Having spent the last several days using Verizon Wireless' Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone as my primary handset, I can honestly say it's the fastest phone I've ever had the pleasure of using.
The Galaxy Nexus, which Verizon began selling Dec. 15 for $299.99 on contract (you can get one from Amazon Wireless for $189.99 if you hurry), pairs the gorgeous new Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system with a 1.2GHz dual-core processor.
Marry those two phone facets with Verizon's blazing-fast 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) network and you're bound for great things. Indeed, I conducted several Ookla Speedtest.net processing tests and saw anywhere from 12M bps to 15.4M bps download speeds to anywhere between 6M bps to an incredible 10.1M bps upload speeds here in Fairfield County, Conn. Amazing to my eyes.
I flitted from the redesigned Gmail app, to YouTube and Facebook and Twitter for Android with ease. Netflix spooled up faster than it ever has for me on either an Android smartphone or Honeycomb tablet.
I also downloaded apps from the Android Market faster than I ever have in my life. Netflix took between 4 and 5 seconds to download, while Speedtest.net landed on the Nexus in 3 seconds flat. So very, very fast.
And yet, as much as it pains me to say--I'm a speed fiend--I'm just not sure yet if the Galaxy Nexus is my all-time favorite smartphone. I've gone on record in past Android handset reviews proclaiming my dislike for smartphone displays larger than 4.3 inches, which is about as much as my average hands can handle and grip with ease and comfort.
While the Nexus' HD Super AMOLED display (1280-by-720p resolution) gorgeously renders both darks and lights indoors and outdoors, the screen is 4.65 inches. That's huge, too large for a smartphone in my opinion, but if you have large hands, it will probably fit great in your palm.
Samsung, no stranger to large smartphone screens as the maker of the 4.52-inch Galaxy S II models AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile currently sell, tries to balance the larger screen size by elongating the phone.
While the 4.52-inch screen model S IIs were 5.1 inches long, the Nexus is 5.3 inches. Fortunately, it weighs only 5.1 ounces so it's not unwieldy on balance. Check out the full specifications here.
All this to say the phone felt a little large in my hand when I held it up to my ear to talk. The voice and call quality, by the way, worked well. I experienced no static, echo or dropped calls worth grousing over. ICS' redesigned dialer is a sweet, simplistic touch utility, providing spacious buttons for tapping numbers.
Still, the Nexus sports a nice, textured gray-backed grip and is contoured to make it easier to hold. Overall, it's a fine piece of hardware, but it's the software that really shines here.
ICS is essentially the Android Honeycomb tablet-tailored OS scaled down for the smartphone form factor. Fire up the phone and you immediately see the little, nimble software navigation buttons, including a back button, home button and a multi-tasking button that when tapped served up the application tray. This consolidates the apps a user has used on the phone in a scrolling stream. This is a very nice feature, borrowed from Honeycomb.
Go to the app launcher and you see options for widgets, which are essentially the same types of customizable widgets users may remember from Honeycomb. Users can pin widgets for Google Books, bookmarks, an analog clock, contacts and Google Calendar on any of the phone's five homescreens.