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Samsung Galaxy Nexus 4G LTE Review

samsung galaxy nexus verizon

As the Galaxy Nexus approached launch on Verizon here in the U.S., you couldn’t pull up an Android site without seeing some sort of rumor, tip or leak that had to do with it. This phone was hypebeasted as if it was the second coming of some religious tech figure. Over the last couple of months, things have been unbelievably wild (both positively and negatively) around these parts, and the majority of the thanks can be attributed to it. As a “Nexus” on Verizon, the release of this phone marked an industry first on a number of levels including the combination of Ice Cream Sandwich, 4G LTE, NFC, an unlockable bootloader, and the support of the entire developer community. It has been dubbed as one of the first truly finished Android products to date. With so much to live up to, we will do our best to let you know whether or not it has.

The Good:

  • Hardware:  The insides of the Galaxy Nexus are what you would expect from a top tier phone in 2011. It has a dual-core processor clocked at 1.2GHz, 1GB of RAM, both front and back cameras that can shoot HD video, an HD display, 4G LTE and an NFC chip. You will find ultra-enthusiasts out there claiming that Google should have done more to push the envelope, but truthfully, they didn’t need to. They optimized top notch hardware with the latest version of Android making this phone run like butter. Oh, and we should also point out that this is the only device on the planet running the OMAP4460 processor if you really need to justify it.
  • Feel:  In hand, I’m not sure there is a phone that feels better. Its curves and weight make the Galaxy Nexus a joy to hold. We were slightly worried about how it would feel when Samsung announced that it would sport a massive 4.65″ display, but those worries were washed away the minute we got it in hand. You will hear critics claim that the device feels cheap “like all Samsung devices” – I would beg to differ. I’ve had the Galaxy S2, Fascinate, and some of their tablets, so I know what cheap feels like.  This phone, feels completely different and of a higher quality than past Samsung releases.
  • Design/Build:  This could have gone in the “feel” department, but that just wouldn’t be fair because the design of this phone is a work of art. With its slightly curved HD Super AMOLED display, bottom-placed headphone jack, textured back, volume and lock switch placements, and on-screen buttons, the G-Nex is easy on the eye and easy to use. If there was a design standard that manufacturers should take going forward, this and the DROID RAZR are the two phones to look at.

  • Performance:  We have been off the benchmark train for quite some time now, so when we talk performance, you aren’t going to see them anywhere. When we mention “performance,” we tend to go with a little thing called the feel test. And with this phone, the feel test is passed with flying colors. What we mean by that, is that the feeling you get while buzzing through home screens, switching apps, using the camera, watching video, playing games, etc. just feels great. There are no stutters, the phone never seems to get bogged down by too many processes, and no matter what you throw at it, the Nexus can complete it. Also, thanks to Ice Cream Sandwich, you can limit the number of tasks that your phone keeps in the background, making this phone as fast as you want it to be.
  • NFC:  NFC will some day be the future of mobile payment technology and the sharing of info between two devices. With the G-Nex, you get an NFC chip, so going forward, you are set. Now, the real struggle comes on the back end of things where we see if Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile will allow you to have options to make those mobile payments and share information. So far they have chosen to lock it down to their yet-to-be-released NFC payment option. Thankfully this is a Nexus, and you already have other choices.
  • Screen:  The HD Super AMOLED display on the G-Nex is simply put, beautiful. At 316ppi, it falls short of the HTC Rezound’s 342ppi, but most human eyes won’t be seeing pixels either way. If there was one downside, it’s that the colors are a little more vibrant or cartoon-like than some may want, especially after you see the natural tones on the Rezound. No matter what though, this is as high of quality of screen as you’ll find on any phone and will not disappoint. Plus, with the phone’s ability to hide the on-screen buttons to give you a full 4.65 inches of viewing goodness, you will be searching for excuses to continue to use it.

