but I don’t talk much on the phone. It’s more a portable computer to me. But I do resent being charged for “voice” by networks that all seem to be unable to actually let me communicate by voice well.

Now get off my lawn.

Google Voice Continues To Rock

One thing I continue to love about Android is the tight integration with Google Voice. I have one phone number that currently calls my two regular cell phones as well as any review phones I have.

That’s not a normal case for most people, but I love that my phone number is mine. That if I want to walk away from a carrier, I can point the number immediately somewhere else without having to wait for a port. That’s something anyone can do with Google Voice.

If you’re a Google Voice user, Android continues to have the edge here over the iPhone. Yes, you can use Google Voice on the iPhone. I do. It’s just a pain.

GPS Navigation Rocks Even More

Having GPS isn’t new to the Galaxy Nexus, but this is another feature that continues to make me reach for my Android phone over my iPhone. I’ve got a decent GPS, wherever I go.

I use this feature all the time, far more than I ever thought I would. There are plenty of times I’ve gone with the iPhone, found myself needing to drive somewhere and wishing I had my Android phone instead.

There are options for the iPhone you can get, I know, some free, some paid. But GPS being baked into Android is one of those advantages that the platform has.

Real 4G

A last thing before concluding. Another key advantage this phone has over the iPhone is that it runs on Verizon’s 4G network. By 4G, I mean real 4G — super fast, not the mock-4G most of the other carriers talk about.

My iPhone 4 is on AT&T, so it’s supposed to be as fast as you can get short of the limited LTE support that’s just rolling out on AT&T.

My Droid Charge, a Verizon 4G LTE phone, leaves the iPhone 4 in the dust. I can upload eight photos to Google+ within a few seconds, while the iPhone takes a minute or longer. It’s fast. And I also find it available in cities I travel to all over the US.

If you really care about speed, right now a Verizon Android phone is the way to go. Whether that means the Galaxy Nexus phone, well, let’s get to that conclusion.

Should You Get It?

Who should get this phone?

  • Anyone who really loves Android
  • Anyone thinking about going to Android who doesn’t yet have a phone
  • Anyone due for an Android hardware upgrade and who likes having the latest product
  • Anyone sick of waiting for an Android software upgrade
  • Anyone who uses Google products a lot

Who shouldn’t get this phone?

  • Anyone who loves their iPhone
  • Anyone who feels their current phone bandwidth is fast enough
  • Anyone happy enough with their current Android phone
  • Anyone who uses Apple products a lot

Those are my best guesses, and they won’t include everyone or all cases. But to expand a bit more….

This is a beautiful phone. It’s fast, both in switching apps and — if it matches my other Verizon 4G phone — in pulling down data.

My Droid Charge, recently (and finally after nearly a year), got upgraded to Android 2.3. Despite that, it still feels as buggy as hell. For all the speed gain I get with data, I’m losing that as I have to load my email program, watch it crash, then load it again just to read my mail.

For me, or any Android user suffering crashes, going to Android 4.0 is like a massive bug fix. I’ll be making the jump, because I’m tired of wondering when and if Android 4.0 will ever come to my Droid Charge.

But it’s also a business expense for me, so I don’t have to weigh it heavily. If I did, I could easily tick along without this upgrade. While it’s beautiful and fast, in some ways, I feel like the Galaxy Nexus is also taking away some features I like in Android 2.0.

This definitely isn’t the iPhone. I don’t even feel like the Android 4.0 software makes things more elegant or simple in the way that so many find the iPhone to be. In some ways, I find Android 4.0 more complex than Android 2.0. But I’m hoping it’s an important stepping stone to somehow getting to that simplicity.

That’s my take. Others will have different views, and a range of reviews are showing up here on Techmeme that you should check out. I’d especially suggest seeing MG Siegler’s comparison to the iPhone 4 and Jason Kincaid’s review from an Android-lover’s perspective.

The phone launches officially today with Verizon for $300 (OK, $299, on a two year contract). You’ll find it info here at Verizon. It will also come to AT&T and T-Mobile (in versions that won’t work with Verizon), but no release date has been set for those networks.Watch Google’s own page for more on that.

