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Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon Wireless)

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating starrating star
Carrier: Verizon
Manufacturer: Samsung
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What's hot: First phone with Android 4, fast and clean, great call quality.

What's not: 3G reception not among the best, battery life isn't great.


Reviewed December 19, 2011 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is its own phenomenon, not unlike the iPhone. Folks have been going crazy waiting for this somewhat delayed Android smartphone on Verizon Wireless. This is the third Nexus phone, and the first two arrived in January 2010 and December 2010 with less fanfare. Why? Android has enjoyed an immense increase in popularity over the past few years, and this is the first Nexus offered by one of America's top carriers in stores with easy contract sign-up and a healthy carrier subsidy. Note that there's an unlocked GSM/HSPA+ Samsung Galaxy Nexus available from importers, but it costs around $700 right now.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is the first Android smartphone to ship with Android OS 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich. That won't mean much in 2 or 4 months when other recent high end Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S II, Motorola Droid RAZR and HTC Rezound get their promised upgrades. And in the first few months of 2012, we're likely to see more phones ship with Ice Cream Sandwich. But for now, if you buy the Galaxy Nexus, you'll be among the first on your block with the new OS that marries Gingerbread with Honeycomb (the smartphone and tablet versions of Android). You'll also get new OS upgrades early because Nexus phones are Google reference devices meant for developers and enthusiasts who need or live for timely OS updates. Google's reference devices run pure Android without manufacturer UI customizations and overlays. In fact, since the Nexus line previously had been sold unlocked (GSM phones that would accept any carrier's SIM card), there were no carrier customizations or bloatware. In the case of the Galaxy Nexus, Verizon did add their account manager and backup assistant, but nothing else. They also shipped the phone with NFC enabled, but without the Google Wallet application. Google Wallet is currently the only way to use NFC for purchases until ISIS, an NFC payment system that will be used by Verizon and other US carriers, is ready for launch.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Nexus phones have very good, but not over the top hardware. In fact, the Nexus S was a bit of a hardware disappointment, though it was and is a lovely phone to use. The Galaxy Nexus has very good specs and features that shouldn't seem terribly dated in a year. It has a 1.2GHz dual core TI OMAP 4 CPU (currently a popular CPU for high end phones destined for ICS), a gig of RAM and 32 gigs of internal storage (twice that of the unlocked GSM version). As with the Nexus S, there's no microSD card slot. Be thankful that Verizon upgraded the storage for their model since you can't expand it. The phone has a 5 megapixel rear camera that features Google's fast new camera software with near zero shutter lag and a panorama feature. There's a front video chat camera and the usual WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth and a GPS. The Verizon version, unlike the GSM version, has true 4G LTE for extremely fast cellular data speeds.


The display is a lovely 4.65" Super AMOLED 720p affair, and that's currently state of the art in terms of resolution. For now, only Samsung's own Galaxy Note beats that resolution with its larger 5.3" Super AMOLED HD display. 1280 x 720 pixels is a lot to pack into a phone display, even a fairly large one, and currently only the HTC Rezound on Verizon and the LG Nitro HD have 720p displays among US carrier phones (the 1280 x 800 pixel Galaxy Note is only available as an AT&T compatible import as of this writing). This is Samsung's Super AMOLED, not Super AMOLED Plus display, and that means it uses a Pentile matrix display. Pentile matrix displays have fewer subpixels compared to standard LCDs and Samsung's newer Super AMOLED Plus displays, but Super AMOLED Plus isn't yet available in 720p at this size. I personally don't see any unsightly text jaggies when looking close, and green color fringing, often visible when viewing the display off angle is well controlled here. For those of you who aren't quite picky about displays or aren't under age 30 with 20-20 vision, the display, like most of Samsung's hyper-colorful deep contrast displays used on their higher end phones, will likely delight. It is indeed very colorful, but not as cartoonishly enhanced as some of Samsung's smartphone displays, and blacks are much deeper vs. standard LCDs. If you set brightness near minimum or the auto-brightness does so in a dimly lit room, the blacks show a bit of striation, but I rarely run brightness that low. I find the Samsung Galaxy Note's display to maintain pure blacks at very low brightness and have even better color balance, but the Note is Samsung's international flagship phone with the best of everything and a $700 price tag from importers. The color calibration on the Nexus is better than the Samsung Galaxy and Galaxy S II lines that show more blue bias when viewing white or near white backgrounds.

