What’s Up With That?

After much unwarranted indignation about the iPhone 4S release, pundits and techies were looking forward to the introduction of the Galaxy Nexus running Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich.

The introduction came and went, and before long, the first reviews started pouring in. Let’s dissect one from wired.co.uk and see if it really blows iPhone 4S out of the water, as per general expectation.

The physical design of the phone is remarkably similar to its predecessor, the Nexus S — especially from the front. In fact, if it weren’t for the size of the handset and a slightly redesigned backplate, you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart at all.

What, no complete redesign? Disappointing! You could almost say the Galaxy Nexus is nothing more than a blown-up Nexus S, in terms of external design. Sounds familiar in more than one way.

The [..] backplate feels good in the hand. It’s textured with a diagonal checkerboard pattern that offers up some grip and is easily peeled back to reveal the (user-replacable) battery and the SIM card slot. It’s a small detail, perhaps, but we were quite pleased to see that you can insert and remove a SIM card without having to take the battery out.

The number of people that replace the battery probably matches the number of people that replace the SIM card after the first setup. Still if you’re ever in a situation where you need to help someone out by switching SIMs, it’s useful that you can do it quickly, without the need for rebooting the phone.

The Galaxy Nexus is driven by a Texas Instruments 1.2GHz dual-core OMAP4460 processor, which is high-end but doesn’t quite hit the heady heights that HTC does with the 1.5GHz dual-core Sensation XE. That doesn’t really matter, though, because in our testing the Galaxy Nexus was happy to chew through most processing tasks that we threw at it without a problem.

So it doesn’t matter if the Galaxy Nexus doesn’t have 1.5Ghz. Because it clearly has the iPhone 4S beaten with its under-clocked, sub gigahertz, A5 dual core processor that lags and stutters all over the place.

Again, like the Nexus S, the Galaxy Nexus doesn’t come with SD card support. Instead, there’s 32GB of onboard storage that’ll happily suck up the majority of the music, movies and apps that you want to load onto it.

What, no expandability? I’m at a loss for words.

As a slight aside, when it comes to apps, once upon a time Android trailed the iPhone in terms of catalogue. Happily that’s no longer true, and the few exclusives that iOS still retains are more than compensated for by the tendency for Android apps to be free and ad-supported, rather than costing money.

Who cares about apps nowadays right? Well, for those who still do, Android now has a catalogue full of high-quality apps. And the best thing is that most of them are free or ad-based. It seems like yesterday that high-quality apps were mostly an App Store exclusive.

There are even a few Android exclusives to be had now, most notably the mobile phone edition of Minecraft.

Too bad indeed for iOS users. I hear the reviews of Minecraft — pocket edition are absolutely raving:

Overall, Minecraft: Pocket Edition is a bit underwhelming, especially when there’s so much on the desktop version that’s missing from the mobile experience. I know it’s an early alpha, but for $6.99, I was personally expecting more. That being said, it’s still kind of a technical marvel, having such an open sandbox running on mobile devices.

Back to the Galaxy Nexus:

[..] we weren’t blown away by the camera. It’s not especially bad, just unremarkable, and with the significant improvements in that department between the iPhone 4 and the 4S, it’s a little disappointing to see so little progress having been made in Google’s newest flagship handset.

Hey, you can’t win ‘m all. However, you forgot to tell us that Samsung boasts the camera shoots pics with “zero shutter lag,” and is capable of taking shots in low-light settings.

However, ThisIsMyNext has this to report:

The camera app comes with a promise of zero shutter lag and indeed we saw a Google rep bash away at the capture button with practically no delay between shots. They weren’t all in focus[..], but it was an impressive demo and a sign that Google is taking the speed of photography on Android devices seriously. We’ve added a gallery of shots taken with the 5-megapixel camera [..] — as you can see, the still shots aren’t all that impressive, but the panorama shot is pretty awesome.

And then, the smartphone feature that everyone — tech geek or no — cares deeply about:

Then there’s the battery life. Typically, when you review a phone, the battery life is about as good as it’s going to get, because it’s new. If that’s the case with the Galaxy Nexus then purchasers will want to keep a microUSB cable close, because the big screen, and connectivity options sip a lot of juice. You’ll get a full day’s use out of it, just about, but woe betide you if you need to make a long phone call that day and you didn’t bring your charger with you.

Fortunately you can always replace the battery halfway during the day.

Finally, it’d be unfair to not at least mention the other bonus goodies that you get with most Android phones but which aren’t new in the Galaxy Nexus.

Read: let’s rehash some Nexus S features from our review last year.

Let’s not, but instead focus on this one:

[..] the voice functions (which are almost the equal of iOS 5’s Siri),

They are so almost the equal of iPhone 4S’ Siri (not iOS5) that your colleagues from across the Atlantic Ocean spent half a review discussing them. Seems a bit much if all they could have done was refer to an older Android review. They must be caught in the residual reality distortion field.

But hey, “the Galaxy Nexus spec sheet checks off all the important boxes”. Except for the CPU, the camera, the battery life, the microSD card slot, and last but not least, the brand new external design — “what’s up with that?”

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