• Full Review
  • Specifications

Full Review

Android phones are now taking on the might of Apple’s flagship devices, and Samsung has now raised the bar by introducing its hyper smart phone, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which features the long-awaited update to Android OS – the seasonably chilly Ice Cream Sandwich.

Looking good 

But first, let’s make a comment on its looks. It has a plastic body, which makes it a real lightweight at 135g. It’s still 19g heavier than the Galaxy S II – and the extra weight certainly makes it feel better to hold. Its reverse side is like the textured ‘leatherette’ of the BlackBerry Bold 9900, however it still has the plastic reverse cover that we hated in the Galaxy S II, which is a real shame.

Sticking out from the curved back is the lens of the five-megapixel snapper. Its 8.9mm thick, which is pretty slim for such a big handset, and the display gets even more room thanks to the narrow bezel.

As well as the rear-facing snapper there’s a front-facing camera for video calls (or Hangouts as they are known in Google+). There’s also something called Face Unlock – which uses face recognition to allow you to unlock the device.

Inside the chassis there’s a 1.2GHz dual-core chip, which, along with a 1GB RAM makes sure performance is pretty speedy. The Nexus also features the most responsive touchscreen we have seen, along with a virtual keyboard that offers a comfy and fast typing experience. The main screen offers a dedicated full stop button, emoticon menu and a row of numbers to speed up the process further.

It’s a pity there’s no option to expand memory though – it lacks a microSD slot – so you’re stuck with either 16GB or 32GB, depending on which model you opt for.

Just desserts

Ice Cream Sandwich has managed to combine all the best bits of Gingerbread and the tablet OS Honeycomb into a streamlined looking system with widgets squared off and icons minimalised. Finding your way around the phone is simpler – there are just three standard touch-buttons – Back, Home and Multitasking. Instead of using a Menu button, you’ll need to dig into each app to find out what actions you can perform.

Firing up the handset for the first time you will see a default home screen setup pop up – this offers a toolbar at the bottom with shortcuts to Contacts, Dialer, Text, All Programs, Brower and Texts, plus some Google app shortcuts.

However, we love the introduction of the Multitasking button, which lets you see thumbnails of up to 16 programs in use and scroll through them to find the one you want. We experienced no lag, even with 16 programs open.

Go to All Programs and you’ll see all your widgets and apps – the new visual menu shows you what the widgets look like, rather than just showing as a text list. However, we found that it has become less user friendly to add widgets and shortcuts to the home screen – you have to go into All Programs, hit the shortcut and view a carousel of homescreens from which you choose the one you want to add an icon to. Confusing for the smartphone newbie.

In fact this phone is not kind to first-timers – there’s no startup help screens as found on other Samsung phones or HTC’s Android handsets – and you’ll have to make your own way through setting up social networking, email and Wi-Fi accounts. This phone is really made for people with some technological know-how who are happy to play around with the device to get things how they want them. We still found there were some issues with Ice Cream Sandwich – there was some freezing and we had to force close a few apps – but these glitches may have been ironed out by the time the phone goes on sale.

Keeping in contact online 

Android has always done a pretty good job where email is concerned, and Gmail in particular has always been close to a desktop experience. Ice Cream sandwich has improved this yet further – you’ll get a two-line preview of your email content in the inbox and there is a new toolbar for viewing by label, searching, and composing, along with a more comprehensive settings menu. It is also possible to view, preview or save attachments once inside a message, or mark it as unread. It’s by far the best Gmail offering we have seen on a mobile. The email app for other services is not quite as clever – in fact there’s not even a search facility.

Surfing the net is also closer to a desktop experience too – tabbed browsing has speeded things up considerably – and you can choose to go ‘private’ on the Chrome browser. We found sites loaded far quicker than on the Galaxy S II, which features Android Gingerbread – and using pinch to zoom and copy/paste worked effortlessly. You can also choose to save pages to view offline later on. Flash is also now supported.

Getting social

Social integration has been addressed – Google now offers what it calls ‘PeopleChips’, which are virtual contact cards that feature all your friends’ details including email, Facebook, phone number, Twitter and so on, as well as messaging as such as Skype and WhatsApp. The contacts all sync automatically – although when we were testing Facebook was not working completely with Ice Cream Sandwich phones – again this may have been rectified by now.

Reminiscent of Microsoft’s Windows Phone People Hub, each chip displays a friend’s detail along with photos and their latest posts. The square profile pictures look very much like the Windows Live Tiles. It looks good and it makes communicating easier. You’ll see that text messages are threaded and that at the top of each conversation, the contact’s name is shown, along with an option to attach a video or photo or to dial their number. The text inbox also has a search facility, as seen in the Gmail facility.

Look to the future now…

Now that so many contracts tie you in for 18 months to two years, you need a phone that is going to stand up to the test of time. The Galaxy Nexus has an NFC chip, for making contactless payments, when that facility becomes available in the UK. At the moment it can be used for Android Beam, which allows you to bounce content immediately between two Galaxy Nexus handsets (this will eventually mean the facility is open to any Ice Cream sandwich handset with an NFC chip). It means you can send things such as apps, map links, web links and YouTube videos to another handset in seconds, just by putting the phones next to each other.

Get the picture

Many smartphones now feature an eight-megapixel snapper, so the five-megapixel model on board the Nexus is a bit of a surprise – but in actual fact it works really well. A speedy shutter lets you take snaps one after the other – fire the shutter either by touching the screen or the three metallic dots located on the side of the handset. A settings menu onscreen allows you to turn the flash on and off, alter exposure and preset lighting modes.

The first time you fire up the snapper, it asks if you want to turn on Instant Upload, that saves your snaps straight to Google+ It has advantages – it means your images are instantly stored on the cloud, so you can delete them from your memory card to free up space. And the images are linked to your Gmail address so it doesn’t matter if you change your phone regularly.

Snaps taken in daylight proved excellent, but pictures taken in low light were disappointing. While colours remained true, they were too grainy. There’s also an option to take panorama images of 180 degrees – the camera even tells you if you are sweeping the handset around too quickly.

Video recording is on offer at 1080p – we really like the nifty Time Lapse mode, which lets you set the shutter at intervals of from -1 to 10 seconds so you can make your own stop-motion films.
 It’s a pity though that the handset only offers support for a limited number of formats – and two of the most popular for online videos – Xvid and DivX – are missing.

Our conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus has some impressive hardware on offer, but it’s really the Ice Cream Sandwich operating system that takes centre stage. While its plastic body won’t win any prizes, the new OS has made operating and navigating around the handset a dream. There are still a few issues to sort out, and media fans will miss the memory card slot. So while the Galax Nexus may not be the ultimate Android handset, it offers a sweet taste of things to come.


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Type of phone:









16 million colours




Five megapixels

Special Camera features:

auto focus, LED flash

Video recording:


Video playback:


Video calling:


Video streaming:


Music formats played:


3.5mm jack port:


Handsfree speakerphone:


Voice Control:


Voice Dialling:


Call records:



Practically unlimited entries and fields, Photocall

Ringtones customization:


Display description:

Super AMOLED capacitive touch-screen







Standard color:


Launch Status:






Operating system:



MicroUSB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

Announced date:

October 2011

What's in the Box:




International launch date:

November 2011

Battery life when playing multimedia:



Dual-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A9

FM Radio Description:


Internal memory:

16/32GB storage, 1GB RAM

Memory Card Slot:



SMS, MMS, IM, Email

Internet Browser:


E-mail client:

Attachments, Push email






Yes and downloadable

Data speed:





500 mins


270 hours

Display size:

4.65 inches



Audio recording:



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