Design and Ergonomics

The Galaxy Nexus is an unabashed marriage of the Nexus S (also made by Samsung) and the Galaxy S II line. It has the curved profile and contour glass of the Nexus S and the textured thin battery door and rigid, gloss plastic frame of the GS II line. It's a very nice looking phone thanks to the Nexus S styling elements, but it's not super-elegant metal and glass like that popular fruity phone from Cupertino. The Nexus feels very nice in the hand, though it is large. It's not significantly larger than many of today's 4.5" smartphones, but if you're allergic to big phones, this isn't for you. It feels and is more handable and pocketable than the 5.3" Galaxy Note, and is about the same size as the HTC Rezound. The angular Motorola Droid RAZR is thinner but not more comfortable to hold.

Typical of Samsung, the power button is on the upper right side and the volume controls are on the opposite side. That means it's easy to pull the phone out of pocket and hit both power and volume controls, and the raised volume controls are easily triggered by accident. The 3.5mm headphone jack and micro USB port are on the bottom while there's a 3 contact dock connector on the lower right side. The micro USB port is MHL compatible. That means you can pick up a $20 MHL dongle adapter to mirror the phone's display over HDMI to HD TVs, monitors and projectors. This worked well in our tests, and 1080p MPEG4 video played with beautiful detail and full sound to our HD TV. The phone outputs in landscape orientation only though, unlike Gingerbread phones that that mirror the Android desktop in portrait orientation or support both orientations via accelerometer.


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Samsung Galaxy Nexus on Verizon Video Review



Calling and Data

The Verizon version of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus works on Verizon's CDMA network for voice and EV-DO Rev. A 3G as well as their LTE 4G network for data. Verizon's LTE phones have two cellular radios, one for CDMA and one for LTE, and the signal bars report on whatever network your phone is currently using for data. Older LTE phones reported only the 3G signal in bars, even if they were on LTE, so don't use bars as your only guide. According to the phone status settings applet, where you can see the decibel rating of the current connection, the Galaxy Nexus does as well as other recent Verizon LTE phones for LTE reception. 3G reception is weaker than our Motorola Droid Bionic and RAZR but we saw none of the connection waffling that we experienced on our Bionic, Droid RAZR and Samsung Droid Charge, where the phone bounced between 3G and 4G radios frequently, thus destroying battery life and connection reliability. The Galaxy Nexus managed to hold onto a bar or two of LTE (-105db) in our Verizon-challenged area of the Dallas metroplex, and rarely fell to 3G unless we put the phone in a pants pocket. Our other Verizon phones spend most of their time on 3G here with the exception of the HTC Rezound that uses Qualcomm's highly integrated cellular and CPU chips for more stable reception and improved battery life.

LTE 4G data speeds in our weak reception area averaged 10Mbps down and 1Mbps up with a pretty poor -105db signal. In stronger reception areas (-80 to -90db) we averaged near 20Mbps down and 16Mbps up. With and excellent -75 to -80db signal, with saw up to 33Mbps down and 17Mbps up according to the app. Our 3G speeds averaged 1.1Mbps down and 900k up with a -93db signal. That's not terribly impressive for a high end smartphone on Verizon Wireless, and so far it seems that 3G isn't the Galaxy Nexus' strong point, though LTE is solid. Verizon has stated that they're working on reception issues and will issue a software or firmware fix, so don't lose hope.

The phone has the usual mobile hotspot feature so you can share its high speed connection with tablets and laptops that are stuck in WiFi-land. The feature is available with 6 gig $50/month and higher data plans with mobile hotspot. The phone uses an LTE micro SIM card, as does the Moto Droid RAZR, and Verizon is moving toward this smaller SIM card for their LTE devices (even tablets like the new Motorola Droid XYBoard 10.1 and 8.2). Verizon's LTE SIM cards aren't the same as GSM SIM cards, but you do get one matching convenience: you can swap your SIM card from one Verizon LTE phone to another and your phone number and account follow the SIM rather than the phone. So if you have a Droid RAZR micro SIM and put that in your Samsung Galaxy Nexus, you're good to go. There's no need to activate the phone or dial *228 (in fact you should NOT use the *228 activation function on a Verizon LTE phone).