  • It’s a “Nexus”:  As someone that’s life is now dedicated to Android, I look forward to seeing what Google has dubbed the next “Nexus.” It’s always the ultimate developer phone that launches with the newest version of Android before any other phone. This is what it is all about if you can’t get enough green robot. And with this being the first Nexus on Verizon, I’m not sure you will find a happier tech geek. The developer community has already flocked to this phone to give you more hacks, tweaks and ROMs than you will know what to do with. If tinkering with your phone is a must, then this is the phone to look for.
  • 4G LTE:  4G LTE may kill batteries at a record pace, but we still love it. Having faster internet speeds on your phone than your home computer is something I still struggle to wrap my brain around. Couple LTE with a Nexus and you have a match made in heaven.
  • Camera (speed and software):  I’ll touch on the quality of the camera down below as it is most definitely not in the “good” category. As far as speed goes, no other camera phone can match the instant shutter of the Nexus. You tap on the camera button and it takes photo before you can even blink. And better yet, it’s ready to go that quickly so you can snap a whole series of photos and not even realize you have. The software is also improved with panoramic features, a whole bunch of on-device editing tools, and fancy “hipster” filters.

  

  • Camera (video):  As you will see in the 1080p sample that is attached down below, the video quality that the Nexus shoots is surprisingly good. The zooming while recording is much better than expected and time lapse recording is an added bonus. While this may never replace my HD camcorder, it will do just fine as a replacement in a pinch.
  • Ice Cream Sandwich:  As you all know, the Galaxy Nexus runs the newest version of Android (4.0) that has been named Ice Cream Sandwich. It’s the most advanced, polished and user-friendly version to date. If there was a time to get started with an Android device, this would be the one as ICS is the future of Android. And with ICS and the Nexus, you get some extra features like Android’s Beam sharing feature that utilizes the NFC chip. You also get the on-screen buttons that rotate with the phone instead of the built-in soft keys that most phones have. Some would argue that the real draw to the Nexus is the fact that it is the first to run Android 4.0 and they may be right. Then again, the phone coupled with ICS and the attention to detail by Google is what really makes it. If you want complete overviews and tips and tricks on Android 4.0, you will want to see our G-Nex guide to the world.
  • Updates:  You won’t find a phone attached to a carrier that will see updates as quickly as the Galaxy Nexus. Since it’s a “Nexus” and receives new OS updates directly from Google, you will always be on top of the Android game. Rather than seeing an OS update roll out and then asking yourself when you will see it on your skinned phone, you will be the one with the new OS watching everyone else ask that question.

The Not-so-Good:

  • Camera (picture quality):  If there was one thing that I think we can all agree on, it’s the fact that Google and Samsung skimped on the camera in this phone. It is just not as good as the competition at taking still shots. Forget the fact that it’s only 5MP and not the industry standard of 8MP for high end phones, the camera in this phone should be better than it is. Low or bright lit areas, the shooter here is simply not good enough when you compare it to the HTC Rezound or even the RAZR for that matter. It may not be as bad as the Bionic’s camera, but man is it pushing it. You definitely can’t expect this phone to “wow” any of your friends in the recently-snapped-photo department. Samples below:

(Click images for larger versions)

  

  

  • Battery life:  It’s an LTE phone, so it sucks. On either the standard or extended batteries and with LTE turned on and WiFi off, you aren’t going to get a whole day of life out of this phone. Hell, you may not even get half of a day. I hit anywhere between 6-11 hours, but the average is probably closer to the lower end of that range. If you want your phone to last for 20+ hours though, simply turn off LTE and you will never worry about battery life again. On an average day using WiFi and 3G-only, I consistently see well over 20 hours of life on the extended or standard batteries.

  • Rear speaker:  The rear speaker has been a pain for some, including myself at times. It has an incredibly low volume even when turned all of the way up. There are apps out there that can adjust the stock volume settings to make your external speaker louder though, just be careful that you don’t overdo it. Depending on your need for a high-pitched ringtone, this isn’t necessarily a deal breaker on this phone.
  • Connection issues (for some):  I haven’t run into the signal and connection issues that many of you have, but it still needs to be addressed. There are all sorts of antennae-gate signal strength issues going on with this phone, some of which have been debunked time and time again. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t Nexus owners experiencing real issues though. Some have reported that when sitting side-by-side in low coverage areas with their other 4G phones, that the Nexus can’t even lock onto LTE while the others can at least grab a couple of bars. It’s tough to tell if this can be fixed with software or if it’s even widespread. One thing is certain, if you spend the majority of your days in a low signal LTE or even 3G area, just make sure you keep track of the time you have to return it in case your Nexus struggles.

