On Monday, Google officially unleashed its Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS. And now, Android 4.0 arrives as Galaxy Nexus goes on sale – the flagship ICS phone is finally making its debut and reaching customer’s hands. It went on sale today at Phones4U in the U.K and is expected to launch on Verizon Wireless within a matter of days. The phone–a dual-core model that retains the curved-glass look of Samsung’s earlier Nexus S phone–is a flagship device in a crowded Android market.
Galaxy Nexus Specs:
Specifications don’t matter anymore, we are told, but for those who might be interested, here are some: a super AMOLED 720p screen measuring 4.65 inches diagonally, a dual-core 1.2GHz processor; 1GB of memory; LTE or Pentaband HSPA+ wireless networking depending on the market where it’s being sold; a 5-megapixel camera with low-light shooting abilities and “zero shutter lag,” and supporting 1080p video; a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video chat; front and rear speakers; an accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, and barometer; and a 1750mAh battery. The version sold in the UK is 135.5mm tall, 67.94mm wide, and is as thin as 8.94mm, and it weighs 135g.
Galaxy Nexus: The Display
Speaking of displays, a lot of folks have been wondering how the Galaxy Nexus would stack up next to other Android phones when it comes to screen quality. The Galaxy Nexus uses Samsung’s new HD Super AMOLED technology, which is a change from the Super AMOLED Plus seen in the Galaxy S II line of devices.
Let me put your fears to rest: The screen on this thing looks mighty fine. The display is crisp and bright, with brilliant colors that really pop. I haven’t noticed any jagged edges or pixelation in my usage so far. With a resolution of 1280 by 720 — compared to 800 by 480 in the Galaxy S II — this phone more than holds its own. With a internal 16GB or 32GB storage, You can put your favourite movies to the first ICS Android smartphone such as ripping movies off from your Blu-ray and DVD to experience the up to 1080p HD videos with very high quality on Galaxy Nexus.
Ice Cream Sandwich: First Impressions
The Galaxy Nexus hardware is one thing, but the even bigger story is the phone’s software — you know, that little ol’ thing called Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich. We’ve been hearing about Ice Cream Sandwich for ages now, so what’s it actually like to use it?
Based on my initial impressions, it’s pretty damn impressive. Using ICS feels like using a prettier, more polished, and more powerful version of Android; it’s close enough to what we know to be familiar, but evolved enough to be exciting.
ICS gives you five home screens with a customizable favorites tray that stays in place when you swipe between panels. The favorites tray features four icons — which can be set to any app shortcuts or folders you want — along with a centered icon that takes you to your phone’s full app drawer.
The app drawer is also now your one-stop shop for home screen customization. It contains all the apps and widgets installed on your phone, and all you do is long-press any item there to drag and drop it onto any of your home screens. This takes a little bit of getting used to, I found, but having played with it for a while, it really strikes me as a far more simple and intuitive approach.
Ice Cream Sandwich: The Buttons (or Lack Thereof)
As you’ve probably heard, Google is moving away from physical navigation buttons with Ice Cream Sandwich; instead, you get on-screen buttons that appear as needed and rotate automatically to match your phone’s orientation (like what we’ve seen on tablets running the Android Honeycomb OS). After years of using Android phones with four permanent physical buttons, I expected this to be a major adjustment — but it’s actually been pretty painless. Since the new on-screen buttons appear when you need them and where you need them, it’s really a natural transition and doesn’t feel the least bit odd.
One thing I wondered with this new setup is how search and particularly Voice Actions would work. I’ve grown accustomed to being able to long-press my phone’s search button, after all, and then speak a command or search term. The answer is that Ice Cream Sandwich places a search box at the top of the home screen that — like the favorites tray on the bottom — stays in place as you swipe from one panel to another. You just tap the main part of the box to launch a standard text search (which covers the Web as well as all sorts of content on your phone) or tap a microphone icon at the right of the box to launch a Voice Actions prompt.
Ice Cream Sandwich: Everything Else
It’s going to take some time to fully explore all the improvements and added features Ice Cream Sandwich delivers. You’ve got everything from a completely revamped settings menu (long story short: massively improved) to the new facial recognition system for unlocking your phone (very cool, even if not 100 percent perfect). The OS is filled with loads of subtle new flourishes, too, ranging from a reimagined folder system to a bevy of nice-looking new animations and transitions.
There’s also stuff like a brand new browser with instant Chrome bookmark syncing, a souped-up Camera app with panoramic capabilities and zero shutter lag, and fresh-looking new versions of apps like Calendar, Gmail, and Google+. Ice Cream Sandwich introduces whole new interfaces for notifications and multitasking, too, as well as an expanded “People” tool (formerly known as contacts) and a bunch of new scrollable, resizable widgets for your home screens.
All this, and I’m still barely scratching the surface. I’ll be diving into Ice Cream Sandwich and the Galaxy Nexus in much greater detail in the days and weeks to come. Stay tuned for my full in-depth review and plenty of other bite-sized tidbits I’ll be sharing along the way .