Voice quality is excellent, even with a weak signal. Though 3G reception is worse than average on our unit, it does well with CDMA 1xRTT voice (that's the cellular connection type Verizon uses for voice calls, they do not use EV-DO for voice). We didn't experience more dropped calls than average on Verizon (which is to say very, very few) and call quality for both incoming and outgoing voice are clear, full and easy to understand. As a voice phone, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus beat our HTC Rezound (whose strong point isn't voice quality) and even our mighty Bionic that does better than average for voice.

Performance and Horsepower

This gets a little hairy for those of you who adore synthetic benchmarks. Some benchmark apps need updating for the new OS version, and quadrant is notably wrong in its result. But as far as we can tell, AnTuTu does its job correctly (score 5985), as does the Sunspider JavaScript test (it doesn't matter what OS you're running for Sunspider, it's OS and platform agnostic). Experientially, the clean OS plus ICS' speed improvements make the Nexus a very fast Android phone. Lag and Android seem to appear together in sentences all over the web, but we can tell you that you'll experience almost none on the Galaxy Nexus. Fluid operation and good speed are hallmarks of the Nexus line, and the Galaxy Nexus is no different.

Video playback of locally stored MPEG4 content up to 1080p HD is excellent (including over HDMI), as is streaming HQ YouTube via the included player. Netflix videos look good and play smoothly and Adobe Flash 11 controls are manageable (Adobe released Flash for ICS nearly a day after the Galaxy Nexus went on sale, and didn't make it in time for our video review). When you buy a Nexus, you don't get manufacturer customizations that are often useful like pull-down access to wireless controls or additional video codecs. If you want to go beyond the basic set of Android video codecs (MPEG4 with AAC audio), you'll need third party players and codecs.


  Quadrant Linpack multi-thread Sunspider Javascript Test
Samsung Galaxy Nexus 1459 75 2175
Motorola Droid RAZR 2550 75.7 2102
Droid Bionic 2126 59 4029
HTC Rezound 2421 63 2998
Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket 3346 83.8 2878


Android OS 4.03 Ice Cream Sandwich

Our device self-updated from 4.0 to 4.03 when we booted it for the first time. This update takes care of some bugs that apparently held back the Verizon release. Ice Cream Sandwich is an essay unto itself, but here's the Readers Digest version. It combines UI elements of the phone-centric Gingerbread OS with those of the Honeycomb tablet OS. With Ice Cream Sandwich, phones and tablets will run the same OS, so there's no learning curve for owners of both and there's less work for developers who wish to make apps for both phones and tablets. Honeycomb elements are much more numerous, with its app drawer that has a shortcut to the Android Market at the top right corner, and you can press and hold an icon to uninstall and app without having to go into settings->applications, but apps built into ROM like Gmail still can't be removed. The task switcher (one of the nicest ICS features) comes straight from Honeycomb. But Google has improved these Honeycomb UI features: you can now swipe away apps from your task switcher list, menus live in one instead of two possible locations and widgets are accessible not just on the multi-page home screen but as a tab on the app launcher screen for easier access. Still, for all the complaints against Honeycomb's UI, I think it's funny that so many reviewers have fallen in love with ICS, given how much like Honeycomb it is. For the record: I enjoy Honeycomb just fine, thank you. I also like ICS and find it a solid evolution rather than an Android OS revolution or revelation. It's getting more consistent, more user friendly and faster. That said, it's still a very customizable and open experience, so it will never have the brain-dead easy navigation of mobile operating systems with more locked down user interfaces like iOS and Windows Phone. Android is still a little wild west, but that's also its appeal for those who like to customize and tinker.


The most talked about ICS camera tweak beyond the speed increase for shooting photos is facial recognition for unlocking the phone. Instead of swiping to unlock, using a PIN code or a pattern, the front 1.3MP camera wakes up and looks at you so it can unlock the phone. This is extremely quick, and it worked well even in low light where our laptops with similar features failed. I never had to wiggle my head to the sweet spot or change my expression. When I handed the phone to other women, it never mistook them for me. However, a photo of you can fool it: keep that in mind if you carry deep, dark secrets in your phone. PIN and pattern lock are the most secure.