Eventually, Android 4.0 will come to other phones, but it’s anyone’s guess as to when that will happen. From what I’ve read, don’t expect to see for at least three to six months, as handset makers go through the certification process.

Related Stories

Related Topics: Apple | Apple: iPhone | Channel: Mobile Marketing | Features & Analysis | Google: Android | Top News


About The Author: is Founding Editor of Marketing Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search marketing and internet marketing issues, who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • JustReboot (Jeff)

    That settles it / keeping the resound / once ics is ported /upgraded to it i’ll have all the features. a great screen and the extra buttons i’m used to :)

  • Tadej Rudec

    “This definitely isn’t the iPhone.”

    That’s the point. You missed it with this review.

  • Anonymous

    Tadej, the review wasn’t written saying the iPhone is what the Galaxy Nexus should be. It compared to that; it compared to Android 2.0; it was compared to just what works or doesn’t. There are things I like about it; things I don’t like. That’s true of the iPhone, too.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, I own an iPhone but I think you’ve written a fair and objective review. They’re just phones (well, ok, they’re just pocket computers with phone apps). I think you’ve avoided the fan boy trap. Well done.

  • Bas van den Beld

    I keep wondering where you find the time to write these lengthy pieces, you always go all the way, impressive.

    What I was wondering, why the comparison with the iPhone? Should it be compared? 

  • Anonymous

    Bas, yep, I think it should very much be compared. For one, there are people who are going to be deciding between they two, so it makes sense to compare and contrast. For another, there are things that the iPhone does well and is weak in, as is the case with the Galaxy Nexus. I think it’s important to highlight those, so that both platforms potentially get better. The other comparison that makes sense, I felt — which is why I mentioned at times — is Android 2, because lots of people will be stuck on that for the next few months.

  • Bas van den Beld

    Yeah, I tend to agree with you Danny. I’m asking because I see different types of users. Perspective plays a big role, for example I always hear from people who are used to an iPhone that they feel Android is 2nd best, where people who start off with an Android tend to rate that a lot higher and don’t feel iPhone is that special at all. So the perspective can be different.
    I never owned an iPhone and started with Android when it comes to smart phones (actually Microsoft, but between those two :) ). I love the Android and don’t see the extra value of the iPhone that much, but maybe that is because I never owned one. On the other hand I own both an iPad and a Samsung Galaxy Tablet, and I LOVE the Galaxy, way better than the iPad. Because it better fits my needs. The only downside is that some apps are not ready for Android yet, but that is a matter of time. I would however advice somebody who is starting off with a tablet to use an iPad, because it is simpeler to use and the apps are more ready, you won’t get lost that quickly as an unexperienced user.   

    It’s a bit vague, I know :) , but don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you have got the wrong perspective, I am talking about readers and users here. The comparison is great, it however also takes a perspective.Did you ever play with the new Microsoft phones? I hear they are pretty good too.

  • Anonymous

    “By 4G, I mean real 4G — super fast, not the mock-4G most of the other carriers talk about.”

    Really?  I didn’t think anyone in the U.S.A. had “real 4G”.  Doesn’t that mean 100 or 1000 Mbps?  These speeds sound good but still very sub-4G to me.

    It’s my understanding that Verizon only has “4G LTE”, which is the sub-4G standard created by Japan’s DoCoMo to bridge the gap between 3G and 4G.  DoCoMo has 250 Mbps service in Japan, and they call it “Super 3G”, for example — they know it’s not real 4G.

  • Anonymous

    If that’s all you care about, maybe you shouldn’t be wasting your time reading reviews.

  • Walt French

    I keep not understanding why people who know better claim that a phone like this is “$299.” No, that’s $299 PLUS 24 months of ball and chain. The state where you pick up the phone knows better, as you will see sales tax charged against a much higher price.

    I guess there’s not much of a market for unlocked CDMA phones, but there’s a real simple way to see the actual retail cost.So what is it? How much does this phone cost, when purchased on contract thru Verizon? 

  • italia.caffe.0735

    Thanks for the balanced review that points out useful and practical features of the Galaxy and Iphone. User interface is really important but not easy to get right. About sound quality. I find that Skype to Skype calls on the iphone 4 on 3G/r wifi has much better sound quality vs. normal calling even on the same carrier netork. BTW, I am in Japan on Softbank mobile. 

