The smartphone market is full of great phones running Android, iOS or Windows Phone. Regrettably none of them is running WebOS, so it was with much sadness that I decided to retire my HP Pre 3 and move on to a more current device. I tend to buy off-contract so as not to get locked in, but I don’t usually buy a top-of-the-range, just-released phone as they’re simply too expensive. With a budget of around £300, there’s plenty of choice depending on the age and features. Looking at Android phones, my main thoughts were around the Motorola Razr or one of the Xperias. But then I spotted that the Samsung Google Galaxy Nexus was beginning to be discounted with Expansys offering it for £299 and with its feature set, it’s an absolute bargain.
First impressions count and on unboxing, I couldn’t believe how big the screen was. It’s huge in comparison to the Pre 3, which in turn I thought was big compared to the Palm Pre. It’s also gloriously colourful and detailed and combined with the screen size, there’s definitely a wow-factor when I show it to someone who hasn’t seen either this or a Samsung SIII before. After a couple of days, I got used to the size and started enjoying the extra screen real estate available. It’s definitely worth it.
Secondly, although the Galaxy Nexus isn’t a new phone, it’ll update to the newest version of Android, v4.1 aka Jelly Bean. And it is sweet. The phone is very responsive, animations are smooth and everything that Google says about Project Butter is true. Combined with the lush screen, it’s a thing of beauty and a joy to use. In the few days, I’ve been using the phone, I’ve never had a slowdown, never had a crash and never had to reboot the phone. Being a Google Nexus devices, it’s pure Android without any OEM features laid on top, which in my book, is definitely a plus and I can expect regular updates from Google without having to wait for the manufacturers to revise
I haven’t found that many functional differences between Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean with one exception…Google Now. This runs all the time in the background, putting the smarts into the smartphone. Simply, it tries to help you run your life a little more smoothly using a set of cards which are like mini-apps. Here’s an example: if I have an upcoming appointment in my calendar and I’ve included the location of the appointment, Google Now will show me the place on a small map and it will tell me how long it will take to drive there. It will also alert me when it’s time to go. There are other cards available for public transport, flights, sports scores and I’m sure more will appear over time.
Other features of note…call quality is very good and a step up from the Pre 3. I can hear people clearly and by all accounts the person on the other end can hear me well too. The camera seems fine to me, taking photos up to 5MP, tracks faces, and there is a panorama mode for taking wide shots. I’m hoping that the lens doesn’t get too easily scratched as the camera seems to be located exactly where the phone rests on a flat surface. Jelly Bean includes the Face Unlock feature which works surprisingly well but I’m not sufficiently narcissistic to want to use. You may love yourself more.
On the downside…the battery life isn’t great, though it’s on a par with the Pre 3. To be fair, it’s a new phone and I tend to be doing more on the Nexus while I’m bedding it in, so I think it might end up being better than the Pre 3 once I get back to normal. I have ordered a larger battery anyway but it’s not arrived in the post yet. Another criticism is with the back cover that comes off to access the removable battery and the SIM card: it’s a bit flimsy but it is textured in the Nexus-style to make it easier to grip. I notice that there are replacement metal covers available but some come with warnings that the cover may interfere with GPS reception so I’ve not bothered. Finally, there seems to be only one speaker which is located in the bump on the lower back of the Nexus. Consequently, if the phone is put down on any kind of soft surface, the speaker easily gets blocked and can become quite quiet.
I’ll always have a soft spot for Palm, WebOS and what might have been. I bought a Palm III when I was a much younger man and have stuck with them ever since but when you can get as good a phone as the Galaxy Nexus, there’s no looking back. The only features I miss from the Pre is the wireless charging and the excellent multitasking app-card metaphor. Can’t have everything.
Overall, the Galaxy Nexus is an absolutely cracking phone and at £300 is a steal. Find one, try one, buy one.
Disclosure – this Galaxy Nexus was a personal purchase and not a review unit.