The front camera works with GTalk video chat and it worked well with Skype over 4G and WiFi in our tests. The rear 5 megapixel camera with LED flash isn't Samsung's top of the line. Quality is good but not "wow" good, and the Galaxy S II line have all moved up to 8 megapixel cameras. The real story here is Android OS 4's improved camera controls and much faster focus and shot times. The minute you tap that on-screen shutter button, it takes the shot with no perceived delay. That means you'll have to adjust your photo-taking habits and hold the phone very still while pressing the on-screen button or you'll get a blurry shot. The camera also takes good panorama shots, and that feature is easy to use.

Battery Life

LTE is Verizon's glory and albatross. Their already widespread LTE 4G network and its super-fast data speeds are wonderful and no doubt sell lots of phones. But unlike GSM LTE phones like the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket, CDMA phones with LTE (that's what Verizon uses), must have two cell chips inside, and that's very hard on battery life. Someday we'll see single chip solutions (Moto claims to be working this one hard), but until then, if you're a moderate to heavy smartphone user, resign yourself to buy a spare battery and perhaps a car charger. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus runs on a second generation chipset, so it fares better than early Verizon LTE phones like the HTC Thunderbolt. It has as much staying power as the Droid RAZR, but the Nexus has a removable battery for extra brownie points. The Galaxy Nexus has an 1850 mAh Lithium Ion battery that we had to charge nightly with moderate use with a steady (though not very strong) LTE signal. If you wish to save battery life, you can change the wireless settings to use the CDMA 3G network only. We saw a 33% increase in battery life when running 3G only.


The Samsung Galaxy Nexus on Verizon Wireless is one of our top picks for that carrier. Yes, 3G reception could be better, but Verizon says they're working on an update. And in the meantime, LTE works very well in our tests, data speeds on 3G are decent and voice quality is tops. The phone is fast and pure. For enthusiasts, it's exciting to get Ice Cream Sandwich RIGHT NOW. For everyday users who care less about OS versions and getting OS updates before everyone else, the appeal is a fast and stable phone. But you do lose out on those sometimes handy manufacturer customizations like widgets that help you jump right into social networking, and quick access controls for wireless, brightness and other key settings. You'll also have to seek out your own video codecs if you're a DivX type.

Why don't we just say it's the best phone on Verizon? Because some of you like those aforementioned manufacturer customizations and the creature comforts they bring. Some of you like really high quality materials and the Motorola Droid RAZR wins there with its Kevlar, Gorilla glass and metal frame. If you're in a reception challenged area (particularly where 3G and 4G bounce back and forth), the Nexus is one of Verizon's better phones, but the HTC Rezound is the all time winner with its rock solid stable reception. That's why carriers sell more than one phone in each price tier. But if you are a techie, just do it: get the Samsung Galaxy Nexus; nothing else feeds the geek like the Nexus does.

Price: $299 with a 2 year contract, $649 without contract




Samsung Galaxy Nexus



Samsung Galaxy Nexus



Samsung Galaxy Nexus


Samsung Galaxy Nexus


Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Above: the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket LTE Android phone on AT&T and the Galaxy Nexus.


Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Above: the iPhone 4S and Galaxy Nexus.


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Display: 4.65" Super AMOLED capacitive multi-touch display. Resolution: 1280 x 720, supports both portrait and landscape modes via accelerometer, has ambient light sensor.

Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. 1850 mAh.

Performance: 1.2GHz Dual core TI OMAP 4460 CPU with hardware graphics acceleration. 1 gig RAM, 32 gigs internal storage.

Size: 5.33 x 2.67 x 0.37 inches. Weight: 5.1 ounces.

Phone: CDMA dual band digital with 3G EV-DO Rev. A and LTE 4G.

Camera: 1.3MP front video chat camera and rear 5 megapixel camera with LED flash.

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack.

Networking: Integrated WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 3.0.

Software: Android OS 4.03 Ice Cream Sandwich with standard suite of Google applications.

Expansion: None.


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