  • Price:  We are almost a year into the $299 on-contract phone pricing scheme and I’m still not a fan of it. I get that Verizon tested us all with the DROID Charge and a few people actually forked out that kind of change leading Big Red to push forward with this being the standard for high end LTE phones, but that doesn’t mean I can’t complain about it. And I totally get that we should expect to pay a premium for a device we use on a daily basis, yet it still seems a little much. Then again, I had no problem actually dropping Benjamins for it…so maybe this argument is completely unnecessary. Damn you ever-changing tech industry!

Gallery:

Hands-on and Overview:

YouTube Preview Image

Video Sample (1080p):

YouTube Preview Image

The Verdict:

The combination of beautiful hardware, innovative design, and software has made the Galaxy Nexus one of the first Android devices to feel “complete.” There have been few times over the last two years that I reviewed a phone and felt 100% confident in recommending it – this is one of those times. Is it the best Android phone available? Easily. While the Galaxy Nexus may have a camera that doesn’t measure up to some of the other players in the game like the HTC Rezound or DROID RAZR, there are too many other positives to make this the phone that you should check out if you have an upgrade available. Actually, if you are a tech geek that always wants to be on the leading edge of the Android world, you may also want to look to go off-contract and upgrade. After having had both the GSM and LTE versions of this phone for the last month, it has easily become my favorite Android device.

Related:  Complete Galaxy Nexus “How To” Guide | Ice Cream Sandwich Features Part 1 and Part 2.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus LTE Specs | Other Galaxy Nexus Coverage

  • Rob Watkins

    What kind of screen app were you using on the review unit? It looks very cool. Love the small digital clock at the bottom left of the screen.

  • http://www.flayme.com/troll/ wasteofskin

    I’ve had a RAZR since launch day here and have been wanting the gnex for a long time! But every time I go into the store to buy one I end up leaving because of the never ending reception issues I hear about. Is it true most of that has to do with LTE? I leave mine turned off 90% of the time anyways, so still wondering if this phone could match the fantastic reception of my Motorola.

    Input guys? At 230 bucks off contract its getting very tempting!

  • Josh_hippie

    I would have to say this is an amazing review props ive had my galaxy nexus about 2 months now and I love it!!!! I’d have to say u definitely disagree with u about the camera issue, I looked at your pics u have taken or ur examples to word that better and well they look awful. All the pics I have taken with the nexus are easily three times better than ur examples. I was playing around with my phone e for a while and stumbled upon resolution settings ( I’m a bit of a phone geek and never found this before) and the factory setting for the phone has it ser on medium resolution I did not no this. I put it on high witch was 1080p 5mgp back and 2mgp front!!!! And it takes an amazingly beautiful picture (flawless)!!!!!! Maybe u can check that out. O and a little tip from tecky to tecky the mega pixels of a camera does not hold place in what makes a camera awesome or take great pix. Its actually the setup and circumference of the lens in simpler words how much light it takes in during the day and how much light it it flashes out at night. And I didn’t no this untill last week when the technition for Verizon thoroughly explained it.he says its mor less that way for anything 8mgp and below. Obviously 12mgp would be an improvement. Hope u like my comment please don’t fret to respond!!! Keep it real peace!!!!

  • JJsamson17

    U Morton’s are suposed to talk about the phone

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.gannon.3158 John Gannon

    can this phone be purchased second hand and used with any carrier

  • MikeSaver

    I like this phone

  • JohnPA2006

    Nice big screens, Ice cream Sammich, Jelly Beans, All cool stuff indeed.
    Horrible battery life even with 3800mAh extended batteries and getting so hot in your pocket you need to pull the battery off to cool down.
    Simply unacceptable.

    I had the Galaxy Nexus for a month, and sold it on Ebay.
    Battery and heat issues to blame. From all I have read on these forums I’m not the only one to experience these problems. This applies to all the Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy S3 phones.

    I never had any problems back with my Motorola DROID or Droid X.
    I miss my Motorola DROID.

  • JohnPA2006

    Stock battery is a joke, with a 50% charge, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS disabled, screen at low brightness, and network set to CDMA only, the battery went down to 8% in under 45
    minutes. Extended battery is REQUIRED… unless you literally charge all day and all night.

    I want to like this phone,
    but the battery life,
    the camera freezing
    “Google Listen” podcast app stops playing randomly.
    Screen going to sleep in 15 seconds even though I set it 30 or 60 seconds.
    My old Motorola DROID didnt really have all these problems. (reboot once a week maybe)

    I hate to say it but no wonder the iphone4 is selling so well. despite having a tiny screen compared to this.

  • MeetOza

    galaxy…………………………………. 
    http://clicktechdoll.blogspot.in/ chkdis out…

  • LanceMiller

    I so wish that Google would produce a phone that uses all the best hardware & just blows everything else away. It’s like they were afraid to set the bar to high & purposely used some cheap hardware. Unfortunately, I can’t justify the purchase of this for several reasons. The fact that they used a 5mb camera is something that has me shaking my head. Then add in the fact that they they didn’t include an external storage slot & I’m left wondering if they realize that some of us don’t have data plans that can support the constant use of cloud storage / retrieval. Finally, it appears that they thought that just because it has ICS they can cheapen the hardware & it will still sell, I guess they were right but it sure reminds me of Apple with their refusal to finally throw everything but the kitchen sink at one of their phones. 

  • AlphaRider

    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

    http://www.amazon.com/QCell-Verizon-Samsung-Extended-Compatible/dp/B00746TQVM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1333084783&sr=8-1

  • http://twitter.com/jvick15 Joel Vickers

    If you like phones that last all day, Don’t get his phone. I have a love-hate relationship with it. I love ICS and the user interface/operating system. THE BEST EVER! However I cant really use it that much because, my Galaxy Nexus Lives on life support all day, everyday.  The only way to make it through 1 day is by having 3 fully charged extended batteries and swapping them out every 5-6 hours. just turrible turrible turrible….

  • SKAVENG3R

    Great phone.

  • Yellowdevel

    Where can I get that green wallpaper?

  • Anonymous

    Anyone been having trouble with their People and text messaging apps? Love my Nexus but since I got the extended battery these critical apps have been crashing or loading slowly. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  

  • Anonymous

    Why did they skimp on the camera?

    • possomcrast1

      i think it was to make the instant shutter feature look even faster than it would with a higher res camera. Thats just a guess though.

  • Ross Newhouse

    Having connection issues when trying to go to the market place and use apps. 

    No Connection  “retry” and even on wifi it says

    Error retrieving information from server

  • NoahRHPS

    The speaker on mine is almost TOO LOUD!

  • http://twitter.com/Devthecorleone Dev

    I am trying to download a game and everytime I try to download updates for it (since it is a big update), My GN forces me to turn off Wifi, instead of using my 4g LTE. How can I turn off this auto switch to Wifi so that I can use my 4g to download data. Any suggestions? please help.

    • possomcrast1

      Its a feauture in the setting for people without unlimited plans it can be switched off though.

  • Trevor-kai

    I believe that I’m going to go get this device today! yay me

  • Paul

    Hi All. Anyone know how I can get my Zune music onto a new GNex? Or even onto an iphone if I choose to go iPhone 4s? Most likely going GNex…

  • Rawheat

    Just picked the GNex up over the weekend.  I’m coming over from a Droid Bionic.  While I really liked (or really wanted to like) my Droid Bionic, there were way to many issues that plagued my overall experience.  Sure the new update helped, but this device just fell short of my expectations…didn’t have that wow factor I was looking for.  Its still a good device but its nothing great.

    The Galaxy Nexus is simply amazing!  Sure its hardware isn’t anything that blows away the existing competition, but ICS just makes this device feel so damn nice!  My battery life has been beyond excellent.  (18 hours w/ 4G light to moderate use over 26 hours w/ 3G light to moderate use).  The screen is incredible.  Even the camera isn’t all that bad.  The speaker volume is fine for me.  Love the fact the charging port is on the bottom of the device…still can’t get used the volume rocker being on the left side of the device…can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally hit the power button instead of the volume rocker.

    Simply put…this is one amazing android phone!

    • http://twitter.com/Dapke Dan Lampke

      My feelings reflect yours exactly.  I came from the Bionic as well, and although it was a decent phone with some redeeming qualities, there were just too many issues for me to love it.  My main beef was the dropped connections, and the time it took to regain data (10+ minutes).

      The Nexus is amazing.  My battery life isn’t anywhere near as good as yours (8-10 hours 4G, haven’t tried 3G), but I do notice that the screen is a BIG battery life sucker.  I’ve made it 15 hours once on light usage (OS about as high as the screen), but down to 4 with screen on most of the time.  This is unlike the Bionic, which would last 7-10 hours (after the update) no matter what you did. 

      Like the camera – the lesser quality is more than made up for by the instantaneous shutter.  This thing is amazing.  After the Bionic, it seems like magic to me.

      Agreed – an amazing android phone.  Now if only the Extended Batteries would come back in stock on Verizon!

  • Anonymous

    It’s not bars that’s the problem, that’s just because the Nexus is the only LTE phone on V that shows 4G bars when in 4G – so people think that their Nexus has less 4G reception than other Verizon phones.  What IS the problem, however, is 3G reception.  Turn 4G off and compare to any Verizon phone (in dBm preferably) and the Nexus is always 10-20dBm less.  I’ve compared it to an iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, Droid Charge, Droid X and original Droid, and all showed far better 3G reception (which all calls/texts go through).  

    At a friends with an iPhone 4s and 2 Nexus present, the iPhone had 3 bars and was in the -90dBm range while my and my friend’s Nexus had ZERO signal.  I kept getting Google Voice voicemail notifications via wifi because I had no service.

    I have 5 friends with this phone and they all have the same problem.  It’s really bad at 3G reception.

  • Jlmcclain1953

    wow this camera needs an update, I transferred some pics from my original droid which is a 5 mega pic camera also, looked at both in my gallery,you can really see the difference when you blow them up, the old droid pics were far better

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001510513322 Timothy Sim

    So hard to turn off LTE…. so very, very hard.

    • Kevbowong

      4G Toggle for Razr. Not perfect but easier.

  • Plusjuiceplus

    On the reviews it said that you could access the camera without having to unlock the phone, does anyone know how to do that?

  • UncagedChipmunk

    Should be noted of the pictures of the GNEX has an extended battery + cover being used. IMO

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jacob-Bailey/100000205514495 Jacob Bailey

    and i have extended batt something wrong with mine gotta be

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jacob-Bailey/100000205514495 Jacob Bailey

    Love to have that good of battery life i get 8 hours total then dead with 3g only no wifi no BT no sync and brighness at the lowest setting.

  • Bear0013

    Can any tell if the speaker is as bad as the dx..or better or worse

  • Anonymous

    That video is terrible!!!!! My Bionic shoots way BETTER video than that…..

    • Anonymous

      too bad you have to watch it on that nasty ass display

      • Anonymous

        I’ve seen the G-Nex live and trust me The Bionic is better and you can see the display in bright sun light. Unlike those other displays….. G-nex is over-rated.

        • http://twitter.com/rodney11ride Rodney Silva

           dude really? stop being bitter that that you couldnt wait till the Gnex came out and followed the hype of the bionic.. hahahaha

  • Anonymous

    Returned mine yesterday. Unfortunately the network ruined it for me.