There's been plenty of enmity between Apple and Samsung with accusations of patent infringement and abuse of market power flying about. However, there can be no doubt that Samsung has gone its own way when it comes to smartphones. The Galaxy Nexus, which was co-developed with Google and is co-branded, looks nothing like an iPhone Ã± something we think is critical in driving competition and giving users freedom of choice.
In the hand
The Galaxy Nexus feels smaller than it actually is. With a wedge-shaped profile and tapered edges, it's easy and comfortable to hold. The power button is on the right side with the volume slider on the left. The headphone socket and micro-USB power are on the base. The back, Home and Task manager buttons are no longer hardware so they move as required.
At 135.50 x 67.94 x 8.94mm and 135g the Galaxy Nexus is not small but can still be used with one hand as the buttons and controls are well placed Ã± far better than the HTC Sensation XL we reviewed recently.
The 4.7-inch AMOLED display is crystal clear and runs at 720 by 1280. As you'd expect, it uses capacitive touch so it supports multi-touch gestures.
The Galaxy Nexus ships with 16GB of inbuilt storage with no expansion.
One thing we really liked was the ability to connect the Galaxy Nexus to our PC via USB and it appearing as an external storage device making it easy to transfer files to the device without the need for any third-party software.
The Galaxy Nexus runs on a 1.2GHz TI OMAP 4460 processor PowerVR SGX540 GPU and 1GB of RAM. As a result, the Galaxy Nexus delivers zippy performance from the graphically rich Android 4 OS.
In our testing, we didn't experience any noticeable lag when rotating the display, watching movies or other processor-intensive operations.
Operating System and Applications
Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich now sets the standard for a mobile operating system. iPhone fans might not like to hear it but Google has surpassed Apple in terms of usability, appearance and access to data and critical settings.
For example, toggling GPS, WiFi and Bluetooth is a one-swipe and one tap operation. With iOS, you need to tap into Settings and then find the appropriate option and then tap the on/off toggle.
The Galaxy Nexus's display runs at a higher resolution and is larger. Although it doesn't boast the same PPI as the iPhone's Retina display (326 PPI), it's not far behind at 316 PPI. In our use, there no visible difference although we accept that those with particularly good eyesight might notice a minute difference.
The Galaxy Nexus ships with a solid array of built-in applications including a video editor, turn-by-turn navigation and the full suite of Google apps. The biggest omission was the lack of an office suite Ã± something we've seen bundled with several other handsets. However, there are plenty of options in the rapidly growing Android Market.
Switching between applications is elegant. Android 4 has a soft-button that provides access to the task switcher. This looks similar to the Windows 7 task switcher that provides a view of the currently open applications so that you have a simple visual cue as to what's open. This can be easily flicked through by scrolling through the list and then tapping on the app you want to return to. This works far more easily that with iOS or Windows Phone.
The Galaxy Nexus ships with a 5MP auto-focussing camera that uses a single LED for a flash. The camera takes decent photos but given that its competition is now moving to 8MP cameras we thought that Samsung could have done better. However, the single motion panorama mode is simply brilliant.
Using the camera is single motion panorama mode made it trivially easy to create a wide panorama shot. Simply tap the shutter button at the start of the image capture and then move the camera across the scene. When you've reached the end of the scene press the shutter button once more and the Galaxy Nexus puts the frames together to create a wide shot with not further intervention by you.
Image quality was good but we found video recording to be excellent. There's a video-editing app, Movie Studio, which makes it easy to create a movie that can be shared.
There's also a front-facing camera that can be used for video conferencing that worked quite well.
Although the Galaxy Nexus only has a single USB port, this port is equipped with MHL - Mobile High-Definition Link. Using an appropriate adaptor, the port can be used to output 1080p video and audio to a HDMI-equipped display device.
Connectivity is covered off by all the usual suspects with Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n and Bluetooth v3.0+EDR. The Galaxy Nexus can be used as a wireless hotspot.
There's also an integrated GPS receiver that can be used with Google Maps or the extra Locations app.
Computer connection is via Micro USB which can be used for connecting and/or charging. USB connections can also be used to connect the galaxy Nexus as a USB storage device, making it easy to transfer data to the device without the need for any special software.
The 1750mAh battery can power the Galaxy Nexus through a day's use. We used the phone for over a week and found that a full day's use with phone calls, watching several videos and using the web and then leaving the device on standby overnight ran the battery down to about 5% capacity remaining. However, we did also manage to run the handset down totally on an especially busy day.
Charging is via the supplied AC to USB charger or using the USB port on a computer.
The Samsung Galaxy Nexus can be purchased outright for $649 or via Telstra on a two-year contract starting from $69 per month.
The ultimate test for us as to whether we can recommend a smartphone is whether weÃre dying to get back to our usual handset. Returning the Galaxy Nexus is going to be hard. The form factor, software and performance make the Samsung Galaxy Nexus the best smartphones we've tested in some time.