  • Michael Ingram Jr

    You don’t have to pay to use the “find my phone” feature on Latitude or the scream feature

  • Gary Mullinax

    Nor do you on iOS

  • Ron

    I have to agree with most of this. As an Android fan, there really isn’t any better option, and probably won’t be until the next Nexus device. Sure, more powerful devices will ship between now and then, but they’ll be tainted by jealous carriers and manufacturers sacrificing agility for “distinctiveness”.

    Regarding the behaviour of the Android browser: go to Browser -> tri-colon -> Settings -> Advanced -> Open pages in overview. You can turn that on and off. Off is more like iOS, it will zoom in and wrap paragraphs automatically. On (the default) will detect websites that don’t modify their viewports for mobiles and will start by zooming out. I have this off and have no complaints.

    I think Android’s major software issues in 4.0 are:
    - still some inconsistent UI decisions, although iOS has its share (search for skeumorphism, yuck!)
    - certain features are buried too deep in menus (Symbian was widely hated for it’s crazy-deep menus, let’s hope Google fixes this)
    - certain defaults are not wisely chosen, and correcting them involves deep menus as above
    - it changes design language a little too frequently for many to keep up with, so third party applications (and some of Google’s) look out of place
    - the Browser is 100% better than it used to be in 2.3 / 3.2, but it is still bad compared to Mobile Safari and nowhere near as exciting and ground-breaking as Google Chrome

  • Ethan Cheng

    Dear Danny Sullivan,

    Please please please please please PLEASE watch where you’re going when you rollerblade down the path. Seriously. Texting while rollerblading is not a thing that should be done by a sane human being with a will to live. Whatever you’re texting, it can wait until a later moment when you aren’t on wheels.

    You probably wouldn’t feel very safe if I was texting while riding toward you in the opposing lane, and that’s why I would never do a thing like that. Please do me the same kindness.


    A bike-commuter who does not want to get injured by having to veer off the path to avoid a distracted rollerblader.

  • Doug Young

    In fairness the weird arrow (which is clearly supposed to be a paper aeroplane) and the back button icons have been used for years in Mail on OSX (and probably elsewhere) in the first instance and on a slew of digital cameras in the second
    This is like complaining that Germans should use the English words for please and thank you because Danke unt Bitte are veird

    iPhone does offer exposure controls (exposure lock, very useful feature that every tog should know and use – look it up)

    Isn’t using gps navigation on a phone really a second best experience, really useful when you are on foot, but I find it terribly tedious compared to my TomTom due to the fact that I voice dial and receive multiple calls when driving and don’t need the distraction of my directions being obscured when doing so
    Another problem is having the phone connected via bluetooth for calls, but listening to radio or cd which results in no audio for navigation unless I fart around
    I do wish though that TomTom would find a way to integrate intelligently with the data connection of smartphones and the superior directory of businesses, satellite imagery etc

    iPhone call quality for me is fantastic

    And Yeah, texting while rollerblading – Very Uncool

  • necenzurat

    what? no calendar review?

  • Nonprofit Tech

    You say, rather quickly… “Finally, one thing I really love is the “Request Desktop Site” option on the Galaxy Nexus, which the iPhone lacks. I’ve used this plenty of times.” 

    Is ‘Request Desktop Site’ the equivalent of ‘Add to Home Screen’ on the iPhone, where it adds a link to the website or web app to the desktop, so you can quickly jump access it? Is it like a desktop bookmark?

    If so, the iPhone has that, it has since the first, since Apple didn’t give developers a way to add apps, Apple encouraged you to save bookmarks of web apps to your desktop/home screen instead. 

    If not, what is ‘Request Desktop Site’? You didn’t explain in post. 

    P.S. Good review. Lots of detail and I loved the screen shots.

  • Lemon

    No. It’s desktop user-agent. 

  • Denver Lobo

    “Request Desktop Site” is a feature that lets you quickly view the desktop version of the page you’re on.

  • Lemon

    Seriously, once you use the paper-plane (come on, is this not obvious?) icon ONCE, do you EVER have to think twice about using it again to send shit? We’re not goldfish. My process was “Oh, that’s Send” and then I knew it was Send and never forgot it was Send. This is UI which assumes it’s ok for users to learn something simple and retain it.

    And it’s consistent across email, messaging, G+, G+ Messenger, Talk… the list goes on. 

    At risk of sounding combative, if you actually think carriage-return or the system-wide back buttons are “Send” you’re a fuckin mental.

  • Dan Andersen

    Yes, it’s very important to avoid the fanboy trap, i.e. actually provide a considered opinion on which device you think is better for your purposes. That would be unacceptable, right?

  • squidlr

    The ICS browser continues to be user unfriendly and very slow to load pages. Install Opera Mini ASAP for a good Android web browsing experience.

  • Michel

    I can not believe people are putting up with these huge phones, I for one see them as a step backwards. Electronics never get bigger over time, except when Google needs more space to put their ads.

  • Theo Clark

    Find my iPhone = Google Latitude turned on.

  • Jeff Barbose

    Great review, but….

    “ In some ways, I find Android 4.0 more complex than Android 2.0. But I’m hoping it’s an important stepping stone to somehow getting to that simplicity.”

    Doesn’t the pro-Android camp forlornly issue this hope Every Single Time there’s a new release of Their Favorite OS?

    We’re at “I” now with Ice Cream Sandwich.  Maybe “W” will break with convention and finally, honestly, really be “Wolf”.

  • Jon T

    Sounds like not too bad a phone. Considering just how stolen it all is…!

  • Anonymous

    Alex, correct, Real 4G in terms of the parade of fake 4G within the US, not outside of it :)

  • Anonymous

    About $100 more than buying the iPhone 4S, since you’ll get the same horrible ball and chain contract. Or it’s like $650, I think, without contract.

  • Anonymous

    Totally get your concern. If it helps, it’s when the boardwalk is empty in front of me. It’s a really long one. If you really care to know more about my particular situation, see

  • Anonymous

    It’s not exactly the same as German vs English, because whatever phone you use should speak your language, not force you to speak its language. The arrow should be intuitive. I should understand that’s what I’m supposed to use in order to send something. I’ve not found it to be that way.

    Thanks for the iPhone exposure tips. I will look that up (though they shouldn’t bury it).

    GPS on the phone is not as good as a dedicated GPS — but it’s very, very close. I’ve used it plenty as a replacement for that when driving, and when I don’t have my dedicated GPS. I don’t get a lot of incoming calls, though. 

  • Anonymous

    Cry me a river.

    Everyone copies and innovates.

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    How on earth did you think that Request Desktop Site meant Add bookmark to homescreen? …

  • Anonymous

    How can you mistake pressing the back button at the bottom of the screen as ‘Send’.

    Only someone who has played with the phone for less than 5 minutes would make this mistake. I mean how else did you ever get back to a view if you were using this phone? The function of that symbol wouldn’t change (i.e. to ‘send’.)

    Similarly I disagree with your review about the Send button itself. The send button is an airplane symbol which is system wide. If you ever sent a Google+ post or even something as trivial as an SMS message you’d see they’re the SAME icon.

  • Anonymous

    “Electronics never get bigger over time, except when Google needs more space to put their ads” ……… I am totally going to steal this line from you.

  • Jason Yeaman

    Yeah….especially since the paper airplane send on that phone was stolen from macos mail. A seasoned dev would have implemented a single glow call on the send icon after 5 or so seconds of keyboard inactivity, or if they wanted to google it all stupid, that retarded green garbage can with the rectal therms stabbed in the top could pop out and ask the retard using the device if it would like to send the message, ala MS clippy style…the way it does during handset activation, and phone calls.

    Looks like another google fail. They have the hardware, they have the software, but still… vision.

    The browser experience is a complete joke.

    It’s got some polish….but still….no attention to detail, no intuitive human interface flow.

    It will get better.

    Nice keyboard layout……pffffft

  • Jason Yeaman

    In the initial spin of the developer initiative, we didn’t have Xcode. They wanted us to develop via web apps because we didn’t have a real sdk. We have never been able to add apps without a jailbreak unless the device is provisioned for an ad hoc side load for internals or test.

  • Anonymous


    This was a helpful review. 

    Looking to upgrade my Nexus One with this device when it hits wider release in Canada.

    In particular, I am glad you covered the base email app (as opposed to the GMail app).  The Galaxy Nexus looked to be an interesting device for corporate use, but no threaded email from the corporate exchange server is a real bummer.

    At least the email app has search now.

  • Anonymous

    It’s really not. Find My iPhone can make the device play a sound and lock or wipe it remotely.

  • Anonymous

    A tool designed to automatically check me is isn’t the same as a tool designed to help me locate my lost phone, I guess.

  • Anonymous

    Lemon, it’s not obvious or I wouldn’t have found it confusing. Why on earth would I think, if that’s supposed to look like a paper airplane that yes, a paper airplane icon is what I should click on to send something. Because I sent email by paper airplane all the time?

    It’s not a matter of thinking twice. It’s a matter of having to several times think, hmm, is that the one?

    But that’s my take. You don’t feel that way, that’s fine.

  • Anonymous

    I’m sure they do. I mean, why wouldn’t you, if you like Android, hope that it improves? There are plenty of confusing things in iOS which I’d hope improve, too. I don’t have to be a fanboy of either for that.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve spent considerably more time with it than 5 minutes, and I have made that mistake. I don’t think it’s difficult when there are so many different menu options presented in so many different places. But that’s my take.

  • Lemon

    What I mean more is: once you knew it was send was it still confusing for you? 

    And when dealing with a system-wide iconography what would you suggest for send? I think the paper plane is an interesting choice – maybe not immediately clear enough, but does that matter if we’re hitting “send” 50 times a day? By then we get it, right?

    One of the icons that shat me at first was the Archive button in Gmail. The two cabinet drawers stacked on top of one another – now THAT is confusing. Or it was until I used it once… Gmail in particular offers “undo” after almost any action. 

    You say “if it’s not obvious” – but my open question is: is it ok for UI to be “discoverable”? Does it have to be IMMEDIATELY obvious? 

  • Jonathan Jorge

    Thank you for posting a pretty detailed review of the GN and ICS.  I do have to disagree with you about how “confusing” ICS can be.  Another reason why I think most reviewers usually leave the detailed things about the UI out of their reviews because every user is different in how they use a phone.  The best thing about this phone is that it isn’t what the Iphone and Windows phones strive to be. Yes the iphone has no bloatware (something I really appreciate) but you’re unable to alter anything on it.  Once again, different strokes for different folks.  

      ICS is best OS for customization hands down (please name another one that does better) this phone can be molded to pretty much any setting you want.  If you don’t like the “base” email then you can use the Gmail App and vice versa.  How can the task manager be a nuisance as you noted?  Have you even used gingerbread, because ICS seems to have actually made a lot of things easier that had been tedious in Gingerbread.  

  • Jonathan Jorge

    lol, why is everyone so adamant to be calling corporations out on stealing this or that.  Why doesn’t Zerox have a million fan boys trying to always remind Apple and Windows about what they stole or copied or tried to copy?  

    Get over yourselves.  Everyone copies everyone.  It’s called innovation.  One company does one thing, another company observes and alters or does that one thing better.  Apple is especially good at this.  So is Samsung.  

    What’s your beef?  You mad that ICS is better than anything Apple has ever done right now?  Does it make you feel better knowing that Google did or did not copy Apple or Windows or Linux or Apache?  You mad bro lol

    Get over yourself and enjoy some desert:  Ice cream sandwich to be exact.  

  • Andre Richards

    That’s more or less what it is. The reviewer needs to correct this.

    And yes, the iPhone has had this feature since day one. It allows Web developers to program their site as if it were a mobile app and then allows users to run the site in full-screen app mode with no browser controls or anything to get in your way. The iPhone even displays the site as its own app icon and treats it as its own process separate from the mobile Safari. It’s an amazing feature that Android has never had. You can bookmark webapps in older versions of Android but it just launches them in the browser like a regular bookmark. I use this feature all the time on my iPhone for mobile webapps and it’s brilliant. It’s about time Android caught up with it.

  • Anonymous

    This is a terrific review.
    I have noticed when I change my font size to big in the display menu that my email progam is unreadable, by that all the text distorts into itself…..this requires a re-set to the normal size and requires a hard restart to change back……I am trying to leave Blackberry, thought the iPhone keyboard impossibly small and was hoping this larger screen and slightly larger keyboard to solve that, it does somewhat.
    But how do you get iTunes music off a Mac into this phone?
    How do you iPhoto pictures into it?
    I was forced to export my address book into Google mail and import that way……drag now google has all my contacts……..

  • Anonymous

    Lemon, it wasn’t clear to me. Nor was I finding it systemwide, because in some apps, it will be different. But you disagree, and you’ve made that point in no uncertain terms, and I respect your right to disagree with my assessment.

    To me, I shouldn’t constantly be wondering which button does what. Suffice to say, I can accept some learning curve. But when I keep thinking hmm, is that the button days into using the phone and an app, it starts to feel like the problem just isn’t all me.

    I suspect the icon could be improved. I know over time, it’s more a minor issue, because if you keep using the phone and have a problem with this, eventually you will learn.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, these are advantages to Android — you have lots of choices. It’s one of the reasons why people might chose it over the iPhone.

  • Anonymous

    Did you crop the screenshot in the Task Manager section? Your ICS screenshot only shows three open apps when it should be showing four. 

  • Anonymous

    No, i did not. I did scroll it to not show one app that was open, my email app I think, because it also showed some of my email messages. But I don’t think that caused it to show fewer apps.

  • Ingo Paschke

    Regarding your Consumerist-zoom-example: On Android, you have to double-tap on the paragraph you want to read and not in the middle of the screen. It’s always been this way.

  • http://CTU.GOV Agent Jack Bauer

    Every hemmoroid (aka fan droid) commentator here fails to realize one important thing about what this device sucks in: the graphics department.

    It can’t even match the gs2 let alone an iPhone 4S because of under powered gpu. What’s the point of having 1280×720 316ppi when the apps (which are sorely lacking compared to ios) will even run properly.

  • Rick Boza

    except that’s not at all what it is. It tells the phone to get a full, desktop version of the web page rather than allowing to web server to force you to a mobile-optimized version.

  • Anonymous

    Keyboard lag bug
    Font size bug
    Autocorrect over zealous all or nothing.
    Half-baked apps.
    SMS that loses time stamps after midnight
    Email that is plain counter intuitive and weird.
    Weak speaker
    Poor battery life
    No native video support, no app that do QuickTime, apps say they do but don’t.
    This is a toy, and a half finished one.
    The keyboard lag in landscape is so bad it makes the phone almost unusable. It’s not even shaped like a sex toy or it might have some use, hey Samsung make a dildo phone so at least it’s more than a door stop.
    Glad I kept the blackberry for backup. Stuck with this until I

  • Anonymous

    the android is half-baked.
    the programs are unfinished.
    Landscape mode is buggy. Fonts smeared together when larger text chosen. Lots of apps dont fully operate in landscape.
    the keyboard lag really sucks especially landscape.
    and this phone is a incomplete toy. samsung GUI’s and ROMS the worst. What goes through the engineers mind? too much msg

  • Anonymous

    This phone cannot even last for 4 hours on original battery! I can’t even consider the original battery to be a viable option for use

    End up I have to to use an extended battery to lengthen the power life of this phone.  So far the Qcell extended battery last me through a day which is an acceptable usage for me

  • briieme

    I know it’s been a while since you wrote this article, but if you are still using your galaxy nexus, I though it might be useful for you to know that the “recent apps” button is like a smart app kill program, for instance, it will close facebook but if you have background data or instant updates for facebook enabled it won’t kill that. Swiping an app (or phone, text, etc) off the recent apps list closes the program.

  • briieme

     Try keeping the phone in 3G only mode unless you are using your internet browser. With the extended battery on my phone I can go almost 2 days (48 hours) before it dies. I always find a time to conveniently charge it at home in that time